Monthly Archives: December 2010

A New Sunrise

Two years ago this morning Mark and I got into a  white Jeep Wrangler and set out to drive to the top of Maui’s most majestic mountain, Mt. Haleakala.  At 10,000 feet it seems to kiss the sun good morning and goodnight and is a must do for anyone traveling to Maui.  When we were there it was so cold and sleeting, so we stayed bundled in the car. 

And, then we got engaged.  In a space that seems as wide open as the universe, it was a magical place to begin a life together that offers as many opportunities as the universe.

This video shares a bit of that Aloha spirit and the beauty of Hawaii.

In Maui it is not uncommon for people to skip the wild celebrations of New Year’s Eve and instead head to bed early in an effort to beat the sunrise on top of Mt. Haleakala.  

It is powerful concept to start the year off on top of the world.

I hope you have an amazing view today, too!

Paris in the Springtime

This Spring I want to go here:

Paris in the Springtime
Wear clothes like this, from Talbots – I kid you not!

Talbots Spring 2011
Talbots Spring 2011
And walk on cobblestones in shoes like these: 
Marc by Marc Jacobs Bow Front Sandal at Piperlime

It’s going to be a fabulous 2011!

Just a Thought… on Magazines

This is a thought I have held true for a very long time, men’s magazines are better than women’s magazines.  There, I said it.  And, yes, I am the kind of girl that subscribes, buys and browses magazines.  If I am waiting, even in a short grocery line, I am reading a magazine.

True story: When I was 17 years old I purchased a wedding magazine at my local grocery store (Publix) and the cashier congratulated me and asked if I was getting married.  I love magazines, but I didn’t buy another wedding magazine until I was securely engaged (7 years later).

Anyway, I prefer men’s magazines over women’s magazines for actual entertainment for many reasons.  Primarily because when men’s magazines are being funny, they are actually funny, a little cynical, sharp, witty.  Of course there are the gross out jokes, the obviously shots, but the good men’s magazines actually make me laugh, or at least make me think.  When a magazine for women is being funny the humor stems from “this one time I got my period when I was wearing a white pencil skirt… my boyfriend walked in on me when I was bleaching my lip.”  That is not funny.  It is maybe embarrassing, it is awkward, sure, but more than that it tends to put down and degrades the events that fall into the category of “it could happen to you, at any time, you poor girl”  Haha, and when you do spill coffee on a silk blouse while catching the elevator and snagging a stocking on the way into a job interview, we’ll be laughing, you know with cute cartoon illustrations.

The other reason I enjoy men’s magazines is because no matter who they interview, man or woman, they speak to the reader the way it seems they (as a magazine) would want to be spoken to.  There seems to be a sense of partnership, camraderie between reader and writer, and like any good relationship it is mutually beneficial (the magazine stays in business, the reader learns something/confirms something/feels better about themselves).

This morning I read an article in women’ magazine written about the author’s struggle with dieting.  She yo-yo’d, she skipped crepes in France, banished butters and creams, and then would devour a box of Oreos, she went raw, she starved, and then after realizing that diet and exercise go together like peas and carrots (obviously, without a cheese sauce) she finally accepted that she was no longer a size 4.  This would never be in a men’s magazine.  

After reading the article I thought about all the ways that women, friends, colleagues, friends of friends, and myself have at one point struggled with body image, diet, exercise and being motivated to do the right things in order to feel right, never mind striving to look “right”, which today tends to mean a photo-shopped version of someone else.  Sidenote: you are rarely going to see an image in a retail venue, or magazine that hasn’t been photo-shopped.  I have been on the other side of the computer, and if the fabric doesn’t wrinkle the image isn’t real.

I find that magazines for women are designed to be aspirational, but tend to be so far out of reach that they become unattainable instead of inspiring.  The desire to live like a celebrity, look like a model, entertain like Martha, well none of it is possible for one person alone, they all have teams of people.  You don’t know about the teams of people when you read the article.  

When women are interviewed in women’s magazines they talk about how they’re adjusting to marriage, their favorite snacks for a tour to keep their figure and their favorite red carpet dresses.

In a men’s magazine they give a soundbite like this:
“A guy can come in and have a big beer belly and he doesn’t have to be anything but himself, whereas women have to wear the heels. We’re probably missing out on a lot of wonderful talent.” – Carrie Underwood, (Right on Carrie!)

That difference might be something to think about, you know, the next time you’re lingering at the checkout counter.

Candied Pecans and Bleu Cheese Bites

This originally was featured on the DC Ladies Blog but the recipe was too easy and too good to not share!
Earlier I posted savory bleu cheese and pecan cookies, which were awesome and easy and fun to eat for breakfast, if that’s your thing (which, evidently it is mine). Anyway, those cookies were the round 2 to this even easier, and also quite charming, appetizer.  Because the whole thing takes about 8 minutes to prepare and assemble this might be perfect for when you have surprise company or perhaps need reinforcements at a cocktail party.

Candied Pecans and Bleu Cheese Bites
French baguette
Candied Pecans, recipe here
Bleu Cheese crumbles
Your freshly made, or store bought pecans get a good chop and are set aside.
Cut a French baguette into thin slices and toast lightly.  (This isn’t really necessary, but generally speaking there are few things better than warm bread).  With the back of a spoon “spread” the crumbled bleu cheese on top of the baguette slices. 
Sprinkle on top of the bleu cheese and the chopped candied pecans and a light drizzle of honey.

Each bite is like a divine sampling of a cheese platter at the most divine wine bar, and easy to do and made with ingredients that are probably in your pantry!

Happy Holidays – wishing you delicious entertaining!

Sparkle on New Year’s Eve

Over the last few days I assembled some favorite looks for New Years Eve, and when I put them all together I realized they all had something in common, a lot of sparkle!  Now, if there is anytime that you can or should sparkle it is probably New Years Eve.

I tend to have mixed feelings about New Years Eve, there is a lot of pressure to have a great night, go to a great place and wear a great outfit.  Well, I can’t help you with your plans, there is OpenTable for that, and for the company, well you’re on your own, but at least for the outfit I can be of assistance.

Look 1: If you’re invited to a fancy party, cocktail or black tie, I am all for ditching the black dress and going with some color.  The dress is a classic fit, so in a way it pares down the boldness of the teal, and I personally love the playfulness of the clutch.

Look 2: This look says to me, “I will not the weather win!” As in, it is so cold, but it is New Years Eve and I am going out and looking good.  Party on sister.  You know my affinity for maxi skirts, and sparkle, and this look has it all.

Look 3: A year ago friends of mine hosted a part with the dress theme of “business sexual”, this outfit is that.  I love the Lolli pants from J.Crew which are just as happy swilling champagne as they would be at work in the Spring.

Look 4: Okay, I give.  This is a fantasy outfit.  However, it is attainable.  Our good friends at Rent the Runway have Herve Leger and all of your favorite out of reach brands at much more attainable rental pricing.

Wherever you go, and whoever you’re with, I hope you look and feel fabulous!

‘Tis the Season

In the last 24 hours I have made Cuban beans for a taste of home, tres leches to delight in new traditions, pannetone French toast and Santa pancakes to continue our old new traditions and tiramisu cake on special request.

However, sweeter than that us hearing little kids ask to go to bed, to speed up Santa’s arrival and then see their joy in the morning.

And the sweetest if all is spending a cold, snowy day with the ones you love.

Merry Christmas, or Happy Saturday, to you and yours!

Bleu Cheese and Candied Pecan Savory Cookies

I love cheese, like looooove it.  I love going to a restaurant and getting to order a cheese plate: with beautiful wedges of fragrant cheese, breads, honeys and perhaps some nuts.  The idea of this arrangement of flavors always seems so sophisticated but perhaps a little intimidating to try at home.

I tested this out last night (in two different way), and success!  These Savory Cookies are perfect for when you entertain, as an a pre-meal snack, or as a gift to a hostess packaged in a cute bag.

1/2 Cup of Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Stick of Butter (4 Tbsp), softened
1/3 Cup of Candied Pecans, grounded
1/4 Cup of Crumbled Bleu Cheese

Candied Pecans
1 1/4 cup of Pecans
1/2 tbsp of butter, unsalted
1 tbsp of brown sugar
1/2 tsp of cinnamon

In a non stick pan melt butter, add the pecans and sugar and cinnamon and stir with a silicon spatula over low-medium for 5-7 minutes until the pecans are covered with small flecks of caramel goodness.  Set aside to cool

In a food processor grind up the pecans to a small grind, but now a fine powder.  Set aside.
In a medium size bowl blend the softened butter and then add the bleu cheese, ground pecans and flour.  Side note, you could definitely use regular all-purpose flour, but I opted for whole wheat for its nuttier flavor and texture, and the potential for it to be a little more nutritious.
The dough will be crumbly, and look like a bunch of little tan colored peas.  Sprinkle a little extra flour on your work surface and begin to form the dough into a log.  This is completely visually unappealing.  I’m sorry – please, don’t let it dissuade you from making this recipe…
Cut the dough into 1/3″ slices and lay out on a non-stick cookie sheet or silpat and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. (See those flecks of cheese?  They are going to bubble and melt into amazing deliciousness!)
Let these cool for about 10  minutes after baking and serve with your favorite wine and either a drizzle of honey on top or a small dollop of your favorite pear or apricot preserves (that helps add back the sweetness found on your favorite cheese plates).

 These are great, and they keep nicely, and well, if we’re being honest I ate two for breakfast so they’re all around perfect snack to bake and share.

Looks like Christmas

It now officially looks like Christmas in my house.  There is a small tree and mini lights somewhat haphazardly wrapped around and their are small glass ornaments, and sparkly snowflakes and finally a “Giving Peace” and “Giving Hope” from the Pottery Barn collection.  The mantel even has cute, little stockings, sewed with care.
I went to Michael’s and picked up some felt, gray, olive and plum.  I used a sewing kit I had on hand, scissors and a pencil.  This is low profile crafting, inspired by Martha.

I freehanded the outline of a stocking and after cutting one out used that as a template for all of the rest.  Then I cut out a strip about 3 inches wide and a little bit longer than the length of the stockings when they are back to back.

With a simple need and thread, I stitched the white felt strip, with a little lip to secure the stitch to the back to back stockings.
Then with the white strip attached, I folded the two separate pieces of stocking towards each other and continued to stitch all the way up to the top of the white to secure the seam.  
Then I turned the whole stocking inside out and turned down the white strip to create a cuff, this helps to hide all of those little uneven, no-machine, not-perfect stitches.  

This was an easy Christmas craft, and kind of perfect to keep your hands busy while watching an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, you know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Happy Holidays!

Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese… Winter Perfection

You know what you’re supposed to do when it looks like this where you live?  

I’ll tell you.  You’re supposed to make soup.  A big bowl of soup, filled with vegetables and not much else.  If you’re looking for extra warmth then of course you’ll need a grilled cheese sandwich to go with it.

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwich
1 Yellow Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic
4 Stalks of Celery
3 Medium Carrots
1/2 – 1 Red Pepper
1 – 12 oz. Can on Diced Tomatoes
3 cups of Low Sodium Chicken Stock
1/2 tbsp of unsalted butter
1 tbsp Olive Oil
Basil to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
A splash of milk, totally optional
Grated Parmesean Cheese, also optional but, really good
Makes soup for 4 people, or 2-3 very hungry, cold people
Set up your soup pot over low to medium heat with 2 swirls of olive oil.  Then add the diced onion and thinkly sliced carrots and celery into the pot.  Sprinkle a little bit of salt and stir the veggies gently and let that simmer for a few minutes.  Then add diced garlic.  Seriously, at this point you could just stand there and absorb the aroma – there are few smells I enjoy more than cooking garlic.

After the garlic, onions, celery and carrots get to know each other add thinly sliced red pepper.  I only had half of a pepper, maybe if I had a whole one I would have used a whole one.  The pepper adds a richer, sweet flavor and a beautiful deep red to the veggies. 
At this point I added a touch of butter and gave the veggies another good stir and let them continue to do their thing.  After 8-10 minutes of the veggies cooking the onion should be thoroughly translucent and the carrots softened.

Add the three cups of chicken stock and the can of tomatoes and give it another stir with one final sprinkle of salt.  Turn the heat up to bring it to a boil.  Once the soon-to-be soup is boiling place the top on and reduce the heat to low for 15 minutes.

While the soup is getting soupy it is time to make a grilled cheese sandwich.  Here is the thing, I know that grilled cheese sandwiches can be make with tomatoes, bacon, fancy, cheeses, beautiful challah (my personal favorite), and sweet and savory jams, but, when I have a grilled cheese with soup I always go with an old faithful, American Cheese.  Yes, wrapped in plastic and not really cheese at all, it is the perfect melty goodness perfect for soup dipping.

Grilled Cheese Ingredients – silly, I know
2 slices of Multi-grain bread
Some butter, not a lot, really
1 1/2 slices of American Cheese per sandwich
Double as needed
Lightly butter both sides of the bread.  Very lightly.  Place cheese in between slices.  Put bread together and then put on a pan, or even better for a more authentic panini experience, grill it on a press or the George Foreman grill you still have from college.  Cook the sandwich on both sides (of a pan) until browned and the cheese is melted, or on the grill press for 3 – 4 minutes.
I like a smoother soup, and I like being able to use the random kitchen tools we have so out came the immersion blender.  You can also use a food processor.  The quick blend – 3 – 5 pulses takes the soup from a chunky minestrone style soup to the more classic tomato soup.

Be fancy, serve it cute.  This is a fairly healthy meal that will leave you feeling full, comforted from the cold and great to share.  Extra points to Mark for his great food styling and photography!

It’s Not About Politics, It’s About Food

Map Highlighting the Access of Food in DC
I live in DC.  I love it here.  In the 7 years that I have lived in the DC Metro Area I have lived in Northwest DC, near American University and Arlington, and now more recently a neighborhood in Ward 5. 

In my old neighborhood I lived 3 blocks from Harris Teeter, a few hundred feet from 3 convenience stores and 1.5 miles from a Whole Foods.  The part of Arlington I lived in has a “walkability” score of 97/100, and where I currently live has a walkability score of 77/100.  77 is still good, but not as good, and the access to food is considerably different.  There are several micro markets, two small groceries, Timor Market and Windows Market and a Harris Teeter and Whole Foods about 1.5 miles away that are reachable by crossing major roads along the way.  

However, the highlight of this neighborhood is the Farmer’s Market.  I walk with friends to the market on the corner of Rhode Island and 1st Street.  We meet our neighbors there, and are delighted with the overwhelming number of puppies and babies that we normally don’t see on the busy Monday – Friday schedules.  But more than the puppies and babies, I get to see fresh baked bread, a diverse variety of cheese that would make the most selective wine bar jealous, and fruits and vegetables that literally make your eyes grow wide.  The Bloomingdale Farmer’s Market, every Sunday  is the only consistent source of fresh and plentiful produce in the “neighborhood”.  
It cannot be underestimated the value that fresh fruit and vegetables provide to people of all ages.  In my experience the Bloomingdale Farmers’ Market, helmed by Robin Shuster, makes the extra effort to highlight sales, and provide recipes and ideas for using all of the different options that show up week to week.  

I have shopped at other Farmer’s Markets before, and of course some people are turned off because they are deemed too expensive.  The vendors that appear every Sunday in Bloomingdale are the same as at the Dupont Market, but luckily the prices are not.  The vegetables that I buy from some vendors total out to be considerably less expensive than the same items I would buy at Trader Joe’s or any other supermarket. 

So, what’s the big deal?  Why all the talk about the Farmer’s Market?  Tonight there is a meeting to discuss continuing the Bloomingdale’s Farmers’ Market.  There is concern about the lack of parking and too much noise.  My concern is about lack of the most succulent and juicy peaches in July, ripened tomatoes in Augusts and apples in September.

If you want to support the Farmer’s Market please join the community Dec 20th at 7pm to discuss the future of the Bloomingdale Farmers` Market as well as parking issues related to local churches and the Big Bear Cafe.
The meeting will be at 7pm at the Metropolitan Wesley AME Zion Church at 1st and North Capitol, NW, and the meeting is open for all to attend. 

Speech, now done.