11.26.2014

Friendsgiving Recap


As you may remember from last year, I host a “Friendsgiving” party for my friends and I in our apartment.  This year’s featured a lot of excitement, from issues with my oven early in the day(cue panic, thank you God it finally kicked in and worked!), to our first close couple friends to announce a pregnancy!

Today, I’m sharing this year’s menu, for anyone who may need a little last minute inspiration.

A friend of mine recently started an invitation business, and is learning calligraphy, so I had her do the menu. Amazing job, right?

As you may remember from last year (LINK), I host a “Friendsgiving” party for my friends and I in our apartment.  This year’s featured a lot of excitement, from issues with my oven early in the day(cue panic, thank you God it finally kicked in and worked!), to our first close couple friends to announce a pregnancy!

Today, I’m sharing this year’s menu, for anyone who may need a little last minute inspiration.
PIC
A friend of mine recently started an invitation business, and is learning calligraphy, so I had her do the menu. Amazing job, right?

Our Menu:



Antipasto: assorted cheeses, crackers, prosciutto, salami, soppressata, olives, and marinated artichoke hearts.

Roast Turkey: this year, I used Rachael Ray’s dry-brined turkey recipe. You salt the bird a day ahead and rub it down with a butter and herb mixture. Day of, all you need to do is let it sit out for an hour at room temp, and then roast away, 15 mins per pound.

Stuffing: I used my classic sausage stuffing recipe from last year.

Spinach Gratin: absolutely love this make-ahead from Food52. This was the big hit side dish this year.

Quinoa with Roasted Squash and Walnuts: Another great make-ahead. Cut a butternut squash into 1 inch cubes, roast with olive oil, salt, and pepper at 425 for 35 minutes, or until tender and browned. Meanwhile, cook up a batch of quinoa. Combine the two and refrigerate a day or two ahead. Just before serving, toast walnuts and combine with quinoa. Delicious.

Roasted Cauliflower: another make ahead. I roast the cauliflower the day before, and just reheat before serving. I like to dressing mine with a lemon/caper/parsley dressing.

Kale Salad: I modified Marcus Samuelsson’s kale salad from the November issue of Food and Wine. I used his dressing and curly kale, and added fennel, carrots, and  radishes. You can dress it ahead, which is rare and convenient for salads.

Cider Punch: this Saveur chilled cider punch recipe is AWESOME. Cold sweet cider, whiskey, and ginger beer (my favorite!) make the perfect large-batch drink.

And of course, we always have cornbread, regular bread, cranberry sauce, and gravy! I count on my friends to make those. 

Dessert this year was a fantastic selection of pies, tarts, and tiramisu from the Cake Boss’ shop in Hoboken, courtesy of my very generous friends Brett and Debbie. I have to admit, I expected them to be terrible. I figured with all Buddy’s fame, he’s gotta be slacking in his pastry shop, but he’s not. I was gobbling down that blueberry crumb pie for days. SO good. 

11.25.2014

Entertaining Essentials


Inexpensive Charger Plates, $1.00
Charger plates instantly dress up dinner, and I love being able to buy multiple colors to go with different table settings. These were only $1 at Amazing Savings, so I stocked up on red, gold, and silver.  I’ve also seen them at the Christmas Tree Shop, if there’s no Amazing Savings in your neck of the woods.


Pottery Barn Caterer’s Box Collection, $15-$60 for 12
This dinnerware collection is perfect for entertaining.  White porcelain plates, bowls, and mugs, as well as glass drinkware, are sold in sets of 12 and inexpensively priced from $15-$60 for the dozen.  You can also pick up napkins, flatware, and table linens to match as well.  They’re perfect to keep on hand so you don’t have to resort to paper plates when entertaining.

The brand 10 Strawberry Street also sells similar plain white bulk entertaining dinnerware, at a slightly lower price point. You can find them often on One Kings Lane, and sometimes in Walmart.



World Market Galvanized Party Tub, $17 
When I host parties, the boys always bring truckloads of beer, and we run out of room in the fridge very quickly. Now, I fill this large tub with ice and leave it out, giving guests easy access to the booze without compromising the fridge space I need.


Walmart Inexpensive Serving Utensils, $2 
You can never have too many serving forks and spoons, and I really like these plain silver ones from, believe it or not, Walmart. They’re sold open stock, so you can buy as few or as many as you need. They look attractive and elegant, they hold up well, and you can’t go wrong at only $2 each.  


Table Runners
I like to use a plain ivory tablecloth and accessorize with a colorful runner. My favorite is Luxury Linen Loft’s Burlap Runner, which I picked up on Etsy for $10. It adds a great rustic element to a fall table. I also love the runners on World Market, my favorite being the Kavita runner in the picture above- so colorful!


Sur La Table’s sale rack is one of the best places to find gorgeous table linens deeply discounted, which is how I scored the pretty ones above.


I tried very hard to find an inexpensive glass drinking dispenser, but all the ones I bought leaked. I finally bit the bullet and got this item from Pottery Barn, and I love it. Sixty bucks well spent- no leaking, easy to clean, and I was able to have it monogrammed to match my PB decanter. Awesome.


Disposable Condiment Bowls, $2.99 for 20 

Another great find from Amazing Savings. I like to use these for my mise en place during a dinner party- I’ll pre-chop my herbs or lemon zest and put them in these bowls in the fridge.  They take up less space than a bowl, and just before serving, I can sprinkle the garnish over my dish and toss them when done, saving dishwasher space as well.  They double as little ramekins too for dipping sauces, olives, or nuts. 

11.20.2014

Recent Reads




10% Happier, by Dan Harris

Harris is a Nightline news anchor who suffered a panic attack on live TV, which subsequently propelled him into the world of meditation and mindfulness.  Harris studies Eckhart Tolle, works with a prominent psychiatrist well-versed in Buddhism, encounters the Dalai Lama, and attends a 10 day meditation retreat. He begins to understand and observe the frenetic way his mind works, and calm the disparaging, ragingly insecure voice that runs constantly inside him.

The book is incredibly well written. I loved watching the struggle- we see him start out hating anything spiritual, thinking mediation is for goons, and ultimately wind up benefitting from it and preaching its cause to anyone who will listen. It reminds me of the way I think God works in most of our lives, putting struggles in our path to continually improve and change us, challenging us to open our minds and embrace things we once rejected. 

The book is not a “how to” on meditation, though you can gain lots of tips and insight by reading it. Harris formally includes some notes and resources in the appendix, but my favorite were the little nuggets of wisdom I picked up throughout:

“When a big wave is coming at you, the best way not to get pummeled is to dive right in.”

“You may find that it’s not the pain that is intolerable, but instead your resistance to it.”
 
“How often are we waiting for the next pleasant hit of ...whatever? The next meal or the next relationship or the next latte?”
 
Simple and maybe even obvious, but so many of us, especially myself, live our lives on the exact opposite way. 
 
I didn’t devour this in a day like I do with a good fiction novel, and I admit I don’t find Harris to be the most likable person in the world, but it was definitely a worthwhile read, and has, of course, inspired me to meditate. 
 
Some Luck, by Jane Smiley
 
Loved this book. The novel starts in 1920 with newly married couple Rosanna and Walter Langdon, living on a farm in Iowa.  Each chapter spans a year, ending in 1953. I loved the format of the novel; it moved quickly and mimics life- first you have a newly married couple, primitively without electricity, and all of a sudden their children are grown up with kids and adventures of their own.  The story has births, deaths, love, and family, set against historical backdrops of the Great Depression, World War 2, and the McCarthy era. A sweeping, fascinating portrait of American family life. Loved it.
 
Boy, was this a weird one.  The book explores the friendship between two opposites: Mia, the “bad girl,” and Lorrie Ann, “the good one,” and what happens when their fortunes change. A string of bad decisions and bad circumstances catapult Lorrie into a dark, depressing path. Mia watches from afar and attempts to reach out, but their friendship falters over issues like illness, death, drugs, and parenting. The novel explores the bonds between friends. Though compelling, I ultimately found this one unnecessarily dark with a depressing ending. 
 
Evergreen, by Rebecca Rasmussen
Okay, I have to admit the cover art drew me in, even though I read by Kindle.  This one’s a bit similar to Some Luck, in that it involves a couple in the earlier part of the 1900s living off the land. Eveline and her husband, Emil, live in a small cottage in the woods.  They raise one small boy, but one day when Emil is off at war, Eveline is raped and conceives a daughter. She  never tells her family about this event, or the daughter, whom she gives up, but after her death her son Hux finds out, and seeks to find his sister.  The novel is an easy read, touching on themes of loss, regret, love, and what might have been. Enjoyable, fast paced, and interesting.

11.19.2014

Holiday Outfit Guide: The Office Party

Every year in my office at Christmastime, there’s people who dress with a bit too much holiday spirit. I’m talking blinking reindeer antler headbands (seriously), immense amounts of red sequins, ornament shaped earrings, or non-ironic ugly Christmas sweaters.  It’s fine to get excited about the holidays, but I tend to think the office is a place of restraint.

I usually opt for a black and white outfit with pops of red in my shoes or accessories. I also love a classic pencil skirt and button down in a festive color, or a professional wrap dress in a deep red or evergreen. If you go with something in a festive color (like red, green, or metallic), pick one and stick to it. Don’t pair your green dress with red shoes.  And please, please, please avoid sequins.  

And while I’m being bossy, watch the booze too!! I learned this the hard way when an old boss delivered a pitcher of Alabama Slammer shots to our table…at 11:45 am. Whoops. Stick to wine, it’s classiest.

Some classic and professional holiday office attire:





And of course, the shopping guide:



11.18.2014

Holiday Outfit Guide: Home for the Holidays

Between office events, family get togethers, and cocktail parties, there’s a plethora of events to get ready for during the holiday season.  Today I’m starting a miniseries devoted to dressing for all your holiday season events.

My husband and I spend the entire 4-day Thanksgiving weekend at his parents’ house with some extended family, and multiple nights at Christmas with  mine. We leave straight from work on Wednesday night and fight through hours of traffic to get home for a laid-back night of pizza and chatting with cousins. I need an outfit that’s comfy for the trip but cute enough to be presentable to people I haven’t seen since last year.


I hate wearing a coat while travelling, so a down or fur vest, or a big sweater layered over another shirt is perfect for me. And of course, plaid always feels festive at this time. Some style inspiration:





Now get shopping:


Flannel Shirt, J. Crew, $88 //  Puffy Vest, J.Crew Factory, $108  //  Turtleneck, J.Crew Factory, $52  //  Frye "Philip" Boots in Brown, $427  // Point Sur Hightower Jean in Drifter Wash, J.Crew, $198  //  Weekender Bag in English Leather, Madewell, $298  // BP Heritage Plaid Scarf, $24



11.14.2014

Fashion Friday: Capes

I've always thought capes were an incredibly elegant alternative to a coat. I received one for Christmas a few years back, and I always feel super glamorous wearing it. I'm loving this look for November weather, where it's not quite cold enough for down coats, but not quite warm enough for my light trench.

I love this textured sweater cape:

This elegant version is a nice option for wearing to work:

Obviously, Olivia Palermo gets the casual version just right. (On a side note, who exactly is she? All I know is that she's super stylish, but what is she actually famous for?)


This is the cape that I have. It's from Ann Taylor, only mine is solid brown whereas hers is colorblocked. I usually pair mine with slim pants or jeans and boots, rather than a skirt. 


10.15.2014

20 in 6

I’m not normally a reader of the Design Darling blog, but the other day I somehow stumbled upon Mackenzie’s 101 in 1001 list, a list of 101 things to accomplish in just under 3 years. 

It got me inspired to create a list of my own, although there’s no way I’m coming up with 101 items. Honestly, I need to find less to do, not more.  I came up with 20, which I'll attempt to have done in...six months? Sounds good to me.

These aren’t in any particular order, just the order in which they came to me, and I decided to leave them that way. Here goes:

Cooking
1.      Master swiss meringue buttercream frosting. I have never, ever been able to get this right.
2.      Bake that damn Graham Cracker Cake you’ve been wanting to try for four years now.

Fitness/Health
3.      Eat solidly clean for one week (so much harder than it seems!). I'm thinking something along the lines of the Whole 30 program, with beans and legumes allowed.
4.      Try a cycling class.  Loved it! 
5.      Actually use the 5 pack of yoga classes I purchased.
6.      Get to run a 5k solidly, regularly in under 30 minutes. Right now I'm at around 31-32 minutes.
7.      Go hiking. The hubs and I visited Ann Arbor this weekend, and that included a trip to the University of Michigan Arboretum.  We walked around the trails and the lake, looking at all the fall foliage, and this definitely satisfied my craving for a fall hike.
Fun/Before We Leave the City
8.      Visit the Highline.
9.      Visit botanical gardens and/or Museum of Natural History.
10.   Spend one afternoon in a cool BK neighborhood I haven’t been to yet.

Personal
11.   Meditate regularly for one month. Continue indefinitely if you see results.  I've meditated before and definitely find it valuable, but I'd like to make it a regular part of my routine. I think doing 10 minutes a day would be a good start.
12.   Go one week without being unnecessarily negative.
13.   Find a better hairstyle and master a great blowout.
14.   Actually learn the right way to use your fancy camera. Take a class if that makes you do it. No excuse for owning an external flash for two years and never having opened it!
15.   Go to bed, for real, at 10 pm every night for one week. It IS possible! Right? It has to be. I average 5 and a half hours a night, that needs to change.
Finance
16.   $20 into savings for every goal accomplished.
17.   Go one month without shopping. AH. Probably will save this one for Lent! To clarify, shopping = clothes shopping.


Family and Friends
18.   Call mother in law more often. She’s always calling me first and I feel bad. I’m not so great at being the first to pick up the phone; I much prefer to communicate by text or email.
19.   Create a family birthday list.  Maybe then my cousins could get their birthday cards on time.

Professional
20. Work on having a better filter at work.  I like and feel very comfortable with my coworkers, and I tend to be very opinionated, so sometimes I just blurt stuff out without thinking.