Friday, October 30, 2009
There's something really special about the first time you buy a Christmas tree with your partner. Tom and I have already planned to head out to a Christmas tree farm in Virginia with my parents and sister, Sara. But before that happens, we've got to get some ornaments and lights. What about these?
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Given the pace of my day-to-day work, which is anything but the opposite of fashion, I felt particularly in need of an escape, something almost dream-like, these past few days.
I've been coming home feeling like the wind has been knocked out of my sails. So I've been staring longingly at beautiful things in an effort to circumvent reality.
The only catch in doing this, is that I inevitably run into an artist as divine as Guy Chanel, a former saddle-maker for Hermes, and, sadly, his work is anything but affordable.
Chanel now works alone out of his own atelier outside of Paris, handcrafting one-of-a-kind designs made of crocodile, leather, ostrich and other fine skins. Whether it's a lamp, belt or handbag, he makes pieces of the highest quality meant to last a lifetime.
(Via Paris by Appointment Only)
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Valentino, Lagerfeld, Versace, Armani....these men came to prominence during the age of couture, when fine embroidery and detail were admired and exalted.
Today, fashion, on the highest level, is far more 'accessible' than ever.
It's no longer uncommon to see a Louis Vuitton bag on a teenage girl, or a pair of Chanel sunglasses on a Mom in a suburban shopping mall. These products are mass produced and available all over the world, whether you're on the streets of Tokyo or at the Mall of America.
The days when only the elite - celebrities, models, actresses and royalty - adorned themselves with fine clothing and accessories has long been over.
But, then, what say you for couture?
It lives on, but there simply isn't a large enough market for it to thrive. Ready-to-wear clothing is what women want. It suits our frenetic lives and aligns with the relaxed, American sportswear aesthetic we've come to embrace (and that's me being kind).
After all, how often does a 25-year old, entry-level office worker have an opportunity to dress up for a ball or attend the opera? Besides prom, or any sort of high school-related dance for that matter, when have most American women had a chance to wear a fine, floor-length gown of any sort?
So it is with great nostalgia that I watched Valentino: The Last Emperor tonight. 45 years of work as a fashion designer. He was a true artist and visionary who built one of the world's greatest fashion houses in history.
In his last couture show, he showed the world that despite how much has changed in fashion, women still desire beauty.
(Images of final Valentino show via Style.com)
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
My friend, Heather, recently gave birth to her first child, Lilly, so I'm itching to get out to Cleveland to meet the little beauty in person. On top of that, our neighbors just had their first as well, and we recently had the pleasure of enjoying their daughter's first dinner out a restaurant. She was a star -- quiet and as curious as can be.
As a result of these two fantastic new developments, I've had babies on the brain. As much as I like reading about design, I couldn't help but wonder about the choices inherent in decorating a baby's room. Do you go for the standard pink or blue depending on the sex of the child? Do you scrap that altogether and just keep the room as simple as possible? Does it even need to be decorated because, in the end, does the child really care?
Lots of questions.
I couldn't help but swoon for these two options, shown above. Obviously, the chalkboard one is more suited for an older child, but who's to say you couldn't offer that option from day one? I mean, what if your kid could be the next Rothko? Why not hand over the creative tools at an early age?!
And what about taking a sophisticated, modern twist on the room with an awesome lamp and chair that you'd want around regardless?
(Via emmas designblogg)
Sunday, October 18, 2009
There are weekends that inspire a great desire to take on a 'grand' culinary challenge, and then there are those, like this one, where I long to find one of those 'keeper recipes' -- something really simple, made with few ingredients and a pinch of love.
It dawned on me that Sprouted Kitchen had recently posted a Leek and Spinach Frittata recipe. I've not been known for being a fan of eggs. The most I've ever eaten of an egg on its own is in its scrambled state. Hard-boiled eggs, fried eggs, poached eggs...they've never interested me....until now.
I feel like I suddenly woke up and decided that I liked eggs a lot. In fact, this has been a very similar experience to that of my long-held disdain for blue cheese, again, until recently. Now the pungent smell of crumbled blue cheese makes my mouth water. Why??? I have absolutely no idea whatsoever.
This all being said, a frittata seemed like the perfect next step in my culinary exploration of eggs. And indeed it was.
Now that fall has arrived and is here to stay, leeks are the perfect companion to most of my dishes these days, and they were truly the star of this piece. I must also note that Sprouted Kitchen highly recommends goat's milk gouda for the frittata and having used it, I do as well. It's mild, but splashed with the right zing of flavor for this dish.
The full recipe, re-printed courtesy of Sprouted Kitchen follows. Bon appetit!
LEEK AND SPINACH FRITTATA // Serves 6
10 Egg Whites
1/3 Cup Milk
2 Leeks, White and Light Green Parts, Thinly Sliced
1 tbsp. Butter
1 Cup Fresh Steamed Spinach
¾ Cup Shredded Cheese (I used Goat’s Milk Gouda)
2 tsp. Hot Sauce (Tapatio, Chalua etc)
1 Cup Baby Heirloom Tomatoes, Halved
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Preheat oven to 500’1. Warm the butter in a saucepan (preferably non stick) on medium heat, add the sliced leeks and sauté until they begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, egg whites, hot sauce and milk. Incorporate some air and break them up, whisk about 4 minutes, yes, your arm will start to hurt. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper.
3. Squeeze as much water possible out of the steamed spinach, give it a rough chop, and squeeze again.
4. Distribute the leeks in the pan, as this will be your frittata base. Turn the heat back to medium and pour the egg mixture on top. Scatter in the chopped spinach and the shredded cheese and allow the mix to sit for a minute. Use a spatula to lift up the sides.
5. As it starts to firm up, lay your tomatoes on the top, cut side up. Put the entire pan into the oven on the top rack. Let it bake for about 8 minutes and check. It should be set, but still have a little give when you push on the middle. Remove and let it cool a bit before serving.
(Photo via Sprouted Kitchen)
Saturday, October 17, 2009
I stumbled upon simply breakfast, a blog of, as you can probably guess from these pictures, breakfast photography by Jennifer Causey.
What a simple concept -- wake up, make something scrumptious for your morning meal, take a creative spin on the meal's table arrangement, photograph and WA LA! -- a new post for the day!
It's the little things in life, isn't it?
The weather is dreadfully grim in DC this weekend. It poured buckets last night, so my dear friend Erjona, and my sister, Sara, and I hunkered down to watch Sense and Sensibility over dinner and apple crumble.
Have you seen this movie? If you've not had the chance, you must! I ended the film longing to be whisked away to the English countryside and reborn with a thick, yet delicate English accent in order to say such fabulous things as this:
Marianne: Can he love her? Can the soul be satisfied with such polite affections? To love is to burn - to be on fire, like Juliet or Guinevere or Eloise...Call me a cynic, but if I said that in American English, the delivery just wouldn't be the same!
Mrs. Dashwood: They made rather pathetic ends, dear.
Marianne: Pathetic? To die for love? How can you say so? What could be more glorious?
Monday, October 12, 2009
I had Monday off from work and with little planned for that particular evening I was inspired to take on a new culinary challenge.
While at my parents' for dinner on Sunday evening, I opened up my mother's copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and resolved to make something from the bible of all cookbooks. Time to branch out.
"Oh, what have I gotten myself into?" I thought. There was so much text and no pictures.
"You mean I have to imagine what the end dish will look like?!" Now THAT is a novel thought in this day and age.
I flipped through the book's sections, wondering "Sauces....no....soups....not warm enough yet.....poultry....hmmmmmmm.....yes!!"
Then came the bounty of poultry choices.
Would it be a simple roast chicken? No, I recently cooked one with my mother and sister. It was time for a new twist on the old bird.
What about a roast squab chicken with chicken liver canapes and mushrooms? Ummmm, I must admit that I don't know what a 'squab' is and the word 'liver' gives me the chills.
And then I came across this -- Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme -- also known as Casserole-roasted Chicken with Bacon, Onions and Potatoes.
We love bacon, onions and you can't go wrong with potatoes. I could substitute a whole chicken with chicken thighs. Perfect! Problem solved. Challenge found.
It was as easy as can be and such a crowd pleaser. Think butter, salt, lots of sauteing and you're 90% of the way there. If you're having a dinner party with good friends, or your family has come to town, and you're in need of a hearty dish that pleases the masses, this is definitely it.
But regardless of the ease with which the meal came together, I still felt a great sense of accomplishment. There was something about taking on a Julia Child recipe for the first time and finding a dish fit for more than two.
Check out the recipe and see for yourself how straight forward it is.
(And I admit, you might need to unclog your arteries afterwards, but as a woman, I think all of that calcium is good for one's bones ;))
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Like a lot of folks, I was stunned and saddened by the news that Gourmet magazine is closing after November.
I leave it to the experts to comment on the state of 'old media' and what the future holds for the rest of Conde Nast's publications.
What I know well is how much I'll miss my Mom picking up the phone and saying to me, "Did you see that wonderful recipe in Gourmet?! I'm making it tonight." I'd jump on the couch, bury myself underneath a blanket and spend the next hour dreaming up my next 'great meal.' Much in the same way that Vogue transports me to another world that has nothing to do with my day-to-day life, Gourmet offered an escape.
But Ruth Reichel and her team also made me believe that I, too, could learn to cook really well. It takes practice, yes, but it also takes guts and a willingness to take risks and not fear mistakes.
The world is not without its endless list of food blogs, which I love, but I'll always long for the intimate, monthly gathering I had with Gourmet.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
A chance encounter that I'll remember for the rest of my life.
I was standing at the corner of Delaware and Constitution this morning, waiting to cross the street, when a stunning woman, draped in traditional Africa attire, stepped out of a black SUV.
That's Wangari Maathai.
My mouth dropped and I stood frozen in place as she walked towards me.
"Excuse me," I said, "Are you Wangari Maathai?"
"Yes I am," Maathai replied.
"Oh my....I spent a year in Namibia teaching and read your memoir, Unbowed, halfway through my time there. It was so....moving.....so inspirational. I can't tell you how much you lifted my spirits. Thank you, thank you for all that you do!" I blabbered.
Maathai put her hand on my shoulder in a comforting way, as if to say, "It's ok. I know you're overwhelmed right now."
"When did you return from Namibia?" she asked.
"More than two years ago," I replied.
And then her entourage of colleagues and fellow environmental activists joined us in a small circle, all impressive, all very, very kind.
I couldn't believe I was standing in Maathai's presence. In 2007, halfway through my experience in Namibia, I had grown despondent about the state of Africa. Between the highly ineffective educational system, environmental degradation and poverty, I had slipped into despair.
I wondered what impact, if any, our efforts at the high school were having on the students'. And if, and when, some of our students graduated, would they be able to find jobs?
Even more specifically, how could I possibly ingrain my students with a desire to treat the Earth with care? In a year's time, it seemed near to impossible.
And then my mother came to the rescue, as she always does.
She mailed me a copy of Unbowed and I read it in a day's time. Nothing I was going through compared with the trials and tribulations Maathai had faced. And despite the challenges she encountered personally and professionally, she persevered. Most importantly, Maathai remained hopeful. As the winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her work on behalf of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, Maathai has famously said:
"What is done for the people without involving them cannot be sustained."
Meeting her today was a gift that I'll cherish for the rest of my life.
Friday, October 2, 2009
As soon as I heard that Chicago lost it's bid for the 2016 Olympics, a 1,000 thoughts ran through my head. I thought of my friend Stephanie, sitting at her desk at the bank she works for her in Chicago and what she must have thought when she heard CNN's report. Nobody epitomizes a Chicagoan like Stephanie.
I tried to imagine what Michelle Obama was going through when she learned this news aboard Air Force One. She gave such an impassioned speech yesterday. I can only imagine her disappointment.
My family was living in the Atlanta area during the 1996 games and we were lucky enough to have the chance to catch some of the events, including swimming and diving. It's so cliched to say, but it's true -- there's nothing like the Olympic games.
I'm sorry, Chicago. I was rooting for you the whole way.
(Images via Mustard & Sage)