Saturday, November 15, 2008

sad squash

I was going to do a post about spaghetti squash. Not because I like to pretend it's pasta, as some crazy people do (it's too sweet for that), but because it makes a great fridge staple for a vegetarian (or semi vegetarian like me). I roast it up, perhaps give it a quick saute with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic, dole it into plastic storage containers, and eat it for lunch all week. It's delicious, it can be reheated in about a minute in the microwave, and makes a great side dish either just as described, or tarted up with some cheese (parmesan, pecorino, goat cheese or feta have done nicely, on the internets I hear ricotta is great too). As a main, I add steamed, roasted or sauteed veggies, red pepper flakes and possibly a protein on top, like garlicky shrimp or cubes of cooked fish.

I was going to roast and saute a squash today, and photograph it all, and then eat some for dinner and photograph that too. Except when I cut open my squash, it was too easy. See, breaking down a spaghetti squash is generally a pretty dangerous proposition for me, even with sharp chef's knife. Then came the smell. I wasn't sure it was coming from the squash. Sorority kitchen and all, you can never tell.

I was really looking forward to that squash. But then I saw this*:



This squash is rotten. It's rotten enough to tempt me to use an emoticon to describe it. Except for Jack-o-Lanterns folding in on themselves at the end of November, I don't even think I've seen a rotten squash before, but I can still tell. Spaghetti squash should not look like this when you crack it open. If it does, trash it. Don't feel too bad about it, spaghetti squash, especially during this time of year, is a pretty good buy.

From my very limited understanding squash, even beautiful delicious noodly spaghetti squash, lasts a good long while (up to a month). Since I've only had this one waiting around for a week or two, I'm going to blame the store where I bought it. It must have been sitting around there for a while. And if it's not their fault, I am going to blame them anyway. Why? Because, as I said before, I was looking forward to that spaghetti squash.

*You can go ahead and blame some of the grayness on the lighting in my kitchen, but that thing was pretty grisly inside either way. And don't forget the smell. It was definitely the cut squash.

Friday, November 14, 2008

off the wagon

I fell of the NaBloPoMo bandwagon. Can you tell? Maybe my future November posts should have the following note:

general housewifery is miserably failing at National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo). Oops.

Monday, November 10, 2008

perfect for vacuuming: i don't get it

Do you? If you do, they're at Saks for $795. photo: Saks

Sunday, November 9, 2008

just say no: hershey's chocolate syrup

Maybe you remember this post, in which I declared that we food snobs should, perhaps, collectively stop judging the cart contents of grocery shopping brethren? Well that doesn't count for restaurants. Sorry, but I am going to judge.

Yesterday evening, NH and I had dinner at relaxed, suburban red-sauce-Italian kind of joint on Staten Island. The dinner was decent and quick, though as many mediocre meals out do it reminded me that I can do better at home in less time. I guess I need to do more emulating of the excellent bloggers behind Not Eating Out in New York. At any rate, NH and I allowed ourselves to be talked into a truly lackluster "chocolate souffle" for dessert, which was really just a second-rate chocolate lava cake. And by "second-rate" I mean the interior was barely warm. True to form, the restaurant festooned this prosaic dessert with ruffles of ReddiWip and the dreaded drizzles of Hershey's Chocolate Syrup.

This stuff. Don't click unless you want to see the frightening number of disgusting-sounding varieties available for purchase at a store near you.

I don't blame this place, after all, NH and I knew exactly what we were getting into and we really didn't mind, though we couldn't help comparing it with some of our recent, finer Italian dining experiences. It bothers me though, that classy-with-a-k suburban casual dining holes aren't the only places where this questionable condiment finds full time employment. Hershey's Chocolate Syrup makes its way onto the fine china of a number of much nicer restaurants regularly. A few of these establishments allow it to touch the food.

Perhaps you're wondering why I'm so harsh on the brown stuff. Here's the thing: it's not good. Doubt it? Go buy a bottle and eat a spoonful of it. Doesn't live up to those childhood memories, does it? Now I won't lie, I still believe there's a special time and place for a glass of cold milk with a few hearty tablespoons of the brown stuff swirled in, but it's the same time and place for grilled cheese sandwiches on squishy white bread and that little square of microwaved dessert in a Kid Cuisine frozen meal (when, by the way, did Kid Cuisine start billing itself as a "real meal"?). That time and place is not in a nice restaurant, making a minefield of my otherwise delicious dessert. I don't need a kind of chocolate-y product drizzled over my delicious fudgy microwaved brownie, or even over my vaguely tasty not-quite-souffle-or-lava-cake dessert product thing. Whatever happened to the joys of minimalist plating? Certainly the restaurant can save $10 on a mammoth can of the syrup and use it to, I don't know, buy more things restaurants need, like salt and pepper shakers to replace all the stolen ones.

At this point in time, there is very little that I can do personally in the war against Hershey's Chocolate Syrup, which is ever so slightly better when warm, but only, only slightly. NH and I have decided to take one course of action though: we're going to make sure we order desserts sans Hershey's Chocolate Syrup. Will you join us in this mission?

general housewifery is participating in National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo).

Saturday, November 8, 2008

good things to put in plain oatmeal

Thinking of this post, I put together this list:

traditional
chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc.)
dried fruits (golden or regular raisins, cranberries, mango, pineapple, etc.)
chopped/mashed fresh fruits (bananas, apples, etc.)
brown sugar
honey
cinnamon
ground ginger
ground cloves
(fresh) ground nutmeg
splash of milk
splash of cream
sprinkle of salt
small knob of butter
vanilla

less traditional
pumpkin puree
grated carrots
applesauce
cranberry sauce/relish
diced crystallized ginger/"ginger chips"
fresh ginger
nut butters (peanut, almond, sunflower seed)
fruit preserves
jam
fruit/vegetable butters (apple, pear, pumpkin)
ground flax
ground cardamom
almond extract
nutella
miniature chocolate chips
agave nectar
real maple syrup (Grade A, Grade B)
molasses
shredded unsweetened coconut/shredded sweetened coconut, shredded toasted coconut
cottage cheese
leftover cooked grains (brown rice, quinoa, wheatberries, etc.)
sprinkle of granola
citrus zest (orange, lemon)
cooked fruits (sauteed apples, pears, bananas etc.)

Again, obviously not an exhaustive list.

I eat the organic version of these Bob's Red Mill oats for breakfast almost every day. Are you an oatmeal eater? If so, what do you put on your oatmeal? If not, what do you eat for breakfast?

general housewifery is participating in National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo).

Friday, November 7, 2008

perfect for vacuuming: Aggggghhhhh!


Remember these beauties? The come in pink now. Probably because Stuart Weitzman knows pink is my favorite color and he's a stand up kind of guy. If you want to be my best friend, you know what to do. You know, with the holidays approaching and everything. At Nordstrom, $299. photo: Nordstrom

bring your own

Tuesday in the Times' Diner's Journal, Frank Bruni posted about an incident in which his friend was instructed to trash his Starbucks coffee when he asked to be put on the list at a diner/coffee shop. Bruni mused on whether or not this was acceptable, although as usual, the most interesting and meaty discussion clearly erupts in the comments section. Some readers argued that the restaurant was in the right for a variety of reasons, ranging from liability to managing impressions. Others thought the hostess should have lightened up, let the man finish his coffee (or poured the man's coffee into a restaurant-issue mug and let him finish it), and chalked it up to good customer service. Probably there are defensible reasons to go either way, although I can't say I'd walk into anything remotely resembling a coffee shop holding a coffee from another place.*

On the other hand, I have a serious tea problem. Unlike some friends of mine, I'm not a fancy tea snob connoisseur, but I can be a little picky about my tea. I don't, for example, like drinking straight up Lipton. If I want something strong enough to make me antsy, I want it to have some flavor too, a nice Earl Gray or Prince of Wales. Most of the time I choose an herbal tea tisane (I think that's the correct term these days) because I like to have a hot beverage with dessert, and I'm just not that into coffee. NH has mocked me in the past for bringing my own tea bags, granny style, into a business. He thinks it's cheap. And while I argued against him at the time, because there is nothing so fun as arguing with NH over brunch on a sleepy Sunday morning, I think he's probably right. After all, the restaurant would actually make a couple of dollars if I ordered a tea.

In a perfect world, all decent restaurants would get a decent tea selection to match, or at least choose a house tea with some semblance of taste. Places with nice tea options stay in my mind vividly and for a long time, places like Blue Duck Tavern for one, or The Brampton Inn (by the way, I recommend that given the opportunity, you try dinner at Blue Duck Tavern or a night at the Brampton). This will never happen, not in the coffee-alarm-using, Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz eating US of A. A commenter on Bruni's piece had a nice suggestion, which I might use in the future. The mother of said commenter brings her own bag but orders hot tea at the table, swapping the restaurant's bland offering for something she prefers. The restaurant, in essence, charges for the tea service but the classy lady gets what she wants. This seems ideal, unless one takes a quick glance at the economics of it. The customer pays for the tea, then for the tea service. Assuming the restaurant reuses, rather than tosses, the offending tea bag, the restaurant profits. If one worries over troubling the waiter for hot water, why not just toss an extra dollar or so into the tip, rather than paying for hot tea, using one's own tea, and then tipping on the tea order? This is getting so complicated that it's entirely simple to see why I no longer order tea in restaurants very often. Also, I anticipate at least on person wondering whether the economics of tea is really a big deal. Well no, not at say, Bigelow from the grocery store prices. But if you purchase a nice tea, whether loose or bagged, prices can go up considerably.

I don't have this one worked out. I think I'm going to keep skipping after dinner beverages, or opting for an espresso once in a while. What would you do in my situation? Eat the extra cost to drink what you want? Bite the bullet and either order of the menu or order nothing?

* Actually, this is not entirely accurate. On occasion I have purchased a cup of tea or similar from Starbucks and, not finding a seat, have toted my beverage to another Starbucks location. I do not think this is morally reprehensible. If you disagree, leave it in the comments.

general housewifery is participating in National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

perfect for vacuuming: mad annoyed and blistered edition

Sorry folks, but I am currently too annoyed to blog extensively. Instead, in honor of the fact that I wore four-inch high heels today for fourteen hours, I give you a special edition of perfect for vacuuming: Oscar de la Renta Ikat ballerina flats. This is the kind of pattern I might find hideous in large swatches, but these flats would be so fun peeking out of skinny jeans. They'd be even better as the exclamation point at the end of a pair of long legs in black or chocolate brown opaque tights. The weather was dreary today, and I think it will only become worse as fall rapidly becomes late fall becomes early winter, and this is exactly the range of colors to punch up one's spirits. These are at Neiman's for $595. photo: Neiman Marcus

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

These jeweled Valentino pumps are pure glamour. The use of texture and color is dramatic and recalls a bygone era, but the enclosed platform with the peeptoe is completely modern and on trend. One of my favorite details is how these are scalloped even around the toe opening. They would be beautiful with a blood red pedicure or even something less traditional, like hunter green painted toenails. While hot platforms like these almost demand a dress, since the detail is upfront elegant trousers would suit as well. These are at Bergdorf's for $975. photo: Bergdorf Goodman

dress like you like you care

When I was in middle school, I had one of those books put out under the American Girl name that illustrated basic etiquette for young women. Although I'm sure it was useful, featuring detailed information about writing a thank you note or not asking inappropriate questions, the one message that really stuck with me was in the introduction, which described why the niceties of common etiquette were important. The book argued that good manners are not formalities, but ways of showing people that one loves or admires respect. Good manners make people feel comfortable.

This extends to clothing, in a way that is especially relevant for women. Wearing, for example, skirts of appropriate length to the office and shirts that do not bare excessive cleavage to class is an important way to show respect to other people. One easy way to think about dressing appropriately for any occasion is to consider who will be there, and how they will feel about your clothing. This doesn't mean dressing for other people. This doesn't mean personal expression via clothing isn't valid, it means that it's not fair to show off a new push up bra in early classes, whether the professor and/or classmates are male or female. If the people around you are happy and comfortable, you will be happy and comfortable too, as well as confident.

To carry this toward the vicious and delicious world of reality television, we might consider the first episode Stylista in which one of the young women earned the nickname "Boobs" for her excessive display of cleavage. It's tempting to think that she was picked on because of jealousy, or because the drama lent itself to reality television, and that's probably true. On the other hand, I do not think it would ridiculous to say that the contestants, and the management, fixated on this character's breasts because the blatant display made them a little uncomfortable. And that's the thing with inappropriate dressing, whether it's an obviously unclean outfit or a pair of jeans that show too much: they pull attention away from the task at hand. Wearing inappropriate clothing, like so many other breaches of etiquette, is just another way of claiming that you are more important than the people around you.

general housewifery is participating in National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo).

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

To be honest, I don't notice a whole lot of Dolce & Gabana shoes. I don't know why, maybe it has something to do with that slicker-than-though sexy Italian feel a lot of their pieces have, or maybe I'm just projecting. Either way, these shoes are total, impractical knockouts. The colors almost remind of these Manolos, which I fell hard for in Vegas. The patent leather on the Dolce's adds something special (not that pieces suede isn't totally, incredibly remarkable), and if you've been reading, then you know I melt for a pump with a peek-a-boo toe. Sometimes obvious stitching can look a bit vulgar, but on a beautifully made shoe, it's a gorgeous detail. At Bergdorf's for $1,095. photo: Bergdorf Goodman

cheers

As I speak, there are students out on the street cavorting, positive that Obama will take tonight's election. I hope he does. Either way, I imagine Americans will be turning to an age old American pastime to celebrate-or cope with-the results: drinks! If you're not planning to bust out the bubbly, why not a vintage cocktail instead? I have to admit, this Brandy Daisy, from Dorothy Myerson's Homemaker's Handbook, a vintage guide to housewifery I've mentioned before is a relatively simple concoction (translation: you're much more likely to have the ingredients on hand), but the name was just too cute to skip over. The precise measurements our author provides are just too much! I'm too keyed up to break out the shaker, but if you do, let me know how it turns out.



general housewifery is participating in National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo).

Monday, November 3, 2008

perfect for vacuuming: sassy teals edition

Did you read Sweet Valley High books when you were kid? I used to go the library and check out three or four and devour them. I also read all of the Sweet Valley Twins books, which according to Wikipedia was a spin off series about protagonists Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield at age twelve. In basically every Sweet Valley book Elizabeth and Jessica's eyes are described in the first chapter or so, and these eyes are always described as being a kind of blue green color. I alternately decided these eyes were aquamarine or teal, depending on my mood, and now that I think about it, I bet author Francine Pascal actually did name a shade, but apparently I ignored it. While shopping online for some winter basics I've noticed several pairs of shoes that totally reminded me of this color, bringing sweet memories of the Sweet Valley twins to mind.

How about these cute peek-a-boo toe Jordan pumps from Shoes for Lovely People? At Piperlime for $148.
photo: Piperlime


Or these flirtatious Seychelles with the adorable name (Reservations for Two)? At Piperlime for $90.

photo: Piperlime


Or far too adorable Natalie flats from lillybee? At simplysoles for $135.

photo: simplysoles


These Chie Mihara Serena pumps have a forties feel with a conservative cut, but the detail up front and color make them special. At Nordstrom's for $415.

photo: Nordstrom

it's stylish and polite to vote

Tomorrow will be my first time voting in a presidential election. In fact, I have to admit, it will be my first time voting ever. I'm really excited and plan to high five my mom after I vote. I might even wear red white and blue. Might. I've heard a lot of excuses in the past about voting. Including but not limited to:

My state always goes red (or blue) so my vote doesn't matter.
Do you really think they actually count all the votes?
Both of the candidates are evil/useless/ineffectual, so why should I vote?

My answers:

Vote anyway, it's an expression of your beliefs.
Yes, I do believe they count up all the votes.
If you must, vote for the lesser of two evils. But make some kind of opinion heard.

I don't want to bring this onto a philosophical plane about societies, government, rights and so on. Simply put, voting is a privilege and an opportunity, not a chore. You wouldn't show up at a baby shower and skip out on the silly prenatal games, no matter how burdensome that act seems, so don't show up to the democracy party and neglect to participate. To put it politely: please vote. Thank you.

Oh, and I understand you get some kind of sticker if you vote. There you go, stylish.

Extra credit: go online, look up the local elections that are happening, and decide who to vote for in them too!

general housewifery is participating in National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo).

Sunday, November 2, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

I usually try to mix it up with perfect for vacuuming shoes, alternating simple gorgeous shapes with hot colors and sexy dress heels. Though they fill a similar niche as yesterday's Louboutin's, I couldn't resist featuring this ladylike classic. Nanette Lepore's Hostess D'Orsay is definitely an office shoe, but the almost architectural knot up front is more visually interesting than a bow, and the contrast of textures is really lovely. This shoe playfully shrieks "dainty!" and would shine in the presence of a cream or purple dress, in fact, any saturated color might do. A pair of tailored trousers would sharpen them up. $370 at Neiman. photo: Neiman Marcus

glass house pie

When I decided to do NaBloPoMo, and I still believe I must have been very exhausted when I agreed to this endeavor, I also decided that the only way I would make it through the month would be by making a plan. I decided what the theme of each day of the week’s post would be, and my intention for Sundays was to link to two to three recipes from magazines, blogs and so on that I would try out in the following weeks (if I had the stamina for it, I intended to publish a photograph of my success, or failure, with each these recipes over time). But I guess it’s true that making plans is the best way to get the universe into an agitated flurry of laughter, and frankly, my experiences in the kitchen today are more interesting. I’ve got the recipes picked out; I’ll get to posting them sooner or later this week.

I bought a $7 bag of organic granny smith apples at the grocery last week. I still don’t feel great about that. I ate about half of the small (each fit in the cup of my hand) fruits, but their texture wasn’t great, so I packed them in my overnight bag when I came home for the weekend to vote. By the way, please vote. My mother had a huge bag of anonymously red apples on hand that my granny picked at one of those pick-your-own farms last weekend, as well as four or five Fujis from a jumbo pack she purchased at Costco. With this many pounds on hand, the only reasonable use that I could imagine was pie, but the truth is, until today I had never, ever made a pie from scratch before. Crumbs, crisps, cobblers, I’ve made them all in plentiful quantities. I can make crisp in my sleep. Cobbler is literally as simple as whipping up a batch of buttermilk or cream biscuits. On the other hand, I’ve never owned or really had access to a food processor. I have a Magic Bullet but I prefer to use it for the really simple jobs where it excels: grinding up crystallized ginger and sugar for a powdery, spicy mix, or making super healthy frozen fruit smoothies with pomegranate juice. It dogged me, however, that pie is much, much older than food processors. Piecrust came before electricity, and so I decided that no matter how much pate brisse recipes insist a food processor is essential, I could do it equally well by hand. After all, even Dorie Greenspan’s book insists that cutting the fat for biscuits is ideal. If you don’t believe me, read the book. Piecrust is not so far from biscuits.

I found a super simple recipe for the crust, which included a couple of cups of flour, a ton of butter, teaspoons each of salt and sugar, and a bit of ice water. I like to play with frozen butter anyway so I went to work. All the while I mocked my cousin m, who many years ago brought an apple pie to Thanksgiving dinner. She nestled lovingly spiced apples into an admittedly delicious store bought crust but neglected to add the cornstarch. Whoops. The flavor was there but the concoction made a runny mess. We ate it with love anyway. As I worked through the late morning I couldn’t stop smiling about how easy homemade piecrust is to make. “Why don’t people make piecrust everyday?” I asked this question of myself with utter seriousness. I may have asked it aloud. I felt serious, unadulterated pride in my piecrust creating self. I put the beautiful pie in the oven. As it baked the aroma of cooking butter permeating everything in the apartment, filling my family with hot sweet anticipation. “Pie,” I shouted, “pie pie pie! I’ve never seen anyone make a pie in real life!”

Which was true. I’ve seen it on television, but I’ve also seen a guy peel off his own face on television, so what does that tell you?

When the pie emerged from the oven, lofty, crammed with the first apples of the season, smelling of all the best spices, freshly grated nutmeg, loads of cinnamon, I set it on the counter. I went about my business. Twenty minutes later, when I was showing off my gorgeous creation in the kitchen my mother shouted from the couch, “hey, did you put sugar in with the apples?”

You can guess the answer to that question. So you see, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Or maybe people with glass pie dishes shouldn't slam other people's pie dishes really hard on the counter.

Luckily, I had enough apples that I had actually made two batches of piecrust dough this morning. The second pie, with sugared apples, is in the oven now and smells of everything good that ever happened to anyone. I even added the scrapings of half a vanilla bean, because I felt like being fancy. The first piecrust was the best I’d ever tasted, the second one has a touch of cheddar and I hope it’s even better. I’ll keep you posted.

P.S. The first pie was actually pretty tasty. Not transcendent, some sugar would have made it transcendent. But everyone knows the crust is the best part of the pie.

general housewifery is participating in National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo).

Saturday, November 1, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

Fans of addictive television series Mad Men (can you tell I'm one of them?) might be saddened that they won't get a Betty, Joan or Peggy fix for several months, but we can at least bring these fascinating ladies to mind with a little retro style. These Louboutin Papilipi pumps have a beautiful, classic shape. The saturated blue color adds plenty of pop. Don't cringe: despite the peek-a-boo toes, I see these with deeply colored tights for an updated look. A nude pedicure and high-waisted trousers would also make fitting, classic accompaniments. At net-a-porter.com for $845.
photo: net-a-porter

halloween warmed over

As NH and I strolled down Broadway for a post-brunch constitutional this morning, we animatedly discussed the Halloweens of yore, when costumes purchased from party shops and toy stores cost less than thirty bucks. Yesterday afternoon’s trip to Ricky’s to help a friend locate a Halloween costume did cause of surge of nostalgia for the days when Halloween was good cheap fun. May I never drop a hundred bucks on a costume.

One vivid memory we shared: vicious screaming matches with our mothers centered on coats-over-costumes mandates. We’re both New York natives, and it’s rarely warm enough at the end of October to wear even a conservative costume without a coat, but we both railed against authority; a down coat completely undermined the effect of a Scarlett O’Hara or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume. For several years, neither of us suited up on Halloween, content to spend All Hallow’s Eve relaxing at home, away from the scores of scarily, scantily or scarily scantily accoutered celebrants. This year, we participated in the festivities, dressing up and heading downtown for some ghoulish fun. NH went the topical route, in a home-assembled Joe-the-Plumber costume that was perfectly suited for a warm coat. I slipped a black trench coat on over my own vaguely frightening disguise (these, along with blood-red fishnets, black sequins and loads of eye makeup). The friend who I accompanied to Ricky’s? The lipstick red wool she wore over her adorable Alice in Wonderland costume made her look more than a little like Little Red Riding Hood. Was our willingness to wear something warm proof that all those years ago our mothers had been right? Maybe, but I don't think it's a stretch to say that it was the desire to show off our costumes to the myriad strangers encountered on a trick-or-treating expedition that inspired NH, myself, and probably every respectable kid in a temperate climate to fight mom on the coat issue. As adults, Halloween fun centers on parties, bar crawls and other events, so that the exhibitionist instinct is fully satisfied once the costumed party goer steps indoors and sheds his or her outer layer. This might explain why, after arriving at our destination, my party spent the first fifteen minutes of the event searching for the coat check. I hope the coat check girl who didn't come into work last night spent the evening deliciously, wearing a fabulous costume indoors, sans-coat. Eventually, we piled our outerwear, from designer wools to pedestrian cotton jackets, in a corner. This act of abandon left us free to show off the various manifestations of our whimsy. Still, even when outside, in the windy earliest hours of November, we left our pea coats and trenches unbuttoned against the cold. Perhaps the truth is that on Halloween, the one night when we can be anything at all, unabashedly sexy or angelically cute or pure evil, we want to exact every second of pleasure from that brief moment transformation. Maybe children, to whom pretend and metamorphosis come with ease, are most susceptible to the temptations of this holiday, and more importantly, more eager to claim those pleasures.

What did you dress up as last night? Did you wear your coat, as mom would have preferred?

general housewifery is participating in National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

In my fantasies, I must not be a New Yorker. Sure, in my conscious meandering day dreams I'm a fabulous New York woman with an amazing apartment and a really cute dog, but whenever I fall in love with a pair of shoes these days, I realized how very city-incompatible my favorites are. Take these intense Valentino stunners. One cannot wear rose pink suede on the dirty Manhattan streets, let alone brave the subway (or even a mucky cab floor) with such a beautiful color. The nude trim would be ravaged after a few New York adventures and those bows? Those bows are practically begging to be caught on something. No, these shoes belong in some perfect, insulated world, a modern-day Versailles (how Marie Antoinette are these?!?!) where shoes never have to worry about gum on the pavement or tiny rats running over them. Sigh! If you live somewhere where shoes are not at risk, or really do reserve your best shoes for vacuuming alone, pink suede bliss can be purchased for just under $700 from from the Neiman Marcus website.

"house water"

NH and I recently spent a weekend in Las Vegas celebrating my twenty-first birthday. We spent a lot of time thinking about it beforehand, and since I'm not a gambler (NH enjoys a game of craps and a sports bet or two, but nothing serious) and neither of us are raging lushes, we decided the foci of our trip would be (1) amazing food (2) at least one spectacular show and (3) shopping. Okay, I tacked on the last one, ran NH off his feet, and otherwise troubled him excessively over shoes, etc. etc., but overall we had a very good time. In compensation, I spent a few hours in the sports betting rooms with him, so we're almost even. Almost!

We stayed at The Venetian, which was both fabulous and gloriously, hilariously overdone, and we quite enjoyed ourselves there. Tucked away (seriously, we almost got lost trying to return to our hotel room) in the hotel is one of Thomas Keller's famed Bouchon restaurants, and having already greatly enjoyed the pastries at the Bouchon Bakery in New York City, we were determined to have at least one brunch there. Brunch is, arguably, our favorite meal because we have fewer disagreements about it. Suffice to say that our brunching experience was so delectable that we returned twice more, beginning every day of our stay with a sumptuous and satisfying brunch. If you are ever possessed of the opportunity, you must whisk yourself into a Bouchon for the sake a the beignets, the potato croquettes, the (cream-filled!) sticky buns, the expertly prepared omelets, the...well, I'm getting away from myself here. I truly regret that we did not return for lunch and that we did not sample what some have called the best french fries in America.

Anyway, I'm not posting on the experience because the food was delicious, because to be perfectly honest, I eat many delicious things in a year and have no reason to wax poetic on them to people on the internets who likely are not sampling said delicious food items themselves. I'm writing because the waiters at Bouchon in Vegas seemed to have the perfect solution to the "bottled water, monsieur, or tap?" issue. Obviously, a fellow might feel a bit lame asking for tap, gasp, how pedestrian! I kid, NH and I always drink tap unless I'm really in the mood for something with bubbles. In NYC, I have heard of waiters using cutesy names for tap water that honestly make me want to gag a little, included in this genre are "l'eau Bloomburg" and all of its manifestations. The waiters at Bouchon simply ask patrons if they prefer "bottled or house?" water. It's quite simple, a tad euphemistic, and much more pleasant sounding than "tap".

Of course, this is a very, very small issue. As I said above, NH and I happily order tap wherever we go (I mean, sure, we'd drink bottled in India, or Mexico, or Florida), but for the most part, if you are the sort who is horribly embarrassed by the prospect of ordering "tap" then it is very likely that you have lived a remarkably charmed life. All the same, I appreciated this gesture so much because in the end, it was an effort on behalf of the staff to make me and NH, the guests, more comfortable. For most of time in Vegas the waiters and other service people were of exceptional friendliness, politeness and quality. In NYC, I have seen waiters who are barely able to conceal a sneer when a customer orders a relatively cheap bottle of wine. In Vegas, where the wine lists in fine restaurants are literally binders, the waiters and sommeliers seemed as pleased when guests ordered moderate bottles as when big spenders shelled out for pricey gems. Sure, Vegas is an intense, expensive fantastical charade, but the people working there sure were remarkably pleasant...

Monday, September 8, 2008

bad kitty/mommy

You might have noticed the total lack of posts, in almost a month. I'd like to blame James Joyce and Henry James, but those bad boys have only come into my life in the last week, so it's hardly their (collective) fault. There's content lined up, but unedited and (well, obviously) unposted. It's forthcoming.

After all, I've had a top secret side-blogging project in the works...

Monday, August 11, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

These J. Crew Fleur patterned peep-toe heels have a really great shape. The pattern kind of reminds me of some of the tackier fabrics chosen on recent Project Runway challenges, but somehow, on a small, elegantly-shaped shoe (instead of a big, tulle-stuffed dress), the pattern seems refined. It even brings to mind MadMen, my new favorite show (so addictive, so hot), a little bit. I could certainly see Joanie/Red wearing these with a sexy red pedicure and a tailored teal dress. At $228, these would add a little retro surprise to an otherwise basic (or "essentialist", depending on how you look at it) fall wardrobe.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

cheddar-chive scones


cheddar chive scones, originally uploaded by doesinheadlights.


I rarely ever make scones, because I don't keep cream on hand, but after brunching at S's a weekend or two ago (see cinnamon rolls), and eating a version of these, which are a version of Ina Garten's cheddar-dill scones, I decided they were worth a special trip to the grocery store. The recipe is in Ina Garten's (first, I believe) book, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I halved the recipe and copied S, swapping out the dill for fresh chives. These were incredibly cheesy and chive-y.

cheddar-chive scones

2 cups ap flour, plus more for rolling
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
4.5 ounces (yellow) extra sharp cheddar cheese, small-diced
1/2 cup minced chives (I trimmed with scissors)
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Add the diced butter to the flour mixture and using two knives, a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the butter into the flour until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Those pieces are the key to perfect scone texture. Lightly beat the eggs into the heavy cream and add to the flour/butter mixture. Combine with a few quick strokes. Add the diced cheddar and minced chives, then stir until mostly incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead briefly and lightly, until the chives and cheese are thoroughly incorporated. Roll out to a 3/4-inch thickness. Cut the dough into eight equal portions, then roll each into a small ball. Place scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silicone. Flatten each lightly with the palm of your hand, then brush with the egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes until light brown and crusty on the outside.

Yields 8 fantastic scones.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

chocolate chip cookies


five cookies, originally uploaded by doesinheadlights.


Here's a shot of the chocolate chip cookies I made for work tomorrow (I am in a training session and thought they would be a nice treat). I should, but I don't, have a special chocolate chip recipe that I use all the time. Instead, I use whatever one is on hand at the time--one pulled from a cookbook, a blog or the back of a bag of chocolate chips. I do follow a few rules though, regardless of the recipe:

1. Always use good chocolate.
2. Never bake chocolate chip cookies in an oven hotter than 350.
3. Room temperature butter, no exceptions.
4. Salted butter and/or extra salt in the recipe.
5. Beat the butter and sugar senseless--that's the true meaning of "creaming" them.
6. Always consider doubling the vanilla.

These cookies (made from the JOC recipe, if you're curious, with the above modifications) came out with crisp exteriors and chewy exteriors. If I drank much milk, I'd be tempted to break out a glass.

Monday, August 4, 2008

peach cobbler promises


peach cobbler, originally uploaded by doesinheadlights.


I wanted to make cobbler mostly because the peaches at the supermarket were huge, smelled strongly of peachiness, and were under a dollar a pound. I checked out a number of cobbler and crisp recipes, but found most of the proportions were not quite what I was looking for (too much sugar, not enough sugar, sweet crusts). In the end I used the simple JOC method (i.e. prepare fruit filling of your choice, top with biscuit dough of your choice, brush with butter, sprinkle with sugar, bake). The most arduous part of this process is blanching and peeling the peaches. My mother said she would have left the skin on, and I'm inclined to believe that doing so wouldn't be a bad idea.

simple peach cobbler

6 large peaches (about 3lbs)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3-4 tablespoons flour (or cornstarch)
1 3/4 cups ap flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons dried buttermilk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup cold water
butter for the pan and topping
sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 425.

Boil plenty of water in a saucepan large enough to accommodate fat summer peaches. In the meantime, wash the peaches and prepare an ice water bath large enough to accommodate them. When the water is boiling, drop the peaches in for 30 to 45 seconds, and remove to ice water. Remove after 30 seconds to a minute. Peel by hand or using a paring knife.

Pit each peach and cut into several wedges. Place wedged peaches in a large bowl and toss with granulated sugar, brown sugar and flour or cornstarch. Set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and powdered buttermilk. Cut the unsalted butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Pour in cold water and stir the mixture gently until combined. Add more water if necessary, but dough should be sticky and dense.

Butter a large casserole, eight small ramekins, or some combination of the above (I used a small casserole dish and four small ramekins). Spoon the peach mixture into each. Top with loosely formed balls of the dough. Brush or spoon butter all over the top, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

Serve with excellent vanilla ice cream.

Yields 8-10 generous servings.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

peach cobbler teaser


peach cobbler teaser, originally uploaded by doesinheadlights.


Here's a quick peek at the cobbler filling. The parents, NH and I each had a mini-cobbler for dessert tonight, topped with a healthy scoop of Ben & Jerry's Fair Trade Vanilla. The crust (not pictured) was a buttermilk biscuit dough, basted with butter and sprinkled with my new best friend, you guessed it, vanilla sugar. Recipe was made up as I went along and will be featured, with more pictures, tomorrow.

Monday, July 28, 2008

paula dean's cinnamon buns


frosted, originally uploaded by doesinheadlights.

Every time I make these, I am slightly ashamed to admit I used Paula Dean's recipe, but, despite the time it takes to make these deliciously gooey buns (about three hours from bowl to plate), they're the best homemade cinnamon rolls I have ever made. I've made them five times in the last year, including this batch for one of my best girlfriend's recent brunch.

Here is the recipe, although I make a few alterations. Cut the butter for the filling by at least two tablespoons, or the rolls will fall apart. Add a little cinnamon to the filling for more cinnamony goodness, even more if your cinnamon is old. I make the filling with homemade vanilla sugar, but that's just extra credit.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

More fall preview shoes! These are from Dolce & Gabbana and they're at Neiman Marcus. If you've seen me walking around this summer, you'll notice I've rekindled my love for black and white. Here, I love the delicacy of the heel and shape combined with the starkness of the white piping against the black.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

I have been totally remiss and have missed all of the really cute shoes that have come out. These ballet pink and silver-sequined Pedro Garcia mary janes have officially taken me out of shoe hibernation. I could have missed them!


These shoes perfectly recall what ballet looked like to me from the inside: the veneer and sheen of costumes in the form of sequins, ribbon, tulle, lycra versus the hideous beauty of torn up shoes. And, just like my trusty pink slippers, these would look amazing with navy. Available at Net-a-porter, for $425.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

blais bliss

Whatever my opinion on reality television in general, Top Chef definitely ranks amongst my top three current television shows, and in fact beats out all other food related shows, including Alton Brown's Good Eats, if only because Good Eats is only a half hour long and Alton Brown keeps selling out to the Food Network and accepting gigs on other, fairly stupid shows. Anyway, I digress.

My dad shares my love for Top Chef and brings to the table a certain amount of common sense and foresight, and so decided to make a reservation at Richard Blais'--one of the, err, "Cheftestants" that made it to the season finale this season--Buckhead restaurant home as part of our July 4th celebrations. We weren't particularly sure what to expect; a late-evening telephone to the restaurant to check on the dress code introduced to us "Ted" (must have been a pseudonym) who informed my stepmother that ladies should come to the resto "sexy casual".

In reality, home is located in an old house, and has all sorts of fun charms, including real silver flatware left over from the previous occupant (another restaurant), enormous wine glasses and portholes into the kitchen (ask for table thirty for a great view). Sexy casual is an excellent way to describe the dress code and style, and even the menu, which features all kinds of twists on overwhelmingly delicious southern basics.

This post isn't really about the dreamy meal though, it's about the dreamy experience with chef Richard Blais, who took several minutes out of his busy evening of chef-ing it up at the kitchen of home to make the meal incredibly special for me. We checked that he was cooking when we arrived. That shocked me, as in true jaded New Yorker fashion I imagined that celebrity (or even semi-celebrity) chefs didn't cook in their restaurant kitchens all that often, and especially not on holidays. As we were left to our table (yes, the aforementioned table thirty), I witnessed Richard pow-wowing with some staff and perhaps due to my awkward and embarrassing reaction, he came over to greet my party and was as friendly as could be. He chatted with us and wished us a wonderful meal and we sat down and had one.

At the end of the meal when Richard was doing the rounds and the waitress came by to ask us if we needed anything else (we were bordering on stuffed over the cornbread cake with coffee ice cream, blueberries and caramel-butter sauce, not to mention the Coke float with vanilla-cardamom ice cream), I asked her if Richard would sign a copy of the menu for me. We were working on the check when Richard stopped by and asked us how our meal was and so on, not carrying my signed menu. I figured no one had told him or he had forgotten and since he was working I wasn't going to pressure him, but then, before ducking his faux-hawked head back into the kitchen, he asked if we'd like to see the kitchen. I stammered out a "yes, please" and he told us that our waitress would bring us in when we were done settling up and she did. She also brought me the day's menu which he'd drawn all over, and scribbled with birthday messages and other sweetnesses (my birthday is in forty-five days). Fans of the show will understand when I say that Richard showed us his nitrogen tanks and circulators, he introduced his protein chef and showed us where he approved the night's dishes. At the very end of the evening he shook my hand again and said he hoped to cook for me again.

I was too nervous to ask all sorts of intelligent questions and so on, but what really impressed me was his graciousness as a chef. I am guessing his run on Top Chef (a very successful run at that) has popularized the already nifty home, and I am sure he was busy enough without bringing a troop of six diners into his kitchen. Instead of shunning his guests, he was a charmer and a true host. He made me feel absolutely special and he guaranteed that I would travel to home again on a future trip to Atlanta. His faux-hawk may not be bobbing behind the portholes as he chugs water and furrows his brows, but his excellent, sometimes hilarious, food will be on the table, and that in itself is well worth the trip.

Friday, July 4, 2008

quick shout out to the atlanta cupcake factory

The Atlanta Cupcake Factory's somewhat homely website brings to mind the old-fashioned bakery's guileless interior. It's a small, bright shop with nothing but a two-by-two case of cupcakes on the counter, and nothing but water, milk and cupcakes on the chalkboard menu. The available cupcake varieties vary, perhaps daily, but it seems like almost every flavor has its charms. If you don't believe me, consider this: today, we (six of us) ordered one of every cupcake available (well, two each of the Red Velvet and Key Lime) and shared them, round robin style. We discovered that each cupcake yielded six frosting-laden bites. And that's the genius of the Cupcake Factory's miniature cakes. They aren't the gargantuan sugar bombs, baked in extra large muffin tins, that pass for cupcakes these days. They are the same size as the cupcakes your mother made using Duncan Hines mix in the kitchen you grew up in, except, for the most part, ten times more delicious because someone actually decided (rightfully) that making cupcakes, and cupcakes alone was the best idea ever. And they were right.

My one reservation is that the varieties based on white cake (the Sugar Cookie Dulce de Leche, Coconut and Sugar Cookie Chocolate) were dry. Otherwise, the cupcakes were moist and the creative frostings were truly standouts. The Key Lime was as creamy as the real thing. The frosting spread across the Chocolate Peanut Butter was so honestly peanut-buttery it could not be believed. I forfeited my bites of the Lemon Lemon and the Strawberry, but they looked like knockouts as well, bright yellow and pink respectively, and smelling strongly of fruit and sugar (that's a good thing!). The Carrot Cake had no raisins and no one had refrigerated the thing until the frosting was a solid log of cream cheese. The menu has some other awesome sounding flavors, including Pumpkin Pie and Chocolate Mint, that weren't out today, but that's how the cookie crumbles when it comes to a real bakery, the sort of place that closes when the cupcakes run out. Charm and a sugar-high don't come cheap, with each delightful cup of joy and butter going for $2.50, but the Atlanta Cupcake Factory is a gem, completely worth a stop-in or a detour.

The Atlanta Cupcake Factory, located at 624 N Highland Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA, 30306, is only open for retail sales Thursday through Sunday.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

i wish i had a fridge muffins

I made these muffins because I just purchased some of those nifty nut and party cups to use as muffin tin liners, a la Chockylit of the apparently defunct Cupcake Bakeshop and because the refrigerator-less state of my otherwise lovely office means that I can't carry the sort of snacks and foods to work that I would bring normally. I wanted something whole grain and savory, and these hit the spot. I put in just a smidge of regular old ap flour to prevent the muffins from being totally dense, and used plain old grocery store sharp cheddar cheese. I don't need to tell you that an artisanal cheddar would elevate them, or that many other hard cheeses (pecorino perhaps, or manchego) would be great too. Dried herbs or some pepper would be a welcome addition. I used skim milk because it's what I keep on hand-I'm sure whole would be great. If you plan to consume these right away, try half a stick (1/4 cup) of melted butter in place of the vegetable oil (using oil generally helps keep muffins moister longer). I plan to take these as a snack for work, but consider them as an excellent bread to serve with breakfast or dinner.

i wish i had a fridge muffins

1-3/4 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup ap flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (grated) sharp cheddar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups skim milk
1/4 cup canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a twelve cup muffin tin with paper liners (or, nut and party cups). Whisk flours, baking powder, sugar and salt and a medium-sized bowl. Add grated cheese and mix until the pieces of cheese are mostly separated (this prevents huge clumps of cheese from forming in the muffins). In a smaller bowl (I did this in my four cup measuring cup), beat the milk, oil and egg until thoroughly combined. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and mix together, using as few strokes as possible, until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Divide the batter among the cups (they will be pretty full). Bake for about fifteen minutes or until an inserted toothpick emerges cleanly. Cool in the pan for three minutes and then on a rack before storing.

Yields twelve muffins.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

the pancake affair

This weekend was Mother's Day. Finals separated me and my mother on actual Mother's Day and so I promised her an extra special, rescheduled day. Presents, flowers, homemade chocolate chip cookies (she insists that the varieties of cookies that I make are delicious-but wholly unnecessary), breakfast, the SATC movie, church and more were included in the equation. I really hope I don't have to spend Mother's Day away from my mother again in the future, but I do think Sunday was an adequate makeup.

My mother loves blueberries and she also loves a delicious pancake breakfast so I resolved to prepare blueberry vanilla pancakes for the special day. Working off of a simple JOC classic, and swiping a tip from a former pastry chef friend (thanks D, the clarified butter was an excellent suggestion), I prepped the dry and wet ingredients the night before with the hopes of whipping up a timely and perfect meal. For the woman who had sometimes made me breakfasts and other times dinged me in the forehead for my idiotic actions, I would become the perfect pancake making domestic goddess.

Not so. I don't know what it was. I've made pancakes many times. Fantastic pancakes. These however, I could not unstick. My mother mocked me from the living room while she munched on a pre-breakfast cookie appetizer. I turned off the eggs so they wouldn't be overdone by the time I managed to flip a single pancake. Sweat-and many of you know I simply don't sweat much, naturally-began to develop on my brow. "Do you want some help," she asked from the living room couch, where she practiced a lesson she would teach in a few short hours to a group of four preteens at her church. I refused her assistance and went on scraping my pancake-like messes off the bottom of the pan. Where were my pancake flipping chops?

After a few screwy cakes I submitted and let my mom watch. "You're being impatient," she told me, "you need to make sure they're actually brown before you flip them." Right In the moment I thought she was being impossibly annoying. I wasn't being impatient, I merely wanted the pancakes to be perfect. Then I realized those were exactly the same thing. I chilled out a bit and drank a big glass of water while I waited for the next few to brown. My mom applauded flips as though I'd performed the kind you do with your body. In the end we sat down to some yummy breakfast and delicious chatter.

The incident reminded me of something I read in a Nigella book very recently. In it, she points out that cooking has become a race from A to B to Plate, without a rest for enjoying the feel of flour in your fingertips or the ever-headier scent of basil as it's torn. It's not that I imagine I will suddenly stop doing last minute, super rushed, must be perfect cooking sometimes. I only hope that some of those times my mother, or NH, or somebody else who I love and who loves me will stop me, tell me I am being impatient, and ding me in the forehead for burning my hand with the pan.

Monday, May 26, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

Fierce, no? Louboutin at Saks.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

let them eat kate: clever or vulgar?

Honestly, I'm as sick of Kate Moss as the next girl, but I am curious about how her campaign for Agent Provocateur is being received. While recently in SoHo I stopped by the shop to glance at the window display, the glass of which reads "let them eat kate" smeared in bloody red paint or something similar (an unfortunate choice if you ask me, but not the point).

Personally, I think an image of Kate Moss with Denueve hair and red patent hooker boots with this, um, "caption" perfectly suits the AP sexy-smutty image, even though it's not the sort of thing you'd want your children to spot in a window display. What do you think? Funny? Hot? Gross? Tell me in the comments.

You can check out all the different images of Kate on the AP front page here. The pictures change each time you refresh so a quick spin through will reveal the "let them eat kate" ad. As AP sells lingerie, expect the images are not quite safe for work.

make this biscotti today: chocolate pistachio biscotti

I have never made biscotti before. This was the first time, and it was awesomely delicious. Everyone always gripes about how complicated Martha Stewart's recipes are but this was not too bad at all, the only trouble I had was slicing up the biscotti before their second spin in the oven, and to be honest, I fear the knife I used was not quite sharp enough. You could easily substitute other nuts for the pistachios but really, they taste so excellent with the chocolate and they're such a pretty green color I can't see why you would. I toasted the nuts beforehand because always do, but doing so is not required by the recipe. Here, I make two "loaves" so that the biscotti fit easily into a lunch bag, but feel free to make one large one if you'd prefer the more traditional shape.

chocolate pistachio biscotti
adapted from martha stewart's cookies.

2 cups ap flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons salted butter (I omitted the salt since I only had this on hand), softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup shelled pistachios
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (could use semisweet, I had bitter on hand)

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet.

In a small bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon of salt if you are using unsalted butter. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until nice and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the flour mixture, in two parts. The dough will be very stiff. Stir or fold in the pistachios and chocolate chips by hand, until just combined.

Split the dough into two logs, place them onto the prepared baking sheet and shape into flattened logs, roughly eight by three inches in measurement. Bake for 25-35 minutes until slightly firm. Remove from the oven, drop the temperature to 300, and set the biscotti to cool for 5-10 minutes. Patience will be rewarded so give them plenty of time to firm up before slicing. Then use a sharp, serrated knife and cut on the diagonal to make one inch thick slices. Bake (or "dry out"), cut side down, until crisp but a bit soft toward the center. Martha Stewart said about eight minutes, it took me closer to twenty. Use your eyes. Cool completely before eating.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

perfect for vacuuming: err edition

Why design something beautiful and elegant, like these or these, when you can design something that would look perfectly at home on the Jersey shore boardwalk? These Christian Louboutin shoes can be had from net-a-porter for about $800 if you don't mind the dreaded ankle strap and hideous color.

moving sucks out your soul

My absence here in the last fifteen days might suggest that I have decided to quit being housewifely. Not so. Over the first two weeks of summer I have done more baking, cleaning, cooking, and the like than I have in the last several months. The trouble is, I was also finishing up final exams and papers while moving home. My dorm was (and will be in the floor) a fourth floor walk up and I cannot seem to live without my muffin tins, stationary, or a few dozen hundred books, so I had a lot of stuff to move, and oops, now I am making excuses, which seems like poor etiquette. I am starting a new job on Tuesday, but one of my goals for the summer is to keep up with the blog pretty much daily, especially as there is nothing I love to do more when I have the full home kitchen at my disposal than make cookies.

In penance, I offer up the recipe for incredibly chocolate-y cookies that I made three weeks ago. These are so rich and chewy that I think they're the perfect thing for when brownie batter cravings. I kept aside 5-6 for NH and put the rest out on the dining room table for my sorority sisters, and they were gone very quickly. They're a simple variation of a peanut butter and chocolate confection I saw on Baking Bites, but since NH doesn't like peanut butter at all I do not bake with it much. You can check out the original recipe here.

Oh, I picked up Martha Stewart's relatively recent Cookies at Costco today. I am going to make the chocolate pistachio biscotti after I post this.

toasted almond chocolate chunk ridiculously chocolate-y cookies

1/2-1 cup whole almonds
2 cups ap flour
2/3 cup good cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350.

Chop almonds coarsely (you can buy them pre-chopped but I can't account for the quality of chopped nuts and they're more expensive anyhow). Toast the nuts in a dry pan over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until they smell delicious. Keep turning them and make sure they don't burn. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, mix up flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until nice and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture slowly. Fold in chocolate chunks and cooled, toasted almond. Drop nicely rounded tablespoons of dough on a lined cookie sheet, allowing plenty of room for spread. Bake cookies for about ten minutes, or until they appear relatively set. Watch carefully, it can be hard to see if chocolate burns. The cookies will need some time to cook before they can be removed from the sheet.

Yields about forty cookies.

Friday, May 9, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

Clicking around a bluefly shoe sale I ran into these Caovilla sandals and pumps, which I think have beautiful colors (love the sort of mottled look of the pump) and something really special in the pearly detail. In fact, I can't really recall the last time I saw pearl details on a shoe. I think these shoes have sort of an antique feel to them that probably captures what most people are looking for when they shop vintage, especially "older" vintage (1900-1940?). Even on sale these beauties are a mint, but would definitely be "pop" pieces for years to come.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

good things to put in scrambled eggs

ricotta
shredded fontina
shredded mozz
shredded cheddar
shredded manchego
goat cheese

chives
scallions

diced roasted tomatoes
diced sauteed peppers
black beans

fresh ground black pepper

Obviously not an exhaustive list.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Fabulous! Festival for May '08

This month I am guest-hosting the Fabulous! Festival, a blog carnival devoted to looking and feeling fabulous! I read some beautifully, honestly and hilariously written posts on a variety of topics from wedding style to purse obsessions, so without further ado, I give you the top ten eleven.

..Beauty..
First off, ever wondered how perfumes and cosmetics evolved from essential oils and pinched cheeks? Over at Edwardian Promenade, edwardiangaiety does a thorough-and fascinating-examination of The Chemistry of Beauty, a necessary read for anyone curious about how major perfume houses and big names in cosmetics developed into the multi-million dollar industries they are today.

For those interested in scaling beauty routines back to basics, Amy at Brown-bag Beauty Blog profiles a simple technique for preparing dry skin for summer exposure. Interested in saving a little cash and exposing your skin to fewer chemical-laden exfoliating products? Dry Skin Brushing may be the answer to flaky skin woes.

Curious about more all-natural beauty? Allie of Allie's (green) Answers soothes irritated, angry skin with baking soda and finds herself converted to this unconventional solution. Follow her lead and Give It A Try-Skincare from the Kitchen Cupboard before investing in the latest pricey, unproven skin care products.

..Fashion + Style..
On the theme of remaining fabulous and eco-friendly, Ann at annie green jeans takes an in-depth look at, well, "green" jeans. In her post Who Makes Eco Fashion? she explores the oft-avoided question of how to go about making sustainable fashion choices.

At The Fashion-y Blog, Kori responds to a Bazaar layout criticizing Oval Office hopeful Hilary Clinton's wardrobe and asks "Do we want a president who will take the time to keep up with the trends and push the fashion envelope? Or do we want a president who will spend her time running the country?" in her post My Two Cents about the intersection of style and politics.

Nancy's, of Fritinancy, anxiety-free swimsuit shopping may fill readers with surprise-or jealousy-but her look at the Skirtini, Put on a Suit and You'll Look Cute, is whimsical, poetic, informative-and just in time for beach season.

At The Pinup Blog Tali takes a close look at the summery sex appeal of the Vespa. Her post Ladies Prefer Vespa profiles the brand's history of sexy girls on candy-colored bikes. You might not be surprised to discover that the current, super-slim models accessorizing Vespas in today's ads can't even compete with some of the classic Vespa-adorning beauties like Jayne Mansfield and Raquel Welsh.

Finally, Meg at All About Appearances offers up her Number One Style Tip: choosing colorful solids over hard-to-match, soon-to-be-dated prints.

..Shopping..
Registries for any event-like any large-scale shopping endeavor-can be overwhelming. Woman Tribune provides easy-to-follow suggestions for designing a successful-and exhaustive-registry in Planning Your Big Day: Wedding Registries.

At The Bargain Queens, Meg's simple tip for finding cute shopping totes at beyond-reasonable prices in The Keyword for Finding Cheap but Fun Shopping Totes is a great way to avoid pricey models designed to capitalize on the trendiness of eco-friendly goods.

Finally, SweetTooth over at ShopLittleGifts has an excellent worksheet for coming up with gift ideas for the person on your shopping list who has everything. Check out 9 Tips to Shop for People Who Have Everything.

..Attention, Bloggers!..
Meg will be hosting the Fabulous! Festival again on June 2nd! Submit your posts on fashion, beauty, shopping or personal style by May 30th using this carnival submission form.

Interested in hosting the festival? Contact Meg.

Questions? Try the Fabulous! Festival FAQ.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

preview action

I spent most of Monday at the premiere of the new Patrick Dempsey movie, Made of Honor. I went with a small amount of trepidation but had an amazing time and will blog about it soon.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

I bored NH husband to death the other day with these Alexander McQueen slingbacks, which are the fantastic shoe equivalent of chainmail. Look closely-that's metal mesh. I don't know if doubt that these are especially comfortable, but they are beautiful and a conversation piece. The shape is the same enclosed platform that has reigned supreme this year (blame thank Louboutin for that) and I think it works with the "big shoe" mentality of metal mesh peeptoes. The price tag, which is over $1500 at net-a-porter, makes me think that maybe, just maybe, these are meant as art pieces rather than functional fashion.

Friday, April 25, 2008

sunderwear!

As summer approaches, and the clothing that my fellow students is inevitable pared down to sheer basics and light, revealing fabrics, underwear has again become an issue. The simple fact of the matter is that the sort of cozy, low-rise bikinis and boy shorts that are suitable under a pair of jeans for the fall or winter become rather visible under the slimly cut dresses and revealing fabrics of the approaching season. The little thong at left, from American Eagle, is cute and can be had at the relatively reasonable price of $7 (or 5/$25) but is it summer underwear? It's not likely, but it depends. On what?

1. Body type.
The other night, while I sat with friends discussing this very topic, it struck us that many people do not realize that certain types of underwear do not work with their shape. I am not advocating that everyone switch to "granny panties" or Spanx-like garments meant to alter the body's appearance, but there are some underwear shapes which demand caution. For women with hips of any kind, any undergarment with a low rise (i.e. short/slim side panels) is likely to cut into your flesh, creating a lump that does not exist. I do not know for sure, but I am willing to bet that most women are like me, uninterested in looking any bumpier/lumpier than I already am. String thongs and string bikinis will perform similar hip-cutting action. This is not a bad thing to keep in mind when it comes to swimsuits either. Ladies with ample butts might want to consider that underwear designed to cover a more moderate rear-end will very likely cut into a rounder bottom and create a funky shape alongside terrible visible panty line (VPL). No one likes VPL.

2. Outfit.
Obviously, if your summer wardrobe consists of jeans and tee shirts, then an entire wardrobe of fruit-print cheekies like the one from Victoria's Secret at right might be suitable. If you prefer to take advantage of the lighter styles, problems may arise. With any light or stretchy fabrics, any of the problems of 1 are magnified. With fabrics that are sheer, patterns and colors frequently become visible. Maybe I am too observant, but most people would be shocked by the amount of plaid, polka-dot and yes, fruit-printed panties I can spot through dresses, skirts and sheer shorts on a single summer day. There is nothing sexy about being able to see a woman's panties through her dress, it is merely tacky. If you are unsure of the opacity of your outfit, simply hold the underwear, on your hand of course, under the skirt/dress/whatever and see whether you can discern the pattern. If you can, try again.

Summer also means shorter hemlines. While the positively miniature dresses of the season are sexy and often quite wearable, a thong is not an adequate underpinning. I have the feeling some people will say that it is their prerogative to bare their butt cheeks if they so choose, and if so, I respond that I may mock you at will for doing so. This look, of visible thong, is never attractive and is almost rude. Breezy dresses present another problem. Face a breeze in a thong and flowing skirt and your butt may be on view for all to see. However attractive it is, I imagine this might be embarrassing. By the way, no underwear is a popular summertime option, and while I have no qualms about it I encourage the underwear eschewing public to careful ensure their outfits do not reveal far too much in a stiff breeze or while crossing one's legs.

3. Activity.
This is good advice year-round. Classes, offices and the like demand discretion, and a thong peeking out above your linen pants is hardly the image you want to portray (this might be the perfect no-underwear situation, but experiment a little). This is mostly about common sense. If you will be bicycling in your breezy cotton skirt, then panties with solid coverage are recommended. For a slinky post-beach party dress, underwear that does not even whisper its presence may be demanded. Think through your plans and underpin accordingly! And no, the underwear from American Eagle at left doesn't solve any special problem, I just think it's cute and a little retro.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

Honestly, I was flipping around the internets looking for cute, floral-printed sandals to do a little puffy post on, well, the cute floral sandals that are out for spring. There are many pairs and though I can't imagine their super versatile (that is, I wouldn't spend a fortune on them...), they're pretty cute and I expect to see them everywhere for a few months. Anyway, that's why it's so surprising that I fell in love with these Zanotti pumps, which are almost the polar opposite of floral sandals. Where flowers are feminine, drawn from nature, and either brightly- or pastel-colored, these pumps are edgy, feature a bold, almost jewel-ish tone, and have that severe, skinny silver heel. These are definitely shoes for going out in, and although they may not scream springtime, they certainly have sex appeal. At Saks.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

tacky chocolates

I wanted to make pizza today (tons of farmer's market red onions on hand, plus leftover taleggio from a recent celebration-the pizza came out amazingly, if you're curious), but couldn't find that last packet of yeast I swore I had on hand. So I ran to the grocer one block up to pick some up for the dough (a semi-whole wheat crust; I went with some thickness and heft to hold up against the rich toppings and lack of sauce). While waiting on the queue, which happened to be right by the chocolate shelf, I noticed that Girardelli has started selling boxes of chocolates with sentiments already on the box. Great, you don't even need a card!

The boxes come in all different messages and can be seen here at the Ghirardelli online shop. I think it's tacky and would prefer a regular box of chocolates with a nice card.

Would you buy them?

perfect (ridiculously simple) tomatoes for salad

I don't like the texture of raw tomatoes in my salad, and having purchased some gorgeous spinach yesterday as well as some lovely, ripe organic roma tomatoes, I decided some roasting was in order this morning. These take three hours to roast but only about six minutes to prepare, and are more flavorful and exciting than regular tomatoes. Roasted tomatoes are excellent on pizza (a nice contrast with the relatively mild, less sweet sauce) or chopped up and tossed into pasta with olive oil, garlic, and spinach. The roasting time can be adjusted to suit your preferences; 1 1/2 to 2 hours will yield juicier, but still heavenly, tomatoes that will play nicely with pasta or on bruschetta. Make as many tomatoes as you need or desire, but keep in mind that you'll end up with a lot less than you started with. Many people dress these up with garlic, herbs and the like, but in my opinion the plain kind are the most versatile.

Incidentally, since the flavors are concentrated here this is an excellent use for tomatoes that are watery or less flavorful than you'd like.

perfect tomatoes

8-12 roma tomatoes
2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper

Preheat to 275. Line a roasting dish with aluminum foil (easy cleanup; not necessary). Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil into pan and use the back of a spoon, or a basting brush, to spread evenly. Wash tomatoes. Split each in half lengthwise, and using a paring or other small knife, cut around the stem. Using a small spoon, scoop out the tomato innards and discard. Place tomatoes, cut side up, in roasting dish. Drizzle with olive oil to your preferences, about 1-3 tablespoons. Sprinkle tomatoes with sea salt, again to your preferences, and a little bit of fresh ground black pepper. Put tomatoes into oven and leave them alone for 1 1/2-3 hours. Tomatoes are ready when your house smells amazing and/or they look about as dry as appeals to you.

Yields X fantastic tomatoes.

Friday, April 18, 2008

trench coat

Remember when, still at the height of her Sex and the City fame, Sarah Jessica Parker did some advertisements for Gap? There was a whole cute little line with wide-leg trousers and lots of khaki and yellow. This was maybe four or five years ago, and I was in the tenth grade and half in love with SJP because of her shoe obsession and the obvious glamour of the show. One of the best things in that season was a trench coat with plenty of contrast piping and a really pretty, colorful lining of Easter-colored circles. I bought one of those trench coats (it was actually a point of contention between my mother and me), in black with khaki trim, and then proceeded not to wear it. It wasn't really a coat for a sixteen-year-old girl, and I always felt weirdly overdressed when wearing it. It's lovely though, and I never got rid of it (or the pink and beige plaid raincoat I bought then).

Recently, I rediscovered said trench coat. It's the perfect thing for the changing weather in New York, and adds a little chicness to the most plain of outfits. The weird thing though? I am seeing half the universe has done the same thing! I saw a pretty blonde wearing my trench coat a month ago while dining on mediterranean small plates at Kashkaval, and just yesterday a young woman descended the stairs in her own copy. Oddly enough, I don't recall seeing anyone else wearing this particular trench when mine was still tucked in the back of my closet, but perhaps it's like the old word trick--once you learn a new word, suddenly it appears in everything you read.

Of course, no matter how many city girls I see have unearthed their Gap trench coats just when I decided to wear mine again, there is nothing quite so fun as answering "I love your coat, where did you get it?" with "oh, this? Bought it ages ago...", even if that's just a little, tiny bit obnoxious.

What treasures have you unearthed from the back of your closet?

Monday, April 14, 2008

midnight muffins

I scratched out a recipe for these while resting this evening. The lemon curd is not very prominent (it probably helps that the homemade curd I have on hand is on the thin side), it adds just a touch of lemony creaminess in the center of the muffins, and could probably be doubled for stronger lemon flavor. Another variation would cut the butter in half, and/or replace it with vegetable oil, and/or replace the half and half with low fat milk, but I wouldn't recommend any of those things-the richness good in these too. The muffins are delicious and would be a fabulous addition to any brunch.

midnight muffins

2 cups ap flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large eggs
1 cup half and half
1/3 cup crystalized ginger
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla (or 1/2-1 vanilla bean, scraped)
4-6 tablespoons lemon curd

Preheat the oven to 400. Line (do not try to grease instead, results will be sticky and bad) muffin pans.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and ground ginger together in a large bowl. In a second bowl, beat up the eggs. Add the half and half, butter and vanilla and whisk until thoroughly combined. Using a food processor or blender (I used my magic bullet again), pulse the crystalized ginger and sugar together until a uniform powder develops. Whisk into wet ingredients. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, using two additions, and stirring only until combined (do not over beat!). Fill twelve muffin cups halfway. Add a heaping teaspoon of lemon curd to each muffin cup. Top cups with remaining batter. Bake for approximately fifteen minutes, or until an inserted toothpick emerges cleanly.

Yields twelve muffins.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

Hmm, I actually can't tell if I love these Miu Miu sandals (at net-a-porter.com), but I think I do. The color is a little strange, and that heel is certainly a statement, and yet I cannot help but feel they are a more youthful, perhaps more irreverent (aren't those the same?) take on the Prada flower heels that are actually lovely. I like the surprise of the heel against the pretty, simple, femininity of the flower. Hmm, the more I think about it the more I like them.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

the liberated woman

The other day I mentioned that I'm reading Richard Yates' Easter Parade (well, read, I finished it on the subway today). It was recommended by a dear friend, who thought it might be appropriate to my writing, and he was right. Selfdivider's comment that Yates is perhaps one of the most depressing authors of all time is no understatement. As I read, I found the book strangely, almost grotesquely resonant with my own life and over the past few days I've been in a rather melancholy mood because of it. I tend to get that way with books sometimes.

Anyway, I had promised said dear friend that I would let him know what I thought of the whole thing, and I will, but the thing that struck me most is the book is largely a comparison between two (maybe three, maybe) ways that a woman could live her life and in the first half of this century (I think, think, that Yates wrote this in the 60s but it takes place from about 1920 to the mid 60s, with most of it in the 40s-50s, coincidentally an era I am currently obsessed with). The Grimes sisters, Emily and Sarah, choose opposing paths; beautiful Sarah damns herself to a mediocre middle class marriage out in the suburbs with a husband who, it turns out, beats her for twenty-five years, while slender Emily goes to Barnard shortly after losing her virginity in precisely the way she swore she wouldn't (if I'm remembering correctly), and begins a life of imperfect sexual affairs and semi-satisfying employment, capped with semi-madness and semi-alcoholism. I've just realized I've somehow taken on Yates hard heart, I'm being as uncharitable to the Grimes sisters as he was when writing the novel. The mother...well, Pookie just isn't that relevant to this blog, it isn't a book review blog, it's about housewifery. I also don't think Yates needs my reviews.

At the end Yates offers this sort of copout where he has one of Sarah's sons tell his aunt Emily that he's often considered her an early prototype of the liberated woman. I think this is relatively clear from reading the book but it doesn't hurt too badly. Of course from hindsight it's really easy to say that someone like Emily almost re-enslaved herself (to wanton sexuality? to loneliness? to dissatisfaction?) by not marrying successfully, and that seems to be what her "little wife"-type sister feels as well, but it's an interesting thing to think about. Yates seems to suggest that women could choose or roll the dice and it wouldn't make an iota of a difference. There was no being happy for these women, they each picked wrong and as I see it there were no other options. It would be nice and comfortable to say that the book is a period piece, that women are more liberated and happy and blah blah blah now but I'm not sure I can believe that. If it were true I doubt we'd have Bridget Jones Diary. I doubt we'd have all those "subtle" books about marriage (Vinegar Hill comes to mind) that are so popular with women and girls.

What's really different now? Is it really, literally, possible to be a happy liberated woman? The truth is I want to be in the kitchen, but then again I want to sit in the front row of my lecture classes. So maybe it's a burning need for both, maybe that's what Sarah and Emily did wrong-they had to pick so they did, and in the end the right answer was to do everything, be a career girl and a sexpot, make quiches and drive the kidlets to school (I hate quiche by the way, and Sarah seems like a wretched housewife but she tries hard to be one). Do both. Do both.

Or do nothing.

What do you think?