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


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?

Friday, April 11, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

These shoes immediately made me think of Legally Blond, in a good way. This is a color that not everyone can wear, some people will look silly in it, some people will most certainly lack the special flair (I'm reading Richard Yates' Easter Parade so I think I have a special affection for the term flair right now) required for hot pink high heels, but the girl who can handle these Brian Atwood knockouts has something special indeed. Nothing crazy about them, just a standout hue. At Saks.

cleaner than you found it

Was I the only person who was taught this phrase at home and in school?

These days when I'm riding the subway there is a very serene, feminine voice asking travelers to please refrain from discarding trash on the tracks. I don't know if the risks they mention--track fires, route delays--are real, but it does strike me that it needs to be said at all. Track trash contributes to the rat problem and looks unsightly. I've never had a problem finding a garbage can on a subway platform, I'm not even sure I've seen one that was too full to use, but people continue to put their garbage right in the tracks instead. It's very tacky, I think, to dump something into a functioning piece of equipment rather than finding a receptacle.

I've seen similar problems at delis, bagel shops and other quick eateries. While I suppose it's asking a little bit too much to assume that customers will bus their own tables in such an establishment, I do think it's perfectly acceptable to assume everyone should dump out their own napkins and used utensils and so on, as well as wiping up any spills. I once knew a young woman who would never throw out her plates and cups and such in these types of places, preferring to abandon them on the table. Perhaps finding a napkin is a bit time consuming, but really, how much worse is it for the person who ends up with your spilled syrup on her sleeve? I'm guessing that's the problem actually, very few people care about the next person anymore.

What's probably more insidious is that this kind of behavior spreads. Infuriated by the previous customers/inhabitants that fail to care for shared spaces, many people assume the same air of entitlement. I sort of understand this--I dislike washing other people's dishes, asking to use the employees' trash can in a shop, or cleaning the coffee I have spilled because the counterperson overfilled the cup--but this is how we become impolite monsters. Frustrated by the bad behavior of our rude fellows, we abandon all hope and become similarly brutish, somehow excusing ourselves: we are only doing as everyone else does.

It's pathetic, I really do think so.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

Little lemony pumps! These are chic and work-appropriate, would look amazing with trousers. I'm going nutters over that tassel. At Anthropologie.

lemon cake

After my midterm on Thursday, with a sack of lemons in my fist, I decided to finally make a lemony pound cake. I'll admit I only at about three bites of it (I left the rest out for the sorority sisters to sample), but since it went, I'll assume the first few bites were a decent indicator. The only thing I wasn't in love with about this cake was the crust, which felt a bit cornbread-like to me, but since I've made this before in a glass loaf pan (I used the glaze suggested by the original recipe that time) with superior results, I'll blame the silicone loaf pan. I am really not a big fan of silicone.

I think a ginger-vanilla glaze on top would be fantastic. I also think this would be delicious toasted and spread with a great strawberry jam.

This cake is ever so slightly adapted from David Herbert's Simply Perfect Every Time, a book I took home on a whim during an internship at a publishing house. I've tried some of the other recipes with mixed results. I used the juice from the meyer lemons I'd zested to make his lemon curd, and it came out quite nicely.

lemon cake

1 1/2 cups ap flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (I used meyer lemons)
3 eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven the 325. Butter and flour a 9x5 loaf pan and set aside.

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine thoroughly. In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add the eggs, in three additions, alternating with one tablespoon of the flour mixture. Beat the rest of the flour mixture in on low speed. Spread the batter (it will be thick) in the pan. Bake for 55 minutes, or until a bamboo skewer inserted into the center emerges cleanly. Cool on a wire rack and serve.

Yields about eight delicious slices.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

i swear i'm still alive: weekend preview

Just as soon as I pass my last midterm (the cruel person who decided one class needed two midterms in one semester is beyond me and deserves none of this weekend's bounty), I have a long list of treats I plan to prepare. I even missed Top Chef last night.

Today will finally be the day of the meyer lemons.

Saturday will feature sugar cookies and peanut butter cookies, whipped up for an event I'm holding.

Sunday, chocolate croissant bread pudding, from a Gale Gand recipe, for the brunch being hosted at my house.

Monday will be the day of the pear crisp, as I imagine some of you poll takers expected I was lying about actually making it.

Get excited.