Friday, January 31, 2014

:: i'll be starting february with a few of these... ::

We made it through January! I only fell once and I was wearing a puffy coat and the snow was freshly fallen and I wasn't holding my iPhone, so it's kind of like it didn't happen. And now on to February, which can be the coldest and cruelest month. May I suggest the following book selections. I'll be digging through them myself. From my sofa, my bed, the subway...

To the weekend!


Kids These Days: Walter and Alice are expecting their first baby, but their timing is a bit off: Walter, once a successful loan officer, has been unexpectedly downsized. They’ve had to relocate to Florida so that they can live rent-free--in Alice’s deceased aunt’s condo. When Alice’s brother-in-law Mid offers Walter a job, he literally can’t refuse. But what he doesn’t know--about the nature of the job, about the depth of Mid’s shady dealings, about what he’s really supposed to be doing--far outweighs what he does know. And soon enough, things escalate so out of control that Walter is riding shotgun with Mid in a bright yellow Camaro--chased by the police. Drew Perry paints a landscape of weird and beautiful Florida and its inhabitants--all wholly original and hilarious, and utterly believable. And at the center is a portrait of a father-to-be who is paralyzed by the idea of taking responsibility for another human life when he can’t seem to manage his own. Kids These Days takes perfect aim at the two sides of impending fatherhood--abject terror and unconditional love.

The Goldfinch: Composed with the skills of a master, The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity. It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art. As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle. It is a novel of shocking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breathtaking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher's calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

Blood Will Out: In the summer of 1998, Walter Kirn—then an aspiring novelist struggling with impending fatherhood and a dissolving marriage—set out on a peculiar, fateful errand: to personally deliver a crippled hunting dog from his home in Montana to the New York apartment of one Clark Rockefeller, a secretive young banker and art collector who had adopted the dog over the Internet. Thus began a fifteen-year relationship that drew Kirn deep into the fun-house world of an outlandish, eccentric son of privilege who ultimately would be unmasked as a brazen serial impostor, child kidnapper, and brutal murderer. Kirn's one-of-a-kind story of being duped by a real-life Mr. Ripley takes us on a bizarre and haunting journey from the posh private clubrooms of Manhattan to the hard-boiled courtrooms and prisons of Los Angeles. As Kirn uncovers the truth about his friend, a psychopath masquerading as a gentleman, he also confronts hard truths about himself. Why, as a writer of fiction, was he susceptible to the deception of a sinister fantasist whose crimes, Kirn learns, were based on books and movies? What are the hidden psychological links between the artist and the con man? To answer these and other questions, Kirn attends his old friend’s murder trial and uses it as an occasion to reflect on both their tangled personal relationship and the surprising literary sources of Rockefeller's evil. This investigation of the past climaxes in a tense jailhouse reunion with a man whom Kirn realizes he barely knew—a predatory, sophisticated genius whose life, in some respects, parallels his own and who may have intended to take another victim during his years as a fugitive from justice: Kirn himself. Combining confessional memoir, true crime reporting, and cultural speculation, Blood Will Out is a Dreiser-esque tale of self-invention, upward mobility, and intellectual arrogance. It exposes the layers of longing and corruption, ambition and self-delusion beneath the Great American con.

Shovel Ready: Spademan used to be a garbage man. That was before the dirty bomb hit Times Square, before his wife was killed, and before the city became a blown-out shell of its former self. Now he’s a hitman. In a near-future New York City split between those who are wealthy enough to “tap in” to a sophisticated virtual reality, and those who are left to fend for themselves in the ravaged streets, Spademan chose the streets.  His new job is not that different from his old one: waste disposal is waste disposal.  He doesn’t ask questions, he works quickly, and he’s handy with a box cutter.  But when his latest client hires him to kill the daughter of a powerful evangelist, his unadorned life is upended: his mark has a shocking secret and his client has a sordid agenda far beyond a simple kill. Spademan must navigate between these two worlds the wasteland reality and the slick fantasyto finish his job, clear his conscience, and make sure he’s not the one who winds up in the ground. Adam Sternbergh has written a dynamite debut: gritty, violent, funny, riveting, tender, and brilliant. 

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour: Paul O'Rourke is a man made of contradictions: he loves the world, but doesn't know how to live in it. He's a Luddite addicted to his iPhone, a dentist with a nicotine habit, a rabid Red Sox fan devastated by their victories, and an atheist not quite willing to let go of God. Then someone begins to impersonate Paul online, and he watches in horror as a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account are created in his name. What begins as an outrageous violation of his privacy soon becomes something more soul-frightening: the possibility that the online "Paul" might be a better version of the real thing. As Paul's quest to learn why his identity has been stolen deepens, he is forced to confront his troubled past and his uncertain future in a life disturbingly split between the real and the virtual. At once laugh-out-loud funny about the absurdities of the modern world, and indelibly profound about the eternal questions of the meaning of life, love and truth, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour is a deeply moving and constantly surprising tour de force.

Frog Music: Emma Donoghue's explosive new novel, based on an unsolved murder in 1876 San Francisco. The city is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heatwave and a smallpox epidemic. Through the window of a railroad saloon, a young woman called Jenny Bonnet is shot dead. The survivor, her friend Blanche Beunon, is a French burlesque dancer. Over the next three days, she will risk everything to bring Jenny's murderer to justice--if he doesn't track her down first. The story Blanche struggles to piece together is one of free-love bohemians, desperate paupers and arrogant millionaires; of jealous men, icy women and damaged children. It's the secret life of Jenny herself, a notorious character who breaks the law every morning by getting dressed: a charmer as slippery as the frogs she hunts. In thrilling, cinematic style, Frog Music digs up a long-forgotten, never-solved crime. Full of songs that migrated across the world, Emma Donoghue's lyrical tale of love and bloodshed among lowlifes captures the pulse of a boomtown like no other.
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

:: styling the white button down ::

There's something about a tailored white button down shirt that makes me think about Annie Hall and Lauren Hutton and Kate Moss all at the same time. It's a timeless piece, but when I put one on, I always kinda just feel like a boy.

There's a great article here on a few celebs and how they dress it up or own it dressed down. I took my own stab at it below. Red had to be involved.

Also, on a similar topic, those starfish studs are from Gorjana. I picked them because I felt like the shirt had a coral-ish/nautical theme and I was trying to tie it all together. I've mentioned Gorjana's pieces before here. They're a great go-to line for inexpensive jewelry that's on-trend but not too trendy. And that's a fine line, ladies. And they're having a sale right now site wide--30% off with the code SWEETESTTHING. You're welcome.


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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

:: cake frosting shots cure EVERYTHING ::

Last Friday I spent a lovely evening with some fellow bloggers and the Boston Center for Adult Education's resident cupcake guru, Dustin Todd Rennells. I've written about the BCAE before here and here, but this class took the cake (ha).

I told my calorie-counting self to let me just enjoy my fun and soon I was knee deep in brandied peach batter and sangria and hot toddies and red wine frosting. Yes, I said RED WINE FROSTING.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from the night:






Every time I head over to the BCAE for a cooking/baking class, in addition to great instruction and amazing facilities, I always come away with a few good nuggets of information that I can't believe I've lived without. For example, did you know that once you use your baking soda in the fridge to keep odors at bay it becomes totally ineffective as a baking ingredient? Dammit. At least I can blame all of my past disasters on that factoid.

But by far, the best treat of the night was that whipped cream and sprinkles concoction you see above. The "cake frosting shot" involves vanilla vodka, amaretto, pineapple juice, a cherry and a general feeling that all is right with the world. I had two. And a half.

Interested in taking a cupcake and cocktails class with Dustin? (You totally should). There's one scheduled each month from now through April. Click here for more info.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

:: bright yellow! ::

Even though it's still frigid out, the sun is shining and the sky is blue. And for that, I'm grateful. It means I could pull back out my ballet flats rather than my Hunters/Mukluks/LLBean artic tundra footwear. I'll probably slip and fall on my way home tonight but whatever. It's Friday, I'll have the weekend to recover.

In honor of the sunshine, here's what I'm thinking...Isn't that drapey Ted Baker tunic dress amazing? Happy weekend!


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Thursday, January 23, 2014

:: damn you, cocktails! ::



One of my resolutions for 2014 is/was to lose 12 pounds. While I'm employing various tactics to make this a reality (another post for another time), cocktails continue to thwart my efforts. I tried switching to white wine to cut down on the simple syrup/triple sec trap, but it's just not doing it for me. And I can't drink red wine because it triggers my migraines. So, I'm back to looking longingly at the cocktail menu before sighing and ordering my pinot grigio a la Ramona on RHONY.

I'm exploring some low calorie options that don't involve me bringing a bottle of Skinny Girl into a bar with me (two RHONY references, one post!) but am looking for any help I can get. Here are a few ideas I've found on the Interwebs:


  • Vanilla vodka and diet ginger-ale: A single shot is less than 100 calories and sugar free. And the diet ginger ale has no calories or sugar. But do bars even stock it?
  • Tequila on the rocks with club soda: This, I think I could get behind. Not as delish as my beloved margarita, but with a lime wedge, I might be able to trick myself. Like the vodka above, a shot is about 100 calories. 
  • Champagne: A lovely option in a lot of ways, but weird at 6pm on a work night. But it's only 85 calories for a glass...probably because those glasses are skinny/tiny. Maybe I should use that as inspiration. 
  • Gin and tonic: 100 calories in a glass--1 oz gin and 3 oz tonic. This is probably the only one I can ask for without feeling complicated. But ugh, it sounds boring. 

Anyone have any standbys? I may want to drink two or three, so...

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

:: more crockpotting! char siu pork roast ::

It's coooold out. And getting colder. And snowier. And that, my friends, is the only excuse I need to whip out my crockpot once again. Here's my latest:



Char Siu Pork Roast
Source


Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup lower-sodium soy sauce 
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce 
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic 
  • 2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger 
  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil 
  • 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder 
  • 1 (2-pound) boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed
1/2 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth


Preparation 
Combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

Place in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add pork to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours, turning occasionally.

Place pork and marinade in an electric slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Remove pork from slow cooker using a slotted spoon; place on a cutting board or work surface. Cover with aluminum foil; keep warm. Add broth to sauce in slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes or until sauce thickens. Shred pork with 2 forks; serve with sauce.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

:: supermodel cuticles ::

Rarely are there ways to make yourself look more polished on the cheap. Botox, keratin, an Equinox membership. These are all gonna cost you bank. But here's one good little habit for 2014 that will cost you under $15 and make your digits feel like a million bucks.

I pick at my fingers whenever. A childhood nail biter, I finally stopped that bad habit, but if I'm thinking hard or stressed or basically whenever I'm awake, I'm picking at my (now) raggedy cuticles. Here's a shortcut through my journey to find the best ever cuticle oils and creams.
supermodel cuticles.

1. Julep essential cuticle oil ($18). I got this as an add-on to one of my Julep boxes and I think it's my favorite of the bunch. It smells herbal and is light enough to absorb into my skin pretty quickly. A rollerball applicator is also my preference to a brush.

2. Aveda cuticle control ($10.50). This is more of a remover/minimizer, but whatever keeps those ragged edges smooth.

3. C. O. Bigelow Rosebud Salve ($6). If this stuff could cook me dinner and dig out my car after a snow storm, I'd marry it. In addition to being a lip balm, and a scratch soother and a burn reliever, it's great on the cuticles. And it's so cheap.

4. O.P.I Avoplex ($9). Made of avocado oil, it includes a brush applicator and is meant to be rubbed in overnight.

5. Butter Cuticle Oil ($19). This stuff actually looks (and feels like nail polish). Brush one coat over entire nail (including cuticle area) and let dry.

6. Philosophy's Hands of Hope ($10). Do you remember Philosophy's Save the Nails? It was discontinued a long time ago, which kinda broke my little product-loving heart. But they've finally replaced it and Hands of Hope is almost as good. And it doubles as a heavy hand cream for those of you with chappy winter hands.

7. Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream ($6). A really tart lemon scent and a convenient little tin make this a great choice to toss in your purse. It takes a while to sink in (at least for me), but it gets the job done.

Any favorites I've forgotten? Happy weekend!

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

:: i'm neutral on print blocking ::

My recent obsession with black and white (and an occasional splash of pink or red) has developed into a love of all things neutral, in geometric form. There's something about the straight lines that seems so put together, so Olivia Pope. And that thing in the middle down there? It's a rug. And I'm thinking it would look perfect in my living room.


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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

:: taste of tuesday: crock pot pesto lasagna ::

So excited to co-host Taste of Tuesday with Let's Get Bananas and Blissfully Miller! I don't use my slow cooker enough. Even if I used it every day, in the winter, it wouldn't be enough. I know lasagna isn't a meal you think of using a crockpot for, but I've decided you can make anything in those babies. And this recipe is proof.

Pesto Lasagna with Spinach and Mushrooms
Source: myrecipes.com


Ingredients
-4 cups torn spinach
-2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
-1/2 cup pesto
-3/4 cup (3 oz) shredded, part skim mozzarella cheese
-3/4 cup (3 oz) shredded provolone cheese
-1 (15 oz) carton fat free ricotta cheese
-1 large egg, lightly beaten
-3/4 cup (3 oz) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
-1 (25.5 oz) bottle fat-free tomato-basil pasta sauce
-1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
-cooking spray
-1 (8 oz) package precooked lasagna noodles (12 noodles)



Directions
1. Arrange spinach in a vegetable steamer and steam covered for three minutes or until spinach wilts. (Or if you're lazy, like me, just buy frozen). Drain, squeeze dry, and coursely chop. Combine spinach, mushrooms, and pesto in a medium bowl, stirring to combine; set aside. 

2. Combine mozzarella, provolone, ricotta, and beaten egg in a medium bowl, stir well to combine. Stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan, and set aside. Combine the past a sauce and the tomato sauce in a medium bowl. 

3. Spread 1 cup pasta sauce mixture in the bottom of a 6 quart oval electric slow cooker coated with cooking spray. Arrange three noodles over pasta sauce mixture; top with one cup cheese mixture and one cup spinach mixture. Repeat with layers, ending with spinach mixture. Arrange 3 noodles over spinach mixture, top with remaining one cup cheese mixture and one cup pasta sauce mixture. Place remaining three noodles over sauce mixture; spread remaining sauce mixture over noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan.

4. Cover with lid, and cook on LOW for five hours.

Want to Join Us?! YAY! Just follow these simple steps:
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Help us promote our link up!  Use the hash tag #tasteoftuesday on Instagram and Twitter and tag us! (IG: @ashleymbarnhill and @jessicaselie) (Twitter @ashleymbarnhill and @jessicaselie).  Tag us and we’ll re-tweet!


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Friday, January 10, 2014

:: so far, january 2014 feels like this... ::

It's been polar-vortexing here like crazy and I have never talked so much about the weather. But despite the artic temperatures and the slipping and sliding I do each and every time I step outside, January is feeling pretty cozy. Spicy cocktails and fireplaces and movies and crockpot food. All good things.

I'm probably not detoxing from the holidays like I should be, but I think this cable knit sweater should conceal most of my 2013 sins.

Also, that three-way cross-body tote is here. And it's soft like butter. I highly recommend.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

:: mushing my dogs in maine ::

I have so been looking forward to posting about my winter adventure with the Mahoosuc Guide Service in Newry, Maine. I learned to dog mush, chisel a hole in the ice for drinking water, SAWED DOWN A TREE (!?!?!) for firewood and rang in 2014 by sleeping in a tent in -10 degree weather. And I lost no fingers or toes to frostbite in the process, which is probably my biggest accomplishment here.

The huskies were the sweetest dogs ever and they howled and howled when they were getting ready to run, and then the minute they started pulling, all was silent. I risked skin exposure for 15 seconds to take this video:

video


And here are a few more photos:






 It was a cold, cold few days, but it felt good to take the girl out of the city for a bit. Happy belated New Year!

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

:: pretending it's not winter: lemon berry cheesecake ::

So, Katie Lee (Billy Joel's ex-wife) does this cute little column in SELF magazine called The Sporty Chef. This month she's chilling down in Turks and Caicos (which I am not), in a bikini (which I am not), eating this cheesecake. It's delicious, so I guess I'm willing to settle for one out of three.



Anyway, cheesecake always sounded really hard, but this one isn't too bad. Maybe 20 minutes to prep, and then 40 minutes in the oven, and 2 hours to set. And at 239 calories a slice and 12 grams of protein, it doesn't put me on a cheesecake suicide mission.

Light Lemon Berry Cheesecake
Source: SELF, 1/14
Serves 8

Ingredients: 
-Cooking spray
-1/2 cup whole-wheat graham cracker crumbs (I cheated and just bought a ready made graham cracker shell)
-1 package (8 oz) light cream cheese, cut into quarters
-2 cups light cottage cheese
-3 eggs
-3/4 cup sugar
-1/4 cup lemon juice
-2 tbsp all purpose flour
-1 tbsp lemon zest
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 cup berries (I used raspberries)




Directions: 
Heat oven to 375. Press in the graham cracker crusts after you've sprayed a springform pan with cooking spray...unless your lazy like me and then just open the crust package.

In a blender or bowl, mix cream cheese, cottage cheese, eggs, sugar, lemon juice, flour, zest and vanilla extract until smooth, about 45 seconds. Gently pour into pan.

Bake until it looks set but has a slight jiggle, about 40 minutes. Let cool in pan for 20 minutes and set for at least 2 hours.

Serve topped with berries!

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Monday, January 6, 2014

:: if essie, opi and zoya got in a girl fight... ::

Zoya would win, hands down. This stuff doesn't peel or chip off my nails until at least 2 weeks have gone by, and their colors are beautiful. And they've removed toxic ingredients like toluene, camphor, formaldahyde resin and DBP (dibutyl phthalate) from their formulations, so I can feel a little better about putting those pretty shades on my nails.

Right now they're having a sale using the code COLOR2014. Get any three bottles for free, just pay shipping and handling ($12). Or, if you spend over $25, the shipping is free, too. This deal starts tomorrow (1/7) at 12 noon EST and goes through 1/13.

Here's what I'm picking up:

Zoya Nail Polish ZP519  Kelly  Purple Gray Blue Nail Polish Cream Nail Polish
Kelly 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

:: eco-friendly soap that won't break the bank ::

I know I've written about Follain before, but I can't stop myself. I went in over the weekend and got one of these beautiful bottles full of hand and body soap. All natural, they lather like crazy and smell like essential oil rather than chemicals. Stored in drums above the sink, staff fill the bottles with one of three rotating scents. This weekend's were Balsam Fir (which I chose), Peppermint, and Teak. The scents change based on Facebook votes.


The best part is, the soaps are local, all natural and by purchasing a large bottle for $24, you can refill it for $8, which reduces waste AND is super affordable. I'm looking for any excuse to wash my hands. At least riding the T every day makes THAT easy.

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