Monday, December 26, 2011

Day After Christmas Shopping

Hello everyone, I hope you had a Merry Christmas or a restful federal holiday!

Today was the first day I ever went shopping after Christmas, but it was mom's idea and being the fashion-lover that I am I thought it would be fun. It was! We only went to two stores: DSW and Macy's. DSW had some things I liked but they just weren't comfortable--I'm all about comfortable shoes. Sacrificing comfort for fashion is totally unnecessary in my opinion, and if you hunt around enough you can find great shoes at good prices that are also comfortable. I'm pretty picky about all of my clothes but especially my shoes, so admittedly it takes me longer than most. However, today at Macy's I found a pair that will match anything through fall and winter because of the color blocking. Trendy and useful! The chunky heel is also not too chunky but is definitely sturdy enough that I'll be able to walk however many blocks to work next year and not be miserable. I'm pretty sure these might be man repellent, but I'm not concerned about it, hahah.

The Lil MaryJane by Nine West:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Celebrating with Food!

So to celebrate Christmas and the end of term, I cooked my boyfriend some food last Sunday: spaghetti carbonara and brownies!

Since they're both so easy to make, I'm just going to post pictures and recipes. This also likely to be my last post before the 25th, so Merry Christmas, y'all!

Spaghetti Carbonara:

This recipe is a bit Martha Stewart, a bit of my boyfriend's French host mom's recipe, and a bit of my own tastes:

Spaghetti Carbonara
1 pound spaghetti
8 ounces (8 slices) bacon, cut 1 inch thick crosswise (if you're ritzy you can substitute pancetta)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 large eggs* at room temperature
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano** cheese, plus more for serving
1/2 cup half-and-half at room temperature
2-4 cloves of garlic (optional)
1 handful chopped parsley (optional)

*Straight from an Italian and tested by my boyfriend's host mom, it's best when there are n-1 eggs, n being the number of people eating. However, I follow this rule starting at 3 people; for 2 people I add 2 eggs, 3 if I don't have half-and-half. 
**Gruyere is yummy, a bit more flavorful, and may melt more easily. I've done both and I like the Gruyere more, but negligibly. I wouldn't substitute any other Parmesan cheese for the Pargmigiano Reggiano. 

1. Set a large pot of water to boil (for pasta) and salt generously. 
2. Mince the garlic.
2. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat (with the minced garlic cloves if you add them), stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crisp, 8 to 12 minutes; transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
3. When the pot is boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente, according to package instructions.
4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together eggs, Parmesan, and half-and-half. Set aside.
5. Drain pasta, leaving some water clinging to it. Working quickly, add hot pasta to egg mixture. 
6. Add bacon and some of the grease if you desire; season with salt and pepper, and toss all to combine (heat from pasta will cook eggs). 
7. Serve immediately, sprinkled with additional Parmesan cheese (and the chopped parsley if you have it).

Next up, Rose's (my roommate) world-famous brownies!

I follow the recipe exactly, and they are super easy to make. Just don't forget to grease/Pam the pan!

Brownie Recipe #2
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13x9 inch baking pan.
2. Mix together the butter, sugars, and vanilla. Beat in the eggs. Combine the dry ingredients, gradually stir into the wet mixture until well blended. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes

And then, just because it's totally brilliant--Rose's Christmas present to me! It has the in/appropriate name of a "Screwnicorn" because it's a corkscrew in the shape of a unicorn (I collect unicorns!):

Happy Eating!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Gifts Part III

Hey all!

I'm so excited because I'm done with finals!! Which means I'm officially a second semester senior, whoop whoop! Good luck to everyone not done with finals yet, and happy procrastinating with ideas of gifts for the various people in your life. Have fun:

First up, BOTTLE OPENER IPHONE CASE! Perfect for the college guy who can't bear to put down his iphone at a party. Sorry guys, blackberries not invited to the party. Costs $22.93 on Amazon.

Next, for the person who loves to save ticket stubs, museum tickets, and sentimental mementos, this ticket stub diary is totally perfect and has space inside for a description of each ticket stub. It costs $8.49 on Amazon:

In a similar vein, it's an easy diary, called "One Line a Day: A Five Year Memory Book". I think the title is pretty self-explanatory, and for people too lazy to journal--like me--who still wish they could, this is a great way to make it happen. Costs about $10 and change on Amazon:

Also comes in a Mom version for about the same price:

Mom's One Line a Day: A Five-Year Memory Book

Changing gears, these headphones for $122 from Amazon. They're apparently as good as Bose and about half the price!

Audio Technica ATH-ANC7B Active Noise-Cancelling Closed-Back Headphones

Or, if you're like me and would be annoyed wearing these huge things around everywhere and/or prefer earbuds, here are some really great ones from Skull Candy. They have great reviews, and they cost $20 from Zappos (random, right?) and come in many other colors besides purple:

Flasks. Flasks are something that I think a lot of women would get a kick out of, but many people wouldn't think of getting for them. Here's one for $19.95 from Sur la Table that I think is both funny and unique-looking:

If the man in your life wears shirts that need collar stays, I imagine these would be bankers, consultants, and fancy pants-types, then this set of "hidden message" collar stays from Red Envelope is really fun. The "PG" version says things like: "You're so handsome," and "You follow your dreams." The "R-rated" version says things like, "That tie will be useful later," and "I might if you ask me." Each set is $39.95 and right now Red Envelope has everything for 20% off when you use a code. Act fast!

In the same vein there is a "hidden message" money clip, which you can customize and have engraved with your loved one's initials. I think this is a really sweet idea, and the message can be anything from an inspirational quote, a funny message, or something romantic. For an extra oomph, especially if it's for a son or a nephew, slip some cash into the clip. Everyone likes cash! $49.95 from Red Envelope, but remember, everything's 20% off: 

And to close out this post, something for the baker inside everyone (ok, some people). I got something like this for my mom a few years ago and she really liked it. This book is Crust: Bread to Get Your Teeth Into and it comes with an INSTRUCTIONAL DVD! It's practically fool-proof this way! It's available for $23.02 on Amazon:

So that's it for Part III. I may or may not do a part IV before Christmas, I'm not sure. In the meantime, though, happy shopping!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Gifts Part II

Hi everyone,

Back to the promised Christmas gifts. For now, this post is going to be a girl-centric one, but the next one will be a general gift guide.

I've been having a hard time finding presents that are something other than jewelry, purses,  etc. that aren't TERRIBLE. Seriously, who wants a market bag when you can buy one at Kroger? Or a leg roller massager that looks totally useless or a GROCERY LIST MAKER, "for when you just aren't spending enough time working to provide for your family, here's something that will complicate the simple task of making a grocery list BUT IT IS A GADGET SO IT WILL BE FUN!"

So I've kept it simple and pretty. This post is going to focus on jewelry and leather goods/purses. I've tried to pick things I think are objectively attractive, so even if I thought something was super cool and avant-garde and I'd totally like it, I kept it to things that I think most any girl would like (and that I would like too).

A quick note on what accessories/clothes NOT to buy women: belts, hats, socks, and pants. Belts can imply that she needs to keep her pants up higher, or that she's chubby and you'd like her to emphasize her waist more. Only if she has specifically said she would like a belt are you to go buy her a belt (the only exception to this being Hermes belts). Hats are really tricky to size and also find a shape and style appropriate for your face. She also might not like to wear hats, much less belts, period. Socks--totally boring. They say "I'm unimaginative and didn't try at all." Pants...just a strange present, and also really hard to find in the right size. Shirts, blouses, even dresses in the right cut are a thumbs up. Scarves are definitely always a hit, and shoes are okay if you include a gift receipt and get the right size. There is an easy way to figure out her shoe size: look in her closet. However, don't try to buy her heels based on her running sneakers. Girls may wear different sizes for different types of shoes, so if you're trying to get her flats, look at some she already has; if you're trying to buy her stilettos, look at the highest pair of heels she has in her closet. Now then, back to what TO buy!

First up, I love this ring from Kate Spade on sale for only $39.99. (A tip for ring buying: size does matter. If your lady has, what seem to you, to be unusually slender fingers then this ring won't fit her because it only comes in sizes 6-8. If you're unsure what her size is and she wears rings, just sneak one she doesn't wear much away to any store that sells jewelry (Macy's, Jared's, a jewelry appraiser) and ask them to size it for you. This is free, and they'll whip out what looks like a key ring but with long, tapered cylinders on it that are the different finger sizes and try the ring on them until it fits.) Anyway, here's the ring:

It's made of glass and 14kt gold, and it's so so lovely.

Next, also from Kate Spade, I couldn't resist this "A rose is a rose" tautological idiom bangle on sale for $44:

These coral earrings from Francesca's Collections are an oval shape that is universally flattering and are super affordable at $18:

The last jewelry item from Kate Spade is this ultra-trendy bow ring, that also comes in gold plating and clear plastic. It costs $39.99 on sale:

This 30" necklace for $32 from Francesca's Collections not only compliments the ring above it, but is a great gift for tall women and matches just about everything.

Getting super fancy now from Nordstrom's, on sale for $82.90, is this really pretty Nadri cubic zirconium bangle that is sure to stun anyone (in the best way possible). It's available in both rose gold (top) and gold (bottom):

Also really shiny and pretty, this unusual chandelier earring set from Nordstrom for $31.90 would make a wonderful present:

Changing gears a little bit, this lovely jewelry box from Anthropolgie on sale for $54.99 makes a sweet present on its own, but would also be an impressive, thoughtful way to present your gift and really show the time and thought you put into it. Presentation can be everything:

2.5" H x 4.5" W x 2" D

On to the leather goods and bags section now!

First up, if your lady has elegant, classic, and refined tastes, she'll definitely love this wallet from Kate Spade on sale for $75:

This green bag from Francesca's Collections is a fun and vibrant shade of green that can be worn across your body, on your shoulder, or carried by two straps. $54.00: 

Found on the Nordstrom's website, this wallet from Fossil for $32.90 comes in two adorable prints and is sure to be a hit--just make sure your lady doesn't already have a wallet (in good condition) that she loves/paid big bucks for and doesn't want to trade out yet:

Keeping with the color blocking trend that's going to be hot for spring and summer, this cross-body bag for $44.00 from Francesca's matches almost any outfit:

This $44.00 poppin' pink bag is too cute, and the gold chain sets off the fuchsia tone perfectly. Also from Francesca's:

Finally, if you don't feel comfortable picking something so personal for her, then LUSH always has amazing gift packages from $20.00 to ones like this one for $49.95 (and this one's for couples, even):

Included: Avobath Bath Bomb 6.3 Oz.Each Peach (And Two's A Pair) Massage Bar 2.2ozThe Olive Branch Shower Gel 3.3 Fl OzSnow Globe Soap 3.5 Oz,So White Bath Bomb 3.1 OzYou've Been Mangoed Bath Melt 1ozNone Of Your Beeswax Lip Balm 10g.

Or, for $22.95 from Lush something smaller and more feminine:

Included: Snow Fairy Shower Gel 3.3 Fl OzShimmy Shimmy Sparkle Bar 1 OzAngel's Delight Soap 2.1oz.

Alright, that should give you guys enough to peruse for now. Part III coming soon, with ideas for men, parents, and general cool swag!

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

(No) Turkey Day

Edit// So, I know this is super late, but just pretend I posted it on time ;).

Thanksgiving is almost here! This means family, friends, and food.

At my house, no one really likes turkey. My dad has had food poisoning twice from turkey, so he really doesn't like turkey. Instead, we've decided to go cajun/creole for Thanksgiving. In part, because we are so close to Louisiana here in Texas, and in part because my dad got this awesome book in thanks for speaking at an industry conference called My New Orleans: The Cookbook by John Besh:

Greatness awaited us within the pages of this book...

Since it's just my dad and me for Thanksgiving we decided only to make two dishes (showing remarkable restraint for my family). This restraint was helped by the fact that a client gave my dad a pecan pie so we don't need to make any dessert.

What we DID decide to make, though, is very exciting! Red beans and rice and shrimp creole.

Since this is also a fashion blog, I figured I'd show you my totally cute apron from an artisan linen shop in Puerto Rico. I'm super into cute, unique aprons:

Kinda looks like a dress!

Anyway, back to THE FOOD! Here's the recipe for Red Beans and Rice:


Red Beans and Rice 

Time is the key to making successful red beans: they need to cook slowly and well. (I totally agree, and I think this is true for almost any bean.) Using flavorful fat is another secret. Just as my grandmother did, I keep the fat from every batch of bacon I make, and I save the fat that solidifies on the surface of chilled chicken soup and roast chicken drippings, too. (Thankfully, my dad has been saving the fat from his breakfast bacon for a few days now for this recipe.) Just a little bit adds big flavor. 

Serves 6

2     onions, diced 
1     green bell pepper, seeded and diced 
1     stalk celery, diced 
2     tablespoons rendered bacon fat 
1     pound dried red kidney beans 
2     smoked ham hocks 
3     bay leaves 
½     teaspoon cayenne pepper 
3     green onions, chopped 
       Freshly ground black pepper  
3     cups cooked Basic Louisiana White Rice  (We're using regular long grain white rice because we couldn't find Louisiana White Rice)

Dad and I went to our local Fiesta for the freshest ingredients that would be cheaper than Whole Foods.

Viva Mexico!

My dad: cool as a cucumber.

The fish counter was super sweet. Yes, that is a big balloon shaped like a dolphin in the back. 

This is a picture of all the ingredients laid out on our kitchen island (minus shrimp and rice):

This is about how big we chopped the veggies. I thought it said "chop" not "dice" the onions, so I did them too big. However, in the words of Julia Child, "never apologize."

I learned how to cut lemongrass from this video:

This was "the tender part," which is the part perpendicular to the knife if it's not clear from the video:

1. Sweat the onions, bell peppers, and celery in the rendered bacon fat in a heavy soup pot (ours is 8 qt) over medium-high heat. (Sweating the pot means with the lid on, according to my dad. So that's what we did)

2. Once the onions become translucent, add the kidney beans, ham hocks, bay leaves, and cayenne, then add water to cover by 2 inches. 

Picture pre-water:

Picture post-water:

3. Increase the heat and bring the water to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and allow the beans to slowly simmer for 2 hours. Periodically stir the beans to  make sure that they don’t scorch on the bottom of the pot, adding water if necessary, always keeping the beans covered by an inch or more of water. 

4. Continue cooking the beans until they are creamy and beginning to fall apart when they’re stirred. 

5. Remove the ham hock meat from the bones, roughly chop it, and add it back to the pot of beans. 

6. Stir in the green onions and season with salt, black pepper and Tabasco. Serve with white rice.


These beans were extensively tested and approved by my dad.

Ta da! Dish 1 done.

Dish 2 is shrimp creole:

Oh, sorry, am I drooling? My bad. Oh, you too? Rock on.

Shrimp Creole

This new version of a longtime Louisiana favorite has Vietnamese influences; it's spicy and sweet, full of herbs and flavor. Any ultraripe tomatoes will work. 
Makes 12 to 15 servings, but what you will see on this blog is a halved recipe, so just halve all the quantities. 
5 pounds jumbo Louisiana or wild American shrimp, peeled and deveined We used pre-deveined and "easy peel" wild American shrimpSalt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh lemongrass
1/2 cup olive oil
3 medium onions, diced
10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 bell pepper, red, green or yellow, seeded and diced
5 pounds overripe Brandywine tomatoes or other heirloom tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped - In this case we had to use stewed tomatoes, unsalted, because we couldn't get any ultraripe tomatoes on short notice. 
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
Leaves from 2 branches fresh basil, chopped
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh mint, chopped
6-8 cups cooked white rice
1.  Put the shrimp into a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, then mix in lemongrass. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over moderate heat. Add shrimp, stirring and tossing them with a spatula. Saute until they turn pink, about 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside.

Shrimp after being seasoned yet before starting to sizzle:

Shrimp ready to be put off the heat:

2. In the same skillet, add remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, onions, garlic, celery and bell peppers. Cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes.

3. Add tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium-low and when sauce comes to a simmer add bay leaf, allspice, and red pepper flakes. Simmer 10 minutes.

4. Add shrimp back to the skillet along with basil and mint. Cook for a minute or two. Season with salt and pepper. If the sauce tastes too tart, add a little sugar to balance the flavor. Remove bay leaf. Serve over steamed white rice.

And there you have it! That's what we made for Thanksgiving. Let me know if you try it out, it's totally delicious. To wrap things up, here's a picture of what our table looked like:

It lasted roughly five minutes.

Happy Eating!