Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spotlight: Spring Essentials

The other day I got the following text from my sister: "If I were to buy one or two new clothes for work, what should they be?"

Some background: Kelly just started her dream job on Monday after spending the last year doing an unpaid internship for grad school and only working part time. She had not bought new clothes in over a year. A year! I can't imagine! Anyway, I asked two questions before I answered her: 1) What's the dress code; and 2) What shoes will you be wearing most often? Business casual and probably black or leopard print ballet flats, she said. Simple!

Since she still has some financial restrictions, I thought of two pieces that go with everything and are always affordable. First, a Breton striped top.

Jaeger striped top

Breton stripes get their name from the Brittany region of France and were actually worn as a uniform by French sailors. We have Coco Chanel to thank for introducing them into mainstream fashion in 1917. Breton stripes never, ever go out of style, which is why a garment featuring them is one of my must buys. Traditionally they're navy blue, but a striped top in black, green, or red is just as chic. Breton striped tops should be treated as a neutral. This top will pair perfectly with skinny pants, cropped pants, neutral colored skirts, and even floral print skirts or pants. I also LOVE them with a leopard flat or scarf.

Now, where to buy? I'm pretty sure H&M puts out a Breton top every single season. In fact, I see at least four of them on their site! Gap has a bunch of great variations and if you have a little more cash to splash, I love this one from Marc by Marc Jacobs.

The second thing I told Kelly to buy was a pair of colored cropped pants.

J.Crew Cafe capri
Sure a nice pair of black trousers would have been an obvious choice, but I know she already has those. Colored pants are very in for spring and can add a punch to any look. Emerald is Pantone's color of the year and I can't think of a better way to incorporate it. I love Gap's slim cropped pants and they just so happen to have a green option. I wouldn't be surprised if J.Crew's best selling item was their Cafe capris (above) because they're extremely popular and come in many colors and fabrics. 

What to wear with these? Anything! Your Breton top, any blouse or button down, lightweight cardigan, or blazer would make a great outfit with colored cropped pants. I love heels with these, but I think ballet flats with cropped pants is an adorable look and one I wear often.

I hope this helps Kelly and anyone else who might need or want just a few new things for spring and are on a strict budget!

For those of you who have been socking away money for your spring wardrobe like I have, here are some of my other essentials.

Spring Essentials

Python Prints - Actual snakes are quite possibly my biggest fear, but I sure do love wearing them. No, I'm not talking about things made of python or any other type of those horrific creatures, but snake skin prints. Erdem, Preen, and Gucci all showed python prints for spring. If wearing a snake print on a top or skirt scares you, start with a pair of flats or clutch. Just like leopard print, a gray snake print is most definitely a neutral!

Emerald Green - As I said above, emerald green is Pantone's color of the year for 2013. Green is the color of my every year since it's my favorite so it feels good to get some validation! Rich jewel tones like emerald go with just about any skin tone and hair color so this is a trend anyone can get on board with. Try a blouse or skirt in emerald or even a nail polish or eye liner. Sephora smartly put out an entire line of emerald cosmetics.

Black and White - This is probably the easiest of the trends to get on board with. I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn't worn black and white in combination. Whether it's stripes, checkerboard, houndstooth, or a print, it's in style. And just think - everything will match! Add some color with a colored shoe or statement necklace.

Graphic Prints - I LOVE big, bold graphic prints, but I know they're not for everyone. Meaning everyone CAN wear them, but not everyone thinks they can or wants to. If you can't handle a graphic dress or pair of pants and still want to try the trend, go with a scarf and just wear it with jeans and a plain t-shirt.

If you're in the US then you know we've all been complaining about our extended winter ad nauseum, but I think it's finally over! We've had a good run of days with temps in the 50s and no snow so real spring is very close! I can't wait to wear spring clothes and I'm sure you can't either.

Tell me what your spring essentials are. And what would be the two items you'd tell Kelly to buy. Am I right?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

DIY Scarf Storage

I don't even really want to call this a DIY because it's the easiest thing in the world and requires little effort, but what the heck?

Is there something that you buy in excess? Not clothes, necessarily, but something you just can't resist and already own a million of? Like Greg Kinnear buying three of the same typewriter in You've Got Mail. Since clothes are my thing, my obsessive purchases usually revolve around them. I went through a purse phase where I bought every handbag known to man until I smartened up and bought a few designer bags that will last for a good part of my lifetime and are worth every penny. I have a thing for jackets as well, but that seems to have cooled off. I swear that's not a weather joke. Scarves, however, are still my thing. I think most of my friends can probably count on two hands the number of times I've muttered "I need another scarf like I need a hole in the head" before purchasing another scarf. I just love them. They're functional, they come in SO MANY different varieties and they always add something to an outfit.

At first I just kept them in a plastic bin in my bedroom, but they soon outgrew that since the bin is also my go-to storage for hats, gloves, and belts. I would then just fold the overflow and keep them on top of said bin. This could turn quite messy as I often had to dig through a pile to find what I was looking for. It became a ritual to tidy the scarf pile every time I cleaned my room. It was like a I had a living, breathing scarf monster at the end of my bed that I needed to pay attention to in order to make it happy. After the umpteenth scarf tidying this past Sunday I decided to stop the madness and find a better storage solution.

Like most city dwellers on a budget, I have a tiny apartment with a tiny bedroom and a tiny closet. Think Carrie's closet pre-renovation in the Sex and the City movie. It might even be smaller than that. So I need to be thoughtful about my storage options in a closet that is already packed to the gills. I did some googling earlier this week and found the easiest, cheapest no brainer scarf storage solution.

Obviously I already had a coat hanger so I had to spend all of $3.19 on the shower curtain rings to make this happen. Now, prepare yourselves for the two very important steps necessary to complete this project. 1. Attach the rings to the coat hanger.

2. Thread your scarves through the rings.


I slayed the scarf monster. It's more like a scarf jellyfish now but it will live a happy life in the ocean of my closet.

I can't believe it never occurred to me do do something like this before. Even though it was a very small project, it will make a big difference in my psyche because the scarf aggravation has been lifted.

It seems happy there amongst the other garments and that tiny corner of my bedroom is happy too. It's remarkable what a little organization can do! I refuse to call this spring cleaning because spring is NOWHERE to be found in Boston yet so I'll call it "it's still frigging snowing and freezing cold out cleaning." And I promise that won't buy another scarf for a while. Maybe. Probably not.

Ladies, how do you store your scarves? Do you buy a million of them? Or do you hoard something else? 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tortellini With Mushroom Sauce

Mushrooms have a bit of the "Vegemite test" about them. You either love them or you hate them. I don't think I've ever met someone who is on the fence about mushrooms. I, this should come as no surprise, love them! And I'm pretty sure I always have. I have a fuzzy memory about my childhood at best, but I remember loving them on pizza at least. Correct me if I'm wrong, Mother.

I've made this dish a few times before, but I think I've finally perfected it. It comes from Martha (no surprise), but I actually found a lot of issues with Martha's recipe. Have you ever seen something on Food Network or another cooking show and gone to look it up online only to have the online recipe be totally different from what you saw on TV? I have. Does not compute. I didn't see Martha's recipe done on TV, but I think something was lost in translation somewhere. I've made it her way, but my tweaks and additions are a lot better. Soz, M.

Tortellini With Mushroom Sauce (Serves 1)

1/2 or 1/3 lb. cheese tortellini, frozen or fresh (amount depends on how hungry you are)
2 Tsp. olive oil
5 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and roughly chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 Tsp. dried thyme
1/2 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you want to keep it vegetarian)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese (the good kind.. not that crap in a green can)
Small handful chopped fresh parsley

Get your mise en place all set. I watch cooking shows so I feel like I can use that term. Just prep everything and have it ready to go :)

Heat the olive oil in a skillet on medium-low heat and set a medium sized pot of water on to boil. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and thyme to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally for about 7 minutes. Martha's recipe had no thyme, but mushrooms without thyme to me is like vodka with no ice or brownies with no frosting. It makes no sense. Add the thyme. You'll know what I mean when you smell it.

Once the mushrooms have softened, add the chicken broth and salt and pepper to taste and turn the heat up to medium. Adding broth in place of water (like the original recipe called for) is really a no brainer. It adds flavor and complexity and I'm not quite sure why anyone wouldn't like that. Let the broth come to a low boil and reduce by about half. This should take around 6 to 8 minutes.

All of the broth...
Half of the broth.
While you're waiting for the broth to reduce, cook the tortellini according to package directions. In my case, Trader Joe's fresh tortellini take between 6 to 8 minutes. Coincidence? I think so.

Tortellini is pretty awesome. Not only do you get pasta, but it comes filled with cheese. Or meat. But most importantly cheese. Pure comfort.

Since we've planned accordingly, the tortellini and the broth mixture will be done at the same time. Drain the tortellini and remove the pan with the mushrooms from heat. Add the tortellini, butter, and cheese to the pan with the mushrooms and stir until the butter is melted.

This will create a buttery, cheesy, creamy pot of yum. Unless I'm baking or don't feel like having peanut butter on my toast or eating out, I don't eat butter. Yes, it's amazingly delicious and makes any dish taste like restaurant quality, but it's really not that necessary and I rarely choose recipes that include butter. But sometimes... you just need the damn butter. And this is one of those times.

Once everything is melted and combined, dish it up and add the parsley. Then try your hardest not to inhale this, because it's that good.

It's like a hot cheesy mushroomy buttery hug. It's so rich and flavorful, but it's definitely still light and won't sit like a big pasta rock in your stomach. Serve this with a salad and a hunk of Italian bread (if you're not all carbed out already) and you've got a perfect winter comfort meal.

I could probably eat this every day. Cheese, mushrooms, and pasta are some of my favorite things to eat and to have them all in one is a dream meal situation for me. This is so, SO easy too. There are so few major cooking skills needed. If you can boil water, chop things with out amputating appendages, and count, you can make this.

How do you feel about mushrooms? Love or hate? Would you eat this? I ate this for dinner both Saturday and Sunday and had an amazing mushroom risotto at Park on Friday night AND I'm making my lentil soup with spinach and sausage tonight, which has a boatload of mushrooms in it. The first step is admitting you have a problem.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

March Life Happenings

Clockwise from top left: Last month's Sabres game from my quick Buffalo trip; a new spikey bracelet from Bauble Bar; a lovely winter morning; alt-J at Paradise Rock Club!

How is it March already? How?!


Spring! For the love of Mary where is spring?! As Boston is in the midst of yet another snow event, I'm sure this is the question we're all asking. I'm not a hot weather lover, but I am a warm weather lover. Bostonians have been spoiled by really mild winters for a few years running now so what might be normal March weather is not the new normal and we're sick of it! I also think/hope I'm close to booking a vacation for this year. Fingers crossed!


I LOVED The Night Circus. It's a fantasy novel, which is really not my bag, but this book was gripping from start to finish. I don't think I can describe it in less than 15,000 words so just do yourself a favor and read it. If you like suspense, romance, and imagination, then you will like this. I really hope they make it into a movie because I'd love to see how some of the special effects are pulled off. Right now I'm trying to get through my March issues of Marie Claire and ELLE (I do actually read them from cover to cover) and then I'll get a new book going.

Relieved About...

I don't know if relieved is the right word, but I'm thrilled that my sister passed her exam to become a registered dietitian and landed an awesome job to boot!


Now that Downton is over (I have so many feelings about what happened there) for at least another year, there's nothing on that I really look forward to each week. I did manage to catch the season premiere of Boston's Finest last week and I really liked it. I watched the second episode last night and I like it even more. For those not in the know - Donnie Wahlberg (yes, that one) produced a reality show about Boston police officers and it debuted last week. It's refreshing to see real Bostonians given the utter trash that is Southie Rules and Wicked Single.

Working On...

I feel like I should just leave this blank because everything that I'm "working on" is not improving! I guess I'll just say that I'm working on staying positive during some very frustrating times.


I can't get enough of toast with mashed avocado lately. Don't knock it until you've tried it. Avocado is so buttery and smooth. Yum! Toss on some of Trader Joe's egg whites salad (found in the prepared food section) and we have my new favorite lunch.

Listening To...

I had to add this in since music is such an important part of my life. Right now I can't get enough of alt-J (pic above.. they were great live!), The Lumineers, Kodaline, and Foals. I also can't wait for the American release of Biffy Clyro's new album. And if the Yeah Yeah Yeah's new single Sacrilege is anything to go by, their new album will be immense. 

I feel like the weather and life situations have me in a Doldrumy fog lately. Maybe daylight savings time this weekend will help. I sure have no problem losing an hour of sleep if it means more daylight and sun and happiness! 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Spotlight: Temps des Rêves

Image via NET-A-PORTER
Image via NET-A-PORTER
Image via NET-A-PORTER
Image via NET-A-PORTER
Image via NET-A-PORTER
Are you thinking that I've just discovered a new Instagramer or canvas print maker? That was my first thought when I logged onto this morning. NAP adds new merch every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (You all know this, right?) and I always log on to see what's new. Not to shop mind, I can't even afford NAP goods during their sales, but to get inspiration for my own looks and to stay on top of what's floating around the luxury market.

So back to the photos - they're not Instagrams or canvases at all. They're scarves. Scarves! Behold:

Image via NET-A-PORTER
That would be the first photo, Bondi Summer printed silk-satin scarf. I can honestly say I've never seen anything like this before and I'm thrilled that they exist. Temps des Rêves is a new designer to NET-A-PORTER and the retailer offers the following blurb,

 Luxurious and unapologetically bold, Temps des Reves breathes new life into the classic silk scarf. Each glamorous piece features a favorite print from label founder and celebrated photographer Adrian Mesko. Choose from abstract motifs of carnival rides, dreamy cityscapes and everything in between.
Further investigation reveals that Adrian Mesko is a Czech-born, Australian-raised photographer who has assisted Annie Leibowitz and Michael Thompson and whose work has appeared in Vogue Australia, Harper's Bazaar, GQ Australia, and many others.

Image via
Image via
Image via

What a genius idea to turn his beautiful images into wearable art. They certainly don't come cheap - each silk-satin or silk-chiffon scarf will set you back a cool $295. Perhaps NAP and Mesko were thoughtful enough to debut these during American tax return season because I can't think of a better self present at this point. If you're like me and you owe Uncle Sam even more money than he's already taken from you, then let's just enjoy these from afar!

What do you think? Have you taken any special photos you'd like to immortalize by wearing around your neck?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Vegetarian Week #2

Well that was fast! Darn that February for being such a short month. This month's vegetarian week crept right up on me and when I was making my grocery list last Sunday morning I almost forgot. Whoops! To top it all off, I vowed that February would be the month of this:

Tofu. Ew. Prior to this week I had eaten tofu a handful of times and never really found it to be appetizing. When I laid out my cooking goals for 2013, however, I vowed to give it another chance.

First, let me go over my lunch. I loved the farro salad I made for January's week so I knew I wanted to do another version. I consulted Martha's vegetarian tome, Meatless, and decided on a farro salad with zucchini, yellow peppers, and toasted almonds.

Yum! Here's how I made it:

1 package of Trader Joe's quick cooking farro (about 3 cups cooked)
1 Tbs plus 1 tsp of olive oil
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp chopped, fresh thyme (I used 1/2 tsp dried)
1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 large celery stalk, diced
1/4 cup toasted, slivered almonds
1/4 salt
1 lime

1. Cook the farro according to package directions.
2. Heat 2 Tbs of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, garlic, scallions, and red pepper flakes, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme and zucchini and cook for another 5 minutes.
3. Combine the farro and zucchini mixture in a large bowl. Stir in celery, almonds, and remaining 2 tsp of olive oil. Season with salt and add a squeeze of lime juice before serving.

This is delicious. I think thyme is my favorite herb so there's no doubt that I will love anything I add it to. I didn't find this salad to be as filling as last month's, though. I think the addition of chick peas or another bean would help a lot so I'll file that tid bit away for next month.

And now the tofu.

To paraphrase Sally Field, I liked it! I really liked it!

I get a daily recipe e-mail from and this recipe for tofu stakes with shiitakes and veggies came through a few weeks ago. Perfect, I thought. It looks damn good in the photo, right? Good job, food stylist. Here's the breakdown:

1 14 (Trader Joe's was 15) oz. package of extra firm tofu, drained
3 Tbs sesame oil
3 Tbs low sodium soy sauce
1 cup julienned red bell pepper
1 cup match stick cut carrots
1/8 tsp salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
5 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 Tbs honey
2 tsp sherry vinegar (I had none so I used rice wine vinegar.)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (This is pretty spicy for me! Adjust down to 1/4 or an 1/8 of you don't like heat.)
Cooking spray

1. Cut the tofu into four equal portions. I cut mine in half through the middle lengthwise and then crosswise. I hope that makes sense. Pierce the tofu with a fork and place it in a shallow dish. Combine 1 Tbs of sesame oil and 1 Tbs of soy sauce in a bowl and then pour it over the tofu and let it sit for at least 15 minutes.
2. Heat 1 Tbs of sesame oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper, carrots, and salt and saute for about 3 minutes. Remove them from the pan and set them aside. Add the last Tbs of sesame oil to the same pan and toss in the mushrooms and the garlic. Saute for about 4 minutes. Add 2 Tbs of soy sauce, vegetable broth, honey, vinegar, and red pepper flakes and simmer for about 3 minutes until the sauce thickens.
3. Coat a grill pan with cooking spray and heat it on high heat. Grill the tofu for three minutes on each side, basting it with the leftover marinade. This makes 4 servings, so plate your tofu and divide the vegetable mixture evenly between them.

I got new cutting boards!!
I think you're crazy if you don't love mushrooms.
Looks harmless, right?
This is really, really delicious. I remember hearing on a cooking show that the key to liking tofu is to add as much flavor as possible because it doesn't really have a flavor of it's own. I think that's where it was lacking in the past for me. The sesame and the soy sauce add a ton of flavor to the tofu and the veggies in the sauce are crisp and tasty.

Grill marks are appetizing no matter what they're on.
I made some broccoli with it because it's my go-to veg and put some Mrs. Dash on said broccoli because I like the 90s. This could have/should have been served with brown rice, but I try to stay away from carbs after lunch. As delicious as this was, my one complaint is that I didn't find it to be very filling. Maybe I need a bigger portion of tofu or some rice or another grain. Filed away for next time! My post-dinner hunger was nothing a piece of toast with peanut butter (Carbs. Damn.) couldn't fix though. I consider anything with peanut butter to be dessert.

And that's my tofu experience. I am no longer afraid of it. I feel like Kevin McAllister when he goes down to yell at the furnace in Home Alone. I feel happy of myself!

I noticed some tempeh at TJ's when I was buying my tofu. That is definitely on the vegetarian agenda, but I think I'll take a month off from alternative proteins. I've got to spread them out!

Share you feelings on tofu - gross or not gross?