Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday Best v.161

The brilliant women of the first cast of SNL.

Having a perfect lazy weekend so far! Leisurely dinner, reading all day, documentary night at the Kennedy household and working in some walk/jogging (I can't honestly call what I do "going for a run."). Gotta keep it leisurely because tomorrow, I have to go to the dentist. Boo!
Whew, that's a bit of a preachy sunday best isn't it? Here's a lighthearted LOL-worthy Autocorrect fail.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Jams of the Week

Literary Jams: "The Interestings" by Meg Wolitzer

Once or twice a year, I go through a binge-reading phase, where I just tear through two or three books in a couple weeks. I'm living it now, and it's amazing how it enriches your life to really give yourself over to reading for hours on end. "The Interestings" lives up to the name; I became completely engrossed in the relatable and yet epic story of a group of friends, from their teenage days at arts camp to their early 50s. So, so good.

This inventive novel was on every best-of-2012 list for good reason! It's told through letters, emails and faxes in such a way that you — the reader — end up knowing far more about what's going on than everyone else, while still becoming engrossed in the mystery of where Bernadette, a once-great architect suffering from agoraphobia, has gone after she goes missing. It was really great.

Reality Show Guilty Pleasure: "Storage Wars"

Okay, so I guess the moment you know a guilty pleasure has maybe passed into an actual pleasure is when you use a photo from the reality show in question as your cover photo on Facebook. A month ago, I had never even seen "Storage Wars" and now we are full-on obsessed. Sean and I get great delight from watching Barry, Brandi and Jarrod, Darrell and Ivy duke it out over units full of crap. And of course, I'm now convinced I should be going to auctions on the weekends!

Fast Food Healthy Jam: Chick-Fil-A Cool Wrap

The revamped Chick-fil-a grilled chicken cool wrap is 330 calories, full of veggies and I am OBSESSED with the avocado lime ranch dressing, which I just dip on the side. It's a great option if you're in a hurry...and I think I just talked myself into getting that for lunch today.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wine Club American Tour: North Carolina

 Last summer, Wine Club toured the world (in extra stamps in our passports, unfortunately). This summer, we're staying stateside and I was first up. I hosted North Carolina wine night. North Carolina has several great small wineries....but none of them seemed to sell their wares at our local grocery stores or wine shops. Let's just say the wines we sampled weren't the best ever.

BUT the food was good, if I do say so myself! I used my cookbook from Tupelo Honey Cafe in Asheville to make a peach-fennel salsa, which I served over baby arugula.

 I topped it with pecan vinaigrette, which was an interesting contrast in flavors...sweet and nutty from the pecans, tart and tangy from vinegar and mustard.

 We also munched on My Three Sons pimento's extra delicious.

 And snacked on Krispy Kreme crullers. The original Krispy Kreme was in Winston-Salem, N.C.

 Winston-Salem is also home to Texas Pete hot sauce, which I sprinkle on top of cole slaw on top of my pulled pork. I used this same recipe and it was extra delicious.

 We were disappointed in the lack of variety at our local stores, which basically had Biltmore, Childress and Duplin wines. We had:

  • Biltmore Cardinal's Crest, a spicy red that gets better as you go.
  • Childress Vineyards Red, a table wine Ashleigh described as tasting like dirt. God bless it, but we ended up pouring most of our samples in the dump bucket. It tasted even a little buttery to me, like a Chardonnay should. 
  • Pilot Mountain Sweet Red Muscadine, an extremely sweet red wine that, at first, I dubbed the "Hi-C" of wines. It grew on me, though, I have to admit.

  •  Sanctuary Vineyards Viognier, a wine Erica smartly picked up when she was in North Carolina. It was an easy to drink fruity and herbal wine.
  • Childress Classic White redeemed the Childress name and was the only bottle we finished! It was a sweet, light and easy to drink white.

 My plate of deliciousness!

And for dessert, we dined on these super amazing Cheerwine creamsicles sold at Food Lion! I found them in the freezer aisle and they are cheap and bad for you and therefore, excellent.

Our stateside tour will include stops in Washington and Oregon states, California, possibly the Finger Lakes and Texas.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cornmeal Chicken with Soy & Lime Sauce

Ah chicken. Infinite possibilities, and yet sometimes I'm completely at a loss on how to spice it up — so to speak. Enter the always-inspiring Dinner: A Love Story, which in turn, was inspired by the also always-inspiring Mark Bittman. I whipped up cornmeal-crusted chicken with soy-lime sauce and it was such a satisfying, easy and delicious chicken dish that you should all add it to your regular rotation.

It's pretty simple. Pound the chicken breasts until they're thinned out and dredge them in cornmeal. Cook them in a skillet with oil (olive or vegetable).

Once done, set the chicken aside and use the same skillet to make the soy-lime sauce. Cook garlic and scallions (I never have scallions on hand, so that wasn't happening) for about one minute, then add a 1/2 cup of chicken broth, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, the juice of one lime and cook until it reduces, after about 20-30 seconds.

Pour the sauce over your chicken and serve with cilantro on top! It's easy and breezy and I was impressed with the texture of the cornmeal crust, as opposed to bread crumbs.

Monday, June 24, 2013

RVA Day trip: Wesselmann and Sticky Rice

Sean and I have a bad case of forgetting to take advantage of our proximity to Richmond, a great city for art and culture. We hadn't been to the city together in 2 years (!!!), but on Sunday I decided we should go to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to see its Tom Wesselmann retrospective. Wesselmann was one of my favorite artists in college...he's not as well-known as his contemporaries, but the show blew me away. It does an amazing job tracking his development, showing the natural evolution of his subject matter and mediums. The truly most amazing part, for me, was seeing his cut steel and aluminum "drawings," which looked like sculptures of doodles on a page (including the sneaky pic I took above). It was love at first sight.

 Here I am, with one of the paintings from his famous "Smoker" series.

It was hot as hell on Sunday, but a great day at the museum. We had great fun checking out African, Egyptian and East Asian art, too, and we saw it all within 2.5 hours.

Despite the many times I've been to Richmond, I've really only been to the same 3 places. So our friends Samieh and Ali gave us a little insider tour, and we saw their sweet neighborhood, ate excellent sushi and tater tots at Sticky Rice and had the smoothest, creamiest ice cream at Boyer's Ice Cream. It was a perfect day, even if the supermoon didn't look that super from our vantage point.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Best v.160

Mr. Burns' silhouette, found here. Brilliant!

Better late than never, right? I had a great day in Richmond today (more about that tomorrow), so I nearly forgot to post the Sunday Best! Here's some favorite links from the week:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Chicken with Avocado Ranch Sauce

 It consistently amazes me how many foods I hated until suddenly I didn't. Avocado, with its icky green color, was totally not on the "love it" list until a couple years ago, and I'm really just now starting to experiment more with it.

Last week, I made an avocado ranch sauce inspired by this one, which added great flavor and was a perfect counterpoint to the blackening spice. In a food processor, I mixed up one avocado, plain Greek yogurt and a pinch of Hidden Valley Ranch mix.

 I put it in a squeeze bottle I had, and ...let's just say I need to step up my food plating game.

But as much as I've expanded my food horizons, my hubby remains pretty stubborn. He was willing to try the sauce...this much. Bless him and his steadfast ways!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Weekend Fun: Block Parties, Cocktails & Boardwalk Art

 Hello pals! We had one of those great weekends you only seem to have in the summertime this week. My work hosted a community day and I was excited to enjoy a favorite flavor combo? Tiger's Blood and Mango. Mmmmm so good.

 On Saturday night, Sean and I tried a new restaurant in Hampton called Venture Kitchen & Bar, a nice mix of pizza and tapas, sandwiches and entrees with a great and affordable cocktail menu! Seriously, it hit all the right notes for me in terms of having broad appeal. I had the meatball banh mi with tater tots that looked like cubes and were delicious.

 And I was completely torn about what cocktail to get. I ended up with the Eternal Sunshine (not shown), but next time, I think I gotta try the Blackberry Moonshine Lemonade.

 We left just in time to hear Phil Roebuck at Hampton's Block Party and enjoy small cups of ice cream. The most adorable toddler was dancing with perfect rhythm the whole time, and put on quite a show.

Afterward, we went to see "This Is the End" and legit laughed from start to finish. I have a strong affinity for all of those actors since I watched "Freaks & Geeks" when it makes it feel like a high school reunion whenever I see them all together. It was fun and we've been quoting it for days.

 On Sunday, we went to our very first Norfolk Tides game...for about 45 minutes. LOL. We went for a company event, but then sneaked off to go ...

 ... to the Boardwalk Art Show in Virginia Beach. It's miles of boardwalk and it's such a nice treat. Some of my favorites included:

 Ethereal landscapes by artist Maggie Grier.

 Stylish digital mixed media pieces by Sarah Collier.

 Beautiful impressionist landscapes by Larry Smith.

And beautiful impressionist still lifes by David Oleski.

It reminded me to get my brushes out and back to painting, because I think it would be such fun to really try this style.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunday Best v.159

Dad, early '80s in college.

Happy Father's Day to all the wonderful father figures out there! Devoting your life to providing for another little person, shepherding them to adulthood and then releasing them out to the world is no small task. Kudos to all the dads and grandpas and men who handle the challenges with aplomb.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Jams of the Week: Lemon Edition


So I'm chewing my lemon gum the other day and I suddenly realize everything I've bought lately is lemon! I guess I'm craving some sunshine in my life? It's a little bit crazy how obsessed I've been without even noticing.

It started with Target's J.R. Watkins Apothecary Lemon Lotion, which smells exactly like Girl Scout lemonade cookies...sugary and delicious. Then, I spontaneously grabbed the lemon gum, thinking that sounded refreshing. I went to buy more shampoo, and came close to buying my favorite lavender mint, but for some reason — seriously, what's going on? — reached for the lemon sage. And when my friend gifted me some Moscato d'Asti, I had an idea it might be extra delicious with Haagen-Dazs Limoncello Gelato. I haven't tried that combo yet, but I'm excited!

This is one of the first times I can remember being THIS obsessed with something and not even noticing it for a month. I even bought a lemon-colored purse! Ever experienced the same thing? I do remember having a pretty intense coral phase a couple years ago.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Today I Like ... 7 Oaks Road Pottery

I have a newfound appreciation for pottery since starting work at an art center. I've never taken it, but I'm hoping to find the time soon to give it a shot. I was especially inspired after seeing this work by 7 Oaks Road, a Portsmouth-based shop, at Stockley Gardens last month. (Cake stand, $70)

Not only are the shapes right on trend...both traditional and contemporary, but the pieces seem like heirlooms you'd want to pass right down the family line. I also am a sucker for the shades of glaze used in all of the pieces. (Peony Jar, $48)

Plus, I'm pretty sure I need a cake stand just like this (no longer for sale, unfortunately).

I've been crazy busy lately, it seems, but pottery is definitely on my bucket list now!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sunday Best v.158

Close up of Madame X, by John Singer Sargent. Amazing!

I had the pleasure this weekend of delivering meals to a friend who just gave birth, which is a pretty grand tradition of ladyhood. Isn't it weird how there are just some traditions we all know about, like delivering food to families who've had a birth or a loss? Sean had no idea! Anyways, I hope you're having a wonderful weekend. After a day of cooking, I'm ready to relax.
  • Pictures of supermodels as awkward kids.
  • Did you ever listen to the This American Life episode about Harper High School? You can still help!
  • Is Jesse Eisenberg a dick or not a dick? You decide!
  • The NY Times profiles hot twentysomethings. I pretend not to have an inferiority complex.
  • OK Go delivers an awesome Tiny Desk Concert in more than 200 takes to help NPR move buildings.
  • Incredible story about a man who grew up thinking he had been kidnapped and now has no idea who he is.
  • I love reading about birth orders! The only child description is dead-on for me.
  • Lena Dunham's wedding, as she envisioned it in high school.
  • The members of Daft Punk WITHOUT THEIR HELMETS!!
  • An oral history of Upright Citizens Brigade.
  • How you know you're old.
  • Poor, poor Baroness Von Schrader.
  • lingo map of America.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Jams of the Week

Netflix Jam: "Top of the Lake"
Elisabeth Moss, better known to Mad Men fans as Peggy Olson, starred in this mini-series directed by "The Piano" director Jane Campion in her native New Zealand. It's sorta like "The Killing" meets "The Fugitive" meets "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and it will suck you right in. The scenery is mesmerizing, while the portrait of small-town New Zealand life is chilling and her Kiwi accent is incredible. Two solid thumbs up!

Art Jam: Collage

I recently bought some assorted old reference books at a yard sale with the intention of exploring collage, something I've never really tried in a purposeful manner. I find the idea a bit intimidating, but I suppose that's a good reason to try, right? Anyway, I'm looking for inspiration and I really like these collages by Kareem Rizk.

Food Jam: Peter Chang's in Williamsburg

I'm a wee bit obsessed with the Golden Mountain Chicken at Peter Chang in Williamsburg. The chef has an insane cult following that has been profiled by Calvin Trillon, no less, in The New Yorker. He's known for settling in an area and just as soon leaving, so I'm getting it while I can! The orange citrus sauce is so zesty and perfect, and the fried, shredded chicken is delicious. It's just awesome.

Google Jam: Elizabeth Taylor's Jewelry

I am STILL (months later) reading a biography of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and part of what has slowed me down is the constant stopping to Google the amazing jewelry he's buying her in the book. A lot of people viewed her obsession with diamonds and pearls as frivolous, but she saw herself as a curator and a steward. Goshdarnit, that's exactly how it turned out. Check out the collection that sold at auction through Christie's.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Tale of the Lip Smacker Disaster

Let me tell you about the Great Lip Smacker Disaster of 2013. It's a cautionary tale I hope you'll all take to heart.

A week ago, I started our clothes dryer and I could hear that tell-tale banging sound of something decidedly NOT fabric. I immediately opened the door and rummaged through the clothes, feeling around for something hard, but my hands came up empty. So, I shrugged and moved on with my life.


It was only when my load of laundry — full of my newest clothes, most for work — finished that I found the source of the clanging. A completely melted (I'm talking an empty tube) of Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker fell on the floor and I groaned.

Have you ever had one of those moments where it feels like you're watching a movie and the camera just zoomed back and suddenly you see the full scene and it's so much worse than you originally noticed? That was me looking at this load of laundry. At first, I noticed a couple grease stains and thought some Oxyclean spray could take care of business. But then I started noticing the red spots. Everywhere. On all the clothes. It was a sad day; after spot treating and rewashing the load, I still had to throw away about 5 items of clothing, including a favorite dress.

I can laugh about it now (I mean, how many 28-year-olds ruin their laundry with a Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker?), but lesson learned: TRIPLE check your pockets before you start your laundry. I'm usually pretty good about it, but I forgot one pocket in one dress and paid the price.

How about you? What's your absolute worst laundry disaster? This isn't my first; I shrunk a merino wool sweater of Sean's down to American Girl size. Oops!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Today I Like ... Jennifer Nielsen Jewelry

A few weeks ago, Melissa and I hit up the spring Stockley Gardens Art Festival and spent some time admiring the jewelry created by Jennifer Nielsen of Maine. Nielsen uses beautiful stones to create this organic and elegant jewelry and I was the smitten kitten. She said she even creates custom work with stones people find on the beaches; I love that idea! It's all a bit out of my price range, but a girl can dream, right?

Earrings, $330

Gorgeous white granite and diamond pendant, $1,100.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sunday Best v.157

Neon art by Olivia Steele

Summer has arrived in Hampton Roads! Last night, we hit the Greek Festival and we're thinking about a Busch Gardens excursion tomorrow. I love how, no matter how old you get, warm weather makes it feel like school's out (even if it isn't!).