Friday, May 30, 2014

Today I Like ... Beach Style 2014

Beach 2014

I've officially had my first beach day and it just left me craving more! I spent years convincing myself I didn't like the beach, primarily because of one bad experience when my entire suit filled with sand and I spent more time cleaning it out than swimming!

A big breakthrough came when we discovered some of the less crowded beaches. That's a gamechanger! That one beach day left me daydreaming about the ultimate beach accessories. Here are some of my favorite things I found while virtual window shopping:

  1. A sun hat fit for Audrey Hepburn, $58 at Anthropologie.
  2. Could anything be sweeter than a gingham one-piece? $72 at Nordstrom.
  3. A super chic cover-up that goes easily from the beach to brunch. $88 at Boden USA.
  4. Look like one of Charlie's Angels in these oversize tortoise sunglasses, $23 at ASOS.
  5. I love wearing cream blushes in summertime because they look dewy and seem to last even in sweat. This Maybelline Master Glaze is perfect to toss in a purse.
  6. It's ridiculous and unnecessary but I'm REALLY coveting this beach radio, $50 at Anthropologie.
  7. A beach blanket by Piece & Co. that would look just as good on a couch, $78 at Madewell. (It appears to be sold out...boooo. I also really love these $48 beach blankets from Steven Alan.)
  8. The indigo dye look of this Bamboula Ltd. bag is so on trend and timeless at the same time. Pack it full of your beach gear or take it to the farmers' market. $78 at Madewell.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

About Town: Greeks, Pirates and Beer

Another weekend in Hampton Roads, another line-up of festivals! What can I say? It's just that time of year!

Newport News Greek Festival

One of my favorite traditions is grabbing a meal at the Newport News Greek Festival and watching the adorable teenagers perform traditional dances. I love imagining the teenage angst that goes into every rehearsal as I munch on the most delicious Greek fries and sweet honey loukimades. 

The festival starts tonight and is going from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at 60 Traverse Road (right beside the Greek Orthodox Church).


O'Connor Brewing will be opening in its new location with O'Connoroo, a one-day festival of music, food and fun starting at 2 p.m. Saturday that seemingly all of the people I know are planning to attend. The bands are some of my favorites in the area and I can't wait to try some of the food!

Blackbeard Festival

Get your pirate on at the 15th Annual Blackbeard Festival in Hampton, a celebration of the feared pirate and his final battle in the Hampton harbor. Here's a full schedule of the festival's events.

Anything else awesome going on in the 757? Leave it in the comments!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend: Half-Smokes, Hikes and Cake

We had a wonderfully busy Memorial Day weekend, full of things I shouldn't have eaten and don't regret at all! We spent the long weekend in the DC area visiting family and revisiting landmarks of Sean's youth, starting with B&J Carry-Out, a classic Accokeek, Md. greasy spoon. After much debate (the BBQ sandwiches come highly recommended), I was intrigued by the "half-smoke," which the Internet tells me is a D.C.-area delicacy.

A half-smoke is, according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, "Similar to a hot dog, but usually larger, spicier, and with more coarsely-ground meat, the sausage is often half-pork and half-beef, smoked, and served with herbs, onion, and chili sauce." It was a somewhat spicier hot dog, split down the middle, served with mustard on the most perfectly grilled bun and it was DELICIOUS. Next time, I'll go all-in and get chili.

From there, we went to Piscataway Park, a national park situated directly across the Potomac River from Mt. Vernon. My sweet husband spent his childhood in the woodsy neighborhood right there and it was fun to hike around and explore.

After our mini hike, we met up with Katie for a visit to the grounds of their childhood home...I had driven by in the past, but had never gotten an up close look. It's cool to be able to picture everything when they tell their stories now.

On our way home, Sean and I decided to do a quick visit to check out the National Harbor, a kind of grown-up Disneyland resort area. It's sort of disconcerting because it's so well-planned it doesn't seem real, but we definitely would love to go back for a day of paddleboating, dinner and maybe a ride on the Ferris Wheel.

I could you not want to paddleboat a giant swan? You can even get there by taking a water taxi from the Alexandria waterfront. Let's do it!

My sister-in-law is moving soon and my mother-in-law just celebrated a birthday, so I called ahead and ordered two cakes from Alexandria Pastry: a black-and-white mousse cake and a lemon mousse with raspberry filling cake.

They were scrumptious and incredibly moist. The folks at Alexandria Pastry were also incredibly easy to work with and now I'm hoping to go back for breakfast or lunch. They've got a customer for life!

On Sunday, we headed out to have brunch and to test-drive some Warby Parker sunglasses for Sean. I think the Thatcher style is a winner!

Our brunchmates were Katie, our friend Lindsey and her cuties!

Who isn't mesmerized by Sean's beard? I mean really.

Funny story: a few months ago, I dreamed we were in Paris and I bought waffleburgers from a street vendor. When I woke up and remembered the dream, I thought I might be on to something. So imagine my delight to see they serve waffleburgers at FireFlies in Del Ray! Sean ordered it and let me have a bite and let's just say, it's worth dreaming about.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday Best v.205

Maine, Girl with Bicycle by Louisa Matthiasdottir (more here)

Are you having a most wonderful long summer weekend? We've had a great one so far and tomorrow I'm hoping to do some paddleboating, always one of my favorite kick-off-summer activities. Here are some of my favorite links of the week:
  • Lance Armstrong has fun playing Cards Against Humanity.
  • Brad Pitt is a good pal in New Orleans.
  • Can I post a spoiler? Check this handy dandy chart first.
  • The Pop Culture guide to summer.
  • Awesome tips to make using Google Chrome even better.
  • Jennifer Lawrence's weird but awesome hiccup cure. (I actually tried this the other day and it WORKED!)
  • Ever feel like everyone's married these days? This chart shows the truth.
  • The greatest commencement speeches ever.
  • And the best job application letter ever.
  • True stories from behind-the-scenes of Mean Girls.
  • Celebrities read mean tweets and the tweeters react!
  • A painful, but well-written account of what the 9-11 Museum is like for a relative of someone who died that day.
  • An adorable short movie for Rachel Antonoff's fashion line.
  • This is REALLY SCARY but a must-read if you've never heard of secondary drowning.
  • Want Springsteen to play your birthday? Find out how much your favorite artists cost to book.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Ultimate Mac and Cheese Showdown

May Wine Club will go down in fatty infamy, for it is the day Wine Club had a mac 'n' cheese throwdown and it was amazing. We sampled six types of mac, literally saving up our calories for dinner that night. Not a single mac wasn't delicious, and every single one had its own special spin on the classic. 

That, my friends, is a mac and cheese sampler. I was happy as a clam! And now YOU'RE going to be even happier, because I have recipes under the jump and you can now follow Wine Club's favorite things Pinterest board.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Rubber Duckies, Art Festivals, BBQ & 80s Music

 Whew! What a busy, but great weekend. My Saturday was packed full of art and fun, starting early with a visit to the Rubber Duck at the Chrysler Museum (it's only here until the 26th!), and then a nice walk along the Hague to the Stockley Gardens Spring Festival. I was sad not to be able to see the whole thing in the time allowed, but I was really excited to see some cool new artists included.
I liked these abstract pieces by Andi Helfant-Frye, whose artist's statement said it was an adventure for her after a long time doing only representational works.

 I loved the cartoonish quality of this new work by Milenko Katic, whose horse paintings have always been some of my favorites in the past.

 I loved the swirly agate quality of these paintings by Anne Murphy. They would make amazing fabrics!

And most of all, I was intrigued and inspired by the copper work by Tracery 157.

After my quick jaunt through Stockley, Ashleigh picked me up for a beach day at Chic's Beach! We had drinks and lunch at Buoy 44, listened to hot jams on the beach and even swam briefly in the chilly, chilly water!

From there, we headed across the water from Norfolk to Portsmouth and enjoyed one of our favorite annual traditions, the Portsmouth Service League Beer, Band & BBQ. We ate too much BBQ, drank plenty of Blue Moon and danced our damn fannies off to The Deloreans, truly the greatest 80s cover band there ever was. It was, as Ashleigh proclaimed it, a perfect day.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday Best v.204

I  had a little case of wanderlust this afternoon after we went to see Godzilla (my verdict: surprisingly good, I thought!) and we decided to go on a "country" drive through Poquoson. We ended up at Messick Point and had a lovely little time skipping stones, gawking at the blue crab shells everywhere and enjoying the scenery. Here are a few shots:

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Introducing AT: About Town

Friends, remember when I said I was going to write weekend previews for the benefit of locals looking for what's good in the 757? And then I didn't do it? Yeah, my bad. BUT my bestie Ashleigh agreed to write the column, so with a few suggestions added in from me, here's what we came up with:

Amber: Tonight is the last concert in the 2013-2014 Art After 5 concert series at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center and we'll be hosting the lovely and talented Skye Zentz will be performing. We'll also have the STUFT food truck and a cash bar and a chance to see our new exhibit. Shameless plug!! Event is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Ashleigh: First off, I'd like to put it out there that I travel all over Hampton Roads for happenings and favor no one city over the next. I live in Norfolk so by default I usually know more about Norfolk events. That being said, this weekend's preview has an abundance of events. I love the warmer months!

Friday, make sure you drive-thru or park and enjoy Norfolk's best Greek Festival! Family-friendly atmosphere, music and GREAT FOOD! Try the Loukoumades and Spanakopita! Friday and Saturday they are open 11a-10p. The event runs May 15-18.
Where: Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 7220 Granby Street, Norfolk

Amber: This weekend is the perfect art weekend, with the spring Stockley Gardens Art Festival set up on Saturday and Sunday in the Ghent area of Norfolk AND....drumroll, please ....

Amber: On Saturday, this giant rubber duck art installation will be the focus of everyone's attention in the Hague area of Norfolk, right in front of the Chrysler Museum (which reopened last week after a $24 million renovation).

Ashleigh: Saturday is the highlight of my weekend because it's the 6th Annual Portsmouth Service League Beer, Band and Barbecue! I'm involved in this organization and it's honestly our best event of the year! Catering is by Beach Bully and beer trucks will be on location for ALL YOU CAN DRINK! The tickets are $35 and the event runs from 4-10 p.m. Fun fact: This is where Wine Club was concocted! I recommend getting there as soon as it starts so you can get a great table for you and the 10 friends you bring, plus get a head start on the beer drinking! Also, you can take the Elizabeth River ferry from Waterside straight to the park in Portsmouth!
Where: North Landing Park, Portsmouth

Ashleigh: On Sunday, you can be cooler than me and go see The Philadelphia Story (the play that inspired Amber's favorite movie, shown above) at the Little Theatre of Norfolk, before I do. Synopsis: Tracy Lord, of the Philadelphia Lords, is a headstrong and spoiled daughter of the privileged. Divorced from C.K. Dexter Haven, she is engaged to a successful young snob. A society weekly sends a reporter and female photographer to cover the wedding arrangements. Tracy finds herself growing interested in the reporter Mike Connor, and following the pre-wedding bash, they take a moonlight swim and are surprised by Dexter and the fiancee.
Sounds like a soap-opera, right!?  They have a 2:30 p.m. showing Sunday and it's a great way to cool off if you get tired of being outside. I have plans with Amber to go later this month so no spoilers! 
Tickets are $17. The show runs May 9 to June 1. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees are at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Little Theatre of Norfolk, 801 Claremont Avenue

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Balsamic Strip Steak with Goat Cheese

I present to you .... drumroll, please .... badly photographed food! What can you do? Sometimes you've grocery shopped, 30-day-shredded, walked, laundered, talked on the phone and there ain't no time to get a perfect shot of the food you cannot wait to get in your belly. Monday was one of those days.

As you know, we've been trying to eat lighter, with lots of fish and chicken and brown rice, so I decided to swing the pendulum in the Atkins direction and get some steak!

First, I drizzled my potato wedges with olive oil, then sprinkled them with blackening spice before roasting them for about 40 minutes in an oven set at 400 degrees.

Then, I patted my New York strip steaks with worcestershire sauce and a mixture of garlic and rosemary. I grilled them in a little olive oil and then, in a genius move worthy of a MacArthur Grant, I topped mine with a little goat cheese and balsamic glaze. It was every bit as good as that sounds.

Needless to say, I gotta go do some serious 30-Day Shred in preparation for tonight's Wine Club, which is titled "The Ultimate Mac and Cheese Throwdown and Oh Yeah, Wine, Too." Oh, it is going to be GOOD.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Parmesan Tilapia

It's all fish all the time in the Kennedy household these days. I love tilapia, and basically tolerate all other kinds of fish, but I'm trying to experiment more. This fish dish gets two hearty thumbs-up from the Kennedys, including cheese-hating Sean! I can't claim the brilliant idea, but I can certainly vouch for its brilliance. I used this recipe.

We're trying to get healthy these days, and I'm really, really hoping the good habits can stick. Of course, I'm not sure how much longer Sean can take eating tilapia, but I'm not sure I really care! Hopefully he can handle at least 50 more years of it. ;)

It couldn't be simpler:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, mix together 3/4 cup parmesan, 2 teaspoons of paprika, 1 tablespoon of parsley and salt.
  3. Drizzle the tilapia with olive oil, then dredge the filets in the parmesan mixture, pressing it into the fish.
  4. Transfer the fish to a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until the thickest part is opaque, about 10-12 minutes.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sunday Best v.203

I'm blessed to have not just a mom, but a stepmom, a mother-in-law, a stepgrandma and a grandma. I also benefitted from the influence of my dearly departed Nana and great-grandma Gertrude. Mother's Day is a a reminder to reflect on the patience, sacrifice and raw emotion it takes to mother a person (or even a pet!). Bless all you mommas out there!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Jams of the Week

Summer Hair Jam: Beach Babe Spray

Obviously, beach spray isn't a new thing, but I just now bought some by Not Your Mother's brand! I've always loved that kind of wild wavy look your hair gets after a day in the ocean, and I thought this would be the perfect thing for summer. It's super light and doesn't make your hair feel heavy or sticky or oily at all. I'm still trying to perfect looking messy good and not just messy though!

Summer Glow Jam: Physician's Formula Nude Palette

I've been really, really, really wanting the Urban Decay Naked 3 palette but there was no way I could justify dropping $50+ just to get some shiny bronzes and pinks. THEN I spotted this mini Physician's Formula palette that's the perfect travel size, has perfect colors AND works as eye shadow and blush and highlighter. Done and freakin' done.

Nail Polish Jam: Cover Girl

Cover Girl nail polish is NOT what it was when I was a tween! The quality is infinity better these days and after trying several brands and shades, I think I've finally found the coral I've been searching for. My Papaya is where it's at.

Real Life Shipping Jam: Mindy Kaling & BJ Novak

So, I really am preoccupied with my desire for Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak to finally get together Harry and Sally style. I've read both their books, seen all the articles, I follow them both on Instagram and they are SO CUTE and ADORABLE and I don't even care if they supposedly fight all the time. Look at these two? They're MFEO. Need more evidence? Don't worry...Buzzfeed's gotcha covered.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Quick Mongolian Chicken Stir-Fry

As you know, I'm a stir-fry newbie, but it's quickly becoming one of my favorite ways to get a bunch of veggies in my belly without feeling tempted to douse them with ranch. This is a pretty quick 'n' easy dish, but packs a lot of flavor! Here were my two key ingredients:

When I spotted this spice rub at World Market, I knew I had to give it a shot. I'm sure you could find similar rubs at your store, or be able to whip together a facsimile.

And the other secret weapon: Eat Smart's vegetable stir fry. Again, you could do this yourself but I'm living in a make-dinner-in-under-30-minutes kind of world, so I'm happy to cut corners where I can. This mix has broccoli florets, broccoli slaw, carrots and snow peas. 

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into strips or small pieces
  • Mongolian rub or comparable spice mix
  • Olive oil to drizzle chicken
  • Cooking oil (I used peanut oil)
  • Brown rice, cooked
  • Sauce mix for stir-fry: 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1/4 tablespoon of honey, sprinkle of ginger and 1/4 tablespoon of cornstarch. I made this up...feel free to add or reduce to taste!
  1. Cut the chicken into small strips or bites, then drizzle with olive oil before sprinkling the Mongolian rub liberally on all sides. 
  2. Heat about 2-3 tablespoons of your cooking oil of choice on medium-high heat, then add the chicken.
  3. Once the chicken pieces are cooked through, remove them to a separate plate but DO NOT remove the leftover oil. 
  4. Add your stir-fry veggies to the oil and pour the soy sauce mix. Work quickly to toss the veggies in the sauce before they get too soft or the sauce congeals too much.
  5. Add your cooked brown rice to the pan and toss with the vegetables and sauce, then serve with chicken on top.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Wine Fest 2014

 Saturday was the kickoff to Hampton Roads' warm weather social season, the spring Wine Fest. It honestly was the weekend of festivals, with beer fests happening in Newport News and Virginia Beach, a children's festival, Wine Fest and who knows what else! But for our group of friends, Wine Fest is the place to be.

 We had a lovely day of picnicking with pals, sharing mini BLTs (I made sriracha mayo and herb mayo!), caprese skewers, cupcakes, hummus, artichoke dip and quite a few bottles of wine! Our personal favorites: Rockbridge Winery's Jeremiah, Barboursville's Pinot Grigio, Burnley's Rose and Horton's Freedom.

Fun was had by all, but watch out for those wine sippy cups...any time you drink alcohol with a straw, it seems to vanish!

One of my readers (hi Heather!) mentioned it would be nice if I wrote up little weekend previews of some of the cool happenings in the area, which is something I'd be happy to do! Funny enough, that used to be part of my job back in my entertainment reporter days, so I've always been in the habit of seeing what's going on in the area. I'm hoping to make that a standard post for Thursdays.