Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap For Joy

I've come up with two beverage-related items in honor of Leap Day. First up, this cute and handy leaping frog designed by Mario Bogdan. It serves as a bottle opener and a coaster. Store it in the refrigerator beforehand to keep your beverage nice and cold.

Next up, the Leap Year cocktail. The drink was invented at London's Savoy Hotel in 1928 and is said to have been responsible for more marriage proposals than any other cocktail.

Leap Year Cocktail
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 lemon twist, for garnish
Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish.

Any special Leap Day traditions at your house? Happy Leap Day!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

It's Curtains For You

Having always had conventional blinds in my windows, I find something very girlish and charming about curtains. This bold design from Urban Outfitters will bring a pop of color and a romantic floral accent to any room. For a rustic touch, I'm a fan of this branch-shaped curtain tie-back. These design elements will make the view outside all the more enjoyable.
If you like the curtain, Urban Outfitters also makes a gauze cotton bedspread in the same fabric.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Take Brownies to the Edge

When it comes to brownies, I always go for the corner piece. There's something about a crunchy edge that just elevates the entire brownie experience for me. That's why I think this pan qualifies as one of the world's greatest culinary inventions. Made by an Indiana-based company called Baker's Edge, the pan guarantees at least two crunchy sides on every individual brownie serving. Check their Web site for some tasty-looking recipes and find the pan online at

Saturday, February 23, 2008

An Oscar-Fest Feast

One of my favorite traditions is watching the Oscars with friends, but let's face it, the show is long and people get bored. If you're throwing a party or just having a few people over, it's important to keep your guests happy with entertaining food. If you watch the nominated films looking for menu inspiration, you'll only end up with orange Tic Tacs, milkshakes and French cuisine prepared by rats, so I suggest taking a more imaginative, broader approach. For an Oscar-worthy brunch, serve up There Will Be Blood-y Marys, No Country Ham for Old Men and French toast or crepes in honor of La Vie en Rose, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Ratatouille. And if you must, go ahead and pour a glass of SunnyD for Juno's sake. I know brunch seems a little unconventional for the late night event, but it can work. Serve a great midday meal (or go out for one), hit up one of the nominated films and then head home for the award show fun. Or keep it relatively brief and enjoy those great Oscar moments over breakfast for supper.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bee Sweet

I have nothing against the little, plastic bear, but this presentation of honey is positively elegant. Made by Savannah Bee Company, this sleek bottle of golden goodness makes honey seem like a true art form or at least, a great house-warming gift. Savannah Bee's varieties include black sage, orange blossom, raspberry and the classic tupelo -- flavors which are determined by the nectar the bees gather.
I'm quite fond of the natural sweetener. I often use honey in marinades, I like it in tea, and I love mixing it with softened butter and spreading it over warm toast. Savannah Bee offers up quite a few recipe suggestions if you need some inspiration. Plus, they sell a variety of natural beauty products, including some pretty tasty lip balms. Sweet!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Easy Cheesy Rolls

These are the tastiest rolls that require practically no time or effort. You start with a can of crescent rolls. I know that sounds like cheating, but this buttery bread will still impress. And I won't tell if you won't.

Easy Cheesy Rolls
Recipe courtesy of Big Daddy

What you'll need:
Muffin pan
2 cans of crescent rolls (yields 8 cheesy rolls)
Block of cheddar cheese (I've found that cheddar works best, but feel free to experiment with your favorite cheeses.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease muffin pan. For each cheesy roll, combine 2 crescent roll triangles into one flat circle of dough. Place one bite-size cube of cheese in the center of the dough. Roll the dough into a ball around the cheese. Place in muffin pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

That's all there is to it, and I promise these rolls will make any meal better.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Get Your Game On

When throwing a party, I think it's important to have an entertaining activity on hand -- a backup plan if the night gets a little slow. And since I don't have Guitar Hero or a Wii yet, I turn to the ever-faithful board game. I'm not particularly crazy about the medium, other than my nostalgia for Mouse Trap and deep, deep love of Scene It?, but Whoonu is a lot of fun. Made by Cranium, it's a very simple, test-how-well-you-know-your-friends type game. It's great for learning new things about people and has yet to result in one of those ugly, over-competitive, joy-destroying evenings.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cozy But Cute

As the weather gets warmer, I start looking for those transitional pieces of clothing that fall between wool coats and tank tops. This jacket by Brooklyn Industries looks like it will do the trick. The warm, cozy fleece makes it perfect for windy days in March, while the three-quarter length sleeves and asymmetrical cut make it a stylish addition to any wardrobe. The jacket comes in three distinct colors and is available online and at Brooklyn Industries' locations throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Tea & Me

When I was a little girl, my mom and her friend Charlotte would paint together on Saturday mornings. When they finished for the day, a tea party would commence in my bedroom. An upside down, plastic Lego container was the table, pillows were seats, and my doll size tea set served us well. There were no finger sandwiches or scones, but if I was lucky there would be some leftover brownies that had been baked earlier in the week.
When my mom gave me a new, grown-up set of cups and saucers a few Christmases ago, it was like coming full circle. The table has gotten bigger and I've grown beyond Lipton, but there's still nothing like spending a Saturday with a nice cup of tea in a pretty cup. It's not at all a necessity, but a delightful luxury that any little girl would understand.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

She Ate Red Velvet

Nothing says Valentine's Day to a southern girl like red velvet cake. Who better to turn to for a recipe than Paula Deen? Here's her take on the delicious dessert in cupcake form. That beautiful, bright red cake, that gooey cream cheese frosting, I think I'm in love.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Recipe courtesy of Paula Deen and the Food Network

For the cupcakes:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined. Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Garnish with chopped pecans and a fresh raspberry or strawberry.

If you're not up for making your own, here's a list of places to get your red velvet on compiled by the folks at Cakespy, a fantastic dessert-centric blog.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dog Show!

While I would have preferred to see any one of these Old English Sheepdogs take home the title of best in show, I salute Uno the beagle on his Westminster win. I can't seem to find the Dog Show skit from SNL, so I offer you the next best thing.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Takes the Cake

You'll certainly get compliments if you show up with a homemade cake at the next party you attend, but you'll be placed on a pedestal if that cake arrives on this adorable stand by Interior Style Home. The Florida based company makes all kinds of brightly colored, funky dinnerware (check out these groovy salad servers) as well as more understated furniture, lamps and wall hangings. Made with a material called melamine, the plates, cups, flatware and dining accessories are unbreakable and dishwasher safe, making them perfect for large parties.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Red Gifts Without Romance

Despite the fact that I've been struck by Cupid's arrow, the whole idea of Valentine's Day still makes me cringe. Maybe it's the years of built-up angst towards the day for lovebirds, but other than providing an excuse for excessive chocolate eating, I have no use for the holiday. During my single days, my friends and I even threw anti-Valentine's parties, which included viewings of Old School (the most unromantic movie we could think of) and feasting on unsexy foods such as falafel. In keeping with that disdain, here's my list of five Valentine's Day gifts that don't require a valentine. They are perfectly acceptable for your best girl friend, your mom or even nana, or just shop for yourself and enjoy some chocolate while you're at it.

5. This tea by Harney & Sons tastes like you're drinking a Girl Scouts' Thin Mint cookie. It's decadent without the sugary consequences.

4. Smith's soothing lip balm is shiny red and comes in a new mint rose flavor.

3. These square, red plates from West Elm will brighten up your dining room table.

2. Gap's new suede ballet flats come in a variety of colors, including red. They're also available in blue for all you Elvis fans.

1. How could I make a list of red gifts without including a (RED) item? Treat yourself to the ultimate splurge, a red iPod, and show some love for a great cause.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Southern Girl vs. Salmon

Being from the east coast and in particular Savannah, Georgia, I've never had much contact with salmon. Grouper I know, oysters I know, shrimp and I, we're best friends, but this salmon business is new territory. Out here in Seattle, it's the seafood king, so I decided to put away my biases and try my hand at the pink, flaky fish.

Herb-Crusted Salmon with Roasted Lemons
Recipe courtesy of Blueprint

1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped dill, tarragon, or chives (optional)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 3-pound salmon fillet, skin on, small bones removed
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2-3 lemons, quartered, seeds removed

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Toss panko with herbs and 1 tablespoon oil.
2. Place salmon (skin down) on parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread evenly with mustard; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with reserved panko mixture, patting gently. Scatter lemons around salmon and drizzle them with oil.
3. Roast salmon until it flakes easily, 18 to 20 minutes. With a large spatula, loosen it from skin (which should stick to parchment). Transfer fish to platter and garnish with roasted lemons. Serves six.

This recipe is quite tasty and easy to make.
He may never compare to a low country boil, but this salmon guy, he's okay.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Sweet Hearts

"Honey, I found what I want for Valentine's Day."
This may very well be the most beautiful box of chocolates I have ever seen. They look like they should be under glass or at least in a soap dish. Labeled the G Collection, these gorgeous and presumably delicious candies are the latest creation from Godiva designed by pastry chef Norman Love. Beyond the aesthetic appeal, the flavors sound especially intriguing. Tasmanian Honey, Thai Coconut, Caramel Macchiato, Bananas Foster and Vermont Maple Walnut are just a few. You're not gonna come across these in a Whitman's Sampler, but of course, they're not in the same price range. A 15 piece box from the G collection will cost you (or your valentine) $50, and the 30 piece box is $95. Because no preservatives are used, it is suggested that the chocolates be eaten two to four weeks after purchase, which seems like quite the caloric undertaking before warmer weather/bathing suit shopping hits.
"On second thought, that four piece box of Whitman's will do just fine."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Gifting Charm

I ran into a gift shop today on the hunt for a birthday card when my eyes fell on a particularly delightful design. I flipped the card over to find that the designer's name was Natalie (which fully won me over) Eden, a Seattle-based graphic designer who has been in the stationery business since 2004. Feminine silhouettes on pastel backgrounds with an occasional dash of sparkle account for most of the products, which include invitations, birthday cards and thank you cards. Whether accompanying a gift or standing on their own, these cards provide a simple touch of charm. Plus, who doesn't appreciate another use for argyle? Just ask my sock drawer.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Spring, Italian Style

For their spring collection, J. Crew has drawn upon Italy for inspiration. The breezy, bright dresses and colorful cardigans will have you longing for warmer temperatures, gelato and a much deserved vacanza. If you can't make it to Rome, you can at least fool your taste buds with a bowlful of Ciao Bella's creamy chocolate gelato.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Chowder Bowl

With the Super Bowl taking place this Sunday, I felt it my duty to write about America's favorite sporting event. And while I have no interest in or knowledge of football, I do enjoy the commercials, halftime show and unhealthy food that accompany the big game. So if you're like me, here are a few things to look forward to on Super Bowl Sunday.
  • New England vs. Manhattan clam chowder. Show your team pride via soup.

  • Justin Timberlake is starring in a Pepsi ad with that adorable Andy Samberg.

  • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are playing the halftime show. Who doesn't love Tom Petty? It's practically un-American not to.

  • Pigs in blankets.
What's your favorite Super Bowl snack? Who put on your favorite halftime show?


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