Sunday, October 16, 2016

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Barefoot Contessa

I simply adore Ina Garten, star of the TV show Barefoot Contessa on Food Network, which is is a 30-minute cooking show with an emphasis upon easy entertaining. In the latest This & That post on the blog The Simply Luxurious Life, I learned that her season premiere airs at 10:30 AM on Sunday. I hardly ever watch TV, so I thought that catching this episode was something different I could do during my weekend. The show far exceeded my expectations. It turned out to be Italian-themed!

This season of the show celebrates Ina's new cookbook Cooking for Jeffrey, which is to be released on October 25th. Jeffrey is her husband and they are such a cute couple. To my surprise, Ina prepares an Italian-themed birthday dinner party for Jeffrey in this episode. She made bruschetta, meatballs, polenta, and a salad along with a spritz. His birthday gift was a trip to Florence! I enjoyed watching the episode and might watch more of the season. Furthermore, I can see her recipes and tips inspiring my own cooking and entertaining.

The previous photos show my view from the sofa. I was recently given a gently used flat screen TV. I love this wonderful gift, particularly to hostess movie nights. I haven't done so yet, but it would be nice to do with the girls in the winter. Like I said, I rarely watch TV, so sometimes, it sits in the living room and other times, it is stored in my walk-in closet. Since it's not out all the time, I haven't dealt with all those unsightly cords. Oh well.

I walked to Target this morning for a flu shot. Because there was a delay at the pharmacy, I killed some time by shopping for two household items and spontaneously grabbing a tall cappuccino from the in-store Starbucks. By the time I was finished, the pharmacy was ready to help me. It was nice to sip my delicious Italian coffee while viewing the cooking show featuring an Italian meal. I love embracing a theme.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Using my New Phone

My phone died last Monday afternoon. From old age. Since I got it right before my 30th birthday trip to Paris, that means it was 2 1/2 years old. With major memory problems from the beginning, I never loved it, but I strive not to complain in general. 

On Tuesday evening, I visited my local T-Mobile store and selected a new one, probably the second cheapest one in the store instead of the most economical one this time. It is another Android, a Samsung Galaxy J7. I love it. And do you know why? Because it's functional. Unlike my former phone, it doesn't take long to do anything. I don't have to clear data from app storage on a regular basis nor immediately delete photos. My apps no longer constantly remind me that they need updating. The emails I draft are actually sent to the recipient. I can now scroll down my Instagram feed even if there's a video at the top. I get to have all the apps I want! Not that I want all that many. I have already redeemed three offers in the cash back app called ibotta. It's nice to have Yelp on my phone when I travel. (I hope to head to Philadelphia soon!) The memo app is a bit easier to use, which is fantastic for a list-maker like me. Plus, the images on Instagram and Pinterest look great. Since I do not know a lot about technology, I required the salesperson's assistance. He said this phone had a better camera than the cheapest phone. I like to travel light and use my phone as a camera so I don't have to bring yet another device on short trips. I need to order a case for my precious phone as soon as possible. I've been trying to look for a chic one online. My favorite so far is this white marble one.

My new phone on my desk. 
Goes with the black and white with metallic accents theme in that corner.

I am slowly setting it up. My (free) background which is white with a pale pink cherry blossom branch in the middle allows the apps to stand out. (Spring is my favorite season.) I have my home screen full of apps and organized as I like. I am actually only using one of the three pages. I have more when I click on Apps though. I decided against transferring my contacts. Always having done so over the years, I have so many people and businesses saved that I would never call. After asking people or consulting my paper address book or email folders, I am slowly entering in names and numbers now. If you know me in real life and have my number, feel free to call or text me so I enter the digits. I also hope to pay this phone off in like 5 payments over a short time rather than over 24 months as advertised. Winter is coming and I do not earn a lot of commission then. (I was unexpectedly poor during the spring last year too.)

You will also see with my upcoming fall capsule wardrobe post that upgrade is the name of my game lately. I am so happy with my new phone!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Hanging Out with Minnie

My parents have been out of town and for the past week, I have been helping my siblings watch the family dog Minnie while they are away. I had introduced you to this beagle/terrier mix here. I love dogs and have been enjoying my dogsitting shifts. We've had days of rain, so when the sun finally came out this afternoon, we immediately went outside.

Now, I think it's time for another walk to celebrate the sunshine.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Book Review: Letters from Paris

I finished another book from my fall reading list today. Letters from Paris by Juliet Blackwell was fantastic, but did not get that way until the very end. This was not a novel I devoured in two or three days, instead the slow-paced story took me a week. 

I bought it and read it on my Kindle.

It was solidly good throughout most of the novel. The plot was interesting. It was about a modern day woman with a tragic childhood and who suddenly left a blah life behind to attend to her dying grandmother who had raised her. She rediscovered a work of art in the attic and her grandmother insisted she go to Paris where the masterpiece was made to discover secrets. As it turns out, the protagonist is a very curious woman, so following the funeral and since she is at a crossroads anyway, she actually made the trip and had quite an adventure! One that revealed secrets, sure, but also one that provided direction in her life. This story is intertwined with the subject of the artwork, a woman who also suffered tragedies and lived in Paris back in the 1890s. There was also the voice of a man who had worked in the workshop that produced this art and sold the intriguing product to the modern day woman's great-grandfather after World War II. The writing was wonderful and it made the story come alive. I could picture the setting, especially the beautifully set outdoor table in the garden with string lights at dinnertime! The character development was strong that you truly rooted for these women. ...but much of the novel was so slow-paced. Like a two-hour Parisian lunch. There was a mystery to be solved and there were not a lot of discoveries through the majority of the story. It was primarily about both the modern day woman's and the Belle Epoque woman's Parisian experiences. Not that all books have to move as quickly as a Dan Brown novel. Like I said, it was good, but then towards the end, it became truly fantastic. Not one, but two big twists enriched the novel. One was foreshadowed and the reader expects it when the main character figures it out, her best guess of what happened at that. The other was so shocking that I had difficulty believing it! It was nice for the two strong, brave women in the book to both find love and live happily ever after. 

Good fiction discusses life truths and this one was no different. Of course, tragedy hurts a person, causes them to break down and/or not live well in grief, but the scars that a tragedy gives ultimately serve to strengthen a person, a soul. After all, scar tissue is harder than the tissue how it was before. The modern day characters go further and believe that there is even beauty in this brokenness. Sometimes, you do not get over hardships in life and/or there is no reason for tragedy, but it becomes part of who you are, you eventually deal with it enough for it not hold you back in life in a major way any longer, you move forward. There was a much more light life lesson of savoring the simple things and using the/doing your best as well. The French lifestyle certainly appeals to me. In fact, after reading this novel, I put "good bread" on my grocery shopping list. I know that my friend who I occasionally have over on a weeknight for wine and antipasti or a quick dinner would definitely appreciate it.

This was the book that I was reading on my Kindle [on the right]
while at my favorite coffee shop on a vacation day yesterday.

I highly recommend this book. Be sure to stick with it though. Enjoy escaping to Paris! Because it all comes together in the end. It's worth it. Trust me.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Signature Sunday: Brookies

My signature dessert is the brookie. I want this to be my 'go to' both to make something special for myself and to contribute to parties. I love it. I think it is delicious, especially when the chocolate chips begin to melt, either right out of the oven or reheated in the microwave for like 8 seconds. I also think it's genius, a delectable combination of a chocolate chip cookie and brownie in one. If it's going to be my specialty, then it has to include chocolate. Chocoholic that I am, that's a given. I'm glad it's easy, just whipping up a couple of mixes, combining them, and then baking in a muffin tin for awhile. This is the sweet treat that I would like to be known for, rather than my homemade chocolate fudge. I'd better start making them for nearly every family dinner!

My first brookie of the last batch, in a cute cupcake liner with fall leaves.

I first baked this recipe back in November 2014. Part of a series based on trying new recipes, I wrote about it here. And I have been making them a few times a year since. I spent last Monday afternoon baking them, perfect for this rainy day. It probably wasn't the best decision ever as I am [still] trying to lose the last few pounds before hitting my goal weight... The latest batch churned out 16 muffins. I have exercised some self discipline only savoring a few so far. Most are stored in the freezer. I did give five of them to a resident and friend who often visits me at work. He's an 80-year-old gentleman ...whose (desired) mental age is about 30. He so wants to be fully independent and an active member of society ...when he simply does not have to be, so I'm glad he accepted my offer and discovered something new. He also has a big sweet tooth and I'm happy that he enjoyed them. Sharing even more would be a good idea.

If you haven't made them, I highly recommend that you do! Find my recipe here.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Dove Variety Minis

I discovered a new kind of chocolate that I love. Allow me to introduce to you... Dove Variety Minis, which are individually wrapped dark chocolate covered vanilla or chocolate ice cream bars.

My boss regularly buys the apartment community maintenance staff ice cream and stocks it in the freezer in the leasing office throughout the summer. It was very hot and humid this past season and I know this treat was appreciated. One day, I tried one of the miniature ice creams she bought and loved it so much that I have been buying it regularly ever since. I especially love ice cream and of course gelato in the summertime.

These bars are delicious! The dark chocolate shell is so good. When you bite into one, it's a surprise which kind of ice cream is inside. My preference is the chocolate ice cream, which is rich. I would say that the vanilla is fluffy rather than decadent. I appreciate the small size as I am forever trying to exercise portion control. These satisfying and individually wrapped treats are gone in three bites, perfect for just a little dessert after lunch or dinner. 

Each wrapper features different text promoting chocolate.

Have you tried them yet?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Book Review: The Light of Paris

The first book I read from my fall reading list was The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown. I devoured this novel in three days. I recommend it.

I borrowed the eBook through my local library.

It's about a modern-day woman who is unhappy with her current life stemming from the choices she has made that benefit others instead of herself. During some time away at her mother's, she finds her grandmother's journals and is enraptured with the tale of how she visited Paris in the 20s. Her grandmother wasn't always the formal woman her granddaughter thought of her as, but a creative soul, a kindred spirit, a woman that wanted to break out of the mold of the time. Reflection upon all this slowly helps her begin a transformation.

The first half of the book was character development. It was good, but as soon as the two main characters started to make their own decisions halfway through, it became a truly fantastic book. I mean, how could it not? One of the main characters had the time of her life in 1920s Paris! The woman hung out with Surrealists in sidewalk cafes! Both characters come alive. I could see not every reader loving the book since you want to grab the modern day female protagonist by the shoulders and shake some sense into her! She didn't seem to think that her own happiness mattered whatsoever. As a lifestyle blogger, it was frustrating to read. I could certainly see that it happens in real life and since the story was well written, I rooted for her to actually make major changes. The lessons of the book: be authentically you and have the courage to pursue your dreams, however nonconformist they may be, are important ones. It's a good book and I think you should grab a copy for yourself.