Sunday, November 27, 2016

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Binge Watching "Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life"

Netflix via Wikipedia

As a big fan of the TV show Gilmore Girls, I decided to watch the first episode of four that make up the revival on netflix called Gilmore Girls: A Year on the Life. All premiering on Friday, each episode is named after a season. I didn't stop after the first though. I actually binge watched all six hours of the mini series over like an eight hour period today. It was wonderful. I really enjoyed watching it on my sofa.

I adored the show back in the day. One of the main characters was Rory and she was the same age as me (during both the series and the revival). I approved that she was smart and loved to read. I could relate. I was also jealous of the two main characters though. I loved Lorelai and Rory's dialogue. I love the way that they speak, squeezing a lot in quickly with confidence, which is something an INFJ can hardly ever do! My favorite humor is that which is clever, so I appreciate all the (pop and historical) culture references. Their lines were a bit of a departure from real life, but that's what I loved as their lifestyle and environment was a quirky and wonderful world to escape to. I did own all the seasons on DVD until I decided to sell them to fund a trip to Italy.

I think all the characters (except Mr. Gilmore as the actor died in real life, but the character's death was central to the plot) returned for the revival. I was so happy to see all of them! Even the town troubadour! It was a stretch to include them all though... It felt like some were just making a cameo. Would I want these cameos to be skipped for the sake of the flow of the film? No. It was like catching up with old friends!

The last (and seventh) season of the TV show was not written by its creator, so with the original team on board with this year's installment, they could end things how they intended nine years ago. It felt like a true extension of the series. Pretty much nothing had changed for the characters in those nine years though! That made things easy. There was one quirky part that was entirely too long and I completely hated the last words of dialogue that ended this miniseries, but other than those two parts, I loved the revival. I laughed. I cried. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love Luke and Lorelai together. I suppose that I can understand the ending. There had better be more episodes after that cliffhanger though! Anyway, Gilmore Girls proved to be a fantastic escape from life once again.

I don't tend to watch a lot of TV, so binge watching something is something different for me to do this weekend. Since both watching the first episode and continuing to watch happened spontaneously today and I didn't plan in advance, I didn't do it Gilmore-style, binge eating (takeout and junk food) or coffee drinking, but that's okay. It's entertaining. I recommend binge watching Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. It's like a book you can't put down.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Stocking Up on Wine for the Winter

Back on Sunday, October 30th, my friend Elizabeth and I ventured out to the wine warehouse called Total & Wine & More and then made dinner together at my place. This is the second time that I've been to this amazing store, but my first visit to their new location to a bigger place in the same shopping center. In their celebration of the new superstore, they mailed a coupon. If you spent $100 on 750mL or 1.5L bottles of wine, then you got $20 off. Initially, I had planned to spend $75 like my first big wine shopping excursion, so I played with my virtual shopping cart on their website until I got it just over the needed $100 subtotal. That wasn't perfect, but I actually managed to get the subtotal to $100.23 in store. With the coupon (and tax), my total was $87.45. I ended up with seven bottles of wine including a double bottle (1.5L)! That's like $11 a bottle. Such a wonderful value! I definitely wanted to stock up on some wine for the winter when I am no longer earning a lot of commission.

I picked up the following bottles of wine:

1. Radius Riesling
I wanted to have a bottle of either Moscato or Riesling for when I have my friend T over for a weeknight dinner. She likes a sweet white wine while I am the complete opposite with my dry red preference, so we pretty much have to have two bottles on the table. I actually served her this domestic wine from Washington last Tuesday evening and she liked it.

2. Bolla Chianti
This was my go to for years and what I often grab from the liquor store I can walk to. I already enjoyed this 1.5L bottle including when I was wining and dining with T.

3. Dom des Grandes Perrieres Sancerre
Sancerre is my signature white wine. I love when a wine is described as "elegant." I look forward to trying this particular crisp Sauvignon Blanc with my penne pasta with sun-dried tomato cream sauce dish maybe sometime during the winter. This was my priciest selection, but it was still under $20 after the discount.

4+5. Banfi Chianti Classico
This is my favorite red wine. I discovered it on my first visit to this store. It is the smoothest medium-bodied Italian red wine I have ever had. Check out an entire post dedicated to this signature red wine of mine. I grabbed two bottles, one I am enjoying this week and the other I am saving to share with another friend.

6. Gabbiano Chianti Classico
This was such a great value. It tasted of berry and pepper though and I happen to prefer a more smooth taste, free of spice and pepper. I remember that I first discovered that a wine could contain a note of pepper at a wine tasting at Boordy Vineyards here in Maryland. I don't think I'd purchase it again.

7. Rivata Prosecco
I wanted Prosecco because it is an ingredient in an Italian cocktail called a spritz. I intend to serve it in the summertime. This sparkling wine is also described as "elegant." That coupled with the price being right, I can hardly resist!

After this shopping trip, my wine cabinet was almost full, only two spots in the wire rack empty.

I did really well. Like on my first visit, I got an amazing value on the bottles I wanted. It was odd to be filling a shopping cart. I don't buy a lot of anything anywhere!

One of the bottles of Banfi is currently on the kitchen counter. 
This is what my wine cabinet looks like tonight, with just three unopened bottles from this trip left.

I would like to buy a bottle of tequila before next summer, so I can have blood orange margaritas throughout the season. I'm sure that I will buy that along with the Banfi Chianti Classico and perhaps something new to try if that's in my budget on my next visit to this warehouse.

Elizabeth picked up a bottle to try with dinner. We couldn't find anything we loved the description for that was reasonably priced and completely different. I suggested a South American wine, maybe one from Chile, but they didn't seem to be represented well in this store. We returned to the Italian section and I suggested Valpolicella, a rich red wine from the Veneto region. I have a fond memory of drinking this specific wine in Piazza delle Erbe in Verona on my last trip to Italy in 2011. Elizabeth and I both liked this wine with so much going on, but I don't believe either of us loved it. I was glad this Valpolicella didn't have a note of spice, which I believe stopped me from buying it before. I would purchase it in the future.

For dinner, we tried a new recipe: balsamic chicken. We both love this dish, but wanted to find a decent recipe for it. This one was delicious! The chicken was so moist. This was the best way I have ever prepared chicken. I am happy to now have this recipe in my repertoire. We served it on a bed of sauteed spinach. We also made my olive-oil roasted gold potatoes.

I have to sincerely thank my friend Elizabeth for helping me that day. I woke up with a cold on the previous day, Saturday. The morning of our outing, I sneezed and I suppose my muscles were tight at that moment because my back went out. I could function, but despite pain reliever (alternating with cold medicine!), was in serious pain every time I sat, bent or twisted for six days. She helped me carry the heavy liquids and probably helped more with the cooking. I am grateful.

I still did laundry at my parents' place as usual that Sunday afternoon/evening, but simply was not at my best to publish a blog post at the end of that particular exhausting day. I even set up those bottles and snapped those pictures while we were cooking, planning on publishing the same day, but it was too much. I am sorry that I didn't post. I will try to catch up on the blog, so please stay tuned!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Cranberry Scone

I baked cranberry scones from scratch this morning. Now, breakfast is basically taken care of each day this week. I tried this particular recipe from Martha Stewart that I found on Pinterest previously and wrote about here. I always intended to make them at least once every fall since that's when cranberries are in season. Because they are tart rather than sweet, I prefer to have them every once in awhile, when I feel like something different, just not on a regular basis. They're good and I recommend them. In addition, they are quick and easy to make. Pretty simple, I only had to pick up two of the ingredients at the grocery store this morning: half-and-half and fresh cranberries. I now have plenty of this fruit in my freezer.

Check out the recipe I tweaked...

Cranberry Scones
Serves 8.

2 c. all-purpose flour plus more for slab
5 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2/3 c. half-and-half
1/2 c. halved cranberries
bit of powdered sugar for topping

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Wash and dry cranberries. Cut them in half and measure 1/2 cup. Leave to the side.
3. In a bowl, add flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir.
4. Add butter and play with until mixture starts to resemble coarse crumbs.
5. Stir in half-and-half.
6. Fold in cranberries.
7. Dust slab with flour.
8. Knead dough 5-10 times.
9. Form into a flat 1-inch tall circle.
10. Cut into 8 wedges.
11. Place each wedge on a baking sheet a couple of inches apart.
12. Bake until golden brown, about 13-15 minutes.
13. Let cool. Dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy.

They were delicious. I enjoyed not one but two scones warm out of the oven with a glass of sweetened iced tea while watching the latest episode of Barefoot Contessa at 10:30 this morning. I had already sipped shots of espresso much earlier. I look forward to pairing another one with coffee tomorrow.

I am sincerely sorry that I haven't been posting lately. I've truly had to deal with a lot lately. Even though some of all that will not settle down until the end of the month, I will still try to catch up and get into the habit of blogging regularly. I do love blogging and being a part of this community.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Antipasti Again for Lunch

I loved my Sunday lunch of antipasti or a simple cheese plate. This consists of sharp cheddar cheese, prosciutto, Harvest Wheat Toasteds crackers, and grape tomatoes. I definitely put my own spin on this Italian course.

In an attempt to keep the portions small, I loaded up a small salad plate. It filled me up. I know that this is not the healthiest meal, but I will balance snacking on these items by eating a salad for most meals this week. I enjoyed this meal without guilt.

I was inspired to make this meal by rereading the first two chapters of Fiona Ferris' book Thirty Chic Days: Practical Inspiration for a Beautiful Life. Her second chapter focuses upon food, but I feel like it was the first chapter on mindset that led me to ask myself, "What would I have for lunch if I was living in my dream Italian [or city] apartment?" My answer was antipasti from an outdoor market in a piazza [or from Di Bruno Bros. in Philadelphia]. I savored Fiona's wonderful book when it first came out, but just started to reread the entire book in order to draft a thorough review of it for the blog. (I have finished reading all the books on my fall reading list and you can expect the last two reviews to be published by the end of the month. Plus, I also have decided on six titles for my winter list. I even bought five of them and plan to borrow the final selection. So stay tuned!)

I have actually written about the antipasti lunch previously here. That meal in the spring was a more economical version when compared to this one, but I am still spending some nice summer and fall commission at the moment. Back then, that meal of mine was also inspired by Fiona, specifically a post on her blog how to be chic. It certainly helps to be reminded to create the life you want to live! Speaking of inspiration, the Barefoot Contessa made a much more sophisticated cheese board for dessert actually in her latest episode that aired at 10:30 this morning. If it's a good idea to Ina Garten, then it's a good idea for me.

I look forward to snacking on these foods with a glass of wine, and returning to Italy for a few bites, after work this week. ...and I might just have to entertain! An Italian friend can help me eat some. I can even switch it up a bit with a portion of parmesan and some of that sourdough bread stocked in my freezer from my last dinner party.

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.