Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What's in my Handbag?

This was inspired by this post and video from Jennifer at The Daily Connoisseur. I know that I mentioned new birthday purchases such as the handbag, wallet and lip gloss recently in this post, but that's a quite a long one. I wanted to seize the opportunity to focus on a few new items in greater detail in a separate post. As I keep my home decluttered, I do the same for my handbag.


First, my new handbag is called Hatchet in Midnight Black from Aldo. You should know that this tote comes in many other colors and patterns. For $40 the style is classic and wonderful plus the construction seems decent. I think I will carry it every day until it starts to wear out, which I predict will be in about six months or so. I will upgrade to a bag that will last me forever when I can afford to do so. I like that this tote is label-less on the exterior.


The tote "leather" features a crosshatched texture. All the hardware is gold.

Detail.

The black interior has zipper closure. I truly find the interior organization useful. It's one big space on the interior which is nice. On one side of the wall, there are three open pockets where I put my phone with a black case in the first, my Cargo lip gloss in the next, and then my Maybelline lip gloss in the last.

Essential Lip Gloss in Prague by Cargo Cosmetics from Ulta

I love this lip gloss and its style name, Prague, a city I always wanted to go to... It's dark pink in the tube and on the brush, but applied and blotted well it's a medium, muted pink with a hint of berry to it. It feels great too. I first learned about it from this post from The Glamorous Housewife. She happens to have thin lips too and suggests using this product as a stepping stone to wearing a bold lip color. Since I would like to rock a red lip during my 30s, I hope she's right! I am happy I ordered it and happier that it looks nice on me.


This lip gloss adds shine but not color. I like the taste too. I often reapply it throughout the day and evening without aid of a mirror. Unfortunately, I think this product is discontinued. I bought it at Target on clearance awhile ago and then purchased another from Gabe's, a department store specializing in close-outs, that I store in my bathroom medicine cabinet. Eventually, I will need to replace it with something new. If you have a recommendation, then please let me know in a comment.

On the other side of the handbag, there is a zippered pocket where I stash the following items: a pen with black ink, a Tide to go pen, a travel-size lint roller (since my family has a dog), a couple of band-aids, my name tag, promotional pin and set of keys for work, a brown hair elastic, and a contact lens case with a couple of doses of Tylenol inside.

There's also an open pocket on top of the zippered one which I love for a key ring of seven loyalty program card tags (so easy to grab at the grocery store self-checkout!).

"I'm not gonna give up on love. Love is the thing, you know. You see that? [She holds up the keychain.] That's love, and I'm bringin' it to me, all day long." -Louise, Sex and the City, the Movie.

In the main space of the handbag, I keep this new tri-fold wallet, Sadie from Hobo, a brand I adore. I ordered this upgrade of mine from Nordstrom. I love the tumbled leather texture of its exterior. It's sleek and beautiful.

Meet Sadie.

I keep some change in the zippered pocket on the back. The zipper and its pull are silver.


The flap is secured closed by two round magnets. A patterned fabric serves as a background to all the interior leather pockets. There's plenty of storage for cards: loyalty program cards, punch cards, gift cards, and my library card. I am using the couple of slots behind the places for a column of cards for coupons and possibly a dry cleaning/tailoring receipt. I don't have anything in two of the three central pockets, the third features an attached key ring. I would use these central pockets if I was using this wallet as an evening clutch. Attach my apartment key, push my phone into the intended compartment (fits snugly), throw some cash behind the two pockets, slide my driver's license and debit card into the front card slot and go. I love it already.



But I cannot stop using my little black trifold wallet from Florence! It also has a side compartment which closes with a snap at the top. In the wallet portion, I keep my photo ID, debit card, possibly my credit card, any cash, possibly receipts as well as my medical/prescription and dental insurance cards.


I store stamps and Philadelphia subway tokens in the side file compartment.


Other items kept in the main compartment of my handbag include a pack of tissues, brown sunglasses from Target and my keys that have a couple of key chains. One is a diamond-studded bow from Ann Taylor and the other is the Leaning Tower of Pisa I picked up just outside that monument's complex.



A picture of all the items except my phone not stored away inside the zippered pocket.

This is everything I have in my handbag except for my LG phone with its slim plain black case. (It's currently my only camera.)


I may also have a case for my sunglasses, white tic tacs, a grocery list, a book or Kindle, a bottle of water, and a black cardigan in my bag temporarily. (I need a cover for my Kindle.)

What's in your handbag?



I will try to publish what's in my closet as in my Spring 2015 Capsule Wardrobe post as soon as I can! I have done a lot of work on it already.



Monday, April 27, 2015

Day in DC: Cherry Blossoms


I usually go to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC with Elizabeth. As peak bloom normally occurs between her mid-February birthday and my mid-April one, the trip is usually how we celebrate.

The two of us went to see them on Sunday, April 12th, which was one of the best couple of days to view them this year. The weather was perfect too. Elizabeth drove to a Metro station and then we caught this subway into the city. We always seem to have coffee and a pastry at the Au Bon Pain in Union Station.

Croissant

Caffeinated, we exited the train station, walked down the Mall and then looped around the Tidal Basin which is a body of water the flowering trees line. I think that's about four miles, but it didn't feel like we walked quite that much. Very crowded, you had to stay pretty focused on where you were walking.

The trees were stunningly beautiful.




Washington Monument


Next, we went to #MeetMary as in we took the Metro to the National Museum of Women in the Arts for the temporary exhibition Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea. It was fantastic. Female artists from the Renaissance and Baroque periods were well-represented, but the show also included works by male artists. Mary seemed to be depicted a bit differently than what I'm used to since these women artists painted her in their own way. Nonetheless, since I was in DC to experience beauty, I think that the pretty Madonna and Child a.k.a. Madonna of the Book by Botticelli appealed to me. The book helped to set it apart for me, in a show with a lot of the same subject matter.

Madonna of the Book by Sandro Botticelli

Even though it was painted by a man, it was still my favorite until I saw this...

Self-Portrait at the Easel by Sofonisba Anguissola

This is Self-Portrait at the Easel by Sofonisba Anguissola, who was a painter, mainly portraiture, in the mid-1500s, so during the Renaissance. As a woman, there were many restrictions in her profession. I think this particular painting says something. Normally if a work has someone painting the Virgin and Child, that someone is Saint Luke who is said to be the first to paint the subject. She replaces St. Luke with herself, elevating herself I think. She looks so nonchalant about it too, which contrasts with the warm embrace going on over there on her canvas. This was definitely my favorite piece.

Then, we went to lunch at Capitol City Brewing Company. After complimentary soft pretzels, I had a burger and one of their beers, the Capitol Kolsch. It was good.

After lunch, we visited the National Portrait Gallery for a few exhibitions including Time Covers from the 1960s. We also saw the Elaine de Kooning show on portraits. Who knew there was another de Kooning painter besides Willem? She enjoyed painting JFK. It was fun to go to a couple art museums. Even though I studied art history for years, it's still something different for me to do in recent years.

We headed home after that. I ended up doing laundry at my parents' that evening, something chill after a long yet happy day of travel was ideal.



Sunday, April 26, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Birthday Tulips


I received another beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers for my birthday this past week. This time, I was given tulips, and not any tulips, but ones with petals that are both mauve and yellow. They are special.


I had them on my dining room table since Tuesday evening, but am concerned that they are not thriving. Specifically not getting enough sunlight in that room. After cleaning the vase, adding new water, trimming the stems, and rearranging the blooms again this morning, I placed them on my coffee table, next to my sliding glass door.




Don't miss this post on my birthday purchases that published this morning!



A Plethora of Birthday Purchases

I went shopping on my April 15th birthday. It was wonderful! I returned to my apartment with many shopping bags.


There was also major buying throughout my birthday month. I started with this wishlist. Let my gushing over all my new pretty things begin!

On that Wednesday, after picking up tea and coffee in to-go cups as well as showing off my favorite coffee shop, my mom and I went shopping in Annapolis, a city I adore.

I was fairly successful at the Annapolis Mall. There were things, however, that I couldn't find nor order plus others simply didn't work out. My first stop was Aldo Shoes. They didn't have the handbag in black that I wanted but it was nice to check out the bag in different colors and patterns. I declined ordering the tote in store for some reason, but ended up ordering it online the next day. I've been carrying it since its arrival and it's nice. I'm not crazy about the gold hardware and leather texture, but I hate complaining about such a decent bag at a fair price. I like the overall style, large open interior and useful pockets for organization. In the store, I picked up a pair of black leather ballet flats with a patent cap toe to wear after work and on my weekends. These shoes are my signature. Not on my wishlist of 31 items, it would have been #32.


My favorite clothing store, Ann Taylor was next. I tried on the black layered tank and black pencil skirt and liked both but didn't love them, so I didn't buy them. After checking nearby store inventory for an item on my phone, I asked one of the salespeople if it was possible to see if another store still had the pair of dark gray pants in my size to ship to me. She called on my behalf but, sadly, they were not there. This was priority #1 and I plan to visit the store where I bought this wardrobe staple that matches my blazer still in good shape, the Ann Taylor Factory Store, soon before giving up and trying to find a close match.

Next door is White House Black Market. The sale dress I adored in either pink or black was, of course, sold out completely. Oh well.

Then, the two of us browsed the always interesting Francesca's Collections.

After that, we wandered the shoe section of Nordstrom. I tried on the pair of nude pumps and the sparkly flat sandals that I installed on my wishlist. The heels were lovely but the color didn't work well with my skin tone. And the sandals were too sparkly to be my casual flat sandals. I actually ordered a pair of silver metallic flat sandals that were just a little less sparkly from DSW's website. Anyway, this was the fourth store in a row that I walked out of empty-handed.

Fortunately, I was successful at JCPenney. I chose this casual blazer in black. It ended up being $10 cheaper on clearance rather than just on sale. I also purchased a pair of regular length jeans to wear with heels. They were my 'go to' 515 bootcut jeans by Levi's.

I tried on a white button down shirt from New York & Company but didn't love it. Plus, it was "Buy One Get One Free" and they only had one of my size in stock.

On the way towards Maggiano's for lunch, we stopped at Crate & Barrel for five clear glass jars. I love them inside my kitchen cabinets. I didn't purchase the striped placemats because they weren't absolutely perfect and, really, I talked myself out of buying them. I didn't even look for the more expensive roaster as I don't need it until the fall and can wait to catch it on sale.

After shopping through the Annapolis Mall, we also had lunch there, at the Maggiano's. I ordered the delicious Mom's Lasagna for lunch ...and for dinner because they give you another order to go! The box was labeled with a web address for proper reheating directions. Each meal was delicious and accompanied by a glass of Chianti, certo! I redeemed a birthday discount offer (so be sure to sign up for email!).
 
After lunch, we walked to my favorite store, the nearby HomeGoods. An item from this store made the wishlist and I came out with two: a red rectangular decorative pillow for my sofa and a dark pink bordered and lined white notepad I can use for shopping lists.

We drove a few stoplights down the road to the Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole, an upscale outdoor shopping center, for two stores.

First was Bin 201, the wine shop that dreams are made of. E had introduced me to it. I showed my little list of three wines from the tasting at O Chateau in Paris last year and asked the employee if he had either the exact white and rosé or perhaps something similar. Even though he was willing to try and order the exact bottles, I requested that he show me similar wines. He told me what they tasted like and answered my questions. I took a bottle of French rosé at $17.99. Plus, I also wanted to see a red like Chianti Classico since I normally drink Chianti and that would be an upgrade. I almost went with a Chianti from Siena before I inquired about Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, the wine from the region where I studied abroad. There seemed to be multiple choices and one of the bottles he pointed to on the bottom shelf he proclaimed an excellent value at $12.99. I tasted my red selection last Saturday night and this Masciarelli from 2012 is so full on the palate, with some fruit, but really earthy, without a major finish. It's what I remember it tasting like in Italy (as well as a bottle I came across here once). I would like to pair this particular wine with a meal and hope to come up with the perfect pairing... steak on the grill on the summer night or chili on a cold winter evening? Anyway, I wanted a nice bottle of wine for my birthday and ended up with two. His expert product knowledge plus the large selection made it an exceptional shopping experience. At checkout, I signed up for their loyalty program. The first email I received was advertising an old movie screening of Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe accompanied by tastings of Italian wine. Doesn't that sound fabulous? I also wandered onto their facebook page one day shortly after the visit and saw they offered a mixed half-case of wine called April in Paris. This wine store might be reason enough for me to move to Annapolis!


The second stop at the ATC was Sur la Table. I had never been and it was nice! I bought two little things on my wish list there: the Eiffel Tower espresso cup (on sale) and a teddy bear cookie cutter. One of my favorite possessions is a bear I played with throughout my childhood, so this cookie cutter shape is very me. I did drink from the cup a few mornings, but the size is quite large for an espresso cup, so I put it in a nightstand drawer to hold my quarters I collect for doing laundry in my building.

Already several hours into the shopping spree, I didn't make my mom drive all the way downtown to the Hobo flagship store. Instead, I tried to order this black wallet from their website but multiple attempts during my birthday evening and the next morning always resulted in an error. Even though I had a Hobo coupon, I still scored it cheaper from Nordstrom's website the next day. Like the other Hobo product I possess, the exterior is beautiful, the interior is surprisingly spacious and it's of high quality. I will feature this upgrade of mine in an upcoming What's in my handbag? blog post.



After being on a rather strict budget for so long, it was kind of tough to spend so much money on myself on my spree in Annapolis. I realized that I was talking myself out of many things. For example, I was in Crate & Barrel holding one of the jars I had daydreamed over for months, talking myself out of buying five, to save the big $50 purchase for later. I may have walked away from them if my mother hadn't volunteered to buy me two. In that same store, unfortunately I succeeded in saying I didn't have to have those four placemats. It did get much easier to make purchases after the shopping spree as I ordered many things online. Maybe it took some time for the idea of treating myself to sink in. Or perhaps not being in person, my picky, perfectionistic self couldn't pick apart an item. It's nice to treat yourself every once in awhile, even with material possessions. I suppose what really matters to you is reflected in what you spend your time and money on. I really try to have the best lifestyle day-to-day and to travel to cities I love. I value experiences over things.

I was a savvy shopper. I am signed up for email for my favorite stores so I have been stalking my email, buying many items at a decent discount. My Coupons email folder is still full of valid birthday offers. I would compare prices and shipping costs between the website and amazon. I think that the $100 I spent on my Amazon Prime membership recently has already paid for itself in free two-day shipping. I saved money for awhile for all this. On the shopping spree, my mom generously treated me to the two JCPenney purchases of the blazer and jeans and my Aldo flats (all such classic, basic go-to's for my wardrobe) as well as jars from Crate & Barrel and lunch from Maggiano's. Thank you, Mom! (I, in turn, will be treating her well for upcoming Mother's Day.)



I purchased a number of things on my wishlist (and not on the list) after this spree. Most were online purchases, but I did pick up two sturdy cookie sheets and a candle from my local Target. I like white jar candles and picked up one by a local company, Chesapeake Bay Candle. I channeled Jennifer (author of At Home with Madame Chic) and selected Blood Orange as a scent to (hopefully) invigorate myself in the morning (75). I ordered another candle on amazon, a small tumbler of True Rose by Yankee Candle. Even though this is not a white candle, the red wax works well with a vignette I have on a small accent table.


Another item I ordered was a white owl soap dispenser from ModCloth that I will use at my kitchen sink. It's really cute in person.


I finally replaced my old twin comforter from college that I use as a comfy throw or extra layer (every winter night). Having selected the Raspberry Tile pattern, I love the pattern and vivid color as well as the quality construction but it has a plasticy feel rather than a cotton one. It's huge for its size, rivaling the size of my queen-size duvet. Nonetheless, I'm still pleased with this item that I scored on quite the discount and hope it lasts 13 years like my last one did. I needed a fifth top for my typical five day work week in my spring capsule wardrobe, so I ordered this printed shirt. It hasn't arrived yet and I hope I like it! Going to buy the shirt at 50% off, this caught my eye and it was 60% off during a flash sale. Since I was thinking of looking for a lightweight scarf for warmer weather anyway, I added it to my shopping bag as well. Speaking of my Spring 2015 capsule wardrobe, I replaced a worn out extra, my black crewneck cardigan. Until I can upgrade to cashmere (during January sales?), I plan to keep this one I ordered from Target that fits well but its big buttons do not thrill me. More online purchases included this pillow cover from Etsy and a pillow insert from amazon (which was much cheaper than it is now). I wanted this new brown pillow to sit next to the new red one from HomeGoods. The cover has not arrived yet. On Saturday morning, I bought these d'Orsay peeptoe flats in my favorite color (dark pink) on a great sale. Highly reviewed (on other websites amazon and zappos), I hope they look good on me!


Wanting to have money for April 15th, I did purchase a bunch of small things before my birthday too. The first was this Chanel coffee table book that I scored when the price suddenly dropped on amazon. I placed it on top of my bookshelf and then stacked two other style books (both by Nina Garcia) and a white jar candle on top.

That's the Blood Orange candle by Chesapeake Bay Candle topping that stack of style books.

I love this white scoopneck short sleeve tee from Boden as it fits perfectly plus it's much more opaque than I've seen a tee in years. But, I still feel like I would wear a cami underneath for modesty. (This extra will be shown in my Spring 2015 Capsule Wardrobe post.) I will be ordering more in the future as well as other items from this lovely company for the summer. On amazon, I bought this black bra from my list but also included the matching panty in my virtual shopping cart. They are beautiful. I bought a couple of highly rated kitchen items on amazon: a madeleine pan and a large sturdy ice cream scoop. I also couldn't resist these cute cocktail napkins several days before my birthday.


Another little item I ordered was this highly pigmented lip gloss which I actually love! Who knew I would be so lucky? (Also to be featured in a future post.) I snatched this tea bag cookie cutter so I could make these adorable cookies just in case I finally learn about tea and throw a tea party. On my Birthday Eve, I downloaded this just released Kindle book after learning about it on facebook from Jamie Cat Callan (who will be in Paris soon!). Even though it's great, I have been basically falling into bed exhausted lately, so I haven't finished it yet.



In addition to the aforementioned roaster, I am saving a couple of items for later like this print (which I would have to pay to have printed plus I would need a frame), a digital camera and a pair of nude flats. There were specific items that didn't work out but I still hope to find a better option like a pair of nude heels and a black pencil skirt. Even though I really want nude flats and heels, perhaps blush might flatter my skin better. Honestly, when I drop the pounds packed on during my birthday month, I should retry that Ann Taylor pencil skirt later. I also want to embrace a different color scheme for my summer capsule wardrobe (which I will elaborate on in a later post) so I would like to order a couple of tops and a dress (from Boden again, plus I can use the birthday offer they emailed which expires May 15th) before Memorial Day. Usually I truly value moderation, but following this extreme shopping spree, maybe I should consider enacting a six-month shopping moratorium from Memorial Day up until Black Friday in November (for online shopping on that day of course. I refuse to go out shopping on that day!). I do want to save money to move.



I treated myself incredibly well this birthday. This out of the ordinary shopping made my 31st memorable.



Friday, April 24, 2015

New Recipe #9: Coconut Cake

My Second Coconut Cake

I hesitate to include this coconut cake as a new recipe because I used boxed cake mix and canned frosting. But, had I not been trying to branch out, I probably wouldn't have made it on my own. Trying new recipes was also a good excuse to properly outfit my kitchen and this was no different as I purchased two sturdy 9-inch round pans by Wilton for the two layers. And it was truly the first time I topped a layer cake with shredded coconut.


I actually made this favorite non-chocolate dessert of mine twice, first on Thursday, March 12th (I needed shortcuts on a weeknight!) and then on Easter Sunday morning to contribute to the dessert table. My mother and I share a love for this particular cake and I was happy to share it.

Even though I love a frosted cake much more, living alone, I rarely make one or even cupcakes, instead opting to prepare other desserts such as chocolate chip cookies, brownies and their brilliant combination brookies since the leftovers are easier and far less messy to store. Both baking and frosting refreshed my memory of what to do so I can take it a couple of steps further, starting from scratch, next time.

Both cakes turned out well. Delicious. The layers were more even on the second try. I also preferred the second attempt's delicious buttercream frosting despite it being a cream color rather than white to my first try's white vanilla variation.

My First Coconut Cake


Coconut Cake

Ingredients:
Betty Crocker Yellow Cake Mix
1 1/3 c. water
1/2 c. vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 cans of Betty Crocker Buttercream Frosting
Canola oil cooking spray
Shredded Sweetened Coconut Flakes

Equipment:
2-9" round pans
Ziploc bag
Kitchen scissors
Butter knife
Cake plate
Cake dome [borrowed for Easter] or plastic wrap to store leftovers

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven according to package directions. 
2. Make cake batter according to package directions.
3. Pour batter into two pans evenly.
4. Tap filled pans on the counter to remove air bubbles and flatten a tiny bit more.
5. Bake according to package directions.
6. Cool.
7. Flip cake upside down and bang on underside of pan a couple of times to release cake.
8. Center on a cake plate.
9. Line a cup with an open Ziploc bag. Scoop frosting into the Ziploc bag and seal.
10. Cut a small lower corner off.
11. Squeeze and pipe frosting onto the top and side of one of the layers. Smooth with a knife.
12. Sprinkle and pat in coconut to the sides and top.
13. Position the second layer on top.
14. Repeat steps #11 and 12. Make sure to pipe frosting into crease where two cakes meet.
15. Clean up loose coconut from cake plate and serve.



In the future, I plan to make both the cake and buttercream frosting from scratch. ...maybe during the longer days of summer. I would love coconut cake to be a specialty of mine, even a tradition made every Easter...



Thursday, April 23, 2015

Recent Decluttering

I treated myself very well at my birthday. Even though I have been replacing many items which means tossing, donating, or giving away the worn out item, there were many things I simply wanted to add to my home. Out of my preference for simplicity, I wished to declutter.


In honor of my 31st birthday, I set a goal of getting rid of 31 items and actually achieved it! They are as follows...

1. black sweater past its prime
2. pink lace bra I no longer love
3. matching panty
4. dark pink boatneck 3/4 sleeve tee that had several tiny holes
5-6. two poinsettias. It's April, not December.
7. geranium that was dying
8. lavender scarf I haven't worn lately
9. dark pink scarf that I have something similar
10. skirt
11. tights
12. sweater
13. plain black winter hat. Despite the cold winter and my love of walking, I still never wore it.
14. Boston travel guide from 2010
15. turquoise shirt
16. liquid blush I didn't love
17. shampoo I didn't love
18. makeup removing towelettes that I use so little that they were dry
19. expired dose of NyQuil capsules
20. black and white striped long sleeve tee I didn't love and was tight
21. brown wrap shirt I didn't wear often
22. white scoop neck 3/4 sleeve tee that was tight
23. white v-neck 3/4 sleeve tee that was past its prime
24. red hooded zipped sweatshirt I never wore and would stain white camis pink
25. ivory cardigan past its prime
26. style book I didn't love
27. pot I hardly ever used
28-30. three pot lids. Two of which were missing their match.
31. tupperware lid also missing its match



I also did not keep the following things I replaced with something new...

1. black and red bra that wasn't a great fit
2. matching panty
3-4. two cookie sheets that nearly always warped in a hot oven
5. ice cream scoop that was broken
6. regular length jeans that were too big plus past their prime
7. khaki blazer that I didn't like how it fit in the shoulders
8. twin comforter from 2002 that was worn out
9. black ballet flats with a patent cap toe and bow that were past their prime
10. black "leather" tote from Nine West Outlet that was worn out. The straps looked awful.
11. black Wilson's Leather coupon/receipt/card/cash/change wallet that I no longer like and was past its prime
12. black crewneck cardigan that has a few small holes*
13. silver metallic flat sandals past their prime*

* That I will get rid of as soon as the replacement arrives.

lizkzook.wordpress.com via Pinterest

I felt like I've been doing a lot of decluttering lately and I did not even own much to begin with! I may eat my words after finding inspiration (like possibly reading this book), but I think I should lay off for awhile. I have never regretted tossing a single item, but don't want to in the future, in my attempt to hit some self-imposed goal. However, I will still regularly clear my surfaces as well as inside my handbag plus may even upgrade an item when needed, but I do not intend to engage in a big decluttering session until far into the future.



I realize that my readers are anticipating hearing all about my birthday shopping spree. Thank you for your patience. My social calendar seems to be calming down now and I will try to write as much as I can as soon as I can!



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

New Recipe #8: Risotto

Known to be time-consuming yet elegant, I actually attempted to make risotto.


 ...and it turned out fairly well! Perfectly al dente and creamy.


...but I didn't personally like my dish. I had used pre-shredded store brand parmesan and I think it gave the rice a cheap, artificial taste. Next time, I'll choose a better cheese and probably grate it myself. So concerned with it going wrong, I simply prepared a plain version. I didn't mix anything in, like a vegetable or mushroom, which definitely would have helped. Back in October, E and I dined in a fancy restaurant and I ordered one of the specials, a risotto with prosciutto. It was divine.

I also didn't finish my risotto in less than a half an hour, more like 30-35 minutes. After all that time, my whole apartment smelled of the cheesy rice. I don't own a ladle, so I added the warm broth a couple of small ice cream scoops at a time.

Having made this awhile ago, back on Friday, March 6th, I will probably try it again, far in the future, but I do not believe that I'll cook it on any kind of regular basis. Perhaps I'll crave this Italian comfort food next winter. I feel accomplished that I did prepare this impressive dish at least once.

I followed this recipe from thekitchn, a website I adore.

Risotto

Ingredients:
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine*
6 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup parmesan cheese

Equipment:
12" pan
saucepan
spatula
ladle or ice cream scoop

*I happened to use Sauvignon Blanc.

Instructions:
1. Collect, measure, chop, mince all ingredients.
2. Warm broth in a saucepan on low until just barely steaming.
3. Saute onion in at least a tablespoon of butter on medium-high until the onion is translucent and beginning to break down.
4. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
5. Pour rice in and stir until every grain is coated. Continue stirring until edges are translucent but the center remains opaque.
6. Add wine, stir and simmer until pan in nearly dry.
7. Add warm broth one ladle or two small ice cream scoopfuls at a time. Stir. Wait to add another until the liquid has been almost completely absorbed. This adding and stirring takes awhile.
8. Taste to determine if rice is al dente (a bit of bite) and it achieves a thick consistency. Scrap spatula through risotto and wait until risotto slowly fills the space.
9. Add one more ladle of broth.
10. Add a tablespoon of butter.
11. Add a cup of parmesan. Stir.
12. Serve immediately.



Buon appetito!



Sunday, April 19, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Professional Pedicure

A professional pedicure was one of my previous simple pleasures. I can't help it; it's such a rare indulgence for me. Even though I only have a few professional manicures and pedicures a year, one of the gentlemen at the nearby salon I patronize most still cheerfully greets me by name. It's a good place. Back on Monday, April 6th, I had California Raspberry by OPI applied to my toe nails. This shimmery dark pink used to be my favorite and it still ranks among my top five. I really like how they turned out. I went out to dinner that evening and wore heeled sandals to show off my fresh pedi. I planned to have this pampering session prior to my birthday so that my feet would look nice while trying on shoes and sandals during my birthday shopping spree.


I'll have to change the color myself pretty soon. Maybe red next?



I had a fantastic birthday. Feeling so behind, I will have to try to work on posts nearly daily to finally publish all that I want to. Although I haven't exactly been on a break, I finally settled on the (limited number of) items for my spring capsule wardrobe. I hope my posting for the rest of the month will be frequent, so please stay tuned.




Sunday, April 12, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Red Roses

A friend gave me a lovely bouquet of red roses as part of a birthday gift Monday evening. I cut the stems quite a bit and arranged them in a clear cut glass vase on my dining room table. On Saturday morning, I changed the water, trimmed them further, and simply put them back in the same vase. The dark pink azalea which tends to bloom around my birthday is my favorite flower, but that's a bush, so I suppose that my favorite flower to fill a vase is the classic romantic passionate red rose. I have been admiring their gorgeousness all week, especially at meals.





Speaking of blooms, the day that this post publishes, I will be in Washington, DC gazing at the cherry blossoms during their peak bloom. I love trees, especially these stunningly beautiful ones. A fairly annual event for us, my friend Elizabeth and I are going. We will also be savoring pastries and coffee from Au Bon Pain, wandering a few temporary exhibitions in a couple of art museums, and having lunch. I have already emailed her my top five restaurant recommendations all near the two museums. I am actually going to view that show I shared in this post back in February. Currently on vacation around my birthday, this is the furthest that I will be away from home during my days off. I am excited for my trip.

One should seek beauty, art and culture, even if just every once in awhile.



Sunday, April 5, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Bunny Ears for Easter Breakfast

I bought myself a dark chocolate bunny by Lindt (you know, the one wrapped in gold foil) on a whim yesterday afternoon. My dad always mentions eating bunny ears, like they taste better than any other part or something... So, in addition to my daily shots of espresso, I enjoyed chocolate bunny ears for breakfast on this Easter Sunday morning. The quality chocolate was delicious.




In Italy, you unwrap a hollow chocolate egg instead of a bunny, often a large one with a prize inside. My roommates in Pescara taught me that you cook lamb for the meal and then you have a dove-shaped cake for dessert.

This blogger really loves that traditional cake called Colomba. Check out her post about this special confection here. I won't be enjoying either this year, even though I helped decide upon the menu. The family feast is set to start at 1. This dinner will also act as my birthday celebration with my family. 


The above photo was from Easter morning 2005 in Italy. My roommates and I both snuck into the kitchen in the middle of the night to leave Easter gifts for each other. One of my roommates loved chocolate as much as me. The three of us also traveled to Bologna and Florence over the week following the holiday.

Buona Pasqua! I hope you have a delightful Easter and a wonderful rest of the weekend.