Friday, February 15, 2013

A Valentine from Edie

February 15, 2013
Edie, our hostess with the mostess

By Sheila

If you are lucky, your friend Edie has Book Club the week of Valentines Day. We were lucky this week. I explained in a previous post that when we have book club, the hostess selects the book, hosts the event, and prepares food for the group. The only requirement is that it's hearty enough that we can call it dinner and that it is accompanied by wine. Well, I can tell you that once again, it exceeded expectations and was a real treat.

Edie claims to not have a special Valentine this year, but I can tell you that in fact she does. She has a group of friends that she treated extra-special by going all out with her Valentine preparations. Let me describe the menu:

yummy hot cheesy bacon appetizer
heart cut-out roasted potato and tomato appetizer bites
salad with raspberry vinaigrette
rolls with a heart shaped imprint served with heart-shaped butter
heart shaped individual meat-loafs with pink mashed potatoes

heart imprint on bread with you guessed it- heart shaped butter on the side

And in case you thought that was more than enough, the dessert bar was never-ending. She made Ann's recipe for Champagne Cupcakes and an assortment of hand made chocolates and truffles that we took home in a - you guessed it - heart embellished goodie bag. Oh, and a peach muffin thrown in for a breakfast treat. These are all referred to at our house as breakfast appetizers, by the way.

Our to-go treat bag.  Made my husband's day!

As an aside, we did read and discuss the book The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman.  This story provided good discussion and was a book that we all enjoyed reading.

Next month we are at Ann's. No pressure, but she is the foodie of the group, after all. I will tell you right now that when the group comes to my house in May, we will be looking forward to lowering the standards. And of course, we will be dining al fresco. I am hoping that if the flowers and hummingbirds are distracting enough, maybe no one will notice if the food is not at the top of the culinary food chain!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Perfect Valentine Lips!

by Ann

Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s the perfect day to be talking about lips and kisses!

Finding the right shade of lipstick can be a difficult task.  I’ve shopped with my mom many, many times as she has tried to find that shade that meets all of her criteria.  If you’ve bought one that ended up being too dark, and then another that isn’t dark enough, mixing the two colors together can be the answer.  This solution also works great if you’re like me and limit your department store cosmetic purchases to when a “free gift” promotion is on which usually includes a lipstick.  The problem is that you get whatever shade the gift includes.  The cosmetic companies have wizened up in the last couple of years and have at least given customers a warm or cool choice, but even then it could be too light or too dark for your taste.

So, here’s what I do – Once empty I save the little lidded jars that also come with the free cosmetic gifts, usually containing eye cream.  Whenever I find a lipstick that has a pink shade (I don’t do well with anything with an orange tint) that isn’t “quite right” I save it for a custom blend.  When I have a couple of darks and lights I break the lipstick part off into the container and mix them up using the wand of a lip gloss (which was probably also part of a free gift) to come up with the perfect color.

For the pics for this post I rummaged through my miscellaneous free gift lipstick leftovers and found more dark than light.  Pictured above is a new version of each.  I often don’t add product to the color pot until the lipstick is down to the end, or it broke due to my haphazard use.  It is amazing how much product remains inside the base of the lipstick – I’ve tried to illustrate the digging out process in the picture below.

Your custom blend of lipstick can be applied as is with a lip brush or the wand of a lip gloss, but I have a couple of more steps to the perfect lips, if you want them to last throughout most of the day.  In the morning I always start with a lip liner followed by Revlon’s Just Bitten lipstain, and finally my custom blend applied with a lip brush.
My custom blend of the "perfect pink" lipstick!

I’m sure I got onto the Revlon Just Bitten lipstain by getting it free or almost free with a CVS promotion.  I like it enough to have bought it again.  One end like a felt tip pen is what is used to dye the lips.  The other end has what Revlon calls a balm to be put on after the stain, but my process doesn’t include using that end, which I find similar to Chapstick’s consistency.  The liner/stain/custom blend application keeps my lips looking bright until after lunch, after which I just use an acceptable color out of the tube for reapplication until the next day.

As for Valentine kisses, my hubby runs the other way if I try to kiss him with lipstick on so, maybe I won’t use much lipstick at all today…

I hope that yours is or has been a sweet, happy day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Valentine for Bravado

Camryn leading her Valentine back to be groomed.

My three year old Granddaughter was over this weekend to teach me a lesson about "Balentimes Day". She is a wealth of information and highly reliable. She explained to me (very patiently) that a very special day was coming. A day where you draw a picture and write a special note for someone you love. She is planning to make this special "Balentime" for her favorite creature in the world; "Bravado".  Bravado is a rather well-aged horse that she she has ridden on Saturdays for the last several weeks. She calls him "Rabado" and he doesn't seem to mind a bit. She is certain that he will want to hang his "Balentime" on the door to his house, which as she explains to me, is called a stall.

To back-track, she has been wanting a horse of her own for over a year. Neither her Papa nor Santa have come through yet, bet she has not lost hope. Her Papa is willing to buy her a horse tomorrow, but there is the small issue of boarding. She is fairly certain that she could keep a horse in her room if he wasn't too big. Bravado is definitely too big.

She loves everything about this horse, including cleaning his hooves. When she rides him, she likes to go fast. Her favorite movie is Brave (the red-headed Scottish girl who loves to ride a horse). Did I mention she is a red-head and her Papa is a Scottish immigrant? She makes the connection between the name of her favorite horse and her favorite movie.  She says being brave is "when it is very scary and you feel funny in your tummy, but you do it anyway". Out of the mouths of babes.

She loves Bravado so much that as she rides, she occasionally leans over and wraps her little arms around his big neck and gives him a warm hug. I know Bravado gets that she is Brave and how much she loves him. I am sure he will hang his "Balantime" on the door to his house and be glad to see his red-headed Valentine when she comes bouncing in on Saturday.

We should all be so brave!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Vegetable Salsa

by Ann

In retrospect this recipe should have been posted pre-Superbowl, but the inspiration came when Sheila brought the dip to a party that her son and his wife hosted two nights prior to the big game.  

This recipe originally came from my dear friend Joy, who worked at the same high school that I did years ago.  I have since eaten other renditions of this recipe, but I think this one is better than any "cowboy caviar" recipes I have encountered.

This is what I love about this recipe:

  • It is fresh and flavorful
  • The veggies and their fiber are nutritious
  • The vibrant colors create a beautiful presentation
  • It's versatile - use it as a dip with chips, as a taco topper, or on salad greens
  • It makes enough to feed a small army (which can be the downside at times)
There are a couple of keys to success with this recipe.  Drain what can be drained prior to combining; there will still be excess liquid to drain off before serving, but it should not be soupy.  Cut the onions into small pieces and avocado and fresh tomatoes into a uniform sized dice.  If you love cilantro like I do, use it with reckless abandon.

Vegetable Salsa

Mix together the following ingredients in a large bowl:

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of yellow corn, drained well
1 can diced tomatoes, drained well
1 7 oz can Herdez Salsa Verde (these are small cans sold in the Mexican section of the grocery stores)
1 7 ox can Herdez Salsa Casera
1 red onion, diced (if this seems like too much onion, decrease to taste)
4 medium sized tomatoes, diced into 1/2" cubes
6 green onions, sliced; use green part too
2 ripe avocados, diced into 1/2” cubes
as much chopped cilantro leaves as you like

Before stirring up, I drain as much of the liquid that settles on the bottom of the bowl as possible.

This recipe is not super-hot, so if you like a lot of zing chopped Serrano chilies or hot pepper flakes would give it more zip.  I do like lots of heat, but prepare this as posted because it is good in the mild version as well.

The inspiration behind this post -- a party guest requesting the recipe from Sheila.
(Instead of giving it to her, our blog name is written on the paper plate with the promise of this post today!)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Rain Drops Keep Fallin' on My Head

or "Orange You Glad It's Raining?"

By Heather

The sun is shining today (Sunday) but the forecast for tomorrow (Monday) is rain. Monday AND rain? That could be depressing, so let's not exacerbate the situation by dressing in gloomy colors. A  bright orange trench is perfect for rainy weather! I've mentioned before that orange is my favorite color so when I saw this coat at Banana Republic, it was a no-brainer.

Banana Republic trench coat; BR orange and navy scarf; Chico's dark navy jeans
 Kate Spade bangles 
Alexis Bittar orange bangle; Michael Kors watch 

Michael Kors Hamilton purse; Antonio Melani denim and leather wedges
J. Crew navy and white striped cardigan; Chico's white tank
 Francesca's Collection earrings and necklace; BCBGMaxAzria orange and gold ring

The last time I bought a trench coat was several years ago. I had been to Los Angeles as a chaperon for a school fashion trip (hard labor but someone has to do it) and we brought the students to Rodeo Drive to peruse the shops there. I didn't usually shop at Juicy Couture (I thought I was a tad too old for their line) but it's a must-see for the teens. To my surprise, I found the most amazing black trench there that fit like a dream (I've since become a big fan of their clothing and accessories). The price tag was beyond my reach, however. Returning home, I continued to lust after that coat. Several weeks later, Nordstrom's had the same item on sale. Glad I waited! The coat is still in my closet and probably will be for years --it's a classic. But a dark color on a dark day is not always a great mood elevator. Yes, I know I can use bright pops of color to liven it up, but please, I'm trying to rationalize my need for a new coat so just work with me, okay?
 Here's the Juicy Couture trench with added color from a J Crew Edie purse, yellow Chico's scarf, Echo polka dot umbrella, and Loft straw fedora. Just had to use my new vintage-looking dress form from Home Goods. I kind of like dressing it rather than me -- it's in better shape :)

Hope those of you in the Northeast are digging yourselves out of the snow drifts. We can't complain too much here because of a little rain, right?