May 27, 2010

Let's talk tunics...

When I'm not writing about food, decor and entertaining, I also do our mag's fashion pages. Previewing new lines really does a number on your sense of season, I have to say. You're looking at heavy sweaters when it's, say, 90 degrees outside or pretty little dresses when it's sweater weather. And by the time summer rolls around and the pretty little dresses are in shops, you feel like you've been there, done that.

But right now, I've seem to hit the season right as I'm working on a story on beach cover-ups. It's ninety degrees out and I can easily get into the beachy, if I only got to go to the beach...

I found this cute little tunic from, of all places, QVC. I know, QVC! I keep getting sucked into watching that channel when I least expect it. Like, on a Sunday at 4 pm, engrossed in a Richard Simmons segment. Anyway, this tunic is from the Lilly &Van line, which is kinda-sorted related to the Lilly Pulitzer line in that it's designed by the goddaughter of the queen of Pink and Green. Consider it a sneak peek, since the new collection doesn't debut on QVC until June 18th at 2 pm EST.

I'd wear the tunic with denim shorts. And wedge heels. Carrying a mojito...sigh. Is it summer yet?

May 26, 2010

The buildings in my neighborhood... drawn by me. At least, it's kind of a fantasy-version of the different sorts of buildings I pass in my everyday travels. Fan-cy. As usual, I used my trusty prismacolor markers, some fine ink pens and a cheerful disregard for the rules of perspective. (The latter fueled by many cups of coffee.)

Thank you to Chris for uploading it and putting it in his Flickr stream, along with my arch drawing

May 24, 2010

Rachel Kramer Bussel of Cupcakes Take The Cake weighs in on bake sales

A few weeks ago, I interviewed the lovely and talented Rachel Kramer Bussel, the founding editor of the equally lovely Cupcakes Take The Cake blog, for an article on having a successful bake sale. (The full article appears in the June 14th issue of First For Women Magazine, on sale today!) My experience with bake sales is a bit outdated (let's say by two decades), to when I manned a table outside the local grocery store for my Girl Scout troop.

My memory is fuzzy, though I can remember that I was bored out of my little skull. It took a while to move any product--until a nice gentleman came by and bought out ¼ of the table. I remembered him not only because he bought so much, but because he was wearing a t-shirt accessorized with a collar, bow tie and formal cuffs.

Years later, I would realize that this man was a Chippendale's dancer.

But if you don't happen to spy any male dancers at your table, I can share one of my favorite tips from Rachel, that didn't make it to print for space reasons:

"If you’re selling cupcakes to kids, color and decoration are key. Kids get very excited about having their specific cupcake; flavor as less important as what it looks like, what’s visually appealing...We’re seeing cupcake toppers made for every occasion, from holidays to major movies like Twilight, as well as elaborate decorations."

So, decorations trump flavor (again, unless there's a Chippendale's dancer nearby). If your clumsy with a piping bag *raises hand*, I would totally stop at the sight of the following cupcake toppers:

(From top, Dynamite Candles, $6.50 for ten from; Chanel-inspired fondant topper, $12 for a dozen, from; Pinwheel Party Picks, $2 for a dozen, from Wilton.)

And a shameless plug: To check out the article in person, look out for the June 14th issue (on-sale between May 24-June 14) of First For Women magazine, available nationwide at most major grocery stores along with Target, Wal-Mart and select Barnes & Noble locations. 

Of course, you should also go run to Cupcakes Take The Cake!

May 17, 2010

How to make cocktails: The Magnolia Blossom

I spend more time than I should on the website. It's about the closest thing you can get online, and increasingly in real life, to the secondhand bookstore experience--you really have no idea what you'll find. Like LEGO movies. A children's book from 1866. Or a cookbook for men, by men, written in 1922.
My favorite is The 20th Century Guide for Mixing Fancy Drinks, written in 1900. Devoid of any trends, slick photography or uppity know-it-all descriptions, you're forced to imagine what wonders the author is making. Would Milk Seltzer be good? Well, no. At least I assume it wouldn't be, because it's made from combining milk and seltzer. Thus, Milk Seltzer.
Things, my friends, were just different then. Ladies wore bustles, men were working for Ebenezer Scrooge and people ordered Milk Seltzer at bars.
But I did get distracted by something called a Magnolia Blossom. It's a combination of port wine (stay with me, I know, port wine isn't thought of as a cocktail ingredient, but don't worry because I'm not leading you into Wine Cooler territory), orange liqueur, lemon juice, superfine sugar, a little bit of soda water...and an egg white.
Yes! An egg white. Back in the olden days, eggs in cocktails was about as common as ladies not being allowed to vote. And just when the ladies were allowed to vote, the egg cocktail fell out of fashion. I'm not saying there is a connection....
It does sound creepy, putting egg whites in cocktails. And it is. An egg white is supposed to froth up the drink and add a velvety texture. But if you don't mix it right, or use a new-ish egg, you'll end up with a residue at the bottom of your glass that's closer in texture to something that would end up in a Kleenex.
Instead, I left it out. What I got was a cocktail that tastes like a pomegranate. The orange liqueur brings out the sweetness of the port, which is tempered by the lemon juice. The sugar, I think, it unnecessary. And the soda water should be poured lightly.
The Magnolia Blossom
(adapted from The 20th Century Guide for Mixing Fancy Drinks)
1 1/2 ounces port wine (I use The Portly Gentleman, an Australian port)
1/2 ounce orange liqueur (like Triple Sec or Orange Curacao, not worth being fancy here)
2 tsp. lemon juice
Soda water to taste
Shake all ingredients (except soda water) until shaker frosts over. Pour into glass, top with soda water. Optional: The original recipe calls for fresh grated nutmeg on top, which I tried. It looks terrible, but the spicy kick is pretty good.

May 9, 2010

Introducing my shop...Dinner At Eight!

Ta-da! I've officially opened up a little Etsy shop (partially) filled with the vintage housewares I find on my travels. And boy, do I find lots of stuff. The truth is, it's hard to part with all of it, but I seriously do not have any sort of room for my collections. So, my lack of space is your benefit. Mostly, you'll find goods for entertaining, but soon...cocktail aprons! Yay.

Here's the address: