Sunday, October 31, 2010

Flowers for Halloween

Today is Halloween, and that means the last entry in my Halloween series! It's been fun for me, and I hope you've enjoyed it, too. Please have yourselves a safe and happy Halloween, and read on for my final piece of Halloween advice!

Every girl who's going to a Halloween party needs a good clutch so she can take her essentials--ID, debit card, lip gloss--along. But, of course, you're going to want something that will go with your costume, as well, and that's only natural. And if you're willing to take a costume suggestion from me, I've found a great clutch for you:

Of course, there are really only two options to wear with this pretty bag: First, you could make yourself up as a full-on Southern belle. You know, like along the lines of Scarlett O'Hara, except less slutty. (Don't get me wrong; I love me some Gone with the Wind.) Second, you might be able to carry this with a glamorous 30s getup--something Schiaparelli-inspired, most likely. Surely Scarlett and Schiap would approve!

Image via Inge Christopher.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Fun

Wilton, the baking behemoth, has come out with a really spooktacular (see what I did there?) item for Halloween: the Candy Necklace Kit! Each box comes with eight kits that include candy, beads elastic string, and a large candy pendant. I bought some for my employees--they all fondly remember candy necklaces from their childhoods--and it was a success!

I've saved one for myself, of course; they're too fun NOT to make. If you're having a Halloween party this year--for kids OR adults--these necklaces would make a great favor!

Buy through Joann for $2.39.

Image via Joann.


Autumn Leather

So, I've been reviewing these Halloween posts from the past two weeks, and it occurs to me that, for the most part, I've been sharing some pretty practical things with you. Well, maybe not the Gothic Zombie Girl, but then again, that probably depends on your personality and fashion aesthetic. But forget all that for a minute and feast your eyes on these:

These shoes--the Joy Huarache Sling from Frye--isn't necessarily IMPRACTICAL, but I wouldn't call them practical, either. They're a great orange for Halloween and fall in general, and the wooden platform and heel lend a certain earthiness to them, as well. However, the open weave negates the possibility of wearing these in colder climates, unless you pair them with tights. And while I probably would not wear these myself, I do appreciate the details and feel that Frye's products have gotten better and better over the last couple of years. The company has a storied history, also, so anything from their workshop would be a good investment.

What do you think of these? Would you wear them out to a Halloween cocktail party?

Buy through Zappos for $124.00.

Image via Zappos.


Friday, October 29, 2010

"Get a Jolt from My Electrodes"

I'm not a big fan of cheesy songs. For example, I think that "The Hokey Pokey" is a terrible thing. The exception that rule has to do with Halloween songs. Like "Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers.

Tell me what's not to love about it! Simply put, this song is good, clean, kistchy fun, and that's something I can get behind. Plus, its singalong chorus is easily recognized by young and old alike, and so it's sure to get your Halloween party hopping!

Buy through Amazon for $0.99.

Image via Amazon.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Islands of Dreams--and Nightmares

When it comes to the macabre, few people are more in tune with what makes a scary story than Clive Barker, he of Hellraiser fame. And that makes him pretty much perfect for any Halloween discussion. Thus we have Abarat, the first in a planned four-book series.

Originally published in 2002, Abarat is a fantasy tale for the young adult set and focuses on Candy Quackenbush, a bored teenage girl who finds herself fighting a war against an evil prince in a world where every island represents an hour of the day. It's a little strange, being that it's from Barker and all, but ultimately worth the read. The best part of the book is definitely the artwork--Barker illustrated the book himself with over a hundred paintings, all of which are vivid, beautiful, and intriguing and really help bring the story to life.

Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War came out in 2005, and word on the street is that the third book will be available sometime next year. Given the fact that there's been a six-year gap between the second and third, I think it might be awhile before the final installment is available, but the results will probably be worth the wait.

Visit Clive Barker's official website for more information about the Abarat series and how it came to be.

Image via Barnes and Noble.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Greater Pumpkin

So, there's this girl my dad works with, and every year at Christmastime, she makes these fantastic little loaves of pumpkin bread with chocolate chips in them. They are stupid delicious, and I know this because I usually end up eating all of them on my own. The other day, I went grocery shopping and came across a box of pumpkin bread mix from Pillsbury, and that was that--I knew I had to replicate this recipe. Really, it's very straightforward--just make the bread according to the directions and stir in about 3/4 cup chocolate chips. Or you can make muffins, instead, which is exactly what I did. Then, ta-da! You end up with this:

It may not look like much from the outside--just your standard muffin, right? But open it up, and it's wonderful!

I handed them out to a couple of people, who seemed to enjoy these little lumps of love. You might find them to be a great Halloween treat--pumpkins and chocolate are two standard favorites of the holiday, after all! Either way, I recommend whipping up a batch; you won't regret it!


A Toast to Halloween

Now that I'm an "adult" (forgive the quotation marks; sometimes I have trouble believing it), the idea of hosting dinner parties is very intriguing to me. Unfortunately, since I have no dining room and use a folding card table--albeit a decent one--for eating, the dream of throwing a great shindig is, alas, far off. I do occasionally have a person or two over for dinner, and I spent last New Year's drinking cosmos on the couch with three of my friends, but if you put any more than about five people total in my apartment, it gets a little crazy, and that makes me very sad, because I would love to have myself a really good Halloween bash.

Everyone would have to be in costume, of course, and cheesy Halloween music would play all night long. Spooky treats would abound, and we would drink fabulous mock- and cocktails. The great thing is, I already have the stemware for it:

It's called Amber Crackle Stemware, and it's available from Pier 1 Imports. Pieces are sold individually, and right now they're going for $5.49 each. You can't really tell from the photo above, but there is a very delicate crackle pattern that goes about halfway up the bowl, and when you combine that with the color--a pale orange, which can be festive for autumn and then subdued for summer, if you're looking for something versatile--this set would pair well next to black, white, or orange dishes. The glasses must be washed by hand, but I think that's a small price to pay for looking fabulous!

See details at Pier 1 Imports.

Image via Pier 1 Imports.


PS Happy birthday, Scott Weiland! Everybody's favorite wayward singer turns 43 today.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mrs. Mia Wallace

There is nothing easier in this whole wide world than to make your own Halloween costume, if you only have the right inspiration. For three or four years running, mine was Mrs. Mia Wallace of Pulp Fiction fame, usually BEFORE her, um, incident. It's so straightforward that you probably have at least half of the elements you need in your closet already!

For example, you're going to need a simple pair of black pants--preferably with a mild crop, but since those can be hard to find this time of year, a nice tuxedo pant will suffice:

Then you need a plain white tailored button-down shirt:

The shoes are simple--just a pair of gold flats (or any flats, really, if you don't have gold):

To top it all off, get yourself a Peggy Sue wig:

Now you're all set to spice up the campus Halloween dance, Tarantino style. And the best part is that even if you have to go out and buy each of these elements, at least the first three are easily justified as necessary closet staples. Enjoy!

Buy the pants through White House Black Market for $88.00.

Buy the shirt through Victoria's Secret for $28.00.

Buy the shoes through Dillard's for $59.99.

Buy the wig through Costume Kingdom for $10.99.
Images via White House Black Market, Victoria's Secret, Dillard's, and Costume Kingdom.


Monday, October 25, 2010

People We Covet: Tim Burton

No conversation about Halloween is complete without at least a passing reference to one of the most beloved filmmakers of all time: Tim Burton.

Burton graduated from Cal Arts in 1979, and ever since then--from his time as an animator at Disney to today--he's been camping it up with his dark humor and very distinct vision. His most obviously Halloween-y projects, Sleepy Hollow and The Nightmare Before Christmas, are, of course, classics of this holiday. But his other, equally morbid efforts, such as Corpse Bride, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands, are interesting films to view in October, dealing as they do with mortality and identity.

Even his "non-Burton" films (specifically Batman and Big Fish) are very much his own, both in scale and substance. After all, he's terribly gifted when it comes to telling stories about outsiders and freaks, and especially finding the humanity in those characters. If you ever doubt that, go watch Ed Wood and take a minute to consider the respect shown to such an unfortunate guy not only by the beautiful man who plays him (that would be, of course, Johnny Depp) but most especially the man who directed the film.

Besides, how can you not like someone whose work spawned an animated series featuring a French body-building skeleton? (Skip ahead to about 1:15 in the video.) 

Image via here.


PS By the way, it is spectacularly difficult to find a picture of Burton in which he doesn't look completely insane, but I hope the one above suffices!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Orange Is the New Black

I firmly believe that Halloween isn't just for the kids. Grownups should have their fun, too, especially all those hard-working moms out there. So if you happen to be a mom--or if you just happen to like handbags--here's a tote that you can take around town with you that's not so Halloween-y that you can't wear it other times but not so staid that you can't declare it part of your Halloween wardrobe: the Portofino Medium East/West Grommet Shopper from Dooney and Bourke.

Can't you imagine carrying this beauty while you're taking the kids from one Halloween event to the next, or taking it along when you go to the patch to pick up a pumpkin? It could also be the perfect work-to-party bag: stick your costume in it on your way to the office, then do a quick-change before going out to bob for apples. Either way, it'll complete your look!

Image via Dooney and Bourke.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Working with What You Have, Part 1

It occasionally happens that my life doesn't go as planned. I have three jobs, two blogs, and one full-time gig as a student, so things get hectic. There are times when I'm too busy to think about dinner beyond the fact that I'm hungry, which usually leads to a meal that consists of little more than a Lean Cuisine pizza (or, occasionally, Hot Pockets, although I try so hard not to). But I make the effort to put something together as often as possible. Most of the time, I feel like a kid--I end up heating some fries, making a box of Kraft mac and cheese, or slapping some peanut butter on a piece of bread. I recently found myself in such a position and made the best of what was in the kitchen: frozen chicken nuggets, canned green beans, and a box of Betty Crocker Suddenly Salad (Ranch and Bacon).

You may remember my last foray into Suddenly Salad; then, as now, the mix tastes a little too seasoned if you don't let it chill first. Also, I have to say that the Ranch and Bacon variety is quite salty, so if you're watching your sodium intake, this probably isn't the way to go. But all in all, these three things together actually make for a satisfying meal. And the advantage of each element is that you can keep them on hand to be used in a pinch, since they're boxed, canned, and frozen, respectively--no easily-perishable ingredients required (beyond mayonnaise for the Suddenly Salad and whatever dipping sauce you use for the nuggets)!


PS Look for more Working with What You Have posts on occasion; although the series will not have a regularly scheduled day, I hope to bring you more quick and dirty tips in the future!

Magical Accessorizing

There are a few places I turn to when I'm looking for something very specific to share with you. For example, I turn to Tiffany and Company for the most awesome examples of jewelry, and I often peruse Martha Stewart's website for recipe inspiration for my other blog, Food We Covet. Although I've never posted any items from them before, the Pyramid Collection is my go-to when I'm feeling funky or am in the mood to check out some costumey pieces, such as these lovely shoes:

Of course, if you're me, this look is completely impractical for everyday; I'm just not the kind of girl who can rock these, you know? But for Halloween, they would be perfect. Two costume ideas come to mind immediately when I see them: a stylized version of Miranda Priestly, or--better yet--a regular version of Winifred Sanderson. How would you wear them?

Image via the Pyramid Collection.


Friday, October 22, 2010

"I Saw a Werewolf Drinking a Piña Colada at Trader Vic's"

Werewolves stand as one of the great symbols of Halloween. There's "Thriller," in which Michael Jackson plays a werewolf in the movie-within-the-video and a wolf cry can be heard in the track. Oz, Willow's werewolf boyfriend, plays a huge part in some of the early seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Young Frankenstein features a great werewolf joke. And then we have Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London."

I'm not familiar with Zevon's work outside this song, but I feel like everything I need to know about him can be found here. "Werewolves" is playful and funny, yet you can't help taking it seriously. Zevon's delivery reminds me of someone recounting a fish tale--enthusiastic and insistent. And once you've heard it, you'll keep coming back to it; you'll turn it up every time it comes on the radio; you'll share it with everyone you know, especially at Halloween.

As a side note, some of you may recognize the piano hook but not know the song itself; back in 2007, Kid Rock mashed up "Werewolves of London" with Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" for his single "All Summer Long." Personally, I kind of wish he hadn't chosen to use "Werewolves of London," but what can you do? (Speaking of Kid Rock, check this out.)

I recommend adding "Werewolves" to your Halloween playlist--and in fact, your everyday playlist, as well; it's sure to make you smile!

Buy through Amazon for $0.99.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Those Pleading Eyes that Both Threaten and Adore"

Although it may not be a Halloween book, strictly speaking, I think you'll find that Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera is full of thrills and chills, which is why I've decided to share it with you today.

Of course, most of you will be more familiar with Andrew Lloyd Webber's monster hit, the well-loved musical version of Leroux's book. I myself am a fan of said musical--but, it must be said, I would much rather listen to it than watch the movie version, which didn't suck but can't possibly compare to hearing the London cast recording featuring Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford (whose "Music of the Night" literally freaks me out, it's so good). Still, I recommend reading the book, because it's really much different, but still has all of the characters you love.

Ultimately, the reason I recommend the book is because it's one thing to hear and see a crazy man chasing after a young starlet, but it's quite another to read about it--and the fantastic, maniacal steps he takes to achieve his goal, including (among other things) making a serious bid to drive Christine's fiancé, Raoul, insane in a wild torture chamber. And if you have any interest at all in the modern detective story, you may want to take a look at Phantom; although it post-dates the Sherlock Holmes stories by several years and Poe's detective fiction by several decades, it, too, had an impact on the way such tales are told.

Image via Barnes and Noble.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Adaptable Goodness

You know I'm a fan of Martha Stewart, right? I mean, at the very least, you have to respect a woman who's been able to build up an empire based on cooking, arts and crafts, and housewares, and then stage the comeback that she did after her incarceration. So I frequently turn to for recipe inspiration, and my latest find is Penne with Ricotta and Pine Nuts.

Of course, like most of the recipes I try, I ended up altering this one slightly. (I think it's Paula Deen who says something like you should follow the recipe once and then do it the way you need to after that, and although she may not be my favorite, I definitely agree with such advice). First, the recipe calls for penne, but all I had in the cabinet that day was farfalle, or bow tie pasta.

Look at how cute that pasta is! Show me someone who doesn't like a good farfalle and I'll show you someone who doesn't know what it is to like playful food. But I digress.

Stewart's recipe calls for you to add fresh baby spinach to the pot in the last two minutes of boiling, which I find is just the right amount of time; this process really brings out the color and the flavor of the greens, which I love.

I buy my spinach packaged; in this case, I used Earthbound Farm Organic Baby Spinach, which comes in a plastic container made from recycled bottles, which is cool for you and for the planet!

Once the pasta and spinach are done boiling, drain the pasta and plate it. Throw some ricotta on there (I prefer part-skim) along with salt and/or pepper to taste, and then top with your favorite Italian cheese; Stewart's recipe uses Parmesan, but I ended up using a six-cheese blend from Sargento that worked just fine.

If you're able to find them, you can also toast up some pine nuts, as Stewart suggests, and sprinkle them on top of the mix. There seems to be a run on pine nuts in my town, though, so sometimes I have to skip them, even though I think they're pretty fantastic. I also decided to pass on the olive oil step here; you may choose to mix some in, but I rarely do.

All in all, it's a simple, quick, adaptable recipe that makes for a comforting dinner, and the best part is that you can make smaller batches for yourself, since there are no sauces or mixtures to prepare and thus no measurements to halve!


PS Check out my Halloween Bundt pan post over at What We Covet today!

"Bundt. BUNDT."

Any of you who have seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding will remember that spectacular moment when the mothers-in-law-to-be meet and one presents the other with a Bundt cake (skip ahead to about 1:55 in the video). And although the idea of a cake with a hole in it might not seem so normal at first, Bundt cakes are usually pretty delicious, and I've found a non-holey option for Halloween!

Now, somewhere at my parents' house, there are two Bundt pans waiting for me, and while both are spectacular--a castle and a carousel--neither is nearly as meta as this one:

I mean, just imagine the potential: you could make a pumpkin loaf in a pan shaped like pumpkins. It's genius! Plus, it's good for the whole of autumn, not just Halloween, meaning you could even use it at Thanksgiving as a harvest-y centerpiece, or take it to any church potluck or school bake sale in the fall.

Image via Nordicware.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Cameo Appearance

Normally, I'm all, "Oh, hey, don't wear that; it's not normal," but when Halloween comes around, I don't mind cheesing it up a little. In my mind, a good Halloween brooch is the best way to make that happen--you can wear it to work without looking too costumey! Luckily for me, Etsy is rife with Halloween brooches this year, and one in particular has caught my eye: the Gothic Zombie Girl Brooch.

Image by BeanDoll (the seller) via Etsy.

This twist on the classic cameo is both clever and very skillfully done--just look at the delicate wisps of hair and the precision of the teeth! Plus, bonus? When you first glance at it, you don't even realize that this is a less-than-human portrait, so it's like a fun little surprise when you see it up close. Pair it with a burnt orange blazer and a black skirt, and you're all set!

Buy through Etsy for $16.00.


Monday, October 18, 2010

"Insanity Runs in My Family. It Practically Gallops"

There are plenty of Halloween movies out there: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is one of the animated classics; Hocus Pocus stands as a family favorite on the live action side of things. Horror movies abound: Halloween, of course, but also House on Haunted Hill (the 1959 original, starring master spookster Vincent Price), anything from Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi, and a spate of others. If it's charm and wit you're looking for, though, you'll need to go back to 1944 for Arsenic and Old Lace.

There are many factors to recommend this film. To begin with, Frank Capra directed it, and he was only, you know, a complete master, having directed such classics as It Happened One Night, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and It's a Wonderful Life, as well as contributed to the documentary War Comes to America. So right off you know this movie's going to be worth a viewing. Also, I commend the supporting cast, headed up by Raymond Massey and featuring the ever-unfortunate but always spectacular Peter Lorre as well as Josephine Hull (who later played Elwood P. Dowd's neurotic sister Veta opposite James Stewart in Harvey) and John Alexander, whose turn as Teddy Roosevelt--supposedly insane but actually the calmest person in the whole film--stands, for me, as a truly great performance. 

The star, though, is Cary Grant. Everything about him is perfect here: the timing, the facial expressions, the delivery of each line. His flustered and gallant portrayal of Mortimer Brewster should have earned him an Oscar nomination but, sadly, did not. (Word on the street is that he felt the performance was too over-the-top, but I heartily disagree.)

Arsenic and Old Lace stands as a favorite of mine, Halloween or not. Have you seen it?

Image via the Internet Movie Database.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Buckets of Fun

Halloween is my favorite holiday, and so in the run-up to the 31st, I'll be sharing with you some absolutely bewitching wares, starting with that most essential of Halloween accessories, the trick-or-treat bag.

When I was growing up, my mother would send us out with pillowcases for collecting candy; our neighborhood was reasonably well-stocked with festive houses, and both my brother and I usually came back with quite a haul. Nowadays, since I don't trick-or-treat anymore but still want to be festive, I'm partial to the classic pumpkin bucket. For those of you who don't like the bright, molded orange plastic, Victorian Trading Company offers a retro twist using tin pails:

They're offered as a set, and I like both of them. On the left, you have a pumpkin boy and girl, which retains the pumpkin bucket aesthetic in a fun way. On the right, you have a cheerful black cat, one of the classic symbols of Halloween, who is reminiscent of everyone's favorite wall clock.

Which type of bucket do you prefer?


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Plum Cake

About a month ago, I stumbled across a listing on foodgawker (which, by the way, is an extremely dangerous thing) for a dimply plum cake. The original post and the recipe, over at One Cake Two Cake, can be found here. Laura, the author of that post, got the recipe from Dorie Greenspan, author of many cookbooks. She modified it slightly; the only change I made was to substitute a few drops of orange extract for orange zest. These lovely plums sacrificed themselves for the cause:

I had to use a 9-inch round cake pan, and, as Laura notes in her post, there's really no way to fit all of the plums no matter how they're arranged; out of eight, I managed to fit only five and a half. But the finished product turned out well:

The only trouble I had was that it was not cooked through in the center, which is symptomatic of my more-or-less really crappy electric oven; I have trouble with most baked goods. However, what WAS done was absolutely delicious--the brown-sugar cake held up well but was not hard or dry, and the plums were so juicy.

If you're looking for a new kind of cake, I definitely recommend making this one, but only if you're sure your oven is up to the task!


D'Orsay What?

So, you all remember Christian Siriano, right? The campy, kind of bitchy designer who won the top prize in season four of Project Runway? Well, even if you don't remember him, you should be aware of his name, because he's quite good at what he does. Even better? His talent crosses boundaries, and he's been working with Payless for awhile now to bring us a line of shoes and handbags. And they totally don't suck, especially this pair of d'Orsay pumps:

How lovely are those? The pleating, the open toe, the classic styling--they all add up to a fantastic dancing shoe. (Or at least they would if I danced.) At the very least, they're good for a holiday party, maybe even as part of a wonderful Halloween costume!

Buy through Payless for $35.99.


Friday, October 15, 2010

"Is It Real, This Infusion?"

I want so much to like Tori Amos. As a writer, I feel like I should--after all, she has an unusual viewpoint and (generally speaking, at least) meaningful lyrics. But I've never gotten used to her voice (or her strange way of pronouncing certain words, or her willful oddity). There are, however, two songs of hers that I kind of love: "Sleeps with Butterflies" and "Sweet the Sting," both from her album The Beekeeper. Today, I'd like to discuss "Sweet the Sting."

The thing that really grabs me at first is the funky soul. It seems like such a departure from Amos' normal sound that you can't help but stop and listen. What keeps me interested is the lyrics: the man and woman in Amos' story are made identical by asking each other the same questions. Such a level playing field is refreshing; there's no girl power or masculine puffery here--it's all about the coupling, the joining together of equals.

The part of the song I like best, though, is definitely the bridge, in which Amos's voice soars, just this side of breathy but still very strong and, quite frankly, magical; when she asks, "Love, let me breathe, / Breathe you in," it's bewitching, and your defenses crumble. Now THAT'S a good song.

Beyond her music, Amos has done something really spectacular: she was one of the founding members of RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, which provides services to victims of sexual assault and abuse as well as education to communities across the nation. Visit their website here.

On a side note, one of RAINN's most vocal supporters in recent months has been Mick Foley, who apparently is a huge fan of Tori Amos. And I'm a huge fan of Mick Foley, not only for his professional diversity (pro wrestler AND legit author? Yes!) but also for his totally boss appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last November, in which he pledged to protect a 10-year old who stood up for gay rights at his school and was subsequently ridiculed.

So, logically, I should love Tori Amos simply through osmosis. Maybe the day will come. Who knows? In the meantime, I really do recommend "Sweet the Sting."

Buy through Amazon for $0.99.

Image by krissikes via Wikipedia.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Here Come the Bridesmaids

When I was in middle school, I was a big fan of Cherie Bennett. I loved her Sunset Island series, even more than I liked Sweet Valley High. But the book of Bennett's that sticks with me the most is The Bridesmaids, the story of--you guessed it--one young woman's attendants.

I think I've read this book about three times, and I swear that I would read it again right now if it was within reach. The Bridesmaids tells the story of Fawn--I am not even kidding; that's totally her name--and her three bridesmaids, including her sister, her fiance's sister, and their friend. One has an eating disorder; the bride likes to steal things; the groom likes to hit on the bride's sister. Trust me, kids--this is high-quality stuff. Or at least it is if you like baby TRNs (which, as it happens, I do).

Bennett tells a compelling story, so be prepared to get sucked in by this one. And enjoy!

Image via Better World Books.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

An Inventory

One of the cool things about being me is that my professional development opportunities are fun. For example, last week, I went to an academic conference that focuses on popular culture. At conferences like that, people are apt to present on just about anything: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lady Gaga, and a whole boatload of other fantastic topics. Being the good food blogger that I am, I managed to attend a panel that focused on food; two out of the three papers I heard in this session dealt directly with Food Network chefs and some of their shortcomings.

One gentleman brought up the issue of the perhaps excessive branding that comes with being a Food Network chef. For example, Emeril, Rachel Ray, and Paula Deen each have their own lines of cookware/kitchen tools/cookbooks/products, the most expansive of which belongs to Deen. (I have to say up front that I'm a little bit terrified of Deen--that creepy smile! so much butter!--but have a new-found respect for her after learning about this.) One of the underlying questions the presenter raised was, What do you really need in your kitchen to be a successful home cook?

I have opinions about this. Right now, my kitchen contains the following implements:

- Small saucepot
- Medium saucepot
- Small stock pot
- Steamer (which, if you get one like mine, can double as a stock pot when the steaming pot is removed)
- Small cast-iron frying pan
- Medium cast-iron frying pan
- Cookie sheet
- Muffin tin
- 9" round cake pan
- Baker's quarter sheet (a shallow 9"x13" cake pan)
- 9"x13" cake pan
- Set of six mixing bowls (like these--probably the best kitchen purchase I ever made, since they double as storage)
- Small wet measuring cup
- Set of dry measuring cups
- Set of measuring spoons
- Small serrated knife
- Large straight-blade knife
- Flat turner
- Slotted turner
- Metal flat turner
- Slotted spoon
- Regular spoon
- Perforated strainer (which can double as a skimmer if absolutely necessary)
- Set of wooden spoons
- Spatula
- Ladle
- Set of whisks
- Icing knife
- Can opener
- Bottle opener
- Corkscrew
- Colander
- Set of small glass bowls
- Set of microwave-only ramekins
- Set of storage containers (various sizes)
- Pitcher
- Cookie press
- Hand mixer (I bought it for about $7.00, and it's scary fast--I mean really scary--but does the job)
- Microwave
- Small coffee maker
- 3-burner stovetop
- Half-size oven
- Refrigerator with freezer

I've been able to make all of my recipes so far with only these implements. And that just goes to show you that you don't need all sorts of fancy tools to make good, satisfying meals. Of course, there are many things I would like to have in my kitchen. At the top of my list? A blender (word on the street is that I'm getting one for Christmas!), a multipurpose grater/zester, a small crock pot, and stainless steel frying pans. Also, I have two casserole dishes waiting for me at my parents' house, and I'm very excited about having them at my disposal, although in a pinch, I have been able to make casseroles in my round cake pan, but they don't turn out as well.

I do admire television chefs; their ambition and creativity is fantastic. But home chefs don't have the same luxuries (space, budget, etc.), and our creativity--making do with what we have--is, I think, just as worthy.

How do you cook?


Mirror, Mirror

Back in July when I was on my redecorating rampage, I decided I wanted to get a mirror for my bedroom. I already have a full-length mirror on the back of the door, but I thought it might be nice to have a round mirror on the wall to add dimension to the room as well as a practical decoration. Horchow has one--the Glamour Round Mirror--that I really love; it has a "pleated" edge that's straight out of the Art Deco period and ultra swank. Unfortunately, it runs almost $300. Ultimately, I went with a plain round mirror with a slightly beveled edge, which works well in my space. Someday, though, when I'm rich and famous with a lovely dressing room, I would very much like to get my hands on the Glamour.

Buy through Horchow for $295.00.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Clear-Cut Case of Style

There is a scene in season four of Sex and the City in which Carrie is working at Vogue and she is given an item--specifically, a Marc Jacobs handbag--to work into her article for the magazine. Luckily, I run this blog, and no one ever has to tell me what to share with you. Of course, I do feature the occasional expensive handbag. But one of my greatest pleasures is finding affordable, fun things to feature here. Today, it is a cocktail ring.

When I first saw it, I immediately liked it. Simple cocktail rings are my favorite type--they go with literally everything, from a little black dress to a snazzy work ensemble to a ballgown. And while I have a rather stunning green amber cocktail ring (quite like the upper photo here--in fact, I bought mine from the same seller and highly recommend them based on their quick and reliable service) that I adore, I would like to add this one to my jewelry box; after all, a girl can never have too many cocktail rings, right?

Buy through Chico's for $18.20.

Photo via Chicos.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Domestic Chaos

I have a handful of sitcoms I love to watch over and over. Sex and the City is one, of course, and I Dream of Jeannie, The Dick van Dyke Show, I Love Lucy, and, believe it or not, Roseanne

The reason Roseanne really appeals to me (other than the fact that I totally love John Goodman and kind of want him to adopt me, and I really don't think my dad would begrudge me that) is that it showed a real family. With the advent of Roseanne, the days of the perfect family ended. And thank God. As much as I may enjoy watching an episode of Growing Pains or The Brady Bunch from time to time, I would much rather spend my days with the Conners.

The honesty, always caustic but with a true, funny heart underneath is what makes the show. The cast rarely takes itself too seriously, which is refreshing. Laurie Metcalf is glorious as Roseanne's neurotic younger sister, Michael Fishman always nails youngest child DJ's slight stupidity but huge spirit, and Estelle Parsons occasional appearances as Roseanne's mother are always delightfully painful (in the best way possible). Of course, we can't forget Roseanne herself, whose snappy comebacks and withering glares are really what make the show.

Another great thing about Roseanne is that it even engages in the occasional metafictional high-jinks, such as the episode--"Shower the People You Love with Stuff"--in which Lecy Goranson returns to the fold after a three-year absence (Sarah Chalke of Scrubs covered the role of Becky while Goranson was away); when she walks into the room, Roseanne turns around and asks, "Where in the hell have you been?" At the end of the episode, the audience is treated to the fake theme song to a show ostensibly titled Nearly Identical Beckys. Several other mutations of this joke appeared throughout the series as Goranson and Chalke switched off. 

In another truly fantastic meta moment, the episode "Sherwood Schwartz--A Loving Tribute" featured the cast as characters from Gilligan's Island; then, while the end credits rolled, actors from Gilligan's Island took over the roles of the cast members who had portrayed them, the highlight of which was Bob Denver as Jackie. (See here for a better explanation.)

Of course, I don't agree with the way the series ended--Roseanne Conner was the author of everything? That's almost as bad as an entire series turning out to be the dream of an autistic child. But even that cannot take away from the brilliance of the show. If you're not familiar, try catching reruns on TV Land. I think you'll enjoy it. 

Buy season 1 of Roseanne through Best Buy for $12.99.