Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cabin fever popcorn

We left Connecticut early on Sunday morning to hustle back to Brooklyn, only to find that I was given a snow day on Monday!  Of course, it was lovely to beat the snow (and have an extra day off!).

The day was filled with cooking and reading and movie watching. And popcorn!

I heard recently that you could make popcorn in a dutch oven. This always seemed like something to leave to the experts and the microwave, but after consulting Joy of Cooking, my confidence grew a bit. 

I'm so happy it did!  Making popcorn this way is easy and so much better than the stuff from a bag. It is, admittedly, a tiny bit more work than the bagged stuff, but I think you'll love the results. 

You will need: 
2 tablespoons cooking oil (peanut, canola, grapeseed, whatever you have around)
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
1 tablespoon melted butter
A generous sprinkle of salt

Coat the bottom of a dutch oven with the cooking oil. Add 2-3 popcorn kernels and cover. Put your burner on medium heat. Shake it around a bit and listen for them to pop; you can also peak inside once in a while. Careful though, that oil is hot!  It took about 2 minutes for my initial kernels to pop.

After those pop, pour in the rest of your popcorn kernels. Shake it around every 30 seconds or so, and listen for the popping!  This will take 2-3 minutes. It's a good idea to turn the heat off once you can count to two without hearing a pop. 

Pour the melted butter over the popcorn and sprinkle with salt. You could be done at this point, or you could add any number of yummy add-ins. Last night we had cheddar and a sprinkle of smoked paprika.  I think garlic powder, chili powder, curry, and cinnamon could all be delicious. 


Thursday, December 23, 2010

American Ballet Theater's Nutcracker

Peter and I went to our annual holiday show last night! This year we chose the American Ballet Theater's Nutcracker at BAM (The world premiere! I feel very cool saying that.).

You guys!  It was fantastic. Stunning, engaging, playful. And the costumes! Saturated jewel tones and piles of ruffles and sparkle everywhere. If you are going to be in NYC next week, I highly recommend this show. I left feeling inspired, and completely filled up with Christmas cheer. 

Wishing you the merriest!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The gift of distraction

A funny little fact about Peter and his lovely family: when you play a game with them, you will be expected to follow all the official rules.

I know!

I was shocked, too. I thought that every family took liberties in this department, picking and choosing at will to make the game easier, better, more fun, take your pick!  Not so, my friends. There are official rule following families out there, and I have married into one.

Anyways, I still like playing games with them because the whole clan is amazingly good at them. Here are a few favorites I recommend for an extended family visit. Because I know we can't be the only ones out there that require a break from all that extended, unstructured togetherness....right?!

1. Cathedral. For the spatially, Medieval-obsessed members of your family.

2. Catch phrase. Perfect for groups large and small! Plus, no annoying board to huddle around. The anywhere in the house game!

3. Mad Libs. I have a real soft stop for these -- they are always funny!

4. Palm Reading: A Little Guide to Life's Secrets. This is the kind of book that always get paged through and played with a bit at a gathering. Who doesn't want a little guide to life secrets?!

5. I'm Not Bored Anymore Art Jar. We don't have too many kiddos present at family gatherings (yet!), but I think this is such a brilliant thing to have on hand.

What about you guys: any brilliant family game suggestions?!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Amada + Cake

We had an amazing time in Philadelphia this weekend with our sweet friends! We also ate at a couple of really fun spots I wanted to share.

The first is Amada, a really special tapas spot. Charcuterie, fancy olives, lamb meatballs, Parmesan artichokes: everything was fantastic. I love lots of little delicious bites (this plays into my desire to eat all day long...unlike those insane people that prefer three square meals). Amada totally delivers that kind of dining experience.

The second rec is Cake!  Great name, no?! Alas, I was there for brunch so no cake was consumed. The space is really neat though, and all the food was fantastic. I recommend cornbread and bacon. The bacon I didn't order, but I stared at my neighbors order very lovingly and really wished I had some...

Cake is attached to a florist and a super gift shop. I may have picked up some dark chocolate peppermint treats. They are supposed to be a gift, but can they survive in my house for the next few days untouched?!  I make no promises.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fantastic food themed ornaments

(Super cute food-themed ornaments from Sur La Table!)

Peter and I are off to Philadelphia tomorrow for not one but two fun holiday parties! I can't wait to see our friends and their pretty houses and cute puppies!!!  Got to get the peppermint bark going.  And figure out what to wear. Oooooh life's big issues...

Wishing you a very happy weekend, friends! Hope you have lots of cheese, a little gin, and one fantastic cupcake!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Books for All: Guys Edition

Carter Beats the Devil: President Harding!  Beautiful blind women! FBI agents on the loose!  What's not to like?

Super Freakonomics: Your Dad loved the first one so much...and the podcast is so awesome. And, bonus: your dad sells life insurance! This will show him how to break into the giant untapped market of suicide bombers.

Doesn't it warm your heart to buy a book published by McSweeneys? It warms mine. And I really enjoy that feeling around Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Heart & Evergreen Pillow

Yay finished!

I'm not sure it's best to write these posts up right after I finish a project, because I'm inevitably really sick of whatever project it is.  But, here is the little heart and evergreen pillow! I might be more of a Rachel Ray when it comes to crafts -- 30-60 minutes start to finish sounds perfect right about now.

When working on each individual square, it felt very whoa pink and green, but all together it's much more neutral.

I was recently gifted a lovely new sewing machine, but I'm intimidated by it, so this was done all by hand (I know that it's insane to do that when I have a shiny new sewing machine!).  Ladies with sewing machines: any tips?!  It looks so scary and easy to make a mistake.  I guess like any new gadget, you just have to get used to it.

I had grand plans in November to make a bunch of cute fabric ornaments this year to attach to my gifts -- we'll see if being done with this project inspires me to get going.  Only ten more days to Christmas!!!

PS Super neat!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wishing for Snow + Potato-Fennel Gratin

When I get my act together in the morning and actually wake up before I must, the whole day feels lucky. In a perfect world, every one would be like today.

Peter brought me coffee in bed and I read for a while before throwing my robe on, plugging in my twinkle lights and doing the Reverb10 prompt for the day. Snow was falling softly outside, and I was thinking about how my recent eyelash wishes actually came true.  Do you wish on your stray eyelashes?  It's kind of a silly habit. But for the past week or so I've been wishing for snow, and there is now a light dusting covering the backyard!

In reality, these mornings happen about once a week (except for the snow falling softly part!).  But when they do, magic, I tell you!

Anyways! I really wanted to tell you about this gratin from last night. It's potato fennel from Ina Garten. I usually like fennel in salad or risotto, so I was curious about this recipe that has you saute the fennel until caramelized before layering it into the gratin. Like cooking a radish, that really takes the bite out of the fennel, turning it into this soft, lightly anise flavored pile of awesome. Highly recommended.

Potato-Fennel Gratin, based on Ina Gartin's recipe

You will need:
1 large fennel bulb
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 large potatoes (I like Yukon Gold, but Ina calls for Russet!)
1 cup cream
1 cup grated cheese (Gruy√®re would be great; I used a combo of cheddar and Parm)
1 teaspoon rosemary and thyme, if you have them
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the inside of a 10-by-15 inch baking dish.
Remove the stalks from the fennel and cut the bulbs in half lengthwise. Remove the cores and thinly slice. Saute the fennel and onions in the olive oil and butter on medium-low heat for 15 minutes, until tender and just barely caramelized.
Peel the potatoes, then thinly slice them by hand or with a mandoline. Mix the sliced potatoes in a large bowl with cream, cheese (reserve about a handful), herbs, salt, and pepper. Add the sauteed fennel and onion and mix well.
Pour the potato mixture into the baking dish. Press down to smooth the potatoes. Sprinkle the reserved handful of cheese on top. Bake covered with foil for for 1 hour, and then 15 minutes uncovered until the potatoes are very tender and the top is browned and bubbly. Allow to set for 10 minutes and serve.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Erin Flett Awesomeness

We've been thinking a bit about how long is long enough in Brooklyn. Do we move this summer, or wait a few more years?
This isn't an announcement of any kind, but when I'm thinking about moving, I'm often thinking about Portland. Today I hopped over to my favorite Portland landing pad, LiveWork Portland and found this darling little interview with Erin Flett

Isn't she cute?!  She makes all these adorable pillows.

I'm feeling a little obsessed this fish Lolly.

Happy Monday, friends!  Hope you had a fantastic weekend.

P.S. I should have a fun pillow update of my own for you later this week!  Yayay for finishing holiday projects before the holiday!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday art

My mom has two oil paintings of Santa that come out every holiday season to hang over the dining room buffet. My sister and I loved them growing up, and I am really smitten with the idea of having a holiday picture or two for my own home.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

That Magical $5 Gift

With office holiday parties, get together's with friends and stockings to stuff, we all need a few random gifts in that magical $5 range. These are always a little tricky because, of course, you want it to look like you spent more than just $5.  Here are a few I'm thinking about picking up!

1. Feathered owl ornaments, $2.95
2. Salong vase, $4.99
3. Dwell in possibilities notebook, $5.95
4. Doll ornaments, $2.95 each
5. Godiva Dark Chocolate Holiday Bar, $3.99

6. Steep Up to the Plate tray, $5.95
7. Two Piece Wine Pourer and Stopper, $4.94
8. Trivial Pursuit Steal, $5.24
9. Smart Money subscription, $5
10. Green Chandelier Earrings, $1.98

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Books for All: Ladies Edition

For your sister-in-law with a giant heart and a thing for strong-plot fiction: THE MEMORY KEEPER'S DAUGHTER.

For your crafty sister who is about to graduate from her cozy college cocoon: HOW TO BE AN EXPLORER OF THE WORLD.

For your mother, who most definitely taught you to live with substance and style: a subscription to ANTHOLOGY magazine.

And a little something to get the shopper in the Christmas spirit: A CHRISTMAS CAROL AND OTHER CHRISTMAS WRITINGS (I read this through Daily Lit last year -- it was such a nice mid-morning break throughout the holiday season!).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday party prep: Being a good guest

I'm not hosting a holiday party this year, but I am lucky enough to have a few on the calendar in the coming weeks!

Being a good party guest is cake compared to hosting, but there are still a few preparations that should be made. What to wear, what to bring...well, I guess that's about it in terms of prep work.  But of course, you also have to make sure you don't hog all the bubbly once you arrive. So easy in theory, so hard in reality.

Here's a little cheat sheet:

1. Crinkle Silk Tie Neck Shirt (LL Bean Signature)
2. NV Riondo Raboso Pink Prosecco, about $10 (Food & Wine)
3. Chocolate cheesecake candy cane bars (Food Network)
4. Kate Spade Women's Dazzle (Amazon)
5. Guy Wolff Paperwhite Kit (Restoration Hardware)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Grace in small things: holiday edition

1. Candles with dinner

2. Watching bulbs grow before my eyes (thanks for the amaryllis tip, Ashley!)

3. Going back to a holiday sewing project

4. Turkey soup, turkey croquettes, turkey sandwiches, turkey and rice casserole...

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