Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Slow Food

I've been on a pretty strict low fat, high fiber diet for about six weeks now.  The discipline is showing because for the first time in four years, I've been able to lose 10 pounds.  I've become such a skeptic when it comes to dieting that I keep waiting to hit a plateau and have the weight loss stop, but every week the scale creeps down a little bit more.  I'm religiously tracking all the food I consume in an online program, and it's really made me think about the foods I love.

One thing that was a very recent revelation is that all of my favorite foods are slow cooked (well except hamburgers).  I love big roasts, slowly cooked until they are juicy and tender and risotto and stews and, well you see where this is going.


Of course, by definition, the foods which are best cooked slowly contain a lot of fat.  The slow roasting turns that fat into deliciousness which makes it totally off my diet right now.


These pictures are as close to prime rib and risotto that I'm going to get for awhile.  Now back to salmon, brown rice and broccoli!




Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bodum Thermal Glass Mugs

I admit it.  I have an addiction.  I am addicted to buying coffee cups.  I know I've admitted to it before, and I am able to control it most of the time.  Lately some new cups have entered the house.  I bought a new set of dishes which of course came with coffee cups.  While I was unpacking the box, my husband asked if we could just leave the coffee cups packed away since we have so many already.  I gave him the evil eye.  And then these beauties arrived.



The Bodum Double-Walled Thermal Glass Mugs mugs arrived in one of the PopSugar Must Have boxes a few months ago.

First, I'm absolutely addicted to these boxes.  I love getting my grab bag package every month, and the special seasonal boxes they have have all been great values.  The boxes always arrive with at least double the value in products over the $35 price.  These mugs along retail for more than that at Macy's, and the products are always a good mix of beauty, fashion, and lifestyle.  Perfect, right?

Now about these mugs.  They are a little smaller than I usually like since I prefer a huge cup first thing in the morning followed by at least two more huge cups over the course of the day.  Since my mugs are so big, I usually have to resort to the big no-no and pop my mug in the microwave for a quick reheat.  Without fail, the big ceramic mug I'm using almost burns my hand off, but the double-walled construction of these mugs doesn't heat up on the outside, so it never burns my hand.  Plus with the smaller size, I'm not having to reheat as much anyway.  I haven't tried it yet, but you are supposed to be able to freeze these mugs, and the inner core will keep your cold beverages like smoothies cold throughout consumption.  These mugs are really light and seem very delicate when you are using them but are supposed to be incredibly durable.  So form and function.  The perfect mug.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

An Extraordinary Theory of Objects

Since I learned to read, I have always been a voracious reader.  I majored in English literature in college and graduate school.  I'm one of those people who can be reading multiple books at one time which seems to drive the people in my house crazy, but I can't figure out why.  So you would think that I would always have an easy answer for, "Have you read any good books lately?" Whenever someone asks me that question, it really throws me, and it wasn't until recently that I figured out why.  Liking a book is a really personal thing for me and, I think, for others as well.  Just because I like something doesn't mean you will like it.  Also, you might be really into non-fiction; I personally prefer fiction.  You might like to read about American or European history like my husband; I don't.  A book has to really knock my socks off for me to want to talk about it.

I was utterly surprised to like An Extraordinary Theory of Objects by Stephanie LaCava as much as I did. I initially picked it up because I'm preparing for a trip to France later this year, and I'm more drawn to stories with the country as a setting.  This book was especially appealing because it's written by an American woman who spent her teen years living in France, and even though it's non-fiction, I was curious.  Not knowing really anymore about the book than this, I dove in.



Although the story is heart-wrenching at times, it's one of the most personal and touching memoirs I've ever read.  To me, memoirs are usual full of bragging and excuses; not so here.  LaCava is brutally honest about her struggles, and she blames no one in the process.

LaCava is drawn to unusual objects and collects them as a means of coping.  Far from being a hoarder, her collection is carefully curated.  Just as she collects objects, she is able to lay out this memoir around this objects explaining the entomology of objects prior to every episode within the book.  It's a unique and fitting tie from her life to her memoir.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Palm Springs

 Growing up in Southern California, Palm Springs has been a constant in my life.  My mom and dad actually honeymooned in Palm Springs in the 50's.  When we were kids, we had a condo there where we used to go for a week or two every summer.  Now, summer is the dead season in Palm Springs because it's soooooo hot.  Every year, lots of businesses would shut down for the summer simply because tourists wouldn't come when it was so hot.  We would always go out for Mexican food, go the ice skating rink in the mall and then stay inside after the first few days and only go out in the evenings.  When I was in college in the 80s, Palm Springs was a hot spring break destination, but I never went for spring break.  Sometime after that, the town seems to have gone out of favor, but recently with the popularity of music festivals, the area seems to be booming again, and several of the older hotels in town are going through facelifts.  The old gems are trendy again.

I got the bug to go for a vacation when I had to drive in for a meeting one day in rainy February of 2011.  A few months later, the hub and I took a drive and spent the day driving around the city deciding to come back for some R&R as soon as we had a chance.


Then a whole year went by, and finally we decided to spend our anniversary in Palm Springs last August.  We stayed at the Colony Palms Hotel and didn't budge from the property the entire time we were there.  We basically camped out at the pool which is centrally located in the middle of the property and is surrounded by glorious landscaping and misters.  The Purple Palm restaurant opens onto the pool and the inside-outside bar has seating in the pool enclosure as well.


In keeping with my childhood tradition, we had Mexican food in town but for lunch before we checked into the hotel.


Everything we needed was on the property including the spa where we both had a facial and a massage.  This was the first vacation where I actually relaxed in almost twenty years.  I did nothing except sit, drink, read, eat and sleep.

I had so much time to think, I probably made the decision to leave my job that week even though it didn't happen for six months.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Counter


I know I write entirely too often about hamburgers, but it's generally a meal that everyone in the family agrees upon and that doesn't break the bank when we are taking multiple children to dinner.  Also, we have so many great burger places to choose from in Pasadena, and we just generally really like to eat them.  They are our communal comfort food, so why vary when we want to go out for a treat?

The burger place which I think is the kid's favorite is The Counter.  Hub and I are pretty much in love with Umami Burger now, but the kids like The Counter purely because of the build-your-own nature of the meals there.  If you've never heard of The Counter or don't have one conveniently near you, when you are seated, instead of a menu they give you a clipboard with a pencil and a form which you fill out to create your burger.  They have a variety of meats and patty sizes as well as buns and condiments.  You can even get the burger in a salad bowl instead of on a bun.


This is a beef burger in a bowl with bacon, grilled onions, brie, pepperoncini, olives and garlic aioli.


They also make the most incredible grilled cheese sandwiches like this one with ham, onion rings and a side of barbecue sauce.  Low fat by no stretch of the imagination.


Finally, burger with blue cheese, grilled onions, coleslaw, jalapeƱos, grilled mushrooms and an egg.  I have to admit tossing the diet to the wind when we go there.  I sometimes compromise and go without a bun, but would it really make a difference?  I draw the line at getting a shake.  Did I mention they make a birthday cake shake...

Monday, March 4, 2013

DIY Art

Ariana wanted some black artwork for her walls, but I wasn't able to find anything that fell in the middle of too sweet like black with pink accents and poodles or all out Goth.  Some of what I found was lovely but just too sophisticated for a 13-year-old's room.  We were intrigued by some mixed media pieces we found that had pages from vintage books over images, but the prices were too high to justify and the color wasn't quite right.  Feeling frustrated, I was flipping through a Real Simple magazine one day and decided to try to make something myself.  I decided to use scrapbooking supplies because they are inexpensive and come in so many varieties these days.  I picked out several that had the same type of text mixed with artwork and some that were just small black and white patterns and let A pick which way she wanted to go.  She liked the small print which came with a sheet of coordinating letters.  Staring at the letters, I asked if she simply wanted to spell out her name.


We needed to make sure there was enough contrast between the letters and the background, so I whitewashed the page with some acrylic paint thinned down with water.


I found this frame at TJ Maxx that reminded me of the pen strokes from an Edward Gorey illustration.



We intentionally left the letters unevenly spaced as though the were sliding of the page. The finished product turned out exactly like we wanted it to after we figured it out of course.