Taking a walk in the woods.

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you enjoyed some restful yet festive time with your loved ones over the holidays, and that 2014 holds exciting things for all of us.

I’m not really one for making New Year’s resolutions, since I can’t keep them past January 8. But I applaud all of you who do and can. A weird thing happened, though. I unknowingly made a resolution in May, on a normal Saturday afternoon, a time of absolutely no significance, and I stuck to it. I started exercising — consistently. (Trust me, no one is more surprised than I.)

And now I am athletic and outdoorsy. Continue reading

Culinary Cousins: Chia Seed Pudding

Over on Culinary Cousins today, I’m talking up my new obsession.

Yes, chia seeds. You will tease me mercilessly forever, I know. You will call me things like “Chia Head” and sing that “Ch-ch-ch-ch-chia!” ditty over and over until I want to harm you.

But I’m okay with it, because chia seeds are delicious. Especially in pudding.

So, there.

Read all about it: Chia Seed Pudding

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Monday Musings: On chia, grammar and globalization.

Good Monday to you. I’m back on schedule with some of the random, wacky things on my mind this week. Even though it’s April Fool’s Day (Happy Birthday, Prink!), this is not a joke, promise.

I do have some levity for you, though. About seven months ago, my cousin posted this picture on Pinterest. It’s supposed to be just a picture of a creepy house. But then. I have it saved in my Joy board, because every single time I see it I laugh uncontrollably for at least 10 minutes. Yes, 10 minutes. Even after seven months.

I have found a new obsession. It’s been awhile, but the familiar grip has taken over. I just can’t get enough of … chia seeds. Say what, now? But stay tuned over at Culinary Cousins, since I’ll be waxing philosophic about those soon. Like, maybe tomorrow.

I could write a whole book on my grammar pet peeves, but inappropriate use of apostrophes tops the list. You don’t make something plural by adding an apostrophe! I see it everywhere — like 1980’s instead of 1980s — but the one in the NY Times this week was the last straw. Apparently we “don’t have a history of dynasty’s in the U.S.” That sound you hear is my skin crawling.

I was eating a mango last week when something occurred to me. It’s sort of a miracle that I can drive to my local grocery store, buy a (pretty cheap) mango — a fruit native to South Asia —  and eat it at home in North Carolina. It felt so special and exotic. Score one for globalization, I guess.

Have a good week, all.

Obsessions: Pinning!

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a true obsession. But it’s back. The grip has once again taken hold.

I. can’t. stop. pinning.

On Pinterest, that is.

I remember the exact moment I learned of this thing called Pinterest. I was at a holiday party, and one of the girls was trying to describe to us how to tie a winter scarf in some innovative way she’d seen online.

“Wait,” she said, and sat down at the computer to pull up the photo entitled “50 ways to tie a scarf.”

We oohed and aahhed and gazed at the screen in amazement.

“It’s on Pinterest,” she explained.

And so began my downfall.

After waiting a couple of weeks to “be invited” after requesting access to the site, I signed on. And once I got the iPhone it was all over — I can pin from anywhere. In line at the grocery store. While watching television. Before going to bed. At my desk. At a stoplight. During dinner. In the middle of a conversation. (No, I really was looking up that website while I was talking to you. I promise. Sort of. Ok, not really.)

What is this whole Pinterest thing, you may be asking yourself?

Such goodness awaits you! And you don’t even know!

Pinterest is an online bulletin board of sorts — where you can electronically “pin” your “interests” from websites and from other users. Like Facebook and Twitter, you “follow” people, so you can review pins from your friends or others you’ve decided to follow. Or you can break off on your own like a rebel and “explore” what other Pinterest users may have found. Or you can even be a trailblazer and pin your own items from websites you visit — if the site doesn’t already have a built-in Pinterest button to make that easy, you can download a “Pin it!” item that goes into your browser menu. Makes it a snap.

Well, you won’t believe the cool stuff I’ve found. Great photographs of places I want to travel, neat ideas for craft and DIY projects, all kinds of inspiration in home decor, and food. THE FOOD! Seriously beautiful food porn photos of delectable sweets, creative appetizers, refreshing drinks, luscious entrees and inventive casserole and crock pot creations.

Here are a few of my recent Pinterest favorites:

  1. Cupcake liners as drink covers: punch a hole in a cupcake liner, turn upside down, stick a straw through and, voila!, you protect your drinks from bugs during outside, summer parties. Well, duh. Sometimes Pinterest can make me feel so stupid.
  2. Mexican casserole: Mix together some cream cheese, salsa verde, rice, canned beans and chicken, roll up in tortillas, cover in more salsa verde and cheese, then bake. Crazy delicious.
  3. Organize your drawers: double fold t-shirts and pants, and stack them vertically to save space and allow you to see what you own. Again, duh. I actually did this in my drawers, and my life will never be the same. No more rifling through a 10-layer deep pile of t-shirts to find the one I sort of remember wearing last summer.
  4. Fantastically breathtaking photos, of my favorite places, or places I want to see.
  5. And, the best for last. Mongolian Beef: in the style of P.F. Chang’s, this dish has only a few ingredients, was a cinch to make and is literally one of the best things I’ve ever cooked. It’s ridiculous. I froze then slightly thawed my meat so I could shave off the thinnest pieces. Try it, you won’t be sorry.

Then there’s so much else that awaits. Like red velvet cheesecake brownies, nutella hot chocolate, salted caramel cheesecake and this incredible chocolate cake concoction.

Bestill my heart.

**Beware of spam, it’s on Pinterest too. If you click through to a website and it looks funny, it was probably a dummy photo to lure you to some spammish website. Quickly close.

It happens tomorrow.

It’s been 17 months in the making, but Mad Men’s back in less than 30 hours!

Even though I try to keep my obsessions in check, I just can’t suppress my glee on this one.

I knew it had been awhile since the last new episode aired, but the repeated seasons on Sunday mornings have been tiding me over. So I was shocked when I saw that the last Mad Men season finale aired in October 2010.

October. 2010.

Think about how much has happened since then in real life — a whole calendar year, no less.
Keep reading »

Something to look forward to!

Ten years ago this summer I was in London to celebrate a milestone birthday and revel in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, her 50 years on the throne. Well, it’s that time again — another milestone birthday, another jubilee.

Since I’ve had a lot of downtime as of late, my calendar for the year is frighteningly wide open. But now I can officially add an event, and a travel event at that — I’ll be in London to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee (and, oh yeah, my birthday) this June.

I can also mark the occasion as the first trip I’ve ever taken solo, or OYOBNA as they say. My go-to travel partner, other friends and my family were too noncommittal and this trip was important enough that I refused to let it just go by. I’ve lived in NYC, I’ve traveled the globe, I’ve even flown internationally by myself before, so why should I miss out?

The truth is that I’m kind of excited to go by myself — to explore what I want to do, on my schedule, at my pace. If I want to get up at 4 a.m. to snag the best parade route spot for gawking at royals, I’m gonna, without complaints, snide remarks or sleepyheads to annoy or slow me down. I can bask in my obsession completely unadulterated.
Keep reading »

Cooking Spree: Warm Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Quinoa. 

KEEN-wah. KEEN-wah.  KEEN-wah.

I just like saying it.

As of late, I am obsessed with quinoa, that mysterious little grain. I was first introduced years ago at the Columbus Circle Whole Foods salad bar, when I took a sample of the quinoa salad. I think it was curried, with raisins and almonds, which is not always my favorite. But I fell in love with the odd, chewy, nuttiness of quinoa, how it sort of pops when you eat it and how each kernel has that weird little string of a tail. Then I learned it was actually good for you, as a protein-packed whole grain. Gotta get your whole grains in, people. I had just never cooked it myself.

A few weeks ago I was thrilled to find quinoa at Trader Joe’s, though I think it’s universally available in average supermarkets. Just check the rice aisle. I wasted most of that first box on two botched attempts at preparing it, but after some Internet research, I think I’m on the right track. You should rinse the quinoa but then don’t add too much water or cook it too long. You’ll have mush, trust me. Delicious mush, but mush just the same. (I still ate it.) This time I used 1 cup of dry quinoa to just under 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth, cooked like rice — bring to boil, cover and reduce to low — for 10-15 minutes. Near perfection. Keep reading »

Tea, scones and a royal wedding.

I need to give a shout-out to Angie. I’m so glad we became friends, because she’s always up for the crazy things that I want to do. Like getting up at 5 am on a workday to watch a royal wedding.

We tried to go to Big Ben, the local British ex-pat hangout, for a royal wedding breakfast and viewing party but it was actually over-booked. Turns out there are more royal-watchers in Charlotte than we expected. Plus, the director of our symphony also conducted the royal wedding orchestra at Westminster Abbey, so all of his colleagues and other symphony friends were headed there. I’m sure it was a madhouse! We opted instead for coffee (we needed something more strongly caffeinated than tea at that hour) and scones while we watched all the festivities in crystal-clear HD. The best seat in the house. And we got to share commentary on the dresses and hats, watch Oliver and Dixie wrestle and try our best not to wake Angie’s husband, who thought we were nuts. Okay, we are.

Next, Oliver and I headed to work, since we didn’t get to partake of a bank holiday. Instead, my coworkers and I spent all day watching the wedding re-broadcasts online and enjoying another spread of English delicacies — tea, more scones, petits fours, quiche. I even made sticky toffee pudding, which we can add to the OMG list. The recipe I used was pretty simple, and the result is just beyond words. Keep reading »

Saying a sudsy goodbye.

It’s been a couple of days since the news broke about the cancellation of All My Children and One Life to Live, and I think I’ve needed that time just to process.

Everybody likes to scoff about the silliness of soap operas — the umpteen marriages, resurrections from the dead, overnight aging of kindergarteners to high schoolers, the “we can’t be together because … you’re … my long-lost … twin brother!” scenarios. But, some of the most lauded actors in Hollywood started on soaps, and the way they churn out pages of dialogue and five hours of television a week is pretty amazing. It’s a grind for those actors and writers that you have to respect on some level. Plus, back in the day soaps had some of the best writing and story plotting I’ve ever seen on television.

Anne Heche on "Another World"

I became a soap opera junkie when I was 7. I can date myself because one of my earliest memories is when Roman (or John Black, as we learned years later) was discovered alive and reunited with Marlena on Days of Our Lives. That was my grandmother’s “story,” and it was part of our established routine during summers at the beach:  play at the beach in the morning, lunch, DOOL at 1 pm, then Grandmama’s nap while I watched Another World and Santa Barbara. Those “supercouples” of the 80s defined my childhood:  Jack & Jennifer, Bo & Hope, Patch & Kayla. On Another World, I loved watching the exploits of twins Marley and Victoria, both played by a young Anne Heche. Once summer was over, I’d rush off the bus from third grade to catch Santa Barbara at 3 pm, since I couldn’t miss one minute of Cruz and Eden’s saga! Epic. Keep reading »

Countdown to the royal wedding.

Have you heard any whispers about that royal wedding that’s coming up? No? Well maybe you live under a rock in Wyoming. Or, maybe you live under the JumboTron in Times Square but just couldn’t care less. If so, this may not be the post for you.

See, I’m excited. I’ve told you how I revel in royal pomp and circumstance, and I can’t wait to see all of that in action on April 29. Everyone’s asking me if I’m going to get up early and watch, and I think I have to. I won’t be taking the day off like some people (ahem) I know. But even if I DVR the whole thing, I can’t miss watching the wedding coverage live, right? I’ll probably just set my alarm for 4 am, blearily fumble for the remote and watch it from under my covers until I have to go to work. Once I get there, my coworkers have planned a high tea in celebration while we watch whatever festivities are left. I’ll be making authentic sticky toffee pudding. If you want to do the same, here are some other recipes you could try.

It’s clear that royalty is one of my obsessions, but don’t worry — I haven’t bought the replica royal engagement ring, the commemorative Union Jack flag or even the china with their faces on it. I’m not really in to tacky tchotchkes in general. I will, however, commit to watching television. America’s gone wacky over this royal wedding and the coverage is about to blow up our television sets. It’s like the second British invasion. If you’re royally obsessed (like me) but have room on your DVR (not like me), there are plenty of opportunities to educate yourself on all things royal over the coming weeks. I’ve gathered what information I can find, so get to ready to burn up your remote! Keep reading »