Magazines 2.0.

I’ve always had a soft spot for magazines. It’s the MTV generation in me — we have short attention spans and are easily distracted by big, glossy pictures. Oooh, look! Pretty pictures! I’m still loyal to a good, hardback book, but I also can’t resist a good magazine, on almost any topic.

Many times over the years I’ve had to cut back my weekly/monthly subscriptions because all of those magazines were just piling up at the door. I still oversubscribe, since I don’t have much time these days to read anything more than People. Which I read cover to cover. Every week. Since 1989. That means this (and last) year’s issues of O Magazine are making a nice door stop in my living room until I have a long airplane ride or pool day to get through them.

l have a hard time not picking up any new magazine in reach. When I’m at my mother’s house, I read her Southern Livings; if I’m at the beach, I read my aunt’s Good Housekeeping; if I’m in an airport, I pick up Vanity Fair or In Style. It’s a problem, so thank goodness for recycling. 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 »

The art of forgiveness.

It’s T-minus 10 days until I depart for the continent of Africa … eek!

In the last few weeks, my travel group has been meeting for several pre-trip sessions to educate ourselves on South Africa’s history, culture and current events. At a recent session we watched “Long Night’s Journey into Day,” a documentary about the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that began in the late 1990s. The TRC was formed by President Nelson Mandela in an attempt to heal the nation after the era of apartheid, and the commission invited all South Africans, whether jailed for their crimes or not, to come forward and publicly confess to any politically-motivated atrocities they committed during apartheid. They could also apply for amnesty from criminal and civil prosecution. The TRC seems to have a strong faith component as well; it was chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who called the TRC a “national program of reconciliation.” To read more about the TRC, click here.

The documentary featured the stories of four groups appearing before the commission. Many Americans may recall the 1993 murder of student Amy Biehl — one of her murderers, Mongezi Manqina, is featured as he applied for (and was granted) amnesty. Others, such as Eric Taylor, a white security police officer who killed four black anti-apartheid activists known as the Cradock Four, were not. Keep reading »

Reinventing an heirloom recipe.

I am related to an amazing array of women who can cook. And I do mean cook. I associate every one of them with a special recipe that has defined my childhood and holiday occasions since, whether it’s my mom’s cold oven pound cake, Taffy’s mashed potatoes and mac and cheese, Mimi’s okra soup or Grandmama’s cornmeal fritters. My Aunt Dell is not allowed to attend family functions unless she brings her collard greens. Well, I’m exaggerating … only sort of. That food is just a part of our loving and sharing with each other.

Most of these family recipes are well documented, or at least those who have perfected them are still around to share their tips. But one family heirloom recipe has eluded us as of late. My grandfather’s sister, Aunt Ida, was famous for her caramel cake, which she brought regularly to family events. Regularly enough at least that it made an impression on my young taste buds. Aunt Ida passed away more than 10 years ago, and we’re just now discovering that no one has her recipe. Egads!

Caramel cakes are very southern, if not very Easterly. But I had a craving to attempt one a la Aunt Ida’s for Easter Sunday dinner. I Googled recipes all week, which resulted in a concoction of cobbled together cake and icing instructions. Then I updated them to reflect the tastes of the 2010s — a dash of sea salt makes it a salted caramel icing. 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 »

Animals dressed as humans.

One of my favorite TV shows of all time is “Friends.” I’ve seen every episode a ridiculous number of times, and my friend Ann and I used to quote it so much we basically had conversations in “Friends” dialogue. When it started syndicating in college, roommate Kristin and I established a ritual:  Wendy’s drive-thru run before rushing home to catch it at 7 p.m. I just had to hold the rolled top of the food bag tightly so “Wendy’s fumes” wouldn’t bleed into the fabric of her new Jetta.

Then I lived in New York, toured my visitors past the “Friends” apartment building in Greenwich Village and came to realize how outrageously unlikely it was that any of those 20-somethings could afford to live in such apartments. But willing suspension of disbelief is much easier when it’s so entertaining.

“Friends” was special because it captured so well the urban family that forms, especially in NYC, and the needling and squabbling yet love and support among friends. I think we all could relate. Plus, it aired over the course of my important formative years — when it premiered, we discussed it on Fridays in high school, and by the time of the finale, I was out of college and had been living in New York for 5 years. Keep reading »

I am chopped liver.

I totally get it. I have a cute dog. A really, really cute dog.

But ever since Oliver arrived about two weeks ago, I’m just the anonymous handler behind the phenom.

Let me set the scene for you. I have lived in my complex for more than two years, and I may have nodded once at my neighbors next door as we passed on our way in or out. We’re not a friendly, mingling kind of bunch. Actually, when I moved in, a neighbor across the way greeted me but told me not to “expect brownies or anything. We’re not that kind of neighborhood.” Well, okey dokey.

Now that I walk the world’s cutest dog, everyone comes out of the woodwork. Like we’re incapable of exchanging pleasantries unless there’s a canine attached to us by a string. Keep reading »

Cooking Spree: Cake balls

It has come to my attention that some of you don’t know about a little thing called cake balls.

They will change your life. And your waistline.

I first discovered cake balls at my cousin’s wedding — I thought they were truffles, but instead I bit into this gooey, creamy, flaky, unidentifiable substance. It was delicious heaven.

When I got back to the office, I was raving about these wonders and my fellow-foodie coworker scoured Google for them. That’s how we found Bakerella, the grande dame of cake balls. Her blog is the go-to source for all cake ball varieties and amazingly inventive ways to decorate them, and her “cake pop” cookbook is on the New York Times bestseller list.
Keep reading »