Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Essentials

While I was packing to head home (to Missouri) for the holidays, I had an idea for a post! I was pulling cold weather clothing to get me through the next few days and I realized that I have always adhered to the “10 core items that everyone should own” rule. Even though I have a ton of clothes, I regularly update what I consider my “core.”

What do I consider the core clothing items every woman should own?

1.  LBD, Little Black Dress. What style of LBD? That is really up to your body type, though you should pick something classic. Don’t choose a dress with too many “extras” or “add-on’s.” You want chic, simple and classic. You should look at your LBD as an investment piece, so you can justify spending a little more to get a high-quality garment. This dress will also be worn many times, so you should have it professionally dry-cleaned and store it in a garment bag to help it last longer.

2. Ballet Flats. I love heels as much as anyone, but every once in a while you need to tone down the sexy to casual romance. Ballet flats are a comfortable alternative to heels and they can sometimes make the outfit. I always try to keep a pair of city flats in my purse/car, should I need an emergency pair. There have been a few times where I have gone out with friends and wished I could trade shoes by nights end. Owning several pair of flats is preferable and though there are a few colors you should invest in a good pair of black and brown flats. Make sure the flats are comfortable, don’t rub your foot raw and have decent support.

3. Tote. I have so many totes I don’t even know where to begin. I have totes for the farmers market, totes for the grocery store, totes for the pool/gym and then totes that I use when traveling. They are incredibly handy and can definitely show off your sense of style. Pick a statement bag, nothing too trendy. You will carry this tote for many years. I prefer Hunter Boot totes for “heavy-duty” travel or Lanvin for weekends. Both make fabulous totes!

4. Black Pumps. Louboutin. That’s really all you need to know. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Hell yes. They will treat your feet so well and you will be thankful you spared no expensive on them.

5. Flattering skirt. Just like the LBD, you need a skirt that flatters your body. The skirt that you buy needs to be comfortable, classic and you have to be able to dress it up or down. I have always adored fall skirts or high-waisted pencil skirts, but you have to make sure that you feel comfortable with the fit and the length.

6. Fantastic bra. You don’t realize how much you need one until you find the right one. I highly suggest going to a place that properly fits you for a bra. I don’t mean Victoria’s Secret either. Though you can find bras there that are decently made, you should really be looking at high-end stores. What you are purchasing is the foundation of your wardrobe. If your bra is uncomfortable, you are uncomfortable. Don’t suffer through the day because you’re wearing the wrong size!

7. Jeans. A great pair of jeans can make you feel like you can take on the world. Jeans that make your butt look amazing, slim your legs and tuck in your tummy are the ideal. The only way to find the correct pair of jeans is to try on as many brands as you can. If you go into a store that sells jeans, try on your size. Once you have them on. Bend over, squat down, sit, walk around. Get a feel for how those jeans are going to look while you’re being active. Though you should definitely have several pairs of jeans, you should have that one brand that you always know will fit you perfectly. I love Citizens of Humanity because they don’t ever have the dreaded gap and they always make my butt look good!

8. Cashmere sweater. Splurge on a nice sweater. I always like white, cable knit cashmere. It is soft, warm and it envelopes you. It is one of the most comforting items of clothing in your closet. You should choose the a style of sweater that you will feel best in. Whether it is a cardigan, oversized, fitted or buttoned sweater, it should be something you still feel beautiful in.

9. Trench coat/cold weather coat. Depending on where you live, you should invest in a nice coat. If you can get away with a trench coat, then buy one that will look good over a dress or pants. Heavier coats are more difficult, as you will need to find something that isn’t too bulky, but will also be warm. I have always adored Burberry and even though they are asininely expensive, their jackets are classics. Pair your jacket with a favourite scarf and it won’t even matter what you have on underneath!

10. Tailored dress pants. I feel like women do not afford themselves the same luxury as men. Even though men have their shirts, pants, and jackets tailored, I rarely talk to a woman who says the same. After I had my first pair of dress pants tailored, I was hooked. Since then I have taken pretty much all of my core pieces to a tailor for customization!

The idea is to spend a lot initially and then accessorize, accessorize, accessorize. You can build a fantastic wardrobe out of just a few major pieces and if you feel the need to practice, hop on Polyvore and just see how many outfits you can create using a single piece from the list above.

Happy shopping!

Question(s): What are your essentials? Do you agree with the items in the list above?

Dear Me: A Letter to Myself 10 Years Ago

Originally taken from “Dear Me” adapted by “Adventures on the Road

Dear RO,

I know you’re stressed, but I promise you it will get better. The holidays are coming up and you’re dealing with a lot. It will be your first major holiday without him and it will be a tough one. Everyone will ask about you two and everyone will do it awkwardly, it will be painful. You will want to hide in the guest house, but I promise it will get better. Life does go on and you will find the love of your life.

School is intense. This year will be your most difficult. You will want to quit. Baking will keep you sane and it will also make you a lot of friends. Don’t make those chocolate cake cookies, though. No one will like them and they are pretty disgusting (it’s not you, it’s the recipe). Try to get out more and don’t isolate yourself in your apartment. Don’t take on more than you can handle (though you will regardless) and learn to take time for yourself. Even though grades are important now, they aren’t everything. Allow yourself time away from the books, enjoy your college years.

Don’t worry so much about your appearance. For the next 10 years you will obsess over everything you eat, wear and you will work out way more than you need to. Don’t waste your time worrying over this small stuff, you will miss out on so much because of a few people. Don’t let your life revolve around issues of vanity.

As far as medicine is concerned, it may not be your passion now, but it will become the thing you love most. You will move across the country to practice it, you will neglect your friends and family and you will fall in love with healing your patients. This is ok. You will cry and complain. It will be the most difficult thing you will ever do, but it will be the one constant in your life and it will allow you to do so much. Fall in love with medicine, because it will give back to you beyond anything you can imagine.

Love always,

Future RO

A Re-Blog: Date a Girl Who Reads

I was just linked this and I thought it was amazing, so I thought I would post it for everyone!

Originally from nonamerah.wordpress

A GIRL YOU SHOULD DATE

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.
Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.
Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

And These Are a Few of My Favourite Things

A gift that I always like to give is a basket/box which has a collection of my favourite things. They are generally small things that I have stumbled across when shopping or messing around on the Internet. They change from year to year, so I thought this year might be a good time to share a list with my readers!

If you were to receive a box of my current favourite things of 2011, you would be getting:

Tulum Napkins – gorgeous Mayan patterned napkins that are bright and cheery
iomoi Loafers – adorable, comfortable and great for just around the house
Rishi Organic Chai – love chai so much and I drink at least a cup a day
Tumbler w/ Infuser – this has been fantastic at work, I think I bought everyone on my list (that drinks tea) one of these
Helveticards – great stocking stuffer and they are a modern take on a traditional object
Leaf Keepers – these make for a cute way to tie flowers together or to bundle small gift items
Kuhn Rikon Frosting Pen – this may be the most amazing decorating tool I have ever purchased, love it
Zum Bar Sea Salt –  love Zum Bars, but this one is my favourite
“Grown Up” Bento Stack – comes in very handy when you are on the go as much as I am
Moleskine Notebooks – have so many of these that I use, great product
A Perfect World Moisturizer – used this for years, will continue to use it for many more

Question(s): Are some of these your favourite things as well? What would you add to the list?

Sticky Situation

As you might have read, one of the gift ideas for this year was “Apple Cider Caramel.” I planned on wrapping them in adorable little gift boxes and labeling them using the Goddess Martha Stewart’s printable labels.

After dragging myself out of bed this morning, I reluctantly took a shower and began my day.  I made myself tartines for breakfast, ran a few miles, did a little yoga, prepared lunch and then went grocery shopping. I spent a while roaming Von’s aisles, then headed to Williams-Sonoma where I spent way too much time and money. When I got back my temporary roommate (my cousin), appeared excited to see how the caramel was going to turn out.

I got down to business setting out the ingredients in pre-measured ramekins and began by boiling the apple cider. Let me tell you something about reducing 2 cups of apple cider to 1/3 cup of apple cider, it takes forever. I was constantly checking the cider using a measuring cup and I realized I needed to buy a reduction pan.

I'm not sure why I took the photo this way...

The cider took almost 45 minutes to reduce all the way and part of the way through I transferred it from the copper lined saucepan to a glass one.

The other concoction you see in that photograph is the cinnamon, butter, heavy cream mixture. I had boiled it before I fired the cider so that way it could set. The entire house smelled amazing while I was cooking. The cinnamon + apple cider smell permeated every room and even when I went upstairs I could smell it. I made a note to myself that if I ever sell this house, I need to make this same caramel when potential buyers arrive.

Now, at this point in the post I should tell you that I mixed the reduced apple cider and the cream mixture, whisked well and started the sugar mixture. However, this is also the turning point for the entire process. Right as I began stirring the sugar, I was called into the hospital and I had to hand the reins over to my cousin. The conversation went something like:

Me: Hey, I need you to watch this sugar. Just pay attention to the thermometer and when it reads 315-320, you need to pour this pan into the sugar mixture. For no reason should you mix those two until the thermometer says “Hard Crack, 315-320.”

Cousin: Ok…

Me: But you will need to make sure that you stand away from it a little, because it might splatter. Then you will stir it and watch the thermometer again until it says 260.

Cousin: Ok…

Me: Can you watch this for me?  Is this ok?

Cousin: Yea, sure. Hard crack. Aren’t you making caramel..?

Me: Hard crack, 315-320. Then, 260 when they are mixed. Got it?

Cousin: Yup.

At this point I headed into work and was gone for about 30-35 min. When I returned I found the caramel poured into the parchment lined 8×8 pan. I was momentarily relieved, until I looked at it….

Ugghhhh

Firstly, the parchment paper had not been properly laid in the pan, even though I measured them. Secondly, it was way too light. The caramel had an apple cider reduction in it and the sugar was boiled to hard crack.

So I asked my cousin at what temperature she took the pan off the stove:

Me: Ummm….did the thermometer say ‘Hard Crack’ when you poured in the cream?

Cousin: Uhhh, no. It said soft ball and I knew that caramel is soft. I figured you just told me wrong.

I was, to say the very least, devastated. The preparation for this caramel had been so time intensive and now it was ruined. I was furious with my cousin, so I poured myself a glass of wine and I did the only thing I could do.

I started all over.

I melted the butter into the cream and cinnamon mixture, again. I reduced the cider, again. I then waited another 45 minutes for the cider to reduce enough to add the cream.

Yummy

When the cider reduced again, I started the process of boiling the sugar to a hard crack stage. This requires a lot of time and patience, so I read some of my book (love my Nook, by the way) and listened to Stimming.

The entire time I kept thinking, "This would suck if I dropped this or spilled this on myself..."

After the sugar reached 320, I poured the cider cream into the molten sugar. This produced Molten Cider and it smelled amazing. I do recommend that you do this at arm’s length, however, as it does splatter a bit. Make sure that you add a little at a time, as I don’t know what the outcome would have been if I would have dumped the entire pan in (not a good one, I will tell you that).

The reaction the sugar had when I poured in the cider cream was both awesome and terrifying!

After mixing the cider cream into the sugar, you will need to get the temperature back up to 260 degrees F. When you add the cream, your sugar temperature will drop pretty quickly. It did take longer than I assumed it would for the mixture to reach the 260 mark.

As soon as it reached 260, I turned the heat off and poured the molten mix into a properly parchmented 8×8 pan. I let both of the caramels sit for a while (hours) and went to wrap presents. When I returned, I laughed out loud at the incredible difference between the Failamel and the Caramel.

Can YOU tell which one is the wrong one?

The dark pan on the left is the correctly prepared candy. The light pan on the right is the monstrosity that results when you fail to take into account that your cousin can not cook to save her life. As you can see, I tasted the….whatever it is, in the bottom left corner. The mixture was gooey and slightly oily. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what it resembles. I did scoop it out of the dish and save it though. I’m debating on using it to make some sort of apple pie filling or drizzling it over cookies/blondies.

I am refrigerating the proper caramel overnight. Tomorrow, after work maybe, I will slice them and wrap them individually. I plan on making another batch for my colleagues when it is closer to the holidays.

Lesson learned from this kitchen adventure: Never EVER let someone else take the reins of my recipes.

The recipe I used is from Make It Naked:

Apple Cider Caramels (recipe adapted from David Lebovitz and here)

Ingredients:

2 cups apple cider (I used spiced cider)
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 lb salted butter (1 stick)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1½ cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper.
  2. Boil the apple cider in a saucepan until it reduces to about 1/3 cup. This took about 30 minutes for me. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, add the cream, butter and cinnamon to a saucepan and heat on medium until butter is melted. Stir. Add the reduced cider to the cream mixture.
  4. In a saucepan (I used the one that the cider was in after wiping it out), combine the sugar, honey, water and salt. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Once dissolved, stir as little as possible. Cook until a candy thermometer reads 310-320 degrees. Tilt the pan to get an accurate reading.
  5. Slowly stir the cider mixture into the sugar mixture. Be careful and watch for splattering. Cook until the combined mixture reaches 260 degrees.
  6. Pour the caramel into the prepared dish. Let cool completely. And I mean completely.
  7. Lift the candy out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares. Serve at room temperature.