Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wish List Wednesdays: Hot Beverage Cups and Mugs Holiday Gift Ideas

From Desktop Nexus

This is the time of year when the idea of a hot beverage in front of a crackling fireplace is very appealing, so why not consider mugs and cups as a gift idea for the holidays?  Here are a few I found that would make a great present for anyone who loves hot coffee, tea, chocolate, and/or cider:

1) Heart-Shaped Teacups and Saucers - these rainbow-colored porcelain cups and saucer are available as a boxed set of six from Brylane Home for $79.99 and would be perfect for tea lovers.  Details like the gold-toned cup handles and a satin-lined storage box make this set an extra special gift.

From ModCloth


2) Espresso Cups and Saucers - also available from Brylane Home in a boxed set of six at $59.00 are these porcelain espresso cups and saucers.  I have to admit that even though I am a tea drinker, I prefer the rich earthy hues of this set!

From ModCloth


3) Harry & David Holiday Tea and Mug Gift Set - two rustic ceramic mugs and a decorative tin filled with six different flavors of holiday teas (10 bags of each) for $39.99 would satisfy any tea-drinking couple.  I want this one for myself!

I think it's time for me to get cozy with a mug of hot tea and start browsing more sites for Christmas gifts!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Weekend Wardrobe: Late Fall Weekend Visit with a Friend Travel Wardrobe

From Auto Service Costs

Last weekend I made a long overdue visit to a dear friend for her birthday.  The trip included a spa morning, a matinee movie, a delicious dinner at a farm-to-table restaurant, and a casual birthday brunch with her relatives and other friends before the drive back home.  We had so much fun that I am vowing not to wait so long for my next visit!  The trip inspired me to put together a travel wardrobe for a future longer visit, based on my current fascination with a navy and orange color combination, which I consider to be great hues for fall.  Here is the outfit to wear in transit:

Clockwise from top left: Stio Women's Sweetwater Fleece Cowl in Rooibos Tea; Dubarry Carra Jacket in Navy; Tommy Hilfiger Signature Pebble Leather Crossbody Bag in Tommy Navy; U.S. Traveler San Severo Carry-On Rolling Luggage and Backpack Set in Orange Plaid; COACH Mary Lock Up Pebbled Grain Leather Loafers in Midnight Navy; Cleo Navy Plaid Leggings.

And here is the rest of the wardrobe to pack:

Clockwise from top left: H&M Rib-Knit Sweater in Orange; Duluth Trading Company Women's S'no Sweat Performance Mock Neck Sweater in Cayenne; J. Crew Clare Cardigan in Navy; Cabela's Women's Cobble Creek Long-Sleeve Shirt in Lava Orange Plaid; Land's End Women's Sport Corduroy Leggings in True Navy; Hobo Vida Clutch in Persimmon; The Company Store Women's Flannel 2-Piece Classic Pajamas in Polar Bear; Autenticas Botas Women's Desert Boots in Baroque Orange; L.L. Bean Women's Favorite Fit Wrinkle-Free Bayside Pants in Khaki; J. Crew Tissue Turtleneck T-Shirt in Navy; Center: L.L. Bean Women's Signature Cotton Jersey Henley in Navy.

Since I always like to bring one piece of jewelry with me when I travel, I thought this polar bear bracelet would pick up nicely on the theme from the cute pajamas:

Pat Pearlman Designs Polar Bear Bracelet


A "creepy toes" photo (I don't know why my feet look purple!).

If you are planning a girlfriends gathering, I can highly recommend copper-colored nail polish for your toes (I think mine is the OPI shade called Worth a Pretty Penne), and the movie "Murder on the Orient Express" (2017) for your entertainment. Please do not listen to the critics when it comes to this movie - for some reason most of them cannot get past Hercule Poirot's mustache!  If you want my opinion, the cinematography is spectacular (well worth seeing on the big screen), Kenneth Branagh is very good as Poirot, and the ensemble cast is excellent - do not bring any preconceived expectations to this film and you will enjoy it.  (For the record, I just watched the 1974 version for comparison and did not find it to be better than the new film as many critics have been claiming.)  I hope you have a wonderful weekend planned!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Foodie Fridays: Red Lentil Pasta with Butternut Squash and Tomato Ragù

Today I have another recipe using bean pasta, this time a red lentil version.  I found a recipe for Pappardelle with Roasted Butternut Squash and Tomato Ragù on the Half Baked Harvest website and modified it somewhat to include the red lentil pasta as well as other ingredients that I had available.  Keep this recipe in mind for the holiday season (using any type of pasta you like), as it is simple, satisfying, delicious, and easy to whip up on a busy day.

Red Lentil Pasta with Butternut Squash and Tomato Ragù

2 T. olive oil
16 oz. bulk Italian turkey sausage
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 C. cubed butternut squash
1 can (28 oz.) peeled whole tomatoes
1/2 C. red wine (or other liquid such as water or stock)
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
3 T. butter
12 oz. red lentil pasta (I used Trader Joe's Organic Red Lentil Sedanini)
grated Parmesan cheese (and burrata cheese as well if you like)

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet* over medium heat.  Add the sausage and cook until it starts to brown.   Stir in the onion and cook until the sausage is brown and the onion is soft.  Add the garlic and cook one minute longer.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Stir in the squash and cook for five minutes until it turns golden and starts to soften.  Remove from the heat and add the tomatoes, wine, and Italian seasoning, stirring to break up the tomatoes.  Arrange pieces of the butter evenly over the top.  Bake at 425 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until the squash is soft and the sauce has thickened.

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain and stir into the ragù sauce.  Serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese (and pieces of burrata cheese if desired).  Serves 6.

*My largest skillet is not ovenproof, so I transferred the sauce into a 9x13-inch baking pan before putting it in the oven.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

This 'n That Thursdays: A Fantastical Layered Thanksgiving Bounty Menu!

From Saveur

This crazy idea of a layered Thanksgiving menu all started with a recipe for Cherpumple.  For those of you as clueless as I was before stumbling upon this recipe, a Cherpumple is a ridiculous dessert composed of a cherry pie, a pumpkin pie, and an apple pie stacked on top of one another, alternating with layers of different-flavored cake, the whole shebang then being slathered with shockingy generous amounts of cream cheese frosting.  No normal human being could possibly ingest even a sliver of this concoction without falling into a food coma, but the thought of eating such a dessert enthralls in the same way that staring at a coiled and angry rattlesnake does - you know it's not safe, but you just can't help yourself!

It occurred to me that the Cherpumple is the dessert version of the Turducken, that duck stuffed inside a chicken stuffed inside a turkey which is also filled some sort of decadent bread stuffing.  Thanksgiving is the traditional holiday for both pie and turkey, and it is also the holiday of excessive food indulgence, so why not create a menu featuring these layered versions, as well as a few other decadently layered dishes?  The best way to present this menu is in picture form, so here it is, in all its multitiered glory:

From Woman's Day

1) For the appetizer, we start with Healthy Seven Layer Dip, to be consumed before the main meal while watching a football game (and because at least one dish with "healthy" in the name should be included as part of this meal).

From Whole Foods Market

2) The Turducken is best purchased already prepared and ready to serve, because who has the time or the skill to stuff a small bird into a medium-sized bird into a large bird while also trying to fit stuffing around each of the inner birds?

From Emeril Lagasse

3) For those who can't decide between white potatoes and sweet potatoes, the simple solution is a combination of both, as in Emeril Lagasse's recipe for Three Potato Gratin (which also throws in red potatoes for good measure).

From Wine Berserkers

4) People can be notoriously picky about vegetables, so why not make a Roasted Vegetable Torta loaded with many different kinds of veggies so that guests can pick and choose among the layers if they feel the need?

From Soup Addict

5) Would a salad be superfluous for this meal?  I think not, if it is this impressive Seven Layer Salad with Creamy Salsa Vinaigrette!

From Today

6) Of course, the grande finale and pièce de résistance would have to be the mind-boggling Cherpumple that started my whole flight of fancy in the first place.  This colossal creation is rather time-consuming to prepare, but I have no doubt that even the most jaded of Thanksgiving guests will be impressed at the mere sight of it!

From Andrews McMeel Publishing

7) And lastly, for those who just can't face the thought of the gargantuan proportions of the Cherpumple, there is a coffee-based drink called the Spook-tacular Seven Layer Latte that could be considered a lighter alternative (I know, this is supposed to be a Halloween drink, but if you leave off the black sprinkle sugar on top no one will ever know!).


While this meal will never be happening in our house (I will stick with a simple roast turkey and a plain old pumpkin pie), just imagine how awe-stricken the relatives would be if you presented them with this feast.  I think even the reactions in the famous Norman Rockwell painting would pale by comparison!

From Norman Rockwell Museum

Enjoy your Thanksgiving meal no matter what you choose to serve!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wish List Wednesdays: Winter Dog Mugs from Williams Sonoma

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas - at least on all of the shopping websites!  Much as I hate to rush Christmas, I know that if I don't get what I want now it will be gone way too soon, so I've already started looking.  These Winter Dog Mugs from Williams Sonoma caught my eye recently, mainly because there is a Dalmatian included in the set.  The stoneware mugs are no longer available individually, but you can get the set of four (one of each dog design) for $51.95.  This would be a great gift for any dog lovers on your Christmas list!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Weekend Wardrobe: Grenadine and Grey Cold Weather Weekend Travel Wardrobe

From Classe Touriste

We have had a freakishly warm fall so far, and I am more than ready for cold temperatures!  In fact, today I decided to put together a travel wardrobe for a weekend trip to a much colder climate than we will ever experience here in Georgia.  I would love to stay at the Fogo Island Inn, pictured above, at this time of the year to experience the rugged, windswept beauty and refreshingly brisk climate of the Newfoundland coast (read more about visiting Fogo Island here).

For me, this trip would be all about outdoor activities, so a seriously warm wardrobe is a must.  Grenadine and grey, the colors I chose for this wardrobe, are two of Pantone's picks for fall 2017 (mentioned in a previous post here).  I do not consider these two colors to be very flattering choices for me, but I wanted to see if I could put together a wardrobe that I would love even in these colors.  Here is the outfit I put together for the trip to the island:

Clockwise from top left: Stio Women's Esther Shirt in Brushed Nickel; The North Face Women's Classic Wool Beanie in Medium Grey Heather; Le Donne Leather Women's Multi Pocket Back Pack Purse in Gray; Stio Women's Hometown Down Vest in Jalapeño Red; Igloo Women's C40 Thinsulate Insulation Fleece Gloves in Heather Gray; Duluth Trading Co. Women's Keen Kaci Slip-On Shoes in Smoky Gray; Stio Women's Coburn Jogger in Castlerock (color no longer available); Stio Women's Divide V-Neck Tech Tee in Raspberry Ice.

And now for the items to be packed for the rest of the weekend:

Clockwise from top left: Stio Women's Dovetail Flannel Shirt in Chili Pepper; Only Onlolivia Scarf in Grenadine Check; Stio Women's Sweetwater Fleece Cowl in Smoked Pearl; Stio Women's Pinion Down Sweater in Tomato; Bogs Juno Lace Tall Boots in Dark Grey; Travelon Convertible Crossbody Duffel in Charcoal; Stio Women's Rivet Cord in Magnet; Stio Women's Divide Long Sleeve Tech Tee in Raspberry Ice; Center: Hobo Women's Leather Mila Wristlet Clutch in Grenadine.

If you did not want to pack and carry the boots, you could wear them and pack the shoes instead, but for me those boots would be too uncomfortably warm if worn anywhere but outside in cold weather.  This is a very casual wardrobe, but presentable enough for those few indoor activities that might be planned.  While jewelry is not really needed, I think that a pair of cute but discreet snowflake stud earrings would not be amiss (and this pair is not too expensive, so losing one would not be the end of the world):

Kay Jewelers Sterling Silver Snowflake Earrings

And should the weather turn really foul, some warm fleece loungewear and cozy slipper socks would be the perfect apparel for some time spent reading in front of a crackling fireplace:

Uniqlo Women's Long-Sleeve Snowflake Fleece Set in Gray;
Acorn Polar Pairs in Charcoal.


After last week's post and now the one for this week, you may be sensing a theme here - I am so ready for cooler weather and a trip that involves a lot of outdoor walking plus some reading in front of a warm fire!  I promise to change the theme next week, mainly because our overly warm weather has finally changed.  I just hope the cooler temperatures are here to stay now!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Foodie Fridays: Green Bean Spaghetti Alfredo

This recipe was actually inspired by one I found for Cacio e Pepe, which is a simple cheese and pepper sauce.  However, I cannot eat a lot of black pepper as it makes me choke, so I revised the recipe by omitting the pepper, which essentially makes it a light alfredo sauce instead.  I used another type of bean pasta this week, this one made with green beans, believe it or not, and it was quite good (it tasted just like wheat pasta, with only the slightest hint of green bean flavor).

Since I had a shallot left over from another recipe, I sautéed it in the butter before adding the cream.  If you like black pepper, you can follow the original recipe and add it instead of or in addition to the shallot.  I also added a little Wondra flour because I was not sure the green bean pasta water would thicken the sauce enough.  This is such a simple recipe, but quite tasty.  Sometimes the simplest dishes are the best!

Green Bean Spaghetti Alfredo

7 oz. green bean spaghetti (I used Bellabondonza Organic Green Bean Spaghetti)
2 T. butter
1 small shallot, minced (and/or 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper)
1/4 C. heavy cream
4 oz. freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 T. Wondra flour
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain the pasta, reserving about a cup of the pasta water.  Return the empty pot to medium heat and add the butter.  When the butter is melted, stir in the shallot (or black pepper) and sauté for a couple of minutes.  Add the cream and 3/4 C. of the pasta water and bring to a simmer.  Add the cheese and stir until slightly thickened, about 2-4 minutes.  If the sauce does not seem thick enough, stir in the Wondra flour and cook until thickened.   Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the spaghetti and gently toss until well combined with the sauce, adding more pasta water if needed (I did not need it).  Serve immediately, sprinkled with a little grated Parmesan and minced parsley if desired.  Serves 4.