Thursday, March 31, 2016

This 'n That Thursdays: Pintail Duck 4x4 Wardrobe Shoes and Accessories

It's time to add some much needed shoes and accessories to my pintail duck 4x4 wardrobe.  For me, this is especially fun, as I get to seek out a few quirky and personalized items that would be a bit too unusual as a core piece of apparel (unless you are an especially quirky and fun-loving individual, in which case go for it!).

Let's start with some shoes:

Clockwise from top left: Frye Women's Carson Ballet Flats in Dark Brown; Latigo Rupee Sandal in Sand; Soft Style by Hush Puppies Women's Comfort Dress Pumps Angel II in Brown; Clarks Kearns Blush Ankle Boot in Brown Leather.

Basic ballet flats, some sensible-heeled boots, and then a couple of unusual shoes, one casual and one dressy, should cover most bases footwise.

Clockwise from top left: SHARO Genuine Leather Cross Body Bag in Brown; Metallic Paisley Pashmina Scarf in Brown; Mossimo Supply Co. Mini Crochet Crossbody Handbag in White; Nordstrom Spliced Print Cashmere & Silk Scarf in Ivory Combo.

Two print scarves which coordinate with most of the wardrobe, a simple brown leather purse for cool weather, and a more casual cream-colored purse with crochet detail for warm seasons take care of all-season needs.

Clockwise from top left: Novica Beaded Lapis Lazuli Necklace 'Azure Garland'; Artful Home Parallel Weave Cuff Bracelet in Bronze; David Morgan Dungeness Crab Pendant by Cavin Richie; DaVonna Chocolate Freshwater Pearl Strand Necklace.

Finally I get to choose some fun jewelry!  The bead necklaces are pretty simple and versatile, and the bracelet has a simple but unusual shape, but the crab pendant was selected just to suit my oddball tastes!

Clockwise from top left: UGG Fierce Slip-on Shoes in Peacoat Suede; Giddy Up Cuff in Off White; Keds Women's Glimmer Boat Shoes in Bronze; Pale Blue Silk Scarf from Afghanistan.

I decided to round out my shoe selections with some loafers and boat shoes, as I find both very comfortable, and I added a basic solid-colored scarf for its versatility, but once again the horse cuff bracelet appeals to my specific interests.

Now if I really wanted to emphasize the duck inspiration that started this whole series of posts, I would have to acquire at least one bag from Dooney & Bourke, because after all one of their logos is a duck!  Unfortunately, the perfect bag recently sold on eBay, in a style that is no longer available:

However, there are quite a few selections which, while less obvious with the duck theme, would still add a touch of anatid interest:

Top: Dooney & Bourke Florentine Mini Satchel in Brown T Moro; Dooney & Bourke Florentine Continental Clutch in Brown T Moro.

If I were a real duck fanatic, I suppose I could add this over-the-top crossbody bag to my collection:

Dooney & Bourke All Weather Leather 2 Duck Bag in Brown T Moro.

And so ends my journey into the world of fashion for the month of March!  Or does it?  Wait, here is one more 4x4 collection that would add some sophistication to the wardrobe for very formal occasions when grand style is a necessity (although those sorts of occasions are extremely rare for me, as someone whose wardrobe mostly consists of barn clothes and running-errands-in-town clothes):

Left: Coldwater Creek Sparkling Lace Jacket Dress by Alex Evenings in Champagne; Right, top to bottom: J. Furmani Satin Clutch with Rhinestone Clasp in Champagne; 7.17ctw Champagne Diamond Bracelet; Relax by Heavenly Comfort Leather Pumps in Champagne.

I would never, ever spend over $5,000 on a bracelet, even though the one shown is a beauty, but it is fun to pretend that money is no object!

Okay, now my fashion month is finished, and it is time to move on to other topics for the month of April.  I don't know how the creator of The Vivienne Files does this six days a week, because it is a lot of work, but I am glad she does so that I can enjoy the results of her endeavors rather than do this research myself!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wish List Wednesdays: Tory Burch Smocked Cotton Dress

Since my randomly chosen fashion month is almost over, I thought I would end my wish list posts rather extravagantly.  I am not someone who really believes in lavish spending on clothing, but if I were and I was looking for one perfect warm-weather dress, the Smocked Cotton Dress (on sale at $357) from Tory Burch would be it.  I love the various shades of denim blue, the relaxed but stylish fit, and the longer length which provides enough coverage so that I wouldn't have to think twice about bending over or sitting down (although you would never catch me sitting anywhere in a dress like the model below!).  The one thing I would have to think twice about is the price, even though on sale it is significantly reduced from the original price tag of $595!  I do believe that you get what you pay for, and apparently many others feel this dress is a worthwhile expense as it is selling out fast, but unless the sale price drops even more, I will just have to live without this perfect dress.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

On the Homefront: Easter Bunnies Brunch Table

Lily the Easter Dalmatian sports some fuzzy purple bunny ears
for the bunny-themed holiday!

After some minor modifications to my St. Patricks' Day table, we are ready to celebrate Easter!  I took away most of the shamrock-themed dΓ©cor and added more bunnies, plus lots of yellow and white to brighten up the green and brown from the previous table setting.  The table really did need a lot of brightening, because the sun disappeared a few days ago and has not made a reappearance yet, which is why most of my photos are so dark!

Dark brown wooden bead placemat; green round woven placemat; yellow dinner plate; Pasture Bunny Salad/Dessert Plate; yellow and white-dotted flatware; stainless steel dessert fork; white and yellow bunnies napkin; yellow napkin; white ceramic bunny napkin ring; pale green glass goblet; yellow mug; dark wood coaster.

The other three bunny dessert plate designs.

A closer look at the bunny napkin ring.

The Dalmatian-spotted bunny and "sheeple" family remain from the
St. Patrick's Day table, but the yellow vase with yellow tulips is
new for Easter.  The green lotus candle holders now have yellow
candles and sit atop small white appetizer plates with an Easter design.

A giant yellow egg candle is surrounded by small green plates
holding Cadbury caramel eggs and mini Lindt chocolate bunnies.

The shamrock bunny salt and pepper shakers from St. Patrick's Day
remain on the Easter table, as they fit into the bunny theme.

The brunch menu for this table was kept simple because we seem to be celebrating way too many holidays lately.  I hadn't made a frittata in a while, so I decided that this open-faced omelet filled with spring vegetables would be a nice Easter option.  I almost always serve challah bread as it is available in the grocery stores at this time of year, and a recently discovered recipe for Oreo cookie mini cheesecakes adds to the sugar overload for the holiday (back to sensible eating starting tomorrow)!

Easter Bunnies Brunch Menu:

Frittata Primavera*
Challah Bread/Butter

*Frittata Primavera

8 eggs
2 T. milk or water
1/2 C. shredded or crumbled cheese (any type)
salt and pepper to taste
2 T. olive oil
8 stalks asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 bell pepper (any color), diced
1 small zucchini, halved and thinly sliced
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
4 scallions, trimmed and sliced into rounds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, liquid, cheese, and seasonings.  Set aside.

Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet with a heat-proof handle over medium-high heat.  Add the vegetables and sautΓ© until softened, about 5-7 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low and pour the egg mixture over the vegetables.  Cook undisturbed until the sides start to puff up and pull away from the skillet, about 10-15 minutes.

Put the skillet into the preheated 350-degree oven and bake for about 10 minutes until the top is set.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before cutting into wedges.  Serves 6.


In addition to the Cadbury caramel eggs and the mini Lindt chocolate bunnies, the candy on the table includes carrot cake-flavored Hershey kisses:

The Dutch rabbit plush toy on the credenza is joined by two Easter
Dalmatians sporting bunny ears and spring posies.

Our terrier mix Ruby was recruited to play the role of Easter bunny last year, so this year it was our new dog Maddie's turn:

I'm afraid she did not enjoy it any more than Ruby did, so I assured both dogs that they would never be required to wear bunny ears again!

I hope everyone had a happy Easter, and that no one was forced to wear bunny ears against their will (at least not for very long)!

And of course it would not be Easter here on my blog if I did not leave you with this annual tradition to enjoy:


Friday, March 25, 2016

Foodie Fridays: Mini Lemon Oreo Cheesecakes

For some reason I always associate lemons with springtime, even though I don't think the fruit even makes an appearance on the trees until summer.  I often serve lemon-flavored foods for Easter, and this year will be no exception.  I recently found a recipe for Mini Lemon Oreo Cheesecakes and decided that they would be the ideal dessert for our Easter brunch on Sunday.  I added even more lemon flavor to the original recipe by substituting lemon yogurt for the sour cream and lemon oil for the vanilla, because I am one of those people who thinks that no dessert can ever be too lemony.

I don't normally eat Oreos, and usually don't cook with processed foods, but lately I have been on a roll with recipes that take a familiar food and use it in a novel way (like the Tater Tots waffle from last week).  I figure you only live once, and it's okay to relax the rules once in a while, especially for the holidays, so I intend to enjoy these little cheesecakes now and get back to more sensible foods after Easter!

Mini Lemon Oreo Cheesecakes

12 Lemon Oreos
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened (I used low-fat)
1/4 C. sugar
1/4 C. lemon Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)
grated rind of 1/2 lemon (optional)
1/4 tsp. pure lemon oil (see Notes)
1 egg, lightly beaten

Line a 6-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners (I like to use foil liners).  Place one Lemon Oreo into the bottom of each cupcake liner.

Pulse the remaining six Lemon Oreos into fine crumbs in a food processor.  In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and sugar until well blended.  Blend in the yogurt, grated rind, and lemon oil.  Add the egg and blend in thoroughly.  Stir in the Lemon Oreo crumbs.  Spoon the cheesecake mixture evenly on top of each Lemon Oreo in the cupcake liners.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the centers are almost set.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Refrigerate for 3 hours before serving.  Serves 6.

Notes: I used Boyajian Pure Lemon Oil, because I happened to have some, but vanilla or lemon extract can be used instead.  For me, this recipe made enough filling for about eight or nine mini cheesecakes -- an added bonus!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

This 'n That Thursdays: Pintail Duck 4x4 Wardrobe Expanded for Winter

Even though almost everyone is impatiently awaiting the arrival of warm summer days, I will be my usual contrarian self and expand my pintail duck-inspired 4x4 core wardrobe for winter today.  Without further ado, here is what I managed to find, even though cold weather apparel is getting much harder to locate at this time of year!

Moving into winter:

Clockwise from top left: TravelSmith Samantha Brown Sheer Blazer in Ivory; Coldwater Creek Shaker Turtleneck Tunic in Sand; Serengeti Paisley Chiffon Skirt; YOOX List Short Dress in Dark Brown.

The blazer and sweater will accommodate cooler temperatures, while the dress and skirt can still be worn in warmer weather with lighter-weight accompanying apparel.

Clockwise from top left: Sue Patrick Foxcroft 3/4 Sleeve Solid Blouse in Dutch Blue; Coldwater Creek Classic Turtleneck Sweater in Ivory; Acorn Favorite Cotton Sweater in Iris; L.L. Bean Original Fit Bayside Pants in Dark Cement.

My favorite Acorn sweater in a seasonless shade of blue, with two layering shirt options for the neutral-colored pants.

Clockwise from top left: L.L. Bean Women's Three-Quarter Sleeve V-Neck Tee in Cream; Signals Paisley Wool Waterfall Jacket; Fair Indigo Organic Fair Trade Cowl Neck Dress in Dark Chocolate; Orvis Donegal Tweed Flat-Front Trousers in Light Brown.

Warm trousers, a comfortable dress, a basic top and a unique waterfall jacket offer more cold weather wardrobe choices.

Clockwise from top left: L.L. Bean Interlock Mock-Turtleneck in Light Blue Heather; Fair Indigo Fair Trade Organic Drop Shoulder Sweater in Caramel Marl; L.L. Bean Double L Mixed Cable Zip-Front Cardigan in Blue Heather; The Outnet ChloΓ© Striped Multicolored Cotton, Wool, and Cashmere-Blend Sweater.

I added one zippered sweater and a couple of pullover sweaters for layering, as well as another cotton turtleneck to wear underneath them.

The completed 4x4 winter expansion wardrobe.

Left: NorthStyle Striped Fleece Pullover; Right: New Yorker's Apparel Trendmakers 3/4 Sleeve Fit and Flare Ponte Dress in Tan.

Last but not least, two more clothing options to add to the winter collection.


Since winter in a cold climate will always require ownership of a coat or two (or more!), here is a bonus of four options for outerwear that would work with this wardrobe:

Clockwise from top left: Karen Millen Winter White Long Line Belted Coat; L.L. Bean Mesh-Lined H2OFF Rain Jacket in Deep Navy; L.L. Bean Crosstown Trench Coat in Oatmeal; L.L. Bean Fleece Peacoat in Cobalt Sea.

Next Thursday, the last day of March, I will end this series of posts about the pintail duck 4x4 wardrobe with an assortment of shoes and accessories, which means the addition of more fun pieces that satisfy my oddball tastes!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wish List Wednesdays: Clothes with a Conscience from Fair Indigo

While searching for interesting apparel for my fashion posts this month, I came across the Fair Indigo site, which features stylish clothing and accessories from around the world (including the USA) made from sustainable material by people who receive fair treatment and compensation for their work.  Some of their cool-weather items are one sale right now, and I fell in love with a couple of pieces in particular:

The Tey-Art Niobrara Intarsia Alpaca Fair Trade Cardigan (on sale for $159.99) is knitted by artisans in the Peruvian Andes.  It has an almost Southwestern-looking design in my preferred color palette of warm and bright autumnal hues.  I have always wanted an alpaca sweater, and I decided that this one is perfect for me.  The sale price is about $40 below the original amount, but the size selection is limited.

The Asian Eye Ameya Fair Trade Silk Scarf (on sale for $89.99) is hand woven by women in Delhi, India.  An intricate floral motif of 100% silk jacquard is similar in color to the alpaca sweater, but in more muted shades.  The scarf measures 27"x76", and has 3-inch fringe at each end.  The sale price is about $30 less than the original price, and this accessory would help brighten up my basically all solid-colored wardrobe.

There are several other Fair Indigo pieces that I would love to own, but the prices are not inexpensive so I will pace myself and acquire them gradually over time as needed!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Seasonal Style: Spring Pale Blue and White

From The Best Fashion Blog

Spring always brings to mind pale pastel colors, so my choice of style for the season features the palest of blue paired with crisp white.  The model above sports this calming combination, and even her rather sullen expression cannot negate the gentle reassurance of the soothing color palette.  Similarly, the interior below is an oasis of calm serenity, not as stark as a winter-inspired room but far less intense than a summer-inspired one.  While blues and pastels are not my favorite colors, even I cannot resist the way a pale blue and white pairing eases one gently into the spring season!

From Most Beautiful Things

Friday, March 18, 2016

Foodie Fridays: Tater Tots Waffle

I just couldn't resist trying an unusual potato recipe in time for St. Patrick's Day!  This dish couldn't be easier, and it is a lot of fun to make.  I have never been fond of French fries, but Tater Tots have always been a guilty pleasure.  I try to restrain my intake, but when I learned about this recipe there was no way I was not going to give it a try!

We have a very old waffle maker which is seldom used (I don't care for waffles either), but it worked fine for my Tater Tots waffle despite the fact that there is no temperature control and you must guess when the waffle maker is hot enough.  The timing is very important for these waffles, because if you open the waffle maker up too soon the potatoes stick to both the top and bottom and become a crumbly disaster (as I learned on my pitiful first attempt).  If you have a fancier machine that lets you know when the contents are cooked, you may not need my more detailed instructions for cooking time.

Some recipes suggest adding cheese to the Tater Tots before cooking, but I was paranoid that they would stick again so I just melted some cheese on top after they were cooked.  Served with some catsup, which is my favorite way to eat Tater Tots, this waffle is great as a side dish for two, or, if you are feeling decadent, as a hearty if not especially healthy meal (be sure to add a nutritious vegetable on the side to lessen the guilt!).  This is not exactly "Bon AppΓ©tit!" food, so I'll just say "Happy Eating!"

Tater Tots Waffle

30 Tater Tots (or whatever number tightly fills your waffle maker), thawed
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
2-3 T. shredded cheese
catsup for serving

Toss the Tater Tots with the seasonings in a large bowl.  Heat up your waffle maker.  Place the seasoned Tater Tots in a single layer on the bottom of the waffle maker, packing them in as tightly as possible.  Close the lid and press down firmly to close the machine as much as possible.  Cook for about 6 minutes.

Gently try to lift the lid.  If the potatoes do not stick, they are done; otherwise, cook for 1-2 minutes longer.  Turn off the waffle maker and lift the lid.  Carefully loosen the waffle with a spatula, and then use the spatula to lift and move the whole waffle to a plate.  If desired, sprinkle the top with shredded cheese and microwave for up to a minute to melt the cheese.  Serve with the catsup.  Serves 2 as a side dish, or one as a main dish.

Notes: The best way to decide how many Tater Tots to use is to lay frozen ones down on the bottom of the unheated waffle maker until it will hold no more.  Move the Tots to a bowl and allow to thaw.  Use any seasonings you like -- you can even add some finely diced onion.  If you are brave, toss the cheese with the Tots before cooking, and pray that if you cook them long enough nothing will stick!  Top your Tater Tots waffle with any sauce you like (salsa, hot sauce, etc.).

Thursday, March 17, 2016

On the Homefront: Irish Spring Table

Says Lucky, the Irish Dalmatian,
"I've come to a realization!
St. Patrick's Day's here,
And spring is quite near,
So it's time for a green celebration!"

St. Patrick's Day has arrived, and the first day of spring is just around the corner, so I decided to combine the two events into an Irish Spring celebration table!  Shades of green are suitable for both days, with cream and brown serving as accent colors.  My inspiration was the set of four Pasture Bunnies Salad Plates from Pottery Barn, which comes in four different cute bunny designs in brown and green on a cream background.

 Dark brown wooden bead placemat (from Target ages ago); green round woven placemat (from Walmart); BHG Amity Dinner Plate (from Walmart); Pasture Bunny Salad/Dessert Plate (from Pottery Barn); Martha Stewart green fern/floral napkin (from Kmart many moons ago); Pioneer Woman Cowgirl Lace Pearlized Handle Flatware in Green (from Walmart); stainless steel dessert fork; pale green goblet; dark green mug (from Target eons ago); dark brown wooden coaster (probably from Pier 1); shamrock votive holder (from Hobby Lobby years ago); shamrock napkin ring.

Bunnies (even a Dalmatian-spotted bunny!) seemed right for the season,
along with my little sheeple family and a small but brilliant green shamrock
plant (which is actually an Oxalis species, or false shamrock, and not really
a shamrock, which is a clover, or Trifolium species, if you want to get picky,
but at least the leaves are the right shape!).

A closer look at the shamrock plant.

Two pretty little shamrock plates sit in the center of the table to hold
slices of Irish soda bread.

Each place setting has its own green shamrock votive candle holder, plus
a shamrock-shaped napkin ring that I used as a decoration instead of
placing it around the napkin.

A closer look at my new green-handled flatware (plus one of my old
stainless steel dessert forks, because for some odd reason the new set
does not come with dessert forks), Martha Stewart green fern/floral
napkin from long ago, and new shamrock napkin ring.

The candle centerpiece arrangement includes Cadbury caramel eggs
in mini-cupcake liner "nests".

My new shamrock bunnies salt and pepper shakers!

A simple meal of shepherd's pie, Irish soda bread, and apple cake should be hearty enough for all appetites!  My shepherd's pie recipe is vegetarian, but it is easy enough to add ground beef, lamb, or even poultry if you like.  I linked to my favorite Irish soda bread recipe, but if you prefer yours without raisins and caraway seeds try my other recipe here.  Irish butter for the bread is surprisingly easy to find at most grocery stores, especially around St. Patrick's Day.

The Irish Apple Cake is a new recipe for me, but is apparently authentically Irish.  The original version is served with a homemade custard sauce, but I did not feel we needed the extra calories, and I have an aversion to recipes that only use part of the eggs (either whites or yolks).  I can never figure out what to do with the rest, and I hate throwing food out!  If you have no such problem, by all means make the custard sauce (it looks delicious).  I only changed the cake recipe slightly, omitting the cloves (which I dislike) and substituting double cinnamon (which I adore).  I also left off the 2 T. of sugar sprinkled on the top before baking.  Serve this cake with Irish Coffee or Irish Breakfast Tea (the latter is good at any time of the day, not just for breakfast).  I don't drink or make coffee, so I have linked to an Irish Coffee recipe but cannot tell you if it is any good!

Irish Spring Menu:

Irish Soda Bread/Irish Butter
Irish Apple Cake*
Irish Coffee or Irish Breakfast Tea

*Irish Apple Cake

3 C. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
12 T. (1 1/2 sticks) butter
3/4 C. sugar
4 large Yellow Delicious apples
2 eggs
3/4 C. milk

Grease and flour a deep 8- or 9-inch round cake pan (or use a springform pan of similar diameter).  Sift the first five ingredients together in an extra-large bowl (use one bigger than you usually use for mixing cakes to accommodate the apples).  Rub in the butter using your fingers or cut it in with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles crumbs.  Stir in the sugar.

Peel, core, and quarter the apples.  Cut them into 1/4-inch slices and then cut the slices into thirds.  Toss the apple pieces into the flour mixture and combine them thoroughly.

In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs and milk.  Pour the wet mixture into the apple mixture and stir until just combined.  The batter will be thick and chunky because of the apples.

Transfer the batter into the prepared cake pan.  Smooth the surface with a spatula.  Bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean (the top of the cake should be golden brown).  Remove from the oven and cool for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from the pan and cool completely.  Serves 12.

Note: My cake took a little over an hour to bake.  I used a uniquely shaped pan, which probably affected the baking time.


In addition to the Cadbury caramel eggs, the candy on the table includes Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Squares with White Mint Filling:

A few more bunnies are scattered about the dining room:

This little cream-colored bunny (there is also a brown version) was a
Walmart find -- he smells like chocolate!

Meet Zelda!  This little plush bunny is the likeness of a Dutch rabbit.
We had a black and white Dutch rabbit just like this when I was a child,
and we named her Zelda, for some reason, which is where I got the name.

These bunnies will hop us past St. Patrick's Day and on to Easter Sunday, where I will change this table only slightly for the new holiday.  Meanwhile, why not have a look at an Irish Spring greeting from days gone by: