Saturday, April 30, 2016

Weekend Wardrobe: Flights of Fancy Flamingo Travel Wardrobe

A Trusting Moment by Frederick Stuart Church
(from Fine Art America)

After my recent series of flamingo-related posts, it should come as no surprise that these birds would inspire me to come up with a bird-brained travel wardrobe.  This week's offering is a mere fantasy for all but the most fanatical flamingo fan, but I like to think that there are a few female fashionistas out there who would flock to this collection like birds of a feather.  Flamingo pink is combined with basic black and white plus an accent color of pale blue to create an eye-catching palette -- after all, flamingos are rather flamboyant birds!

Let's get started with the "in transit" options:

Clockwise from top left: Univibe Flamingo Lingo T-Shirt; Belle Etoile Flamingo Black and White Bangle; Dorothy Perkins Tall Black Cotton Cardigan; Flamingo Backpack; ModCloth The Fast Resort Slip-On Sneakers in Flamingos; Only Women's Royal Skinny Acid Wash Jeans in Coral.

The birds are rather subtle in this ensemble, but show up on the shirt, shoes, rather expensive bracelet, and even the backpack.

Next up is the apparel to pack, which includes a fair number of items for a trip of about a week.  Luckily the carry-on bag plus the backpack should hold everything with careful packing:

Clockwise from top left: Pink Crystal Flamingo Pendant in Sterling Silver; Banned Flamingos Bag; Cambridge 20" Hardsided Carry-On Spinner in Pink; Dorothy Perkins Pale Blue Cotton Cardigan; Chicwish Flamingo Fun Flare Print Dress; Women's Aerosoles Super Soft Slip-On in Light Blue Nubuck; Flamingo Big Shirt; Violeta by Mango Cotton Bermuda Shorts in Sky Blue; L.L. Bean Premium Washable Linen Pants in White; Steve Madden Donddi Flat Sandals in Black; ModCloth Birds of a Feather Rock Together Skirt; L.L. Bean Sleeveless Premium Double L Polo in White; Center top left: Land's End Women's Cashmere Short Sleeve Sweater in Cloud Heather; Center top right: Becksy Fabulous Flamingo Silk Twill Scarf in White; Center bottom: L.L. Bean Short-Sleeve Crewneck Tee in Strawberry Pink.

These pieces easily mix and match, and every combination can be accented by flamingos on at least one item, even if it is only the colorful purse or the simple necklace.

Oh, how I would love to meet the woman who is quirky and adventurous enough to wear this unique travel wardrobe!
             

Friday, April 29, 2016

Foodie Fridays: Lemon Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake


I love citrus flavors, and lemon desserts are my favorite sweets.  Since my obsession with bundt cakes continues, I have been looking for a good lemon bundt cake recipe, and finally found one in the May issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.  Of course I am never content to leave well enough alone, and just had to add some chocolate chips to the batter.  I also eliminated the glaze, since I don't care for icings.  Finally, I replaced some of the milk in the original recipe with lemon juice to increase the lemon flavor.  This moist, tangy cake is just what I was looking for in a lemon bundt cake, and I will be making this again, although the weather around here is starting to get a little too warm for baking!

Lemon Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

3 eggs
1 C. milk
1/2 C. vegetable oil
1/2 C. butter, melted and cooled
1 T. lemon extract or oil
3 lemons, zested and juiced
3 C. flour
2 C. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 C. chocolate chips

In a very large bowl, whisk together the first five ingredients plus the lemon zest and juice (if the juice from the lemons is less than 1/2 cup, make up the difference with more milk).  Combine the next four ingredients in another large bowl.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture in two additions, beating until smooth after each addition.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Pour into a greased, floured bundt pan.

Bake at 325 degrees for about one hour.  Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into the center.  Continue baking for up to 15 more minutes if needed.  Remove from the oven when the inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Remove the cake from the pan and cool completely.  Serves 16.
             

Thursday, April 28, 2016

This 'n That Thursdays: Flamingo Flair Living Room

From The House That Lars Built

Please forgive me while I focus on more flamingo foolishness!  I could not resist creating a living room style board using the flamingo-themed rug and pillow I found on the Company C site last week.  Along with the obvious choice of pink, I included shades of turquoise and green for the color palette.  I think this room has a distinctively bold tropical feel:

Clockwise from top left: Atwood Sofa in Berkeley Coral; Pillomatic Solid Turquoise European Linen Pillow Cover; Moe's Home Collection Redondo Glass End Table; Flamingo Lamp; Company C Fancy Flamingo Pillow; Roy Armless Chair in Blue; Flamingo Acrylic Oil Painting by Anatoli V; Uttermost Teak Wood Natural Console Cabinet; Santiago Flamingo Metal Sculpture in Antique Silver Finish; Caroness Coffee Table in Turquoise Blue; Molly Wright 14" Round Flamingo Tray; Center: Company C Fancy Flamingo Rug.

Have you had your fill of flamingos yet?  This room is certainly not for everyone, but as a festive flight of fancy it is fantastic, don't you think?
             

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wish List Wednesdays: Waterfall Necklace


Normally I prefer silver jewelry to gold, and warm-hued stones to cool tones, but something about this Waterfall Necklace (on sale for $54.99) from Soft Surroundings appeals to me.  Perhaps it is the longer length (35 inches) which allows it to be worn as one strand or two, or maybe it is the unusual shape and arrangement of the stones.  Then again, I think this necklace would be quite versatile and could be worn with so many different outfits, from casual to formal.  For whatever reason, I may just have to add this one to my (already extensive) necklace collection!
             

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Weekend Wardrobe: Mint Green and Indigo Blue Travel Wardrobe

From Click4Bargain

Last week, while driving into town to run errands, I spotted a lovely young woman walking on the side of the road dressed in quite an eye-catching ensemble of mint-green peplum jacket with dark indigo skinny jeans.  The outfit suited her lean curves and long legs perfectly, and the mint green was a wonderful complement to her cocoa-colored complexion.  This pretty lady's attire inspired the color combination for this week's travel wardrobe post, starting with the "in transit" outfit:

Clockwise from top left: Ladies Zip Peplum Blazer in Mint; Kate Spade New York 'Shawna' Sunglasses in Pale Mint; Jacqueline Rousseau Shibori Chambray ScarfAJ Faux Leather Shopping Bag in Tan; Donald J Pliner 'Dian' Leather Thong Sandal in Natural Burnished Calf; Iris and Ink Luna Printed Silk Top; Center: Boden Skinny Jeans in Indigo.

I only had a fleeting glimpse of my inspiration woman's outfit, so I do not know what top, shoes, and accessories she wore.  However, that jaguar print shirt really caught my eye with its great color combination and powerful animal pattern, so I had to go with it (I think she would approve).  The scarf is supposed to be for men, but I thought it looked just right with this ensemble.

You may have noticed that I chose leather wedge sandals for this outfit rather than more comfortable shoes.  That is because I believe this stylish woman would undoubtedly be perfectly happy, confident, and comfortable even in heels like this:

From V-Luxury

However, just looking at that ankle-breaker makes me wince with pain, so I am afraid that, on my style boards, she will have to resign herself to the more sensible options I have selected.  The wedge sandals are my compromise on heels of any sort.  Of course, she may decide to choose comfort over fashion and wear the sneakers or flats from the "what-to-pack" collection instead, stowing the sandals to wear once she arrives at her destination:


Clockwise from top left: George Double Compartment Crossbody Bag in Green; Necklush Mint Green Scarf; Chinese Porcelain Bead Necklace and Bracelet; Coldwater Creek SS Linen Camp Shirt in White; Orcival Breton-Stripe Cotton T-Shirt; Fair Indigo Organic Fair Trade Pencil Skirt in Dark Ocean; Steve Madden Klaraa Flat in Navy Leather; Topshop Knitted Tank Top in Blue; Keds Champion Women's Oxford Shoes in Brooke Green; The Blue Door Boutique Mint Ankle Pants;  Ricki's Extended Shoulder Cowl Top in Honeydew Print; Center top: Topshop Colourblock Lace Tank in Blue; Center bottom: Topshop Metallic Bandage Bralet in Mint.

I was all over the internet looking for just the right shades of mint and indigo for this wardrobe.  My most interesting find was the metallic mint green bralet, which I thought would work well as a layer under the tank tops in case the arm holes were too revealing, or with the camp shirt to add a touch of color (and of course the more daring among us might opt to wear it on its own).

A carry-on bag is a necessity for travel, and I found one in the perfect color (even though it is labelled as "turquoise", it looks more like a slightly darker shade of mint green to me):

Travelers Club Modern 20-Inch Hardside Spinner
Carry-On Luggage in Turquoise.

πŸ‘—πŸ‘—πŸ‘—πŸ‘—πŸ‘—πŸ‘—πŸ‘—πŸ‘—πŸ‘—πŸ‘—πŸ‘—πŸ‘—πŸ‘—πŸ‘—πŸ‘—πŸ‘—

I'm sure the woman who inspired this collection is much bolder than I am when it comes to fashion, but I believe she would find at least some of my choices interesting, and maybe even acceptable!
             

Friday, April 22, 2016

Current Events: Happy Earth Day!

From Earthjustice

Today is Earth Day, a good time to think about environmental problems.  I thought I would highlight just one of many such issues by focusing on the recent widespread die-off of honeybees.  Although the domesticated honeybee (Apis mellifera) is not native to the United States, it is an integral part of our agricultural success (see the poster above).  The causes of the recent die-off are thought to include parasites, pathogens, poor nutrition, and pesticides. While we may not be able to eliminate all of these problems, they can all be controlled to some extent, and almost anyone can help.

One of the major issues leading to honeybee die-off is the way crops are pollinated.  Large numbers of bee colony hives are transported long distances to pollinate crops as needed.  This causes overcrowding of bees from many colonies in one area, which facilitates transmission of parasites and pathogens and can result in colony collapse disorder.  Poor nutrition can also be a problem, because of the tendency to grow crop monocultures, giving the bees little diversity in food sources.

What can you do to help?  If possible, start your own hive!  The more isolated each bee colony is from others, the less likely it is that pests and diseases will spread.  If you know of a bee colony that has naturalized in your area, try to keep it protected, or have a local bee club remove it to a safer location rather than allowing it to be destroyed.  Anyone with a garden can help bees tremendously by avoiding the use of pesticides and planting bee-pollinated flowering plants that can give these insects a greater variety of food sources.  The plants will help not only honeybees, but native bees and butterflies as well, which are also important pollinators.  By keeping all pollinators healthy, we can keep our native plants as well as our food crops healthy, and healthy plants contribute to a healthy planet!

Taking care of pollinators is just one way we can all help to care for our planet.  One small act by many people can indeed make a difference, and I hope we all can contribute on Earth Day and every day to make a this world a safer, healthier, better place for all of its inhabitants.

Honeybee on aster flower (from Wikimedia Commons)

Foodie Fridays: Spaghetti Squash and Pasta with Chicken-Vegetable Sauce


Recently I decided it was high time I tried cooking a spaghetti squash.  I am attempting, slowly but surely, to reduce the amount of carbohydrates I eat, and I know that this squash is often used in recipes to replace pasta.  I was not so sure I was ready to abandon pasta completely, but I figured I could start by replacing half of the spaghetti with squash.

This is a spaghetti squash
(from Steamy Kitchen).

After finding an excellent post on how to cook spaghetti squash in the oven, I gave it a go.  As warned, this cucurbit was extremely hard, like a pumpkin or butternut squash, and I found it difficult to get my knife all the way through.  I ended up whacking the knife into the skin, then turning the squash over and banging the whole thing, knife side down, against the cutting board and letting the weight of the squash itself push the knife through.  I had to do this twice to get both the top and the bottom cut through, but eventually it split into two not quite even halves (next time I may have to dig out my machete for this task!).

Once the spaghetti squash is cut, it is an easy process to remove the seeds and roast the halves.  Some people prefer to roast the squash whole and remove the seeds afterward, but if you do this be sure to prick the squash well with a fork, because it can explode in the oven and if you are not careful you could end up with some nasty burns!

The vegetable-laden sauce is quick and easy, and if you prefer a vegetarian version just leave out the chicken.  Any pasta sauce will work, including homemade, but be sure to taste for seasonings as you may want to add some salt and/or pepper.  Use any vegetables you like as well.  Next time I think I will use half the amount of pasta, because the hearty sauce and spaghetti squash made this dish quite filling.  In fact, some day I may even be able to eliminate the pasta entirely from this dish!

Spaghetti Squash and Pasta with Chicken-Vegetable Sauce

1 spaghetti squash
8 oz. spaghetti (or any pasta), cooked and drained
2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, cut into short strips
1 large bell pepper (any color), cut into short strips
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 bag (5 oz.) fresh baby greens (any type)
2 C. pasta sauce (any kind)*
2 C. diced cooked chicken

Cut the spaghetti squash in half and scrape out the seeds with a spoon.  Lay the halves, cut side down, in a baking pan (mine fit into a 13x9-inch pan).  Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan by about 1/2-inch.

Roast at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes depending upon squash size.  Check on the squash after 30 minutes, pricking with a fork (if it is done it pierces easily).  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Using a fork, scrape the cooked flesh from the squash into a large bowl by running the tines crosswise rather than lengthwise in the shell.  Stir in the cooked pasta with a little olive oil until well combined.

Heat the 2 T. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes.  Stir in the bell pepper and cook for about 5 minutes more.  Add the mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes.  Stir in the greens and cook until wilted.

Reduce the heat to low and pour in the sauce.  Add the chicken and stir until everything is well combined and heated through.  Stir in the squash/pasta mixture and serve.  Serves 6-8.

*I used Classico Creamy Tomato & Roasted Garlic Sauce.
             

Thursday, April 21, 2016

This 'n That Thursdays: Flamingo Fever

From LiveAnimals.tv

I have been noticing flamingos on just about everything this spring -- apparently they are the birds of the moment!  In yesterday's post I described the flamingo table linens I bought at HomeGoods recently, but if you are a flamingo fanatic, you may want to check out some of the numerous other flamingo-themed items you could choose to create a collection for your wardrobe and home.

First up is just a partial look at the options from Modcloth:

Clockwise from top left: Mover and Holiday-Maker Dress in Flamingos; Birds of a Feather Rock Together Skirt; Flock it to Me Dress (currently out of stock); Once Smitten Dress; The Fast Resort Slip-On Sneakers in Flamingo; Never Been Better One-Piece Swimsuit in Flamingos.

Anthropologie has a variety of flamingo-themed items:

Clockwise from top left: Wild Flamingo Top; Flamingo Infinity Scarf; Pink Flamingos iPhone 6 Case; Cozy Comfort Swaddling Blanket; Luau Cake Topper.

The Company Store has an abundance of flamingos, for home dΓ©cor and also as apparel and accessories, including a wearable towel!

Clockwise from top left: Flamingo Pillow Cover; Flamingo Hooded Towel; Flamingo Coast Summer Coir Doormat; Flamingo Coast Shower Curtain; Flamingo Nautical Wall Hook; Flamingo Printed Cotton Poplin Pajama Set; Flamingos Printed Summer Tote.

Company C offers these two stunning selections:

Left: Fancy Flamingo Rug; Right: Fancy Flamingo Pillow.

There's quite a flock of fabulous flamingo-themed items at Macy's, including some for men!  Here are just a few:

Clockwise from top left: Carter's Toddler Girl's Two-Piece Flamingo Tank Top & Shorts Set (just one of many flamingo design apparel pieces for young girls); Charter Club Flamingo Print Classic Cardigan; Vans Women's Camden Deluxe Flamingo Lace-Up Sneakers; Whim by Martha Stewart Collection Flamingo Beach Towel; Retrofit Men's Flamingo Graphic-Print Short-Sleeve Shirt; Maui and Sons Men's Flamingo Fun Hat.

World Market is also chock-full of flamingos, including the following:

Clockwise from top left: Ceramic Flamingo Cookie Jar; Flamingo 10 Bulb String Lights; Tall Iced Tea Flamingo Glasses (set of 4); Pink Flamingo Lawn Ornaments (2 pack); Flamingo Tin Tray; Center: Navy and Peach Flamingo Kitchen Towel.

Pottery Barn has fallen in with the flamingo fascination as well:

Clockwise from top left: Flamingo Ultimate Cosmetic Bag; Flamingo Pendulum Clock; Fire and Crème Cakes Stand and Centerpiece; Flamingo Printed Beach Towel; Flamingo Inflatable Pool; Coco Flamingo Sheet Set; Watercolor Flamingo Framed Print; Center: Flamingo Embroidery Anywhere Chair.

Even Target has gotten in on the avian action:

Clockwise from top left: Flamingo Print Tote Handbag; Merona Men's Navy Flamingo Tie; Journee Collection Sterling Silver Flamingo Stud Earrings; Poppy & Fritz Pattern Sheet Set in Pink; Pillowfort Column Table Lamp in Moonlight Jade; Xhilaration Girl's Blue Flamingo Tank Top.

Okay, even though there is a whole lot more out there, I think I've overwhelmed you enough with flamingos.  If you like these colorful birds, you may want to pick up one or two of the items, but if you are obsessed, try to restrain yourself from purchasing all of them!  Sometimes it is indeed possible to have too many flamingos:

From Wikipedia
           

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wish List Wednesdays: Kate Spade Strut Your Stuff Table Linens

Strut Your Stuff Table Runner

Lately I have had birds on the brain when it comes to tableware.  I described the Pier 1 Sandpiper Dinnerware I discovered last week, and this week I have to mention the Kate Spade Strut Your Stuff table runner and napkins I found at HomeGoods recently.  A bit of searching on the internet turned up more sources for these linens, although the complete set is not available from any one place.  The table runner is available for $35 from Von Maur (but only if you cannot find it at HomeGoods where it was half the price).  The napkins can be purchased from Kate Spade for $8 each (also less expensive if you can find them at HomeGoods), and the placemats ($10 each) are sold at the Kate Spade as well as the Von Maur site (our HomeGoods store did not have these).  There is definitely a summery coastal birds table setting in my near future!

Strut Your Stuff Napkins

Strut Your Stuff Placemat
             

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Weekend Wardrobe: Citrus Orange and Olive Green 4x4 Wardrobe

Left: Sky HD Wallpaper; Center: Cosmic Aquarium; Right: Wildscreen Arkive.

I think the main reason I enjoy doing wardrobe style boards, in spite of the fact that I am not that interested in fashion, is because I love to play with color.  I remember hearing a long time ago that three of the most popular hobbies are gardening, tropical fish keeping, and birdwatching, all because the subjects can be so colorful (and I am a casual participant in all three activities!).  As humans we depend a lot upon our visual color sense, and are blessed with a broad color spectrum perception, so it is only natural to take pleasure in this ability.


I especially like coming up with unusual color combinations, so for this week's style board I decided to pair a light citrusy orange color with a shade of olive often called "military green".  I tried to avoid orange shades that were too red, pink, yellow, or dark, which is surprisingly difficult.  The neutral colors I added are white and silvery grey, and again with the latter I tried to stay with the lighter hues of a true grey.  I thought these colors went together rather well, much to my surprise.  Take a look at the core 4x4 collection and see what you think:

Top row: Land's End Women's Shaped Cotton Crew Neck T-Shirt in Soft Tangelo Stripe; L'Agence Silk Pleated BlouseLoro Piana Nicholas Cropped Straight-Leg Jeans; Suzanne Grae Pintuck Print Shirt in Bright Orange.

Second row: Topshop Shawl Collar Sleeveless Jacket in Dark Khaki; L.L. Bean Women's Straight-Leg Washed Chinos in Dark Cedar; NLST Classic Brushed Cotton and Cashmere-Blend T-Shirt in Army Green; Country Store Jeweled Sunflower Top.

Third row: L.L. Bean Pima Cotton Pin-Tucked Open Cardigan in White; L.L. Bean Women's V-Neck Carefree Unshrinkable Tee in White; Land's End Women's Supima Turtleneck in White; Coldwater Creek CottonLuxe Ankle Pants in White.

Bottom row: River Island Black Embellished Vest; L.L. Bean Women's Straight-Leg 1912 Jeans in Washed Gray; Uniqlo Women Supima Cotton Crew Neck Short Sleeve T in Gray; Topshop V-Neck Rib Border Crew Jumper in Grey Marl.

Since I was on a roll, I decided to continue with a 4x4 expansion wardrobe for these colors:

Top row: Valentino Cropped Cashmere Sweater; H&M Sleeveless Viscose Blouse in Khaki Green; Coldwater Creek Drape-Neck Shell in White; Orvis Sunflower-Print Tee.

Second row: Romwe Women Turtleneck Long Grey Sweater Dress; Guy Laroche Vintage Classic Pencil Skirt; Esther & Miriam Long Grey Skirt; Just for You Short Dress in Military Green.

Third row: J. Crew Stretch Cotton Pencil Skirt in Vanilla White; L.L. Bean Women's Twill Easy Stretch Shorts in Flint; Sierra Trading Post Mountain Hardwear Mirada Cargo Shorts in Mosstone; Theory Wool Trousers.

Bottom row: Nina Blazer in Military Green; Belford Tangerine Cotton Button-Cuff Sweater; J. Crew Cambridge Cable V-Neck Sweater in Heather Graphite; 81 Hours Loop Reversible Wool Cardigan.

My favorite find is the reversible wool cardigan in the bottom right corner.  You can choose either the orange side or the white one, and this sweater can be worn on its own or layered over another top -- talk about versatile!

The last style board shows the shoes and accessories I thought would complement this collection of apparel nicely:

Top row: Elizabeth Koh Olive Green Knit Scarf; Majana Scarf "Rita - Orange, Olive Green, Beige, Grey"Tory Burch Perry Tote in Soft Silver/Iceberg; Women's Hadaki Leather Tania Crossbody Handbag in Orange.

Second row: Dr. Scholl's Friendly Memory Foam Flat in Silver; Hush Puppies Women's Cora Orange Loafer; Softspots Trinidad Sandal in White; Marc Fisher LTD Women's 'Yale' Chelsea Boot in Olive Suede.

Third row: Fair Trade Bead Green & Mustard Cube Kazari Necklace; Silver Plated Contemporary Wired Square Collar Fashion Necklace; Stainless Steel 7 Rows Sun Color Crystal Bangle Bracelet; Scottish Shetland Sterling Silver Puffin Bird Brooch.

Bottom row: Malibu Slip-On Shoes in Light Grey; Sterling Silver Sunflower Cuff Bracelet; Mango Flowy Trench in Olive Green; J. Crew Wool Melton Belted Zip Trench Coat in Heather Dove.

The wardrobe is a bit biased on the grey/silver color option, but grey is a versatile color and rather popular right now.  I had to include the sunflower bracelet because I had a bit of a sunflower theme going, and the puffin brooch is just for fun, because the puffin is my favorite bird.

Whoosh!  That was a really long post with a lot of links.  Next time I do something this ambitious I will probably divide it up into several posts.  And there will be more fashion style boards coming, as I am having a lot of fun with my newfound way to play with colors!
             

Friday, April 15, 2016

Foodie Fridays: Twice Baked Sweet Potato and Egg Ramekin


Our new hen Dixie has been relentless in supplying us with an egg a day, so I have been scrambling (!) to find egg recipes to use them up.  I made a frittata a couple of days ago, and I also found a recipe for Twice-Baked Sweet Potato Egg Boats that sounded tasty.  I discovered that the baked sweet potato skin was not very sturdy, so I decided to simply put the sweet potato mixture from the baked potato into a ramekin instead of back into the skin.  This method also allowed me to use all of the mixture, which does not always fit back into the shell, and also prevented the egg from spilling out the sides of the potato and onto the baking sheet.  This dish is great for any meal, even breakfast.  Add some buttered toast at breakfast, and a green vegetable or salad with lunch or a light dinner, and enjoy!

Twice Baked Sweet Potato and Egg Ramekin

1 large sweet potato
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. chipotle in adobo sauce (or to taste)
salt to taste
1 T. light cream (optional)
1 egg
chopped cilantro (optional)

Poke the sweet potato several times with a fork and rub with oil.  Place on a small foil-lined baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for about one hour, or until soft.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.

Place the butter in a small microwaveable dish and microwave on HIGH for about 30 seconds until melted.  Stir in the cumin, chili powder, sugar, and chipotle.  Add salt to taste.

Scoop out the potato flesh.  Combine the sweet potato flesh with the butter mixture, plus the cream if desired.  Mound the mixture into a greased ramekin, making a deep well in the center.  Crack the egg into the well, season to taste, and top with a dab of butter.

Place the ramekin on the baking sheet and return the pan to the 400-degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the egg is opaque and cooked to your liking (I prefer no runny yolk so I cooked mine for 25 minutes).  Remove from the oven and serve immediately, garnished with cilantro if desired.  Serves 1.

Notes: I did not use the cream and did not feel that I needed it.  The amount of any or all seasonings can be adjusted to your own tastes.

I served the potato with buttered toast, and found that mounded spoonfuls of the potato/egg mixture on top of the toast made a delicious topping.

You can bake the sweet potato ahead of time and refrigerate until needed, bringing it to room temperature before combining with the butter mixture and reheating.  If you have leftover mashed sweet potatoes, they would work as well.

For just one serving, I used my toaster oven instead of the big oven so as not to waste energy.
             

Thursday, April 14, 2016

This 'n That Thursdays: Two Movies Worth Watching

From Heathens and Thieves

At the beginning of the month Dish Network, our satellite television provider, gave us temporary access to the Starz movie channels, a promotional gimmick they use periodically to try to encourage us to subscribe to more channels (sorry Dish, you've gotten far too expensive and it won't work!).  I got to see a couple of new movies that I really enjoyed, one of which I have been wanting to see and the other that I had never heard of before.  If you get the chance to see either or both, I highly recommend them.

From Heathens and Thieves

I am not a big fan of westerns, and there are only a few that I would recommend.  I had not intended to view "Heathens and Thieves" (2012), but I was flipping through channels while waiting for a different movie to start, and found it interesting enough to stop and watch it for a while.  I ended up skipping my original choice entirely so that I could see this one to the end, and I was not disappointed.  Unlike your typical rather violent, shoot-'em-up, hang-'em-high action western, this movie, while still full of action, spends a lot of time focusing on character development.  As I've mentioned before, I love character-driven movies (as opposed to plot-driven films).  The best aspect of this movie is that all of the main characters are complex and flawed, and even the worst among them has just enough redeeming character traits to make it hard to decide who, if anyone, is the hero and who is the villain in this movie.

"Heathens and Thieves" reminded me a lot of one of the few westerns I truly enjoy called "The Big Country" (1958), starring Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, and a host of other well-known actors.  The biggest difference is that in the latter movie, the good guy (Gregory Peck) was obvious, as was the heroine (Jean Simmons).  By the end of "Heathens and Thieves" I was still not convinced that anyone was a hero/heroine, and perhaps that was exactly the point.  In real life everyone has their flaws and in certain situations, such as the one in this movie, sometimes nobody comes out smelling like a rose.  If you don't mind some violence and especially if you are a fan of westerns, take a look at this movie, provided you can find it (which could be difficult as it seems to be an independent production with a limited distribution). 


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From Polygon

"Inside Out" (2015) is a very popular animated Disney film from last year that I have been wanting to watch for a while (and have mentioned in a previous post), so I was glad to see that it was showing on one of the Starz channels.  I enjoyed this movie as well.  It is certainly more of a children's film, but it is a lot of fun to watch.  It also covers a topic that every child will relate to at some point in their lives, namely that we all have to eventually face the fact that life is ever-changing, and it will not always be what we want or expect.  It is refreshing to see a Disney movie heroine who is not a princess (or soon to become one by marriage), but just a typical young girl living a life to which almost any child can relate.  This is an excellent movie for the whole family. 


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(Oh, and just FYI, should you ever come across a movie entitled "Muck" (2015) while channel surfing, click away from it as fast as you can.  Trust me, the title is a perfect descriptor for the entire movie, and I wish I could get back those few minutes I wasted watching this stinker! )
             

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Current Events: Inky's Great Escape


Those folks down under have the most interesting animals!  Last week it was all about Derek, the orphaned baby wombat in Tasmania.  This week it was revealed that a clever octopus named Inky escaped from the National Aquarium of New Zealand by squeezing through a gap in his aquarium cover and crawling into an open drain pipe, which empties out into the nearby Hawke's Bay.  Staff at the Aquarium said that they will not attempt to recapture him, so the intrepid Inky has successfully returned to his home in the briny deep, where he will hopefully live a long life as a free-roaming cephalopod.  Good luck to you, Inky!



Wish List Wednesdays: Pier 1 Sandpiper Dinnerware


I am not really very fond of the coast.  I don't care for heat, sand, saltwater, or unrelenting sunshine, and so often beaches are terribly overcrowded.  I do, however, think that at certain times the coast can be quite lovely, especially on an overcast day when the weather is cool and there are fewer people around.  Long ago I was involved in a research project on the Maryland coast in the spring, and I loved walking along the beach early in the morning to get to my research site.  I remember seeing the cutest little sandpipers, and the Sandpiper Dinnerware ($7.95-$8.95 per piece) from Pier 1 reminds me so much of those little birds.  There is even a Sandpiper Painted Wine Glass ($9.95 each) available.  Wouldn't these dishes be perfect for a beach home?  The pieces are sold individually rather than as a set, so the cost can add up, but you could just buy dinner or salad plates as an accent with plainer dinnerware and still bring a touch of the sea to your table no matter where you live!

           

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Weekend Wardrobe: Spring/Summer Travel Wardrobe

From STYLEBOP

My obsession with wardrobe style boards continues, so I will be adding a new blog post every weekend (until I lose interest) focusing on this topic.  This week I put together a travel wardrobe based on the tee shirt above.  I love the colorful pastel bird design on this top, so even though the price is ridiculous I decided to use it as my inspiration.  Yellow, blue, pink and white on a pale blush background provide the color palette.  The Vivienne Files often features travel wardrobe style boards, broken down into what to wear while in transit and what to pack, so I did the same.  I often create interior design style boards by selecting items from just one source, so I decided to have fun and challenge myself by doing the same here, selecting only apparel and accessories from STYLEBOP.  Do try to ignore the prices, as they are all pretty outrageous (I never said this would be an affordable wardrobe!).

Let's start with the clothes that will be worn while in transit:

Clockwise from top left: Missoni Textured Knit Shell; Agnona Cashmere Scarf; Victoria Beckham Leather City Bag; Michael Kors Collection Cashmere Cardigan; Carolina Bucci Gold-Plated Twister Bracelet in Yellow; Superga 2750 Cotu Classic Sneakers; Tara Jarmon Culottes.

And now for the items to pack:

Clockwise from top left: Paul & Joe Pineapple Pendant Necklace; Theory One Button Blazer in Admiral Crepe; Velvet Cotton T-Shirt; Giambattista Valli BouclΓ© Skirt; Closed Cotton T-Shirt; Theory Slim Straight Leg Trousers; Repetto Cendrillon Leather Ballerinas; Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini Striped Dress; Center: Emilio Pucci Printed Cotton T-Shirt.

I am particularly taken with the bouclΓ© skirt in this collection for some reason, even though I almost never wear skirts (the picture makes it look short, but it hits just above the knee, which I consider to be a comfortable length).  If you are worried that the blazer would get too wrinkled when packed, simply pack the blue cardigan and wear the blazer in transit.  By the way, for some great travel packing tips check out the post here.

And speaking of packing, here is a bonus find from STYLEBOP as a luggage option:

Karl Lagerfeld Karl Around the World Weekender

Even though the bag is black, the colorful embellishments complement the clothes nicely!

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This would be a great wardrobe for a long weekend at a coastal location.  While this is not my favored color palette and I am not especially fond of the coast, I would be happy in these clothes, and would even consider them for a trip to the desert southwest (New Mexico is my favorite travel destination).  I think it's time to start planning a trip!
             

Friday, April 8, 2016

Foodie Fridays: Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry


Remember the tikka masala sauce from last week's post?  It makes an excellent curry when combined with roasted cauliflower and chickpeas!  Once you have the sauce made, it keeps well in the refrigerator if you are not ready to make a curry yet.  Just set it out at room temperature while you are roasting the cauliflower mixture, and it will be ready to stir in as soon as the roasted vegetables come out of the oven.

Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
2 cans (15 oz. each) chickpeas, drained and rinsed*
3 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Tikka Masala Sauce (about 3 cups)

Combine the vegetables and chickpeas in a large baking pan (about 10x15 inches).  Toss with the olive oil to coat and season with salt and pepper.  Roast at 425 degrees for 40-45 minutes, tossing a couple of times during roasting (be careful not to overcook the chickpeas).

Remove the hot pan from the oven and stir in the tikka masala sauce until the vegetable mixture is completely coated and the sauce is heated through.  (If you are using refrigerated sauce instead of freshly made, you may need to thin it with a few tablespoons of water while stirring it into the roasted vegetables.)  Serve immediately over rice, or even quinoa or couscous.  This curry is also good on its own, with no accompanying starch (as in the photo above, served with a bit of leftover tzatziki).  Serves 6.