Saturday, August 30, 2008

Recipe - Fried Rice with Ham and Peas

Fried Rice

This recipe is very tasty and comes together quickly. Cook the rice earlier in the day or save some from a dinner earlier in the week. Do all the chopping and portion the ingredients before heating the pan to avoid burning the eggs or garlic while you're busy prepping the next step. The husband and I made a meal of just this. To feed four, add egg drop soup and frozen crab rangoon from the grocery.

Fried Rice

2 large eggs, lightly beaten with 1 Tablespoon water
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, separated
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
3-4 cups cooked long grain white rice
5 slices deli ham, cut into thin strips
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
2 Tablespoons white or rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon soy sauce

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon of the vegetable oil over medium heat. When hot, add egg and cook without stirring until the egg is set on top and golden on the bottom.

Fried Rice

Remove egg from pan and slice into thin strips. Reserve to the side. Add remaining 1 Tablespoon oil to skillet. When hot, add garlic and scallions. Cook, stirring frequently, about 1 minute.

Day 347

Add the sliced ham and rice to pan, cook, stirring often, until hot, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar, soy sauce, reserved egg strips, and peas. Stir until heated through and serve immediately.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Gifts - MOMA Design Store

I love getting the MOMA Design Store Catalog. It features everyday things elevated to clever and attractive gift-worthy items. Here are a few of my favorites from the most recent catalog.

Riki Desk Clock, retro, modern, and orange - all at the same time.

Distinct Patterned Glasses, these come in a tall and short version.

Double Walled Bottle. To know me is to know my love of clear glass, especially in decanter or pitcher form.

Index Chopping Boards, it's what happens when you cross a filing cabinet with cutting boards.

Ghost Clock, elegance made nearly invisible.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wednesday World Travel - St. Petersburg, Russia

image from Flickr member wsmith

St. Petersburg is a truly remarkable city. It was only founded in 1703, but has managed to cram quite a bit of history in during the past 300 and some years. It was founded by Tsar Peter I, and he had some definite plans to make it a modern city.

image from Wikipedia

One of the most famous landmarks in the city is the Hermitage. It encompasses several historic buildings, most notably the Winter Palace.

image from Flickr member smacss

Visitors can explore the state rooms for the Imperial Court of the Winter Palace. These rooms, though extravagantly decorated, were actually toned down during a restoration after a fire in the 1800's.

image from Flickr member smacss

There are over 350 rooms of exhibits in the Hermitage. Even with all that space, only a portion of the huge collection can be displayed at any given time. Visitors can browse through antiquities, prehistoric art, Russian state treasures, early European art, and modern European art. The Modern art collection boasts some of the most famous painting by Picasso, Matisse, and more.

image from Wikipedia

Head to the Peterhof neighborhood to visit the incredible gardens built by Peter the Great. After a visit to Versailles, he was determined to have gardens as good or better and these are the result.

image from Flickr member daneen_vol

Another impressive destination in the city is St. Isaac's Cathedral. It goes by many different names, but it is unmistakable in person.

The interior of the Cathedral is decorated entirely with mosaics. Over 30 artists contributed to the effort of covering over 7,000 square feet in mosaics.

image from Angleterre Hotel

Luckily, the Angleterre Hotel is very close to St. Isaac's Cathedral. It's a rather modern hotel, but looks lovely and comfortable.

image from Angleterre Hotel

The hotel is also home to the famous Caviar Bar. Dining there is definitely a reason to get dressed up.

Take your pick from either outfit. No bag should be necessary unless plans are made to smuggle one last portion of caviar to enjoy in the room.

image from Angleterre Hotel

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dress Up - I Want a New Cocktail Dress

I am in need of a cocktail dress for a function in October. I already own several classic styles I could still wear, but the women in my family have a looonnnggg tradition of wanting something 'new' for every event. I am having a terrible time finding anything 'new' that I like, though. It seems every dress for fall means to instill nostalgic longing for the 1980's, or possibly induce epileptic seizures, or both. I did manage to find a few so far that are classy and shouldn't leave flapping bodies in their wake.

This navy wrap dress would be flattering on anyone and the beautiful structured neckline updates a classic silhouette. It would be a great backdrop to a lovely statement necklace like this or this.

Didn't I just denounce crazy patterns? I lied a little since this pattern is great. I have it on good authority that the one shoulder look is coming back, too. This dress would bring out the inner modern goddess in any woman.

Hello vintage glamour and structure. I'd have to get out the spanx to look good in this one, but it is lovely all the same.

The sweetheart neckline and waist detailing along with the vibrant color make this a power dress. I love the brilliant magenta color, but it also comes in black for a more demure look.

I'm off to have a look in some local shops this afternoon. Perhaps I'll come across one of these to try on, or perhaps I'll go in another direction completely. Or maybe I'll have a melt-down in the special occasion department and cry out 'What kind of cruel world do we live in that someone thought to bring this into being?!?!'

Monday, August 25, 2008

Parties - Very Special Back-To-School Dinner

Day 344

Today is my nephew's first day at a new school. To celebrate, we had a 'very special' dinner for him on Saturday night. I cooked his favorite foods (kid food is SO easy!) and went a little crazy decorating the table with school supplies.

Back to school dinner centerpiece

Back to school dinner centerpiece

First, I made a tablecloth of sorts by taping together blank pages from various pads of paper. A few black and white composition books form the base for the centerpiece of school supplies displayed in glasses or paper-covered cans. I also threw in a few pages of crumbled notebook paper just for fun.

Hanging airplanes

I also whipped up a few paper airplanes and hung them from the chandelier with clear thread so they looked frozen mid-throw.

Back to school dinner menu

The menu could not have been easier. Grilled hot dogs, fries from the oven, and a quick salad made with canned corn and roasted red peppers.

Back to school dinner

To drink, I had chocolate milk for the underage crowd while the grown-ups enjoyed lime and lagers.

Back to school dessert

Homemade plum compote with vanilla ice cream and cinnamon graham crackers made the perfect dessert. All told, this special dinner to celebrate the start of a new school year cost under $25 dollars for decorations and food. As an added bonus, all the decoration went home with the student to build up a stash of extra school supplies.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Home Style - Fun Visual Quiz

Like quizzes? Here's a fun one from Just click the images you like best. It will spit out a design type based on your choices. I'm classic chic, apparently. :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Home Style - Pot Holder Love

Continuing the theme of over-worked and over-looked household items, consider the humble pot holder. Its only job is to protect hands and sometimes a table or counter from hot pots and pans, so it is easily forgotten the rest of the time. Unfortunately, that means most pot holders look boring, utilitarian, and ugly. I was beginning to think I was crazy for wanting an attractive pot holder. Luckily, a quick search over at Etsy proved at least a few other people like their hands protected from burns by something lovelier than this or this.

Blue pot holders from Etsy seller lmkquilts

Wednesday World Travel - Asheville, NC

image from Flickr member zen

Ah, the mountains of North Carolina. Head to Asheville to be surrounded by the beautiful mountains and take advantage of the bustling downtown area. Of course, most people see the Biltmore while visiting Asheville, but there are plenty of other options.

image from Flickr member deritastudio

Head downtown in the morning before it gets too busy. Around every corner is an adorable shop or cafe. It's a lovely area for a stroll and to people watch.

image from Flickr member lumierefl

Stop in to the Grove Arcade to see the gorgeous architecture and visit one of the oldest indoor markets.

images from Bier Garden

Enjoy lunch (and maybe a pint or two) at the Bier Garden. They have a huge selection of beer, so there's sure to be some you've never heard of before.

Spend the afternoon at the Folk Art Center. You can see the best of traditional woodcarving, textiles, furniture, basketry, pottery, dolls, and other crafts of Southern Appalachia, dating from 1855 to the late 20th century. They also have daily craft demonstrations.

image from my trip in 2006

Or, if too tired, or full from lunchtime pints, spend the afternoon reading on the private porch of the Serenity Suite at the Cedar Crest Inn.

image from my trip in 2006

Or maybe a nap on the soft bed in front of a fire in the luxurious suite instead?

image from Vincenzo's

Head for dinner at Vincenzo's for an Italian feast. Have dinner in the restaurant upstairs and then enjoy a drink and live music downstairs in the bistro. Make sure not to miss the beef carpaccio. They also have a pretty large selection of wines by the glass, so ask the server for a few recommendations.

This trip calls for a pretty, soft and romantic outfit. Pale pinks and browns with shots of hot pinks would do just fine.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Home Style - A Pretty Pantry

Pantries are one of the most necessary and hardest working parts of a home. Without them, precious cabinet space would have to be used for non-perishable food items. They also take a lot of abuse: shelves laden down with cans, spills, scrapes, ancient cereal boxes hidden in a dark corner. It's an area of the house most people look at every day, yet most people don't ever think about how it looks. So, this past weekend I thought, wouldn't it be nice to have a pretty pantry that is neat and well-organized? The picture below is what it looked like before the makeover.


Unfortunately, the picture above doesn't capture the worst. I started by removing everything from the pantry, including the shelves, so I could really look at it. Our pantry had been thoroughly abused in our home's 25 year history. It's walls had never been painted, the shelves were covered in several layers of truly horrible vinyl shelf paper, the entire back wall was covered in stains from long-forgotten spills. I am also embarrassed to admit, upon closer inspection, dark spots where the wall meets the ceiling were not stains as initially suspected. They were dead bug carcasses. DEAD BUGS. I shudder thinking about it even now. I had to hoist myself on a ladder while I scraped their bodies out with a plastic knife, raining various dead bug parts down on myself.

After that little episode, I applied a coat of high hiding latex primer to the walls to cover up the stains. Then two coats of creamy white paint to match the newly painted doors and trim. I then gave some thought to the shelves. I could have added another layer of adhesive shelf paper. However, we had done that when we moved in and I was never very happy with it. I also considered covering them with brown butcher's paper, but that seemed a little boring. I finally decided to use fabric, specifically a great vintage sheet I picked up a couple of months ago.

Day 337

Covering a shelf is very straightforward. The only tools needed are a pair of scissors, a staple gun, and light duty staples.

Pantry makeover

Lay the fabric face down on a flat work surface. Lay the shelf face down on top of the fabric. Put an anchor staple in the middle of all sides. This helps everything stay straight as you work. Work around the edges, stapling about every 2 inches, pulling the fabric taut. Fold the fabric under at the corners and staple down.

Day 338

After covering all the shelves, I reinstalled them in the pantry. Much prettier!

Pantry reorganized

Here's the finished project. Since the fabric on the shelves isn't forgiving to spills, I put anything that might possibly spill or leave a mark in various baskets. This should prevent the fabric from getting soiled. I also grouped like items together so it's easy to find everything at a glance. My large roasting pan, which only gets used twice a year for turkey, holds all baking supplies. One basket keeps packets of spice rubs corralled, another holds small bags of dried fruit and nuts. A long skinny basket holds instant drink mixes. In all, it was an easy project that required only medium effort and now the husband and I get a pretty sight instead of an eyesore when we open the pantry doors.