Monday, September 29, 2008

Dress Up - Dresses at Banana Republic on sale

Banana Republic is having a pretty big sale right now. Plus, it's not all old summer stuff. There seems to be plenty of fall items that could be worn right now. I'm particularly fond of the four below. The first reminds me of my lust to acquire a plum colored bag, too.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Recipe - Homemade Vinaigrette

Homemade vinaigrette

I'm always amazed at the huge selection of bottled salad dressings at the grocery store because making it at home is so easy and economical. A basic vinaigrette recipe can be easily adapted to suit any salad and even creamy dressings like blue cheese or ranch can be made with very little effort. Plus, they can be changed to suit personal preferences and they just plain taste better.

Below is my standard vinaigrette recipe, but the technique for making it is really the most important part. Feel free to experiment with different vinegars and oils, or try citrus in place of the vinegar. Even if you don't like mustard, though, do not exclude it from the dressing. It's flavor is very subtle in the dressing, and it helps to bind the oil and vinegar together. As long as the proportions are right and the few steps are properly executed, all your homemade dressings will be delicious.

I've added some sun-dried tomato to my basic recipe, to show how easily other flavors can be incorporated. Try adding freshly minced garlic, olives, any finely chopped herbs, or a little minced onion. The proportions below will make enough dressing for 2 large servings of salad, or about 1/2 head of lettuce.

Homemade vinaigrette

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon finely minced sun-dried tomato
salt and pepper to taste

Homemade vinaigrette

Combine all ingredients EXCEPT oil, in a medium bowl. Using a wire whisk, combine thoroughly.

Homemade vinaigrette

While whisking the vinegar and Dijon mixture, SLOWLY drizzle in the olive oil in a steady stream. Continue to whisk until all the oil has been incorporated into the dressing. If not serving immediately, some of the oil may separate and float to the top of the dressing. Just give it a few hits with the whisk to recombine.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wednesday World Travel - Rose Hall Resort, Jamaica

Jamaica 2008

Last week, my husband and two of our friends traveled to Jamaica for some much needed rest and relaxation. We'd been watching the weather a little nervously, but no major storms developed to interrupt the trip. After our short flight, we arrived at Rose Hall Resort in Montego Bay. It's a lovely mid-size resort just a short drive from the airport in Montego Bay. Since this is considered the 'off' season, the resort was only about 1/3 full. That meant no scrambling for beach chairs, easy dinner reservations, and no lines for the water slide.

Jamaica 2008

Our room had a great view of the golf course, the ocean, and some ruins.

Jamaica 2008

The room was well-appointed with tile floors, a granite sink, good bathroom lighting, a flat screen TV, and as a really nice touch, a clock radio that included an Ipod dock. It also had the most comfortable hotel bed EVER.

Jamaica 2008

The pool area includes a lazy river, several waterfalls, a set of 3 mini water slides, and a large water slide. It also has a 'beachy' area for the kids and a swim-up bar. Strangely, the children's area and the bar are right next to each other, though.

Jamaica 2008

The beach is quite nice, wide and sandy. It's situated in a little cove, so the waves are gentle with NO seaweed at all. It's separated into 2 areas, one for swimming and one for non-motorized water sports. The husband took out a kayak one day. They also offer snorkel rental, wind-surfing, and small catamarans with free lessons. My only complaint concerning the beach is that the music was so loud one day that I could not even drown it out with my head phones on. It was fixed the second day and returned to a normal level.

Jamaica 2008

The buffet restaurant was only OK during our stay. Breakfast was great (smoked salmon and fresh pineapple every morning!), but the 2 dinners we ate were pretty disastrous. They didn't offer many choices, in fact 2 cooking stations that were open for breakfast were closed for dinner. What was offered tended to be either over-cooked or cold. However, the 2 other dinner restaurants on site almost made up from the buffet dinners. The dinners we had at the Three Palms and Luna Di Mare were by far the best meals I have ever eaten at an all-inclusive resort.

Jamaica 2008

That about wraps it up. We had three full days at the resort, and none of us thought it was enough time. Another day would have been great just to enjoy the resort more, and another day or two for excursions. If you want exciting nightlife or fine dining the entire time, Rose Hall's probably not the resort for you. I'd recommend the resort for any type of family gathering - during our stay, there were 3 reunions, 5 weddings, and a 50th birthday trip. We had a great time, though, and I would LOVE to go back anytime.

Jamaica 2008

Jamaica 2008

Jamaica 2008

Jamaica 2008

Jamaica 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dress Up - Fall Jewelry from J Crew

They might not have the largest selection, but J Crew has some swoon-worthy pieces of jewelry just in time for fall.

Home Style - Maura Daniel Lighting

I'm trying to settle in to normal life after my vacation, so just a quick post today of some fabulous lighting from Maura Daniel.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Recipe - A Little Chocolate Cake

After my viewing of Chocolat yesterday, I wanted to whip up something chocolatey. I had some buttermilk in the fridge that needed to be used up, so I used that as a starting point. A search at epicurious, though, turned up only layer and sheet cakes. I just wanted a little cake, nothing fancy, and nothing as big as a sheet cake. So, I adapted the chocolate cake recipe on the side of the Hershey's Cocoa package. It was for a layer cake, as well, so I reduced the ingredients and substituted buttermilk for plain milk. I was pretty impressed with the results. The cake is dense and moist, no icing or glaze necessary, though a dollop of sweetened whipped cream would be good. The batter also came together very quickly, and you only have to dirty one bowl.

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour one 9 inch round cake pan.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients, mixing well. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer set to medium for 2 minutes. Add boiling water and mix thoroughly. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

This is the last post for the week as I leave tomorrow for a real Wednesday World Travel. Assuming good weather, I'll have pictures and a full report next week. If the weather doesn't cooperate, I'll have several book reviews to post. :)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Movie Love - Chocolat

Occasionally, when I can no longer deny that I will be traveling via airplane in the very near future, I find myself irresistibly drawn to do something specific. The something changes every time, though, and I always give in because I'm irrationally afraid I won't get the chance to do it again. You know, in case the plane goes down in a fiery blaze. Or veers off the runway. Or crashes in the ocean and we all survive, only to be feasted on by sharks. Or I have a total meltdown in the airport and end up committed somewhere.

Once, it was an overwhelming desire to read the latest Harry Potter book. I was already in the airport when it struck and paid a RIDICULOUS amount for it, but I wanted to at least have started it... just in case. When we flew to Scotland last year, it was to eat a Bojangle's cajun filet biscuit, seasoned fries, and wash them down with an enormous sweet tea. Now, in less than 48 hours, I have to fly on a plane, and before it happens, I am feeling the need to watch Chocolat one more time.

The movie is so charming, but for me, it's really just about her...

and him...

with some of this thrown in.

I also adore her fantastic outfits, the assault with a frying pan, and her hair cut. If I had hair that would behave at all, this is the hair cut I would have for eternity. Unfortunately, if I cut it this short, I would look more like this than the lovely Vianne in the movie. So, I am off to start some popcorn, power up the DVD player, and settle in for an enjoyable afternoon with the residents of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes... just in case.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Home Style - Jeffers Design Group Living Rooms

This morning I am feeling restless. Usually when I feel this way, it means something is about to get redecorated in a big way. I'm keeping my nephew all weekend, though, and somehow I doubt he'll appreciate being my wall-paper stripper/painter/cleaner/color-coordinating little helper. So, I'm trying to scratch the itch by looking at these lovely living rooms from Jeffers Design Group instead.

all images from Jeffers Design Group

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dress Up - Statement Bracelets from Etsy

I sometimes feel sorry for bracelets. They are the most overlooked of jewelry accessories and usually end up as matched afterthoughts to other, more important, pieces. Here is a small selection of bracelets from over at Etsy that deserve to stand on their own.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wednesday World Travel - Chicago

image from Flickr member west of the sound

One of my very best friends is heading to Chicago for a week-long visit. Unfortunately, she'll be working the big furniture mart most of the time, but maybe she'll be able to escape for a few hours. Momo, here are my picks for your visit to the Windy City!

image from Flickr member jmgphoto

As another art major thrown into the real world, I know you'll want to see how cool "The Bean" is in real life. Take a tons of your fantastic photos of it!

image from Flickr member David Paul Ohmer

While at Millenium Park, can you take a peek at the Crown Fountain, too? It looks reasonably awesome, but I want to know for sure.

image from Crew

If you can get away to watch our Carolina Panthers play the Chicago Bears on Sunday, I picked out a gay sports bar in Chicago for you. I figure if they find out you're rooting for the Panthers, they shouldn't hassle you too much!

image from Metromix Chicago

I know how your traveling companion occasionally hungers for a great steak when you are on the road. If you can, try and talk him in to Brasserie Ruhlmann. You'll have to warn him that it IS french, but you can split the Chauteaubriand for two, and I think he'll be a happy man.

image from Metromix Chicago

Mmmm, expensive meat.

I have to say I was positively giddy when I found this last tidbit for you. A CHOCOLATE tour of Chicago. It's a walking tour, too, so the calories eaten on the tour are simultaneously burned off on the tour. Frankly, that's just genius.

Also, the Renegade Craft Fair is the weekend you get in town. If you get a chance to go, I will forever be jealous of you, and you could do a lot of super cool holiday shopping...that's not a hint or anything ;) Have a fabulous time, Momo!