Make Me Blush

Make Me Blush
Pale blush was a favorite shade on the runways for Spring 2014, making silky underpinnings and accessories in this flattering hue the perfect choice for a Valentine’s indulgence.  What woman wouldn’t want a hint of spring next to her skin even if she’s bundled under layers of cashmere?  I am absolutely wild over those Stella knickers and the lace-trimmed silk pajamas.  The matchstick necklace is high on my wish list as well.  Such a clever way to tell her she lights your fire!

Eberjey lace trimmed robe
$180 - net-a-porter.com

Eberjey Iris thong
$42 – journelle.com

Claire Vivier leather clutch
$145 – clarevivier.com

Stella McCartney matchstick necklace
$345 – net-a-porter.com

Chloé perfume
$120 – bloomingdales.com

By Terry baume de rose lip gloss
$53 – net-a-porter.com

Eberjey Iris bralet
$54 – journelle.com

Game Day Chili

DSC_0042 This chili comes together easily and tastes even better the next day, leaving you plenty of time to relax and enjoy the game.  Extra points for the bubbly cheese.DSC_0050 DSC_0075

Game Day Chili

makes 8 servings

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow or white onions, small diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 poblano pepper, small diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
  • 2 pounds ground sirloin
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons Better Than Bullion beef base (found in most grocery stores near the broth) or 2 beef bullion cubes, dissolved
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 1-2 tablespoons sriracha hot chili sauce (depending on heat preference)
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • 1 avocado, small diced
  • tortilla chips
  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic, poblano, and jalapeno and cook until soft, stirring occasionally (about 10 minutes).
  2. Add both chili powders and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Add ground sirloin and raise heat to medium high, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon and cooking until meat is no longer pink.
  4. Add broth, bullion, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, kidney beans, salt, pepper, sriracha, and half of cilantro. Stir.
  5. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent chili from sticking to bottom of pot. Test for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, and sriracha if needed.
  6. If desired, place filled oven-proof chili bowls on two baking sheets, top each bowl with 1/4 cup shredded cheese and broil until cheese is brown and bubbly, about 1 minute. (You’ll need to do one sheet at a time).
  7. Top with crushed tortilla strips, avocado and remaining cilantro.DSC_0083

A Surprise Trip to Tahoe

When I created this blog (my first post exactly two years ago), I never imagined it would bring a wonderful friend who lives 2,000 miles away in San Francisco.  Domonique and I were introduced by our mutual friend Janet, my sorority pledge mom at DePauw.  She knew that we held similar interests (Domonique pens the blog A Bowl Full of Simple) and would enjoy sharing ideas as well as commiserating.  After sharing comfortable correspondence for many months, we met in person at a photography conference in New York last fall where we became fast friends.DSC_0108Then came a surprise invitation just weeks ago – would our family like to spend a long weekend with hers at their home on Lake Tahoe?  Janet (who I hadn’t seen in a decade) and her family would be spending the weekend as well.  My answer – of course – was an enthusiastic yes, though my children teased that we were traveling across the country to stay with someone I had met on the internet (and I can only imagine what Domonique’s husband must have said when she sprung the idea!).  All joking aside, I could have come up with a thousand reasons not to go, but knew in my heart the trip would be one we’d never regret.

Will playfully threatening to test the waters.

Will playfully threatening to take a dip.

Lake Tahoe's astonishingly clear waters.

Lake Tahoe’s astonishingly clear waters.

Hannah exploring the rocky coast.

Hannah exploring the rocky coastline.

Father and daughter.

DSC_0104 DSC_0153We spent three unforgettable days exploring the terrain and lazing about Domonique and her wonderful husband Grant’s lake house, drinking coffee and wine and enjoying delicious meals and conversation near their giant stone fireplace (and champagne in their hot tub!).

A quiet hike.

A quiet hike.

DSC_0145 DSC_0149 DSC_0034 DSC_0036 DSC_0195

Neon green moss on a Giant Sequoia here, above, and below.

Vibrant green moss on a Giant Sequoia here, above, and below.

DSC_0194On our last morning, Hannah and I woke early to catch the sunrise over the lake.DSC_0248 DSC_0335 DSC_0350 DSC_0231 DSC_0030Thank you Domonique and Grant (Lucas, Olivia and Melinda too!) for your warm and gracious hospitality.  And thank you, Janet, for creating this connection.  It was such a gift to have time with you and your beautiful family after all of these years!

With Domonique at Squaw Valley.

With Domonique at Squaw Valley.

Janet sledding with her cute boys, husband Hug and son Benny.

Janet's son Benny, soaking up the snow and sunshine at Squaw Valley.

Benny, soaking up the snow and sunshine at Squaw Valley.

Cocktail Hour: The Manhattan

I’m thrilled that Michael, our favorite mixologist, is back with a classic cocktail to warm us on these frigid winter days.  Read on to master the art of the Manhattan, then relax, grab a book, and light a fire.  Five o’clock is calling… As we all come off our holiday hiatus, it is traditional to use the New Year’s spirit to invigorate within ourselves a sense of renewal by enacting some manner of change intended to better ourselves as people.  For many this means more exercise, becoming more organized, or swearing off some pesky vice that has overstayed its welcome in our daily routine.  Simply put, this is NOT the time to stop drinking!  During my time matriculating at Annapolis, this time of year had a special name – “The Dark Ages”.  By definition, the “Dark Ages” began the day the Brigade of Midshipmen returned from Holiday leave and ended on the first day of Spring Break.  I vividly remember the lack of daylight, the frigid wind-whipped runs on the Chesapeake seawall, and the grinding academic work.  Even now living in Florida (as I write this it is 67 degrees and sunny), the “Dark Ages” still hold a special place in my heart.  I only regret not having ready access to a well stocked bar during my years as a Midshipmen – GPA be damned!

So I’m submitting to A&D few cocktail recipes to help us all make it through this lamented time of year.   I personally am a creature of the seasons and my cocktail consumption tends to mirror what is happening outside.  I dedicate this post to the readers in the frigid north and present another classic that is sure to stick to your ribs and make an evening sitting by the fire all the more perfect – the Manhattan.  I know its been awhile, so lets recap the First Commandment of mixing cocktails.  “Thou shalt use the finest ingredients in thy cocktails.”  I am not implying that one must use the exact bottles I present, only that your cocktail will only be as good as the cheapest ingredient used.The Manhattan, like the Martini, ranks among the most classic of cocktails.  Done correctly it is simple, tastes great, and provides the perfect dose of medicine to help shake off the Dark Ages grind.  With Manhattan recipes, the biggest points of contention are a.) the type of whiskey and b.) the proportions of base and modifier.  The great thing about the Manhattan Cocktail is type of whiskey and proportion are completely up to the person mixing provided the ingredients are of the finest quality.  The recipe I am presenting is my preferred (and the traditional) recipe, but one should feel free to experiment with slightly different proportions to satisfy their palate.  I will however talk about a few different types of whiskey that can change the character of your Manhattan to fit your mood – and the weather.

Basic Recipe:
2.0 Oz Whiskey
1.0 Oz Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Whiskey:

The base of any Manhattan is Whiskey…..and there are so many types.  A Rye Whiskey is the traditional type used in Manhattans because it typically is more balanced in terms of sweet, spice, and smoke (peat) than other whiskies.  Right now, my “go to” rye is Bulleit Rye because it is of good quality but not so good that it demands drinking it neat or on the rocks, and its not difficult to acquire (available in most liqueur stores).Two other variations I’d like to present are using a Bourbon or a Scotch as the base of this cocktail.  For the Bourbon option I’ve been using a High-Rye Bourbon by Redemption.  This is a great bottle because it brings out the sweetness inherent to Bourbon but still retains a bit of spice found in Rye.  For the Rob Roy option (this is the name of a Manhattan made with Scotch instead of American Whiskey), I currently use Monkey Shoulder.  This is a blended Scotch that has all the qualities of a Single Malt (made using 3 different single malts from The Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Kininvie) – a tip of the hat to the Master Distillers that put it together.  It is not overly peaty like some of the Islay regions and has the smooth malt and citrus notes that make it a great option for this recipe.Vermouth:

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link – so do not skimp on the Sweet Vermouth.  This means that Martini and Rossi will not do.  I personally enjoy Dolin Sweet Vermouth but any high-end vermouth such as Carpano Antica or Cocchi Vermouth di Torino will do.

Bitters:

A few dashes of Angostura Bitters bring out all the subtleties in both ingredients and really round out the drink.  Do not use Peyschaud’s bitters unless you want to turn your expensive whiskey into something that tastes like Nyquil.  Peyschaud’s bitters has its place in other cocktails – the Manhattan is not one of them. The Process:

Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker – or if you really want to class it up, get a beautiful mixing beaker as shown below.Add ice.STIR!  STIR! STIR! This Cocktail! Shaking Manhattans or other whiskey cocktails is one of my drinking pet peeves.  Please, for the love of all things right and just in this world, DO NOT SHAKE these drinks.  Shaking these cocktails adds too much water to the mix and greatly diminishes the flavor.  Also, help me on my crusade to make sure these drinks are made properly by demanding bartenders stir these cocktails when you order them out.  Strain into a Coupe or Cocktail Glass.  Garnish with a Cherry.A quick note about the cherry garnish.  Luxardo makes great cherries for cocktails.  I HIGHLY recommend, if you intend on making this cocktail regularly, to buy a jar.  They are readily available on Amazon and they last forever.  Don’t settle for the cheap Maraschino Cherries found in most grocery stores.  I’d skip those and garnish with a citrus peel before I allowed one to see the inside of my Manhattan glass.  Keep it classy folks.The Manhattan is alcoholic comfort food for me – I hope this helps everyone make it through the Dark Ages!

Cheers, MC.

all photos in this post by Michael

Welcome, 2014! I’ve been waiting for you.

photoOur family closed 2013 skiing with close friends in Northern Michigan where subzero windchills kept all but diehard skiers off of the slopes.  The cold may have prevented us from spending the entire day outside, but paired with a new-fallen blanket of snow, it brought the gift of quiet which was almost as beautiful as the landscape.  And it made après-ski feel like heaven!

Wishing everyone a serene entry into the New Year.  May we all resolve to love hard, live in the moment, and surround ourselves with those who bring us joy.  If 2013 taught me anything, it’s that we only get to do this once.  xo

Last Minute Gift Guide for Him 2013

Yes it’s true –  only 9 shopping days left until Christmas.  Don’t panic!  Build a fire, pour a glass of wine, pull out your laptop, and shop the last minute gift guide.  I’ve got your back.

He’ll be the coolest one at the tailgate.  Smathers & Branson Lumberjack Plaid Needlepoint Flask here.

Keep him smooth and refreshed.  Kiehl’s “Ultimate Man” Soap-on-a-Rope here.

The perfect weekend watch.  Timex for J. Crew Andros Watch here.

Help him relax with this smooth and spicy small batch bourbon. Bulleit Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey here.

If the bourbon doesn’t beat back winter’s chill, this donegal wool cap will (here).

His coffee will stay hot for the whole commute.  Dean and Deluca Stainless Steel Travel Mug here.

Everyone looks better in a pair of aviators.  Ray-Ban Classic Aviators, all black and polarized here.

He may not admit it, but he loves cashmere just as much as you do.  J. Crew grey cashmere sweatshirt here.

Stuff his stocking with these not-too-tight-but-not-too-loose boxers in the softest cotton.  2xist Pima Button Fly Boxer here.

The best base layer for all of his winter activities.  Craft Active Long Sleeved Crewneck here.

So you can officially quit nagging him about what to wear.  Glenn O’Brien’s How to Be a Man (here).

Who doesn’t want to travel in style?  Billykirk Navy 20″ Water Repellent Canvas and Leather Carryall here.

Think Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor.  Scotch & Soda Navy Peacoat here.

Couldn’t resist.

I’ve saved the best for last.  Pack his bag and surprise him with a rustic chic trip he’ll never forget.  The incomparable Blackberry Farm here.

all images from retail sites with the exception of Robert Redford (Habitually Chic) .

Spiced Pumpkin Muffins with (or without) Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

DSC_0003I have to admit, frosting these muffins is completely gilding the lily.  But I had to do it.  You see, my daughter became addicted to the pumpkin muffins with cream cheese frosting at Einsteins, so I had to come up with a frosted version.  Be honest – you can’t go naked next to something wearing frosting and win by comparison.  Not possible!  Does that mean they are technically a cupcake?  I say no  - that way there is no guilt when having one for breakfast.  But if you’re feeling like a straight arrow, skip the frosting and just give each one a sprinkling of demerara or coarse sugar (for a little crunch and sparkle) before you pop them in the oven .  They are seriously delicious either way.DSC_0041

Spiced Pumpkin Muffins with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting 

makes 12

for the muffins -

  • 2 cups all purpose or gluten free all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum only if making gluten free
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup canned pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • demarara or coarse sugar (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line 12 standard sized muffin cups with paper baking liners.
  3. Whisk flour, xanthan gum (if gf), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, nutmeg and salt together in a large bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining muffin ingredients.
  5. Add to dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
  6. Divide batter into the 12 muffin cups (about 1/3 cup batter in each).
  7. Sprinkle with demarara or coarse sanding sugar if you are skipping the frosting.
  8. Place muffin tins on a sheet pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a wood toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center.
  9. Let cool completely before frosting (recipe to follow).

for the frosting -

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger (optional)
  1. Place cream cheese, butter, maple syrup and vanilla in a large bowl.
  2. Sift powdered sugar into same bowl.
  3. With beaters or a stand mixer, beat until creamy and completely smooth.
  4. Slather frosting onto each muffin and sprinkle with minced crystallized ginger.DSC_0001

Weighing Anchor

DSC_065841.  A seemingly inconsequential birthday, no?  With zero expectation (or desire) for the grandeur of a 40th fete, and feeling 50 to be lightyears away, I wasn’t looking forward to it, nor was I dreading it as I had 40.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  Celebrating 41 was of little importance, but I was looking forward to letting go of my 40th year.  In the weeks preceding my birthday, I’d begun compiling two lists in my mind: one with the parts of my life in need of acceptance (e.g. that I finally need reading glasses, that I frequently choose Chet Baker over Maroon 5 on Pandora and always Castle over Breaking Bad on tv, and that aging will happen regardless so gracefully is the only option) and the other of places where I really need to let go (those I’m keeping close to the vest).  But this loose, impromptu life assessment became a little daunting, so I put pen to paper for clarity’s sake.

As the lists grew and their contents moved from light to serious, I realized the significance of the pages in front of me.  I was mentally weighing anchor.  Readying my mind and soul for the second half of life’s journey and pulling anchor from the murky floor of my first.  This realization was scary because I feared the emptiness, but as I thought it through and saw what it truly was – a resolution to clear out physical belongings and heavy mental clutter – I felt lighter, not emptier.  My intention is to carry with me only what will shape this second leg into one of wisdom, acceptance, gratitude and love.

When I unwrapped the birthday gift from my family I could not believe the coincidence of what laid inside: a delicate gold anchor necklace, making my 41st the most meaningful and significant yet.