"We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have". - Frederick Koenig

Monday, January 31, 2011

Sugar High

Up until about an hour ago, today was in a sad state of affairs.  After only 5 hours of broken sleep last night, I was left to make it through the workday with not much more potential than a zombie trying to drag itself from point A to point B mumbling something about 'brains' the whole way.  It was dire.  I just do not recover from lack of sleep (or anything else for that matter) like I used to.  I can only imagine that I probably would have looked much like a zombie too if I had to dress to work in an office today -- 'attractive' dark circles, smeared lipstick, disheveled clothing, and exaggerated stagger would have been the fashion of the day.  Well, let's be honest, it probably still was; my coworkers just didn't have to see me like that.

Fortunately, my day perked up and all of the fatigue melted away for about five minutes because of a wonderful neighbor and his kids.  Stopping by for no particular reason with a box of fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts, a bunch of giggles, and both kids sporting the 'classic' Krispy Kreme doughnut hats for their surprise 'delivery'; they had no idea how much thier little act of fun truly improved my day.  I don't know how they knew I needed a little extra lift, but really, when couldn't we all use a little extra lift like that on any day?   It's really amazing the kind of unexpected impact something so small can have on our outlook -- regardless of whether we happen to be on the giving, or the receiving end of things.  Oh, and eating the doughnuts, of course, didn't hurt my outlook either.

So now that I have made it through the workday, and have had a priceless visit from the coolest 'honorary Krispy Kreme doughnut delivery crew' I know of,  I think sleep will come easily -- and soon.  I can now lounge on the couch feeling warm fuzzies about the goodness that is in us all, and take that with me into the week ahead to pass along to the next person who needs that little extra lift.  

Friday, January 28, 2011

Drink(s) of the Moment

Ask anyone that knows me, in a certain setting, what I'm having to drink, and without hesitation they will tell you that it's either an extra dirty Stoli martini served up, or a pint of Guinness (if I'm feeling like something a little more subtle).  Recently though, I've been getting an itch to find some new and more interesting alternatives to mix things up a bit, which brings me to what I'll call my 'Drink(s) of the Moment.'

I suppose if this were a few years ago, I could do something exciting like a 'You Buy It, I'll Try It' thing, where I would probably end up with some seriously interesting bar stories that I wouldn't even be able to relay in full due to brief blackouts from what I'm sure some of those drinks might contain.  Since this is not a few years ago though, and I do truly enjoy having Jay in my life, I've been doing a little experimenting for myself with our own personal 'bar'.  While this may seem a little less exciting than a story about some random night out ending with me asleep on the floor somewhere; it should actually be more exciting for you because I remember everything I need to relay here (at least for the most part), AND I can share the recipes!

Here are my current 'drinks of the moment' worth sharing:

The Rumchata Black Russian

You may remember that Rumchata was one of my Favorite Five this month, and if you typically like a White Russian, then you'll love the twist the Rumchata gives this 'Black' Russian.  It will knock your socks off in more ways than one.

Ingredients (Serves: 1)

1 part Rumchata

1 part Kahlua

1 part Vodka (I used Stoli Gold)


Shake and pour into a rocks glass over ice.

Have a sip, and smile.  :)

The Tomato-Politan Martini

A yummy savory martini that I think would be fabulous at brunch, or you could throw caution to the wind and bring a whole new meaning to the term ' ladies who lunch.'  The pickle juice surprisingly gave a wonderful dimension to the drink. 


(Serves: 2)

8 ounces of your favorite vodka (again, I used Stoli Gold) 

4 Tablespoons of tomato juice 

1 teaspoon of green hot sauce (like Tabasco Jalapeno)

Juice of one medium lemon

2 Tablespoons of pickle juice

Pickles for garnish.


Pour the vodka into a shaker 1/2 full of ice.

Add the hot sauce and shake for a bit.

Let the shaker rest for a moment, and then add the tomato and lemon juices.

Give it another few shakes and then strain into a well chilled glass

Top each drink with 1 Tablespoon of pickle juice, garnish with a slice of pickle, and enjoy!

Let me know what you think, and if you have any new ideas you'd like to have 'tested', by all means send them in!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

PhotoHunt 249: Hands (they rock!)

This week's PhotoHunt is 'Hands,' which, I'll admit, was not very exciting to me initially. I figured maybe I could make it more interesting considering all of the different types of hands there are - clock hands, hands of cards, etc.; but after a little mental back and forth I decided to stick with the obvious.  I didn't chose this direction so much because it was 'the easy way out', but more because I was unable to stop noticing and thinking about hands for the better part of a day.  Yes folks, the better part of a day - I have reached a new low.  Obviously, I was a little bored with work too, but seriously our hands really do rock.  (Just humor me).

Apparently, my hands seem to like to have drinks in them when photographed based on what I can tell from some of these shots, no pun intended, hehe.

After going through numerous hand pictures, and trying to figure out what the heck I was going to write about a picture of a hand, I started to consciously think about how truly amazing our hands are.  They are so intrinsically indicative of who we are.  (I know, Captain Obvious here, right?)  We express so many things with our hands - numerous emotions, connection (or lack thereof) with others, directions; all with only our hands.  Your hands tell the world who you are just as much as anything else about you -  how old you are, the type of work you do (or don't do), your grooming practices, and possibly what your bad habits are if you're a nail biter.  Your hands can be an ornament with jewelry, ink, or polish; or an eyesore - I don't think I need to explain this. 

At any rate, I guess the PhotoHunt wasn't as lame as I had initially thought it was and it did kind of end up inspiring me to get around to that manicure that I had been putting off after looking at some of the pictures of my hands that did not get included here.  I think it has also inspired me to use my hands to enjoy a nice cocktail this evening -wouldn't it be a tragic if my hands weren't around to assist in that, hehe!  Of course, I am also inspired to use my hands to pick up the phone and place a call for some lovely delivery ... as soon as I use them to shut down this computer that I work on with my hands in order to be able to pay for my cocktail and my dinner delivery. :)

Thanks hands, you rock!


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Laughable Weekend

So, I've recently been laughing my way through the new series "An Idiot Abroad."  It just premiered last night on the Science Channel here in the US (baffled as to why it's on the Science Channel & not the Travel Channel, weird), but was aired back in September on the UK channel, Sky1.  If you haven't heard about it, or seen it, I would highly recommend a sit down with it when you're in need of a good chuckle -- preferably the Sky 1 version if you have access to it, as it is not as edited as the US version.  The 'China' episode is currently in rotation on The Science Channel, with 'India' and 'Jordan' to follow (both of which are just a funny as 'China').

Aside from discovering a new cupcake shop only a few blocks from the house, it may very well have been the best thing about my whole weekend, and the India episode ... let's just say that it brings a whole new meaning to yoga.

 Here are a couple clips for you, enjoy!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Favorite Five: January

Well, the weekend is here, and just like that bad cold that never seems to go away, so is the winter weather.   It’s usually about this time every year that things seems to slow down to a snail’s pace, keeping spring an inevitable two steps out of reach, and leaving me to hibernate indoors while my skin and my outlook become increasingly tired and dry.  To help cope with this, I've been paying extra attention to the little things that keep me going, and I’ve decided to share some that I’ve found inspiring, and/or recently enjoyable.   They have improved my winter attitude immensely, and will hopefully make your thoughts a little cozier as well.

·       TRUFFLED CAULIFLOWER BISQUE – I am admittedly a soup junkie!  If there is one thing that would make me a tragic bitch in the wintertime, it would be NOT being able to eat soup (though Jay may have some additional thoughts on this).  Since I especially love a pureed veggie-type soup, I was almost ecstatic when I saw Christina Hendricks on ‘The Rachael Ray Show making a Truffled Cauliflower Bisque.  Because I don't really watch the show, it must have been kismet that I happened to catch this particular segment and discover what is easily my favorite new winter soup and salad pairing.

      The soup has a bacon base, to which the veggies, broth and cream are added (though I'd imagine you vegetarians out there could find some sort of salty substitute).  Then, everything is pureed and topped with white truffle oil and bacon crumbles.  I am GOING to find a low(er) fat way to make this so I can eat it all the time.

As an accompaniment to the soup, I highly recommend the Tuscan Kale Salad pairing featured in the same clip.  The heartiness and bite of the kale paired with the homemade pungent Caesar dressing creates a balance in this salad perfect as a compliment to the mild, creamy soup as well as the cold winter weather.

 The recipe for the Cauliflower Bisque can be found here, and the accompanying Tuscan Kale Caesar can be found here.

     BATH & BODY WORKS SUGAR SCRUB - If your skin is starting to feel a little short of reptilian at about this point, this is just the thing to make your dry winter skin do a disappearing act, while indulging a bit in the bath or shower.  I've always used Origins in the past, but have found recently that Bath and Body Works offers an essential oil sugar scrub (in varying scents) that is just as wonderfully moisturizing and pampering as anything else and comes with a lower price point.  I've been using the Lavender Vanilla, which is cozy and warm.  Next up to bat for me is their new fragrance, Vanilla Verbena.

     RUMCHATA - You will want to walk ... no, run to the nearest store to get more of this stuff once you try it.  Caribbean rum blended with cream and cinnamon, and vanilla, this is enough to melt away any winter blahs.  It's what you would drink if it snowed in the Carribean -  kind of like a mini vacation in a glass.  Make sure you check out all of the recipes (drink and otherwise) on the official website.  
·       NEW (to me) MUSIC – For me, some new sounds cycling through the stereo always keeps the indoors from getting stale.  Recently, I’ve found a few new favorites, both by sister duos, that I have been enjoying thanks to a few 'last minute' iTunes gift cards Jay put in my Christmas stocking.  So, I suppose this section is being brought to you by the letter 'J' and the number '1'.  ;)

  • CocoRosie, ‘Grey Oceans’This is the most unclassifiable and beautiful music I’ve come across in a long time.  I love how it somehow manages to simultaneously engage my thoughts, and soothe my nerves.  This is one of my favorite track off the album entitled ‘The Moon Asked the Crow.’  If you like this one, I highly recommend taking a listen to ‘Lemonade’ as well.

  • The Pierces, 'Love You More - EP' - Love The Pierces, love their new EP and can't wait to hear the new album, 'You & I', out on March 14th.

ART - Ok, so this one may seem a little more expansive compared to the rest of my list, but there is something escapist and inspiring about seeing a piece of artwork that really speaks to you.  For me,  a well-done watercolor is usually very soothing; something about the soft edges and color nuances really put me at ease.  When you add in a lion fish as the subject of the watercolor, my so-called 'fish nerd' tendencies can't help but become activated, so when I saw a watercolor that my friend's son was working on, I was hooked.  Not only is Alex super bright, but it appears that he is very artistically talented as well.  Seeing the progression of his piece, and the care that he took to document it really inspired me to want to create something as well; and there is nothing like that spark of inspiration to make the long winter days pass by even quicker.      

I hope you enjoy the progression of the piece as much as I did, and also hope that it instills within you the desire to create something of your own -- we've got nothing but time until spring, right?  Thanks for sharing Alex!

Light pencil sketch

Toning, 50% done

First layer of color

Second layer of color

Third layer of color

Final color layer

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

PhotoHunt: Shadow

For this week's PhotoHunt, I (re)located one of my favorite images of shadow in some pictures from a weekend getaway to Duck, NC we took a few years ago.  It was early spring (April), and still a little cool to do much in the way of swimming.  This first shot is from our first day there sitting on the beach.  I think this is really the only day we actually spent any time on the beach due to the chill; leaving the hot tub, in the later pics, to be the favored of  the two.  

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Weekend Makeover

Wow, am I glad this is a three-day weekend (thank you MLK Jr)!  I am still yearning for another cup of coffee at 4 in the afternoon, and have contemplated a nap on several occasions throughout the day.  Unlike normal weekends that typically consist of an evening or two out, some various tidying of the house, errands, and time with friends; this weekend was filled largely with family.  Now, for Jay and myself, most family events consist of driving, having some conversation about current events or computer issues, eating, and then more driving.  Not to say that we don't appreciate the time spent, but we have previously not taken the most active roles that we could have in family participation; probably partly due to distance, and partly due to the stage we are at in our lives (busy career, no kids, social demands, etc).  This weekend, we entered into a whole new level of family participation when we invited our teenage niece, Rachael, to come spend the night.

Previously having some experience being a teenage girl, I remember how fun my own aunts seemed, and how I valued their influence and different approaches to life.  They were really strong role-models for me (even if they didn't know it at the time), and I aspired to duplicate different parts of their lives in my own.  I suppose I took the one thing that they all gave to me that meant the most - their time, and wanted to pass that irreplaceable thing on to my own niece.  After previously working in the cosmetics industry myself, and having developed a crush on the artistry of it all, I thought it might be fun to share my love of the subject with someone who is just approaching that place of self-awareness, exploration, AND confusion, by taking her for her first 'makeover'.  To add to the fun, we were also tasked with finding a dress for an upcoming school dance, and visiting with my Dad, who had made a three hour drive into town for a visit.  Whew!  What a packed day it turned out to be!

We started our fun by having lunch at New York Deli with my Dad, who did not miss a bite even for this picture!

Jay and Rachael were able to refrain from eating for their photo op.

After lunch, it was on to the mall for 'Dress Quest 2011'.  Rachael looked super cute and sparkly in this fabulous sequin number, humoring me by trying something completely out of her comfort zone and looking so fabulous in it!

Dress number two was a little more demure, but still smokin hot ... what a  cute niece I have!

On to the makeover!  BIG thanks to my friend Jonye Cordova of Chanel Cosmetics, and Jonyegirl Faces Makeup Artistry for showing Rachael the ropes.  It was great to catch up with old and new friends for some much needed laughter.  (Check out Jonye's blog for the latest cosmetic tips and tricks)!

And voila ... Rachael looking polished and proper with her new look!

So, we didn't end up finding the perfect dress or shoes, but we did find the perfect lipstick and the perfect time spent together.  Until recently, I think I had forgotten how important an influence our friends and family members can have on us, and what it means to see that someone has enough of an interest in you to really care enough to go out of their way to show it.  There are so many pitfalls in life, that it's truly nice to know that there is someone (or hopefully more than one someone) that has had your back from day one, and will continue to have your back as far as you can see into the future.  Having grown up feeling quite connected to my extended family, and developing special friendships over the years, I realized this weekend that not only do I miss and need their personal involvement in my life, but also that they might want and need mine.  I have always know what a makeover can do for one's self esteem and personal outlook, but I had never really contemplated how much a makeover in the cosmetics department could truly inspire a reconnection with those around us that are most important.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Battling Beef Stew: The Ruin and Rediscovery of Winter Comfort Food

So, with all of the cold and ice around I usually find myself questing for creature comforts like the furry leopard throw on my couch, warm chunky knit sweaters, and the perfect pair of soft slippers.  Along with these, I seem to find myself looking for food that makes me feel just as warm and comforted;  like a stew should.  This said, I run into an annual dilemma, because I really don't like most stews (especially of the beef variety).  After being forced to eat the stuff as a kid every year on Halloween before heading out for the annual candy grab, I think I can say without hesitation that I have had enough beef stew for a lifetime and am properly scarred by it.  (Side note - quickest way to engrain a certain hate of a particular food item into your children is to serve something completely non-appetizing that they MUST finish before going out in drag to get candy.  Longest. meals. ever).  This being the case, I usually find myself on a quest for that oh-so-warming 'stew replacement' every winter at about this time.  Imagine my surprise when I was actually inspired by a recipe I came across that I got excited enough to make it ... and on a weeknight after work no less!

Willing to take a gamble on whether or not my time making this new concoction would lead to stew nirvana or further ruin my life, I proceeded to chop, boil, and simmer away.  This little recipe, as it turns out, is not really a stew at all, but a vegetable curry ... sigh of relief.  While covering the bases of a stew in warmth, comfort, and one pot cooking, it by far surpasses the sad, watery, lackluster of a stew.  The aroma of the spices cooking will do wonders to improve the happy factor in your humble abode, and watch out for the perky bright color of the dish, which will liven up any bleak winter evening.  Imagine my shock when it turned out to be incredibly tasty as well.  (Take that beef stew)!  Though the version made last night was vegetarian, even my die-hard carnivore Jay loved it enough to say it should be made again sometime, and though he did have a side of chicken, you could certainly include the chicken in the dish should you wish.  I've included the recipe basics below (with pics) for all of you other stew haters out there that need a different inspiration.  Now you can cling to the idea of a winter infatuation with stew and be able to eat it too!

Fry up some diced potatoes in about half a cup of veggie oil until golden brown.  (You could use chicken here instead if you prefer, or mix it up a bit and use both).  Once golden, remove potatoes with a slotted spoon and set aside.   Add two sticks of cinnamon (or one broken in half), 4 or 5 crushed green cardamom pods, 3 or 4 whole cloves, and about 2 teaspoons of cumin seed  into the remaining oil and simmer until very fragrant.

Once your spices have made your kitchen smell like the only place you want to be in the world at that moment, add one medium chopped onion and cook until soft.

To your onion, add crushed garlic and shredded ginger to taste (I used 3 cloves or garlic and about 1 tsp of zested ginger); generously shake in some ground coriander, salt, and pepper, and add one can of UNdrained diced tomatoes.  Add your potatoes/chicken/paneer cheese back into the pot along with a chopped carrot or three (depending on how much you like them - I used 2), some spicy green chiles (depending on how hot you like it - I used 2, but could have gone for more), and a cup and half of water.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until all of the veggies are tender.

Once your veggies are tender, pump the heat back up to medium and toss in MORE veggies - this time about half of a small green cabbage, chopped; some cauliflower florets, and a bag of frozen peas.  Mix these around until soft, adding water as needed.  Once you're happy with the tenderness of the veggies, and the consistency of your mixture, toss in a generous handful of chopped cilantro, and mix well.  At this time, you also might want to pull out the cardamom, cinnamon sticks, and cloves if you can find them.  In my house, we just called them 'prizes' though.

Dish up your gloriously colorful pile of goodness over some basmati rice (or Uncle Ben's if that's what's in the cabinet), and serve with some naan or whatever type of flatbread you have available.  Nom nom nom...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Photohunt: Your Choice, Helen's New Year

Since this week is a free PhotoHunt week, I'm posting one of my favorite shots from our New Year's Eve night out.  Something about it really engages me - maybe how it seems to capture the excitement and buzz of the restaurant that night, or maybe it's just my affinity towards all things shiny.  Anyway, hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

While I'm at it, here are some of my other favorite shots from that same night ...

Jay and me on the outside looking in

one very yummy martini olive

our favorite mixologist, Rodney

and, a view from our table.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Year's Invitations

While 'celebrating' David Bowie's birthday yesterday with some fabulous dancing in crazy looking pajamas in my bedroom, it occurred to me that I was singing along word for word with song lyrics that I'd never really listened to ... I mean cognizantly listened to and thought about what they mean to me.  When I stopped for a second to actually think about what was coming out of my mouth, it occurred to me that maybe I should have paid attention a lot sooner than now.

I then started to wonder how many times things like that happen throughout the day, or week, or month, that are right in front of my face without me noticing, and how many overlooked experiences resulted from just doing the zombie walk through the daily routine without really paying attention to what is going on outside of it all.  I mean, I think I can say that there is a reasonable comfort to that daily zombie walk through the routine sometimes; it may be the only thing that gets us through that particular day, but seriously, I think I've been leaning on that waaay too much recently and am sure that I have missed some wonderful opportunities because of it.

So, I think my new year's resolution, or let's call it a goal for good luck's sake, for 2011 is really going to be to try and break out of my own 'default' mode and focus on pushing myself to get more involved and have fun -- really wringing out the juicy parts of life and making them last.  After 2009 and 2010, something really has to give, and at this point I can only count on being in control of my own outlook and reaction to make my days (and nights) the way that I want them to be.  I am going to invite more fun and silly into life and really get excited about exploring new things again - like getting back in touch with my writing self through this blog, for example.   Soooo, I'm putting it out there to the world and inviting in the excitement, activity, and spontaneity back into my life.  I'm listening now world, paying attention so go ahead and RSVP because I'm definitely welcoming the world this year!!