Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Because Red and Gold is Always in Style for the Holidays

Phew, with the Holidays behind us, it's finally time to...
... Shop???

It was chilly in New York City yesterday and without anything on the docket, I spontaneously decided it was a superb day to take in some post holiday shopping.  Looking back, given the crowds and the packed lots, it was perhaps a foolhardy decision. Nonetheless, I packed up my daughter, navigated some strangely convoluted New Jersey roads and traffic, and found myself, with thousands of others, inside a large, (well-heated!) luxurious mall.

For those of you who enjoy making your home festive during the holidays, it is imperative that you  shop now.  Take advantage of this short window, when normally unaffordable holiday trimmings are affordable.

My first stop:  Restoration Hardware -- where I cleaned up!  The bulbs (above), including the hand-blown lights in the back, are now proudly part of my growing collection, thanks to Restoration Hardware. Together, I bought a dozen for less than the full-price of a few.

From there, we hit up Papyrus for next year's holiday wrap, at deeply discounted prices:

Holiday wrap from Papyrus

For us foodies, a trip to the mall is not complete without a stop at Williams-Sonoma. If not for my daughter's persistent campaign to visit the toy shop across the way, I could have spent hours looking at the dazzling polished All Clad pots, glossy porcelain pans and all the other "indispensable" kitchen paraphernalia.  (Above) I found these elegant, wonderfully festive dinner and side plates -- deeply discounted.  No doubt, they will surely be in good company with the rest of my holiday dish collection.

And finally, I dragged my now beleaguered daughter through all kinds of children's clothing boutiques, including my favorite -- CrewCuts, coming out with countless discounted dresses, accessories and a stuffed animal (of course)!

Having spent the day in a suburban mall, it felt great to be back in the city (in Soho to be exact) for a quick bite. Returning to the city, even from a day trip, can be a pleasant reminder of the incredible, independent style that so many New Yorkers thankfully pull off, each and every day:

This is one of the many reasons we love New York!

Happy 2015!!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Holiday Moments, and Shrimp...

One of the benefits to working on this website is that it is forcing me to be cognizant of life moments that might be interesting enough to capture and share online.  As a result, I am taking many more pictures that illustrate beautiful experiences that I would not have considered taking in the past. An example -- the table on Christmas Eve  -- it was just exquisite.  Here are some other images from that magical evening:

Oh, and on the flip side, here is how the stove appeared at 1:00am!

Fool Proof Shrimp

One of my Christmas Eve guests asked if I would post the recipe on the easy but absolutely delectable shrimp dish that I prepared as one of the seven fish courses. It's perfect for New Year's and can be served as an appetizer or side dish.  Try it, you won't be disappointed  - and it's fool proof. Here it is:

What you will need:

2 lbs of cleaned and de-veined jumbo shrimp
1 stick of butter
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 head of fresh parsley
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon of hot pepper seeds
5 cloves of garlic
3 lemons
salt and pepper
1 cup bread crumbs

Mince garlic and parsley and combine in a bowl with melted butter, olive oil, oregano, hot pepper seeds, lemon and salt/pepper.  

30 minutes before broiling, brush the marinade over the shrimp and let stand. 

When ready to cook, cover the shrimp with bread crumbs, set the oven on broil and cook for 5-7 minutes (it is not necessary to flip the shrimp mid way through).  Savor:

-- Anyone else happy that elf on the shelf has gone back to the North Pole?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Feast of the Seven Fishes

This Year, Feast with Cod

This  week,  my dear friends and I will meticulously prepare the traditional Italian "Feast of the Seven Fishes" -- Christmas Eve dinner.  It is my favorite holiday meal, featuring shrimp, salted cod, calamari, and brimming bowls of pasta with seafood. Of course, there will be champagne and fine wine, and delectable treats -- Abbondanze!! 

Despite my fondness for this meal, the Seven Fishes Feast is not what I grew up eating. Having been raised in a Polish-American family, we ate what we called a white meal -- pierogi, potatoes, fish.  But, whether Italian, Polish or other heritage, the eating of fish on Christmas Eve has deep roots in the Catholic tradition, and was intended to be eaten before Midnight Mass.  The meal is supposed to be sacred, pure, and almost solemn.  Therefore it was meatless.

Christmas Eve remains one of my most vivid childhood holiday memories. In upstate New York,  it was always snowy outside, and the houses, ours included, were brightly lit with twinkling lights.  Inside it was warm, with multiple fireplaces burning as all sorts of Polish dishes were being prepared.

Without dishonoring my Polish roots, I must admit that now as an adult, I much prefer the Italian "Seven Fishes" version of Christmas Eve --it's not just dinner, it's an unabashed festive banquet.   Having spent my adult life living, cooking and dining with Italians, I have grown to love and appreciate the significance of holiday foods, and nothing compares to the Seven Fishes feast.

By the way, the meal does not need to be 7 fishes; but, for good luck, it does need to be an odd number. I have been told that the number 7 signifies the sacraments.   Which ever way you look at it,  good luck getting through all of them!

While I am not recommending that everyone go to extravagant lengths preparing multiple fish courses during the holiday,  I would like to share one simple, crowd pleasing fish dish -- cod with kale and sweet potatoes.  Cod is a traditional Christmas fish, and while this version may be a bit less traditional, it is wonderfully delicious, and can be enjoyed anytime during the year.  Best of all, the entire meal can be prepared in one large saucepan!

Here is what you will need:

Filet of Cod, cut into 4 or 5 pieces
4 sweet potatoes
1 bunch of fresh kale
1 bunch of leaks
2 red peppers
4 cloves of garlic
2 large shallots
1 lemon
1/4 cup asian fish sauce
hot pepper flakes

Remove woody center of the kale and then cut it into strips. Peel and cube the sweet potatoes.  Dice the onion, leek, shallots, and garlic. Cube the red pepper.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan and add onion, leek, shallots, garlic and red pepper. Sauté until soft and tender, about 5 minutes.

Add sweet potato and kale and sauté for 3 minutes.

Add 1 cup of water and cook for 12 minutes on medium heat until sweet potato is softened.

Add fish sauce, salt and pepper

Lay the cod fillets over the vegetables and cover with lid.  Let it simmer for about 6 minutes on medium heat.  Serve cod and vegetables on a plate and drizzle with olive oil and lemon.

If you are lucky enough to have leftovers, be sure to refrigerate.  This dish is even better the next day!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas in New York City

Season's Greetings!

For me, putting up the Christmas tree is a substantial undertaking, mostly because my ambitious annual purchase is at least 9 feet tall, requires 12-15 strands of lights, and necessitates having to sort through no less that 15 boxes of ornaments and other holiday trappings.  Once complete, however, it is beyond compare.  

While rummaging through my ornaments this weekend, I came across some delicate, hand-painted, little treasures -- my artisan blown egg wonders.  While reminiscent of the Ukrainian Easter Eggs, the ones that intricately use wax resin to bond ornate designs onto the surface of the egg, these eggs were purchased locally here in Brooklyn from a local artist's shop. Of my many boxes of holiday ornaments, these are some of my most prized.  Unfortunately, from the original dozen that I purchased many years ago, only 4 have survived -- the tall price of purchasing fragile art!

What is it about a lit wreath that just makes everything look better at Christmas?

As anyone who lives within a few hours of New York City knows, there is nothing like spending an afternoon on 5th Avenue in December.  The tree in Rockefeller Center is collossal, the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue drip with holiday taste and style, and all the shops are buzzing with expectant shoppers.  The mass of bustling holiday crowds, however, can be a bit maddening.  But, if seeing it all through the eyes of children, it's quite priceless: 


If you find yourself in New York and are looking to experience the magic of the holidays, consider checking out one of the historic hotels, such as the Helmsley Palace (pictured above).  Drop in for tea, sit back and enjoy the festive accents and metropolitan merriment. 

I sincerely hope that the weeks leading up to your holiday are peaceful and filled with style.  
Best wishes!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Stylish Facial Hair

Remember Movember

Movember, the recently coined men's movement (and the hybrid of the words mustache and November) is over for this year.  In Brooklyn, it's hard to distinguish who participated in the month long challenge to grow beards and mustaches, since facial hair is so stylishly ubiquitous. Gone are the stereotypical references to bearded hippies or bikers or lumberjacks.  It doesn't seem to matter what the personality, facial hair is everywhere, or at least in these parts.

The much-hyped Movember movement is intended to build awareness for men's health (in particular for prostate and testicular cancers) and to encourage our men to get themselves to the doctor. It originated in Australia in 2003 and, after building and winning generous support from around the world, has impressively raised millions for men's health -- which is so cool!

While I did not grow facial hair (it just doesn't suit me that well) I did make a doctor's appointment and in fact, went! Why are men, like me, so unwilling to go to the doctor?  For starters, we are wimps!  We are uncomfortable with needles and we don't like pain, unless of course it was earned in say a sporting activity.  We are also conditioned to "shake it off" and to be tough. We unremittingly assume that if something doesn't feel right, it will simply go away in time, like it did when we were in our 20s.

Women, on the other hand, are much more connected to their health -- their bodies necessitate this, beginning in adolescence. They often freely discuss body changes with their friends, sisters and sometimes, as I have personally witnessed, strangers. Later on, if they decide to have children, they seem to have mentally prepared themselves for the demands that it will impose on their bodies.  Men don't do any of this preparation.  Men know that having children will not likely entail obligatory and somewhat embarrassing trips to the doctor. Men simply aren't trained to connect with their bodies in the same way that is outwardly required of women.

Strangely, even more than being married to a doctor, being a parent has changed my perspective when it comes to my health. I now need to take an offensive rather than defensive approach.  After all, I have a small person who really depends on me -- in a way that is totally unique from any of my other relationships.

I am happy that the doctor's appointment is behind me, after all, mentally it was much worse than reality. Thankfully, all the test results were within a normal range.  And since my cholesterol ratio, in particular, was stellar, I naturally went right to one of my favorite pastry shops.  For Movember it was fittingly titled:

Check out this Youtube video as you prepare to participate in the Movember cause next year:


Monday, December 1, 2014

Holiday Style

Go Baroque without Going Broke!

After spending an exquisitely relaxing afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art yesterday with my family (recovering from the holiday), I am reminded of the incredible impact religious art had, and continues to have, on western culture. I was also reminded that it's time to pull out all the dusty, museum-quality medieval art -- perfectly festive this time of year!

Last week, Thanksgiving was a whirlwind.  I prepared multiple feasts, cleaned multiple meals and housed multiple people.  It was lively, it was chaotic, it was merry, it was fatiguing!  Needless to say, with the table ostensibly being set and cleared every 4 hours, when I got around to laying the table for the more formal Thanksgiving dinner, I didn't have much time to give it my normal highly attentive touch.  Fortunately, I relied on a couple quick tricks that make any table look lavish and amazing.

Firstly, make sure the linens are pressed.  Much like a beautiful diaphanous dress, an ironed table cloth not only looks neater, it falls more elegantly around the edges.  Be creative with the napkins, too! For this holiday, I simply fanned them out and slid a gold beaded ring in the middle. It was simple but tasteful.

Pair matching water and wine glasses.  Stemmed glasses, especially when elegantly doubled around each plate, give the table presence, height and ample volume.

Make sure you have fresh, tall taper candles. The taller the better. Again this gives the table height and elegance, it gracefully catapults the setting and once lit, adds some old fashioned romance. But don't forget to light them just before everyone sits down!

Finally, put something tall and bold in the center.  Of course flowers work well, but so does a jar full of holiday ornaments. Or a huge bowl of vibrant clementines. Pinecones work too! Use whatever is available.

Figurines are not typically a design element found in my home.  But at Christmas, all rules are scrapped.   It is truly the one time of year that we can be over the top, whimsical and atypical.  Go ahead, take out some of those darling holiday figures...

This is such a simple, yet powerful holiday design idea.  In your white wine or champagne ice bucket, mix in few of your silver ornaments --  Gorgeous!

Put lights and garland everywhere!

When purchasing your tree, be sure to take any and all the extra branches.  You will find a use for them (inside and out). If nothing else, they are a perfect foil for squirrels -- keeping them away from the recently planted spring bulbs!

Getting ready to buck the cold -- to get in some holiday shopping!