Wednesday, August 17, 2011

...I'm moving in a week, don't judge me

So, I haven't really had time to put together anything informative, interesting or funny this week, because I'm going out of town tomorrow, returning Sunday, and moving next Tuesday. For those who might be mathematically disinclined, like myself, that leaves one day for me to finish [start? no, finish, I guess I've sort of started] sorting through my belongings and shoehorning them into a van.

Instead of a thoughtful post, please enjoy this link to the giant slide installed in a Utrecht subway station. The Netherlands' city planners are clearly more fun than whoever's in charge of East Coast transit.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The ultimate nail polish test: eating crabs at my Dad's birthday dinner

Time for a true confession: I am overly concerned with the appearance of my nails.

I can wake up late, roll out of bed, wash my face, brush my teeth and race out the door wearing an almost-clashing outfit and feel okay, but God forbid I wear chipped nail polish. If there is a small chip, I fix it ASAP. If there are multiple or large chips, off it goes until I have time to do them over.  So naturally, I'm always on the lookout for nail polish that doesn't chip.

I also favor opaque polish in bright or dark colors. I think they work because I keep my nails short because I type a lot and work with jewelry - long nails are a hindrance. My outfits tend to be very feminine, classic and conservative as a rule, so I like bold nails to add a little edge. But my policy on bold nails is: they have to be neat. If there's a week where I know I won't have time to keep up my manicure, I'll do natural nails or something pale and sheer to hide the inevitable chipping. Tonight, I put my Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure to the ultimate test - and it passed with flying colors!

I ate crabs tonight, you guys. And emerged with my manicure fully intact. I know that eating Maryland crab is one of those weird regional things like a New England clambake or anything to do with wearing a cowboy hat in the Midwest, so if you're not familiar, allow me to explain. Basically, those of us who are fortunate enough to have access to these delicious crustaceans enjoy sitting around picking the meat out of them for hours on end. Any excuse will do. Tonight? My dad's birthday.

Here's what happens: you pull a crab out of the barrel. It will be covered in piles of Old Bay and possibly cooking water. You rip the legs off the crab's body one by one, sucking the meat out of them. You may also snap each leg in half to facilitate this endeavor. Then you will reach the front claws. You take a wooden mallet and whack the claws until they break, enabling you to pull out the crabmeat. Watch out for flying crab shell shrapnel. Next you pry part of the crab's belly shell off, splitting it in half lengthwise. You scrape the lungs and other... stuff, don't think too hard about what it is exactly, off. You snap the crab's body in two, then squeeze each half together, then force them open. (For some reason visitors often find this practice barbaric. I don't see it, do you?) Finally, you pull out the crabmeat! It can be enjoyed with butter, cider vinegar, and more Old Bay.

My point here is, of course, that eating crabs is absolute hell on your nails. It is worse than my job messing around with pliers/wire/glue at the bead store. I fully expected to have to redo my nails before work on Friday after this shindig.

And yet... for the first time EVER, my nails were perfect after picking crabmeat. Perfect, I tell you. Not even a touch up was necessary. Since I used the same old top and base coat as usual, I have to conclude that the new nail polish was the reason for this. Way to go, Sally Hansen!

The bottle looks like this:
Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure in Navy Baby. Image from

It's pricey for drugstore nail polish at around eight dollars a bottle. However, it's a generously sized bottle, the colors are solid and saturated, and you need two coats max to get good coverage. So far I've liked the colors Choco-latte and Pat on the Black. Choco-latte is  a nice nude for my medium skin tone, and Pat on the Black (which I borrowed - thanks Mom!) is a deep purple. 

OPI is nice and Essie is too, but living in neighborhood where these brands are hard to come by ten months out of the year, it's nice to find a quality nail color you can pick up at your local Walgreens. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Is it ridiculous to have a color scheme in a living space the size of a postage stamp?

The other day I was on my way to a new hair salon (to scope it out before deciding to trust them with my very difficult hair, but I digress) and naturally, my cell started ringing the second I began driving.

On a whim, I answered. Usually I let calls go to voicemail since I'm not the most experienced driver on the planet, but I thought it might be important for some reason - and it was! (Maybe I'm psychic?). My roommate was perusing her local Bed, Bath and Beyond and needed to discuss storage options. We're thinking an ottoman might be nice. And just in case any officers of the law are reading, I was using my hands-free setting the entire time.

This brings me to the topic of this post: decorating schemes. I'm wondering if there's a point on the small-living-space scale where trying to coordinate things simply becomes farcical. I mean, we're one step above Genie's living situation in Aladdin (quick refresher for anyone who hasn't Disneyed it up in a while: he lives in a very small but classy lamp.)

And that's what we're going for with our subtle, vintage-inspired color scheme, illustrated here:
color scheme 1

Small but classy. How do you incorporate color into small spaces?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Recipe Time: Tuna Salad with Veggies

This recipe was sort of inspired by a recipe in my new Hungry Girl 200 under 200 cookbook. I was flipping through looking for a non-diet-ruining tuna salad for lunch, and I thought "Hmm. Relish in a tuna salad. Interesting." This is my version of a veggie-filled tuna salad.

I used red bell pepper, baby carrots, and cooked frozen peas left over from last night's dinner because I had them on hand, but you can really choose any neutral or slightly sweet flavored fresh vegetables - just chop them up and toss them in!

You will need:

1/3 c. chopped red bell pepper (about half an average size pepper)
1/3 c. sliced baby carrots (I sliced them lengthwise into strips, then in half so they would mix into the salad nicely.)
1/2 c. cooked frozen peas
1.2 c. Miracle Whip (Light Miracle Whip might be better, but I didn't have any in the house)
1 tbsp sweet relish
2 tsp mustard
2 tsp honey
1 5 oz can solid white albacore in water (solid to cut down on mercury intake, canned in water to cut calories)

Mix the chopped veggies with the Miracle Whip, mustard, relish and honey. When thoroughly combined, add the [drained] tuna and mix, breaking it into pieces.

This make enough filling for three smallish sandwiches, and has only 164 calories per serving (I counted.) I had mine on Pepperidge Farm Light Style 7 Grain bread, which is my favorite so far of all the light breads I've tried - definitely worth checking out. It's also rather good on saltines.

Happy lunching!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fall Fashion Color Wheel: Pantone's Color Report

I was planning to write a different post entirely (about tomato-filled garlic bread, but never mind) but, I, as I am wont to do, got distracted.

I'm planning several new sewing projects, but I can't find the sewing machine pedal.  (It's been a while since I picked up needle and thread, obviously.) Thinking about searching for that led to thinking about my projects, which led to thinking about the kind of clothes I like in general, which led to, "I wonder if the colors/styles I like will magically be in fashion this fall?" I'll wear them regardless, of course, but it's always nice to keep up with the trends.

So, I looked up Pantone's Color Report for Fall 2011, which is based on their survey of New York Fashion Week. I don't know how Pantone does it, but if they predict a color will be in fashion, it will. Everyone from jewelry designers on Etsy to magazine producers to that dressmaker around the corner seems to read these reports to get an edge on the competition. I'm probably late in looking at it, but fortunately being in style isn't my actual job, so it's fine.

To summarize my findings, I've made the apparent "it" colors for fall into a little color wheel:

Pantone Fall 2011 Color Wheel

Pantone's color names, clockwise from top: emberglow, honeysuckle, phlox, cedar, deep teal, coffee liqueur, nougat, orchid hush, quarry, bamboo. I don't know where they get these names. 

Pantone's website says this palette "take[s] cues from the old masters, sepia tones of Old Hollywood, Chinese opera, cityscapes and countryside" and that fall fashion will focus on "menswear with feminine twists, warm prints with cool metals, incorporating both old and new influences, and creat[ing] an intriguing balance between colors" (see the full report here.)

It must be my lucky season, because I like all of these things! I've always appreciated unusual color combinations, especially with an eye toward making neutrals interesting. I don't know about the bright yellow, melon and pink up there, but they could be interesting accent colors. If I'm really lucky, we'll be seeing more retro details in clothing styles this fall. 

What do you think about Pantone's predictions?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How to Dress for the Heat

Summer is nice in a lot of ways: warm weather, more free time, sun late into the evening. Today did not exemplify any of summer's best qualities. It was so hot that all other positives were eclipsed by the discomfort of trying to go about my business in the heat and humidity. Luckily, today I  put my heat wave management formula into practice when getting dressed. The magic combination:

lightweight fabrics + no layers + accessories

1. Lightweight fabrics

This one's easy. Trade denim and seasonless stretch for lighter materials. For work, this might be linen or a nice cotton, depending on how formal your office is. Wherever you spend your days, chances are short shorts aren't quite appropriate (although if they are - lucky you!) so fabric becomes especially important. You might have to wear trousers or a skirt, yes, but you can always keep cool by selecting the right material. 

2. No layers

Okay, this is hard for me. Summer's nice and all, but I love me some autumn/winter layers. Even in the spring as it heats up, you will find me stubbornly wearing a tank top with a light cardigan over it. I like the look, plus I am very sensitive to temperature so I appreciate the versatility. But: losing the layers makes it easier to deal on the hottest of days, because fewer layers mean less perspiration and general discomfort. 

The key is finding pieces that are modest and stylish enough to wear without another layer. Step away from the spaghetti-strap tank tops! I love them, but only under things - my bra strap does not need to see the light of my workplace, thank you very much. Embellished tees are a good way to go, as are light woven shirts and voluminous tops, if you're into those. I'd stay away from any clingy knits. 

For some conservative offices (any attorneys and CPAs out there?), this might not be practical, though - a jacket is expected. I'd suggest planning an outfit that is fine to wear at your desk and around the office. Bring a coordinating jacket or sweater that you can toss on in case of a meeting or visit to a client. 

3. Accessories

If you're going to lose the layers but still be stylish, the right accessories are a must. An outfit that might normally be dressed up by a sweater or jacket might get the same boost by switching from flats to heels. A statement necklace might make that pretty tee that's just a tad too low-cut to wear to X event just fine my drawing the eye up and away. When you're wearing only a couple of pieces, spend the time you would spend layering to accessorize instead - your outfit can look just as put-together, and you won't die of heat exhaustion!

Some examples:

A casual work outfit, for someplace like my job at a bead store:

heat wave casual set

Shirt top, $7.99
Forever21 flower skirt, $15
Nine West rubber shoes, $41
G by Guess black jewelry, $19

A business-casual outfit:

business casual heat wave

Rubbish, $25
TopShop cropped capri pants, $76
Miss KG stiletto pumps, $112
Adele Marie layered necklace, $31
Buckle belt, £10

And finally, a look appropriate for a pretty formal environment:

business formal heat wave

Dorothy Perkins linen skirt, £15
ASOS t strap heels, $53
River Island floral earrings, $6.90
Elizabeth & James blue cotton 'School Boy' button front shirt, $158

What are your strategies for dressing nicely in unbearably hot weather?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cure-All Ramen Noodle Soup

If you glance at the time stamp of this post, you will notice that I am writing at a rather late hour. Couldn't sleep. I'm having one of those evenings where, I woke up today feeling fine, but now I could beat my grandma in an aches-and-pains-off. And she takes those seriously (as in, once she nearly convinced me she was dying when actually she just pulled a leg muscle. So dramatic!)

Anyway. I was going to have the last piece of pie in the fridge (don't judge me) but instead settled on a recent recipe I think I invented. It miraculously made me feel better last time this happened. And it's quick and easy, because it's made with something any former college student might never want to see again: Ramen noodles.

Yes, using Oriental-flavored Ramen and some add-ins I made a wonderfully spicy, warming soup to comfort the achy-ness before bed. They're too hot to eat right this second - which is good, because otherwise I wouldn't be writing this. A girl's gotta have her priorities.

So, the recipe:

1. Set almost 2 cups of water to boil.
2. Meanwhile, gather rice vinegar (mine is infused with roasted garlic), sriracha sauce, and honey.
3. Crush your Ramen in the package.
4. When the water's boiling - well, you probably know what to do. Boil half the noodles (that's one serving according to the package, and plenty for this soup) for three minutes.
5. Once the noodles are done, add half the seasoning packet and stir. From here on out, it's a matter of personal preference. I add a generous splash of rice vinegar, a slightly lesser amount of sriracha, and about two teaspoons of honey.
6. Stir well, transfer to a cute oversized mug if you're in that kind of mood, and enjoy!

*I should note that this is a soup for the brave of palate. Sriracha is spicy, and with the vinegar and salt from the seasonings, you've got a hot dish on your hands here. If spicy isn't usually your cup of tea, go easy on the seasonings, or maybe skip the sriracha altogether.