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.

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Jewelry and My Wardrobe: Refusing to Play Nicely with One Another

Today, I was looking through my jewelry collection, primarily because I found a long-lost earring and wanted to reunite it with its mate. As I was examining my  jewelry, I realized something: my accessories do not go with my clothes. Like, at all.

Being a great jewelry lover, I find ways to wear all my stuff anyway, but it requires extensive thought and serious effort. Some days, I get up and think "Hmm, I'd like to wear that chunky brass-toned PVC necklace today. How can I make that happen?" Usually, this involves looking at a closet full of clothes and marveling at how NONE of them seem to really complement this goshdarned necklace. Eventually, I'll settle on an outfit that looks something like this, then add the jewelry in question:

70s jeans and tee outfit

[Imagine this with a black cardigan on top and you have the fall/winter outfit when I have this problem.] 

This looks fine with a chunky necklace - it's simple and doesn't clash. How can it? It's all neutral. But it's certainly not the sort of coordinated, stylish outfit I was thinking of when I wanted to wear the necklace in the first place. I aspire to something more like these outfits the lovely ladies behind Alterations Needed and Extra Petite put together with their statement pieces, here and here, where the jewelry mirrors other colors and textures in the outfit (instead of my typical I'm-just-wearing-jeans-and-a-tee-nothing-to-see-here-oh-wait-NECKLACE look.)

I have identified a four-part strategy to begin tackling my accessorizing conundrum. First, I need to pare down  my jewelry collection. I have a lot of nice jewelry, but if I'm not wearing it, there's no point having it around, hiding the stuff I do wear. I'll see if my Mom wants anything that needs a new home. If not, I'll sell it.

Second, I should organize it so I can see it. I'm a very visual person; if I don't see the item or a reminder thereof, it's not there. I recently purchased a hanging jewelry organizer from the Container Store, so that might help.

Third, I need to spend time thinking about deliberately incorporating my accessory collection into my daily attire. I've never been good at laying out my clothes the night before, but I'm interested in Sal of Already Pretty's outfit list method, so perhaps I'll try that.

Fourth, if I'm going to buy or make jewelry, it needs to coordinate with my wardrobe. This mental dialogue: "Ooh, pretty. What a lovely [insert jewelry item here]. I like the color/length/shape/craftsmanship/price. I'll take it!" needs to become "Ooh, pretty. I appreciate the color/style/whatever - but does it go with my clothes? The colors, the necklines? Can I think of several outfits it would enhance? Yes, yes and yes? Okay, now I'll take it." Otherwise, I'll just have a pile of lovely but [for me] unwearable jewelry. So sad.

So: pare down, organize, incorporate, and limit new purchases. That's the plan.

Does anyone else have this problem with accessories?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

50% Off Selected Tees at Loft, and $20 Shorts and Skirts

I love a good tee. My lifestyle at the moment is very casual (perhaps too casual)  so tees are the bread and butter of my wardrobe. Tucked into skirts and jeans, under button-downs or a blazer, as a swimsuit cover-up, under bare dresses to make them more modest - you name it. And right now, tees are 50% off at Ann Taylor Loft, no coupon required. Woohoo! Sorry, got a little excited just thinking about it. 

Loft tees are super soft, washable and hold up well. $29-36 is a bit steep for my budget for a tee, so I rarely buy them, but even full price, they're worth what you pay for them. (Even my grandpa was impressed with the quality when we showed him our haul.) My grandma got the Pleated Bib Slub tee, below left, in a nice slate blue and a barely-there gray; it doesn't seem to be online, but there were tons of colors and sizes in the store. My favorites include the Split Neck Tee with Ruching (below right) because of its neckline - it's different and interesting, but not distractingly so. I also like the Dolman Sleeve Cowl Neck Top; it strikes me as the sort of tee that could be easily dressed up with a pencil skirt and jewelry for an evening out, while still being comfortable. 

Loft also has selected shorts and skirts for $20. Shorts season will be over in a few weeks, but some skirts - like the Trouser Pocket Cargo Skirt - could definitely transition to the fall nicely, with or without tights. 

If you love tees, might be worth clicking over!

ROI: Something I Really Don't Want to Think About

Today my mom sent this along from PayScale. It's interesting, although if my college ranked lower on the list than it did, I would probably use a different descriptor, such as "horrifying."

They've calculated the return on the investment (or ROI) of an undergraduate degree from a host of different schools. The top 100 or so are pretty much what you'd expect - all good schools that are quite well known. That engineering and business schools rank highly wasn't a shock either. What did surprise me was that the Ivies are scattered throughout the list rather than all at the top. You always hear that the connections made at Ivy League schools are worth their weight in gold, but it seems other schools aren't doing too badly in that department. The highlights: CalTech grads typically hit the jackpot later in life, while Shaw University grads? Not so much. You can find your alma mater on the full list, here:

Here's hoping we all get a decent return on the now-pretty-much-mandatory college investment!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How To Cook Everything. Wait...everything? I'm not sure I believe you.

Like many people, I tend to start the summer with a to-do list. Currently on deck? Learning how to cook. Now, don't get me wrong - I can feed myself adequately. I'm not one of those individuals who has to call their mom every time they want to hard boil an egg, or whatever. I can make some basics, and I can usually turn random ingredients out of the fridge into something halfway decent given a Google recipe search and an hour or so. 

But. Cooking this way, while it does allow me to, you know, not starve to death, generally produces results anywhere from "mediocre" to "pretty okay" on the Delicious-Food-O-Meter. 

My cooking attempts literally never turn out this appetizing. I don't even like salmon spread and green peppers, but I'm running a Google search for this recipe as I write this. Ridiculous. 

I love good food, like cooking, and wouldn't mind having some control over the healthiness of what I eat. More importantly, starting in August every other Friday my roommate and I will be responsible for making dinner for friends (the other Fridays, it's their turn.) I think it will be a nice way to relax and greet the weekend. However, as August approaches I'm feeling the pressure, because the regular dinner guests in question are two just lovely ladies who appear to be good at everything they attempt. Other potential diners included an accomplished baker, former caterer's assistant, and at least one known picky eater. STRESS. PRESSURE. I have had a few major cooking flops in my lifetime, and I'll be darned if they happen where other people have to endure them, then order pizza later when I'm not looking! 

So, between pure desire to learn, health concerns, and the major motivation (not wanting to embarrass myself) I set out to purchase a good basic cookbook. Suggestions from others included the Joy of Cooking, a Betty Crocker volume, the Timelife series of cookbooks, and Julia Child's famousThe Way to Cook. I chose none of these to begin with, for various reasons (my parents have a copy, too fattening, I don't have a free bookshelf lying around my miniscule living space, and too intimidating, in that order.) My requirements for this book were simple. It had to:
  1. Be only one volume. 
  2. Contain recipes for most kinds of food. So, for example: Martha Stewart's book on appetizers, while fascinating, would not be quite right. 
  3. Rely heavily on quality ingredients and produce. Not one of those how-to-turn-six-canned-goods-into-a-casserole deals. 
  4. Have reasonable recipes. Ones that don't require exotic ingredients, six hours of your day devoted to a single dish, weird appliances, etc. (Ahem. Julia.)

And after careful consideration, I ended up with...

Image from

I'd heard good things about this one - loved his column in the New York Times - so I took a look. His intro emphasized that everyday cooking doesn't need to take forever, tastes better than takeout, and truly isn't rocket science. Yeah! I can learn to cook too! I felt encouraged. My initial impression is one of a volume with more fresh, appetizing recipes than I know what to do with, and very descriptive simple instructions. Oh, and reasonable cooking times. So if a recipe doesn't work out, at least the schedule damage will be minimal. 

Time to get cooking!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

About This Blog

It all started with an item I came across while browsing the cosmetics section of my local Target. 

Yes, while seeing whether my favorite nail polish was back in stock, I noticed a lovely shade of red lipstick that I thought would complement both my complexion and my clothes (L'Oreal Colour Riche 310, in case you were wondering). Without much thought, I tossed in in my basket and went about my business. 

As I drove home, it occurred to me that I had just purchased my first red lipstick. It's not that I hadn't considered purchasing one before - I had. But I always refrained, thinking red too bold for someone of my relatively young age and small stature. This day, however, buying it was the nonissue I imagine it is for the average lady. 

"Huh," I thought. "How grown-up of me. Interesting." This is a thought that occurs with alarming frequency these days. I own red lipstick. I have enough important papers to need a filing cabinet. I wear heels when it isn't strictly necessary so my outfit looks right. Gas prices and taxes irk me severely, and I collect nice sheath dresses like it's my job. 

I am, I fear, on my way to becoming... an adult. A pencil-skirt-wearing, 30-minute-meal making, crazy-busy grown-up. And if I'm going to become the more functional, but no less fun version of myself, I'm bound to learn a thing or two. Might as well document and share it... or at least build a solid foundation for an insanity defense in case I completely lose it along the way. I'll be writing about developing my personal style, adventures in cooking and decorating small spaces, trying to engineer more hours in the day, and maybe even the occasional youthful shenanigan - we'll see. 

My name is Elizabeth. Welcome to my almost adult life!