happy things: jo malone sugar & spice collection


There is something about comfort scents that instantly make you happy. Take the cake above, for instance. Look at it. Can you almost smell the sweet cream frosting? And inside, raspberry filling on layers of pure white, soft, fluffy cake. You're smiling right now, aren't you? I am as I write this. Cake is a happy scent, as is lemon tart, ginger biscuit and bitter orange and chocolate-- all delicious treats but also new scents in the Jo Malone Sugar & Spice limited edition cologne collection.

Last week, I attended the Sugar & Spice debut at a very ladylike cake party at the Nordstrom in Bellevue, WA. At this event we sampled the new colognes along with the sweets that inspired them -- a lemon tart as we tried the new Lemon Tart fragrance. There was the ginger biscuit followed by the Ginger Biscuit scent, red currant and cream pastry followed by the Red Currant & Cream cologne, gooseberry sweets with the Elderflower & Gooseberry cologne and finally orange with chocolate treats and Bitter Orange & Chocolate cologne.



Before you think "Oh, gosh, I do not want to smell like cake." The new colognes (which are available for a limited time) don't smell like you've just made pastries. Rather, they are inspired by these delicate treats.  After trying the five new scents my favorites were the Bitter Orange & Chocolate which when layered over Orange Blossom (my signature scent) left me feeling uplifted and happy. It added depth to my favorite white blossom cologne. This combination is what I would wear to an evening cocktail party. I also loved the Elderflower & Gooseberry which reminded me of a cool summer morning. It was the kind of clean scent perfect for a summer wedding. For my husband, I loved Ginger Biscuit. It was a warm scent that reminded me of cozy days in autumn by the fire.

We are biologically wired to like the smell of food, especially sweet foods. These new scents by Jo Malone definitely hit that primal note in us. I looked around at the event and all I saw were smiles. These new scents? Definitely a happy thing.

The Jo Malone Sugar & Spice collection is available at Nordstrom for a limited time only.


happy food: easy 2 ingredient (no bake) chocolate coconut easter nests



I am a sucker for white chocolate + coconut. This combination reminds me of Hawaii and happy sunshiny days. Earlier this week I made delicious lemon coconut macaroons drizzled with white chocolate for Passover. I had some coconut and white chocolate left over so I decided to making white chocolate nests for Easter. I searched online for recipes and they all seemed a little complicated and needed more ingredients than I had on hand so I thought I'd see what would happen if I just mixed the melted white chocolate with the coconut. It turns out that it's all you need. 

I tried several variations and the best mix was 2:1 with a bag of white chocolate chips and 1/2 a bag of coconut. Here's the recipe:


+




Ingredients
1 11 ounce bag of white chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)
1/2 of a 14 ounce bag of sweetened shredded coconut
Candy almonds or jellybeans for the nest

Directions
Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. 

Add coconut to medium size bowl and set aside. 

Pour white chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and heat for one minute in microwave. Stir and heat for one more minute. Stir again. If chocolate is not melted all the way, heat in 30 second bursts, stirring each time. 

When chocolate is melted, add to coconut and stir with a spatula. If the mixture seems too thin, add coconut a tablespoon at a time. 

When incorporated and cooled a little,  use your hands to form balls. Place ball of cookie sheet and press down a hollow in the middle of the ball. You may have to push the sides in a little to keep the shape. Continue making nests. 

Place cookie sheet overnight in refrigerator to cool. To serve, add candy to the nest. I used shimmery chocolate almonds. 

Notes

The white chocolate will be VERY hot! I made the mistake of trying to mix the chocolate (taken right from the microwave) into the coconut with my hands. I burned myself. Use a spatula until the chocolate is cooled. 

The glass bunnies are from World Market
The glassybabys are in Dream 


The Fail




I thought I would try making Tiffany blue nests. Last week at Sur la Table I bought turquoise food coloring and I was just waiting for the perfect project to use them. I started by adding a little food coloring to a large Ziploc bag then adding half a bag of coconut flakes. I shook the bag to distribute the color.  However, the color never distributed evenly. I went forward with adding the chocolate and making the nests but they just looked like a really bad kindergarten project. 

I Facetimed my husband who is in Boston this week and showed him the nests. First I showed him the white chocolate nests and he said "Those look amazing. Save some for me!"

Then I showed him the blue ones. He stared at them. "Are those edible?"

"Yes, they're edible. I think."

"They look like the Smurfs made them." My husband, the clever one. "You're not going to put those on the blog, are you?"

"No, they look awful, don't they?" I laughed. "I mean, they really look awful."

"They probably taste good though. Nice try, honey."

So, the lesson here is keep it simple. And when working with food coloring, wear gloves because it's going to be awhile before my hands are no longer a shade of turquoise.


Happy Easter!


happy movie: "when harry met sally"

Last night I caught the end of "When Harry Met Sally." It was the scene in the ballroom on New Year's Eve. As I watched, I noticed for the first time the way Billy Crystal looks at Meg Ryan (at the 1:33 mark.) This is exactly how every woman wants to be looked at by the man she loves. I hit rewind at least ten times so I could watch it again and again. It's the loveliest thing.




happy music: Iz's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World"

The first thing I saw when I woke up this morning was gray, fog and rain and all I could think of was "Ugh!" knew I needed to change my perspective to start my day off on a happy note so I hit this song on my iPod even before getting out of bed.

I first heard Hawaiian singer Iz's rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/ What a Wonderful World" in one of my favorite films "50 First Dates" and it never fails to remind me of sparkling sunny days.

Sometimes all it takes to change your mood is the perfect song.

I hope your day is wonderful!


A Happy Guy: Walt Disney World Ambassador, Tye Arnold


It was the twinkling white lights that made me cry. It was my first trip to Walt Disney World, a high school graduation present from my mom, a hardworking single mom and nurse. It was a balmy June evening and we were standing on Main Street USA in front of Cinderella Castle about to watch the fireworks. The trees around us were twinkling as I looked over at my mom to thank her for taking me to Walt Disney World and I saw her, smiling, transfixed as she watched Tinkerbell fly through the air. In that moment I was overwhelmed with love for her, for Walt Disney, for the people who create magical moments just like this one every single day. 

Since that memorable day, as a television reporter and a fan of Walt Disney World, I have been back dozens of times to vacation, to cover events like the grand opening of the Animal Kingdom and on one very special trip, to honeymoon. Walt Disney World is my happy place as it is for millions of people around the world. Imagine, if you had a job working at Walt Disney World where you could use your expertise and exquisite attention to detail along with a healthy sprinkling of pixie dust to help make people's dreams come true.  Recently I was at Walt Disney World to cover the grand opening of the New Fantasyland and I had the opportunity to talk with Tye Arnold, one of the 2013/2014 Walt Disney World Ambassadors, and a guy with one of the happiest jobs in the world.


Enchanted Tales With Belle at New Fantasyland


The Happygirl: Hi Tye! You have an incredible job here working as an Ambassador for the Walt Disney company! I imagine there is so much to learn when you come on board. How do even begin to learn everything about Walt Disney World?

Walt Disney World Ambassador Tye Arnold:  The Walt Disney Company has a class called Traditions and all of our Cast Members go through that on day one.  It gives a good foundation. Today we are here at New Fantasyland. Here, classic Disney films come to life inside the park.  I went back and pulled out my copy of “Beauty & the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid” because it’s been awhile since I’ve seen these films.   I know the characters very well because they live and breathe in the park,  but it's always nice for a refresher. There are hidden treasures all around the park from the movies. We have Gaston’s Tavern and Belle’s Village. . .  There are so many gems here in New Fantasyland.

HG: What are some of the things you need to know about New Fantasyland and being a Walt Disney World Ambassador?

Tye: Pretty much everything! (laughs) We celebrate our Cast Members every day who create those magical experiences like the Cast Members here at New Fantasyland. You’ll notice that they say "Bonjour!"  They welcome you in the way that Belle would using the verbiage from the film. We need to know our character base, all the venues and the different parts of the company. We focus a lot on our community and community efforts in Central Florida and even beyond that.

HG: How would you describe your role as a Walt Disney Ambassador?

Tye: The Walt Disney World Ambassador program has the honor of representing 66,000 Cast Members at the Walt Disney World Resort to the community and at internal events. Our scope covers everything from emceeing events with high profile guests/Cast to being the lead VoluntEAR in the community. We also get to share a "Cast Member" point of view on all the new and exciting things happening at Walt Disney World with different media outlets like yours.


HG: Tye, marathons have become a big part of guest experiences here at Walt Disney World. Can you talk for a moment about the marathons? What can someone new to Disney marathons expect? I am registered for the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend. It will be my first race experience. I don't know much but I was told by previous runners that I shouldn't wear ear buds because exciting things happen along the way.

Tye:  The great thing about Run Disney and specifically the Disney's Princess Half Marathon is that it has the same thrill and excitement as being in a race environment but now you have the Disney experience along with that. When you run you see Disney characters and entertainment. You hear music. You really get transported to this magical place. You get that motivation. Instead of running though a city area, you see Cinderella Castle in the distance. You’re motivated.  You think “If I can just make it to the castle!” You also run through Epcot so you think “If I just make it to Spaceship Earth.” These things cheer you on. You are entertained as you run and there is a family reunion at the end of the race. There is music, fun and all sorts of Disney touches along the way.

Tye:  I have a question for you. Have you picked out what you’re going to wear?

HG: A tiara. Obviously. (laughs)

Tye:  (laughs) It is so exciting to see the racers cross the finish line. They all get so creative! They are dressed as princesses with tiaras.  It’s not implied that you have to wear a costume but have fun with it! No masks but anything else is fair game.

HG: And men can run it too?

Tye: Absolutely. Men can run it too, of course! There are partnerships too, a husband and wife team could even run it.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow at Disney's Hollywood Studios


HG: Let’s talk about The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow.  This is different from Pirates of the Caribbean?

Tye: Exactly. Pirates of the Caribbean is at the Magic Kingdom park here in Orlando, Florida as well as in Disneyland in California. Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios we have a new attraction that when you walk in it is an immersive experience. You’re met with a skull and crossbones that give you the Pirates lore. They let you know what you need to do to become part of Captain Jack’s crew. There is a storm that brews. . .you’re on the ship. There is a pirate battle. Hopefully you’ll come out on the end, no battle worn fatigue! (laughs) Captain Jack shows up at the end and you take the oath to become part of his crew.

HG: This is great, especially for young boys.

Tye: Absolutely.

HG: Because there is so much for little Disney princesses.

Tye: That is a great thing too about Walt Disney World. You asked earlier about the marathons.  There are a lot of things for families to do.  In New Fantasyland there are princess experiences but there are great things for the boys too with Storybook Circus.  I love walking through these areas because they’re so interactive with great experiences, especially with the new Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow which is  also great for the little ones. They feel like they are part of the crew.

HG:  Is it a little bit darker than the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in the Magic Kingdom?

Tye:  The tone is darker, not in feeling but in environment. A lot of digital projection and Disney magic. You feel immersed. You feel like you are on that ship. You feel like you are battling the waves. You feel like you are there.

HG: Let’s talk about happy moments here at Walt Disney World.  What makes you happy?

Tye:  I have always been a Disney kid. I loved the Disney Channel growing up and I was so excited to actually visit Walt Disney World for the first time when I was 9 years old. There was so much excitement on that trip. Our entire family was along for the experience and some of my greatest memories come from that Walt Disney World vacation. That is why I love our new promotion called Limited Time Magic. We know that some of life's greatest moments are from a snapshot in time with family and friends. Because of that, every week during 2013, in one-week time frames, special events will happen here at Walt Disney World Resort and at The Disneyland Resort in California.

HG: How will guests know what the Limited Time magic events are?

Tye: We will release information DisneyWorld.com, Disneyland.com, Twitter (#LimitedTimemagic), Facebook and of course the Disney Parks blog. (ed. note: the Disney Parks blog is a great place to check every day to see what's new in the parks. Especially essential when planning your next trip!)  It really is an extra sprinkling of pixie dust when you’re out there in the parks. It may be smaller things like special merchandise released for that one week or bigger things like special meets and greets. For the Fourth of July, Patriotic Mickey will be here. Cinderella Castle colors will match and reflect that time of year as well.  Lots of neat experiences will be happening throughout 2013

HG: What makes you happy?

Tye:  Every day when I get to put this nametag on. I take that as the greatest gift I can have. I know what this company stands for.   I know what we do here every day to provide great experiences for our Guests. I am also happy knowing that Walt Disney World not only creates magic every day for our Guests, but it also cares about the community we live in. Our philanthropic efforts focus on building better futures for our children and improving their lives.  I am proud to represent this company and all that we do to make dreams come true. Like here in New Fantasyland. (laughs)

I mean how can you not get happy when you wear this nametag and walk through New Fantasyland seeing these new vistas? When you see Prince Eric’s Castle in the background, Beast’s Castle and Maurice’s cottage in the distance. I get to work for a team that helps make all that come to life. That, every single day is my happy moment.

HG:  You’re a lucky guy.

Tye:  (laughs) I feel like a lucky guy!


About the Disney Ambassador history


1964 was a busy time for Walt Disney and The Walt Disney Company: we were preparing to celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of Disneyland; Mary Poppins was in theaters; we had created four attractions for the 1964 New York World's Fair; and we were busy planning "Project X" - which later became the Walt Disney World Resort. During this time, Walt received many requests for media interviews and to attend numerous events. Considering Disneyland's Tenth Anniversary was close at hand, he wanted to do something special to help celebrate. Recognizing the talented Cast of Disneyland, the Ambassador Program was born.

Walt wanted to have a Disneyland Cast Member assist him with the many requests he received. The Ambassador's duties would include making public appearances and speeches, escorting dignitaries and other V.I.P.'s visiting Disneyland Park, and traveling the country and the world promoting the Disney ideals. In 1964, Walt selected Julie Reihm as the first Disney Ambassador.


happy videos: what a baby sloth sounds like {video}

My husband thought I'd be happy waking up to baby sloth sounds so he emailed me this video. It's the first thing I saw this morning and it set my day off into happyland. I hope it cheers you too.


inspiration #41


happy things: the quokka


Sure, it's Monday and you have to go to work but first, look at this face? Isn't life wonderful? More pictures, please?! Sure. Click here

I'm looking at this picture and clearly will be getting no work done this morning. I'm enjoying the sheer pleasure of looking at this happy, furry face. You know if he could talk he would say "Yes, you there with that camera, come into my burrow for a little nosh. What was that? Something on my nose?! Well, I like it there! It makes me unique!" I think he'd talk like Winnie the Pooh. 


Before you call your partner to tell him that you've found your next pet, you should know that this little member of the macropod family (kangaroo, wallaby and other marsupials) lives on smaller islands off the coast of Australia. The Quokka is an herbivore that weighs between 5.5 and 11 pounds, similar to a cat, but due to its content demeanor he probably wouldn't toss your things off the counter like your cat would.  Wikipedia refers to it looking "rather like a very small, dumpy kangaroo" which makes me love this little one all the more. Unfortunately, the Quokka is listed as "vulnerable" due to predators, logging and development. I would plan a trip to Rottnest Island just to see him in his natural habitat.

I love that we live in a world where happy little animals like these exist.

happy food: lemon coconut macaroons with white chocolate {recipe}


When I was a little girl, my mother had some friends from Israel. As an only child I was fascinated by the whirlwind that was their home. Kids, grandparents, parents and hugs, so many hugs. I remember sitting at their solid kitchen table as we kids sat like happy waiting puppies for a warm macaroon made by their Bubbe (grandmother). If I close my eyes I remember how sweet and warm their home smelled. I wanted so badly to be a part of this large, loving family and sometimes just for an afternoon I was. I was part of their world.

Now, when given the choice of desserts at a restaurant, if coconut macaroons are on the menu, I will always order one just so I can remember that warm, happy feeling. (note: The Nordstrom Cafe makes absolutely extraordinary macaroons.) With Passover starting this Monday I thought I would try my hand at making these traditional Passover treats at home for the first time. I came across several basic macaroon recipes online from  The Barefoot Contessa and Martha Stewart (my favorite resources) but because we love coconut and lemon and white chocolate, I tried many variations using these three ingredients until we hit on a macaroon flavor yesterday that even Bubbe would have approved of.

Yesterday, on the first day of spring which was sunny here in Seattle, I finished drizzling these macaroons with white chocolate and I sat in the sunshine and enjoyed the perfect combination of bright, happy lemon and coconut flavors finished off with a creamy white chocolate. I was so thankful for the Bubbes in our worlds, the women in our lives who shared their recipes and their hugs so generously with us.

I hope during this Passover you are able to take time with your family and enjoy the tastes of your childhood. Chag Sameach!

Special thanks to Rod Oshins, our friend and best man for his help with this article (and always)!



Lemon Coconut Macaroons Drizzled with White Chocolate {recipe} 

This is a fairly easy recipe and pretty much foolproof. 

Ingredients

1 large egg white
Pinch of Kosher salt (1/8th teaspoon)
1   14 ounce package of sweetened shredded coconut flakes
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup lemon curd
zest of one lemon
1 cup of white chocolate, chopped

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Prepare a cookie sheet with a sheet of parchment paper. Set aside. 

In a large bowl beat egg white and salt until foamy and peaks start to form (about 90 seconds). Fold in coconut flakes, sweetened condensed milk, lemon curd and lemon zest. Mix only until all ingredients are incorporated. 

The mixture will be very tacky and fluffy. You can use an ice cream scoop but I prefer to use my hands. Scoop a small amount of the batter (about 1/4 cup) into your hands and compact it into a ball. Place on cookie sheet and using your plan, press down with a little pressure so the ball is flat on the bottom. Proceed with the rest of the batter, placing macaroons 1 inch apart.  (There is no leavening so they will not expand.)

Bake on a medium rack, 25-30 minutes, turning the cookie sheet halfway through cooking. Peek in on them at the 20 minute mark to be sure the tops aren't becoming too well done. Macaroons should be golden brown when done. (Yesterday, these cooked for about 28 minutes)

Remove from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes then transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. Cool for at least one hour before adding drizzle.

To prepare chocolate drizzle, add chocolate to microwave safe bowl and heat chocolate for one minute. At the one minute mark, remove from microwave (bowl will be very hot!) and stir. If the chocolate hasn't melted, heat for additional 30 seconds and stir again until melted. Place parchment paper below wire rack of macaroons and using a spoon, drizzle white chocolate on tops of macaroons.) Let cool for at least one hour in refrigerator and enjoy!

Notes: 

I made two batches. One with lemon curd and one with lemon juice. You could substitute lemon juice for the lemon curd if you had to but I found that the lemon curd (available in markets in the jam aisle) adds a bright, tart, effervescent quality to the macaroons that the batch made with just straight lemon juice didn't have.

The lemon zest is also essential for this recipe. If you delete it, it doesn't have that POP.  Here is a great microplane from Williams-Sonoma. We use our microplane almost everyday to zest/micrograte things like fresh Parmesan and limes.

We also tried these with dark chocolate drizzle but it just overpowered the light delicate flavor of the lemon and coconut. The white chocolate was perfect. Use a high quality white chocolate like Ghirardelli.







casamigos tequila {review}


I have fantasies. 

These fantasies involve L. and I packing up our family and moving to a vineyard by the sea in the South of France where we can press our own olive oil and wine and on balmy nights by the Mediterranean we enjoy the fruits of our labor on the terrazzo. I thought perhaps our small batch olive oil and wine would be called Apres-Soleil (after-sun.) I have given this some thought.

Someone else who has given this some thought is George Clooney, who recently launched what was previously a friends-only run of their tequila- Casamigos (house of friends.) The story goes that George and his pal for 20+ years, Rande Gerber have houses next to each other in Cabo and their love of tequila is what encouraged them to launch their own brand along with their pal, Mike Meldman. Let's take a moment here and imagine these guys and their pals hanging out by the beach at night drinking tequila shots. THAT is a party to be invited to. Now it is kind of possible to join their party with the release of Casamigos.  Sold in both the Blanco and Reposado versions, Casamigos is slowly rolling out across the United States and as of today, is available in 12 states, including New York, California, Florida, Texas, Nevada and Washington. 



I appreciate tequila. In college I was a Bartles & Jaymes Fuzzy Navel wine cooler girl, then in my 20's I was a Cape-Codder kind of girl and now I am a tequila neat girl. Just a shot, with lime and salt on the side. No ice. Last year,  my friend A., taught me how to drink tequila properly as we sampled tequila flights (samplers) and I learned that Blanco (white) means a tequila is un-aged or aged less than two months.  Reposado (rested): The tequila is aged from two months to one year in oak barrels. Anejo (aged): Tequila is aged one to three years in oak barrels. A tequila flight is a great way to try new tequilas. In a sample tequila flight you can try a small (1/2 shot) of several different brands and intensities. By sampling tequila I wouldn't have tried in the past, I discovered I like either Reposado or Anejo. Both seem to have a more intense, robust flavor without the tequila 'burn'.

In the past my brand of choice is Patron. So, would Casamigos be enough to sway me?

Watch this short film titled "It Could Happen"




Casamigos: The Review

The Casamigos bottle is beautiful. It's clean and classic -- the kind of bottle that would look at home in Frank Sinatra's hand or propped in beach sand. Pop open the cork and inhale. There's a hint of oak along with the blue agave. I poured the tequila into a caballito ("little horse," Sp.), a narrow shot glass. I didn't opt for the salt because I wanted the true, pure taste of the Casamigos but I did prepare lime slices. I sipped slowly. I tasted tequila, of course, but also caramel and a bit of oak. I swear to God, I could almost taste the salt air.  This tequila instantly became my new favorite. Sure, it's fun knowing the provenance of this liquor but even without the star power behind this brand, this tequila is the one your favorite sailing-the-world-because-he-can uncle would bring you back from his travels just because he always brings you treasured things.

How to enjoy: 

Drink simply in a shot. I followed with a slice of lime and I could almost feel the sun on my face. 

We'll serve this at our next dinner party with tortilla chips and the Pasilla de Oaxaca salsa I made earlier this week.

I can also see sipping Casamigos while slipping into a hot bath scented with Jo Malone Orange Blossom after a stressful day. 

Just enjoy. Enjoy. 



Votive candle holders by glassybaby in dream


when a baby sloth gives you a hibiscus {video}

My friend, Sara, showed me this video yesterday and I squealed with delight. I'm putting this video into  my special folder called "Things to watch when I need to get my happy back."

Just watch.


the healthier, low-sugar shamrock shake {recipe}


Oh, those delicious Shamrock shakes. Those cool, minty, green shakes that McDonald's offers for a limited time every year that can reduce most of us into puddles of joy. Each sip is a minty explosion of happy in your mouth but the price you pay is 530 calories and 73 grams of sugar for a small (12 oz.) or  820 calories and 115 grams of sugar for a large (22 oz.). I thought I could do better. So, I tried. And failed. Repeatedly. Until I discovered a lactose-free variation that is also low in sugar and high in fiber. The best part is the taste. It has that creamy minty taste for only 230 calories but with the added bonus of 20 grams of fiber and 1 gram of sugar

After trying three completely different recipes with the goal of being:

tastes like a Shamrock shake
low in sugar
lower in calories
green

I came up with this recipe last night and tried several versions this morning with each shake tasting delicious, creamy and with that signature vanilla-minty taste. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as our family has. This is definitely something I can see making again when we're craving something cool on a summer's day.



Healthier Shamrock Shake Recipe
(230 calories, 20 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, lactose-free)

Ingredients

1 cup of So Delicious No-Sugar Added Vanilla Bean Frozen Coconut Milk
1/2 cup of No-Sugar Added Coconut Almond Milk
1 teaspoon Sugar-Free Peppermint Paddy flavored syrup
optional: Non-Fat No Sugar Added whipped cream or soy-based whipped cream, mint leaf

Directions

Combine all ingredients in blend and bledn just until smooth.
Pour in glass and top with optional whipped cream and mint leaf.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!



And The Epic Failures

Typically you don't see the recipes that failed but these recipes failed so epically that I had to share them. I dissected the ingredients in the Shamrock shake and looked online for other recipes to inspire me. I bought ingredients at both Whole Foods and Safeway. I blended, experimented and asked my husband to taste each one. He did. He's a good sport especially after I took a sip and said "Oh my God, this is AWFUL. Taste this." L. took a sip and said "This is especially terrible. You're not going to tell people to make this, right?" No, clearly the recipes work for many but I just couldn't get the recipes to taste or look good.



This was just awful. I prepared it with milk, peppermint extract, ice and spinach for the green coloring. It tasted like foamy minty spinach. There are no words for how awful this was.


I thought perhaps this recipe would be better than the first one so I tried using my protein powder that I usually use for my detox shake I drink every morning. This one tasted powdery, chemically, spinachy and minty. Again, awful.

And then there was Coconut Milk ice cream and all was good.


the salsa worth waiting 2 years for {recipe}


We are a salsa family.

Like my dad before me who put ketchup on EVERYTHING (yes, even plain crullers from Dunkin' Donuts) we use salsa at most meals from omelets (goat cheese and cheddar topped with salsa) to chips and salsa as an afternoon snack before dinner. Simply, we love salsa.

One night two years ago my husband called me from Los Angeles. He was just leaving a client meeting at Rosa Mexicano and he had just tried the best salsa. Ever. When he got home he gave me the recipe which I tucked into my recipe box and we both promptly forgot about it. (Bad wife, I know.) That is until our friend Drew came over for dinner recently and brought some of the salsa he made using the recipe from L.A. It knocked our socks off.

And so, last night I tried the recipe, much to my husband's delight. It is more work that your typical salsa recipe but the depth and the smoky flavor of this salsa makes it a winner. The secret lies in the special smoky Pasilla de Oaxaca chiles which can be hard to find but worth the hunt. (We found the chiles in Seattle at World Spice Merchants at 1509 Western Avenue near Pike Place Market. You can also order the chiles online from them here. )

Warning: If you're a salsa afficionado, once you make this salsa, it will be hard for you to go back to traditional salsa.


Pasilla de Oaxaca Salsa {recipe}

Ingredients
1 pound tomatillos (about 20)
3 dried Pasilla de Oaxaca chiles
3 garlic cloves
Salt to taste

Directions

Pre-set oven to 450.

Peel the husks from the tomatillos and wash them thoroughly.  Arrange tomatillos on a nonstick cookie sheet and roast them for 15-20 minutes, turning them midway. They should be somewhat blackened in spots and softened. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

While tomatillos are roasting, place chiles in warm water to soften for 15 minutes.  Drain. Slice off stems and slice chiles down the middle. Scrape off as many seeds as possibly, set aside. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly after handling the chiles!

In a blender add the cooled tomatillos, chiles and garlic. Blend for 20 seconds. If you'd like a smoother consistency, blend for another 10 seconds.

Pour salsa into a bowl and season with a sprinkle of salt to taste.

Refrigerate. 


Ed. Notes
  • Tomatillo husks are extremely sticky! It may take several washings to remove the stickiness that binds the husk to the tomatillo. Try peeling the husk off under running water.
  • The trick to perfect roasted tomatillos is in turning them. Be sure not to skip this step.
  • The chiles will soften in the water bath but they will not plump up. You want them just softened enough to allow you to scrape out the seeds. It isn't necessary to scrape out all the seeds but aim for 80% removed.



what i learned. . .as the nanny {insights}


This is the story of the summer between Sophomore and Junior year of college. It was the summer I was outsmarted by a four year-old. It was the summer I was a nanny.

ed. note: If you are scanning this article looking for the juicy part about the nanny and the dad, this isn't that kind of story. Well, it is, kind of but not the way you think. 

I've worked since I was 14. I had the memorable jobs where no matter how many showers you take you just can't get the smell of french fries or the hospital out of your hair. So, when a professor asked me if I was interested in being a live-in nanny for the summer for some friends of his, the thoughts of reading a book to a toddler while drinking endless glasses of iced tea seemed to be the ideal summer job.

I said yes.

I arrived at the M's house on a bright blue May day. I met the husband first who stepped out of an outbuilding holding a horseshoe in one hand and a bicycle tire in the other. Behind him toddled a little towhead named for a literary figure but inexplicably called Binnie. She was backlit by the sun as she ran towards me, her long hair flying. She was shirtless, wearing just shorts and boots. I bent down to her level as she came face-to-face with me. I smiled at her.

She looked beyond me at my car then looked back at me. "Your car is very ugly." She ran back into the barn. I stood up.

Mr. M. grimaced and shrugged. "So, you've now met Binnie. Come in. Meet the the house and my wife."  The house was what would now be known as a fixer upper if the fixer upper were to be featured on a home improvement show of million dollar vintage homes. Built in the 1800's it was quirky with a floor plan that seemed to have been drawn by someone Binnie's age. The kitchen had an enormous walk-in fireplace/oven but barely any countertops. The family room was just big enough for a television and loveseat but the living room was large enough to be nicknamed 'the ballroom.'

The floors were tilted south just enough so that when you sat in one the bathrooms you had the slight feeling of disorientation, making you question "Did I drink too much last night?" The house itself was enormous and on the second floor some of the bedrooms were only reachable by walking through another bedroom. It was charming, quirky and would be another character in my summer.

In the kitchen I met Ms. M who when she introduced herself made it clear that she was NOT a Mrs. (They called each other husband and wife but neither wore a wedding band. I still have no idea if they were actually married.) She told me to call them by their first names. She was friendly, willowy, model-like.  Both were famous enough to have been in the papers for their respective careers in entertainment. At night after I read Binnie her books I'd lie in my bed listening to the voices from downstairs. They along with their friends talked about politics, music, books, law, inventions they came up with. . . Throughout the summer I never knew who I would meet in the kitchen the morning following one of their impromptu parties. When I was upstairs with Binnie, we'd hear familiar music rising from 'the ballroom' only to find out while making oatmeal the next morning that it was the actual artist (and friend of the M's) singing live.

This was the summer I was exposed to what adulthood could be and I think some of the things I learned that summer helped shape the girl I am today.


the easiest way to make a bed
One of my duties was to make all the beds in the house every morning. This was easy because instead of having a top sheet, blanket and comforter, Mrs. M replaced the whole thing with just a comforter inside a duvet. There was just one thing then to fluff up on the bed. No top sheet to get tangled in, no blanket to straighten out, just a duvet cover to throw in the laundry once a week. Genius.

a real precocious kid is not the same as a movies precocious kid
The M's believed in constantly challenging Binnie's mind. So, I took her to local children's plays at the park. I did science projects out in nature with her. I read her books at the second grade level. I was not there to reprimand her but to guide her which made for one whopper of little girl. Binnie was smart, absolutely. She was brilliant but she was also a nightmare. On a typical day I might I teach her how to make blueberry pancakes, explaining measurements to her. Then we would go to a clever play in the park followed by a hike up the hills in the Berkshires, using our guidebook to discover the different foliage. After an educational and fun day like this, when we sat down to dinner, the conversation would go something like this:

Mrs M: "Binnie what did you learn today?"

Binnie: "She (looks at me) is a terrible driver. She spilled juice on the carpet in there (looks in tiny family room) and she said shit 5 times."

I learned quickly to watch my language or I would hear a little voice in the backseat say "Fuck fuck fuck."


the trick to blueberry pancakes
I am over the moon for blueberry pancakes but my pancakes always had a blue-grey  hue. One morning one of the M's overnight guests (a chef) taught me to toss the blueberries in a little flour before I folded them into the batter. This kept the blueberries from staining the batter blue. It worked. Genius.

how to quiet a tantrum
Binnie was a bright little girl. Her parents called her an old soul. I believe it. One day when we were out walking along the M's property, Binnie found an old arrowhead sticking up from the ground. "I remember this," she said turning it over in her hand. I asked "You found this before?" She looked at me exasperated as she often did and said "No, when we used these. I remember this." Make of that what you will.  She was exceptional, yes, but she was still a little girl without boundaries. When I would correct her ("Binnie,  darling, you must wear clothes if we're going out") and she didn't like it, she would throw herself on the floor and scream. Her parents believed in letting her scream it out. So, often I would sit on the floor near her as she screamed and screamed and screamed. Sometimes her parents or I would try to reason with her but she kept screaming.

One day, as I was sitting next to her  in her bedroom as she screamed I looked up at her ceiling. In the cracks and subsequent patches I spotted what looked like a duck. I whispered "Binnie, look at the duck." She halted her screaming for a moment and turned her ear towards me. I whispered again "Binnie, look up at the duck." The screaming had stopped and she looked up at her ceiling and laughed. "Why, it's a duck!" she said. "What a silly duck to be up on my ceiling!" I had found her Achilles heel. Whenever she was in a tantrum I would whisper to her. In order to hear me, she had to stop screaming.  It didn't always work, of course. Sometimes she didn't care about what I whispered but it worked most of the time. I still use this today when I want to capture the attention of our dog, my husband or even our nieces when they were little. Genius.

That summer I also learned that when you drink and yes, smoke pot with a bunch of really smart people, the collective can come up with some incredible inventions, some that even seemed brilliant in the light of day. . .I  learned that renovating a 200 year-old home is nowhere near as romantic as it sounds. . .I learned that sometimes just sitting and talking to a four year-old is one of the most eye opening, wonderful experiences in the world. . .I learned that some things are inexplicable and amazing. 

It's been many years since I last saw Binnie, waving at me from the swing in her front yard, still shirtless but wearing a skirt and boots. She and I reached a detente of sorts by the end of the summer. I still remember the last play we saw at Look Park. It was a hot, humid August day and Binnie was in my lap. I held her as we were both rapt by the actors on the outdoor stage. As she watched, she reached up and wrapped a piece of my hair in her hand. As I felt the weight of her against me, the happiness of her joy for life, her unyielding quest for every bit knowledge in this world, I felt my soul just burst with love.  In that moment, with the sun beaming through the pine trees I hoped that someday I would be able to teach my own Binnie all that I learned from one very wise little girl.

why march is so awesomely happy



Saturday, March 9th
Set your clocks forward one hour this Saturday night  before you go to bed and on Monday when you get out of work it will still be light out, giving you plenty of time for that bike ride you said you would start doing every day after work. (Do it. No one ever said "Oh, wow, I wish I hadn't taken that beautiful bike ride.")

Thursday, March 14th 
It's Pi day. Celebrate by making this.

Sunday, March 17th 
It's St. Patrick's Day. Feel free to wear a "Kiss me I'm Irish!" pin. You know you did it in high school. Do it now.


Tuesday, March 19th
Are you a gamer? March is awesome for you then. "Gear of War Judgment" drops today and "Bioshock Infinite" on March 26th.

Tuesday, March 19th
Justin Timberlake's album "The 20/20 Experience" releases today. Yeah, it's THAT good. 



Wednesday, March 20th
The Vernal Equinox is on Wednesday during a quarter moon. Shed your clothes and go dancing outside in the moonlight with your partner. This heralds good luck to your Spring and Summer. That and fertility. So it's up to you just how crazycakes you want to get with being naked in the moonlight. Yey, Spring!

Friday, March 22nd
Tina Fey's new film "Admission" releases.  Now if only she could live right next door. I'll bet if you borrow a cup of sugar from her, she's invite you in for a cup of coffee and maybe some cinnamon coffee cake.




Saturday, March 23rd 
It's National Corn Dog Day. Oh, yes, your favorite state fair food is what's for dinner tonight. Have a party. Corn dogs + beer. Kinda kitschy but kinda cool too.

Friday-Saturday March 22nd-24th
If you're in New England, PAX East is March 22nd-24th in Boston. If you're a gamer, you gotta go. Meet Xbox's Major Nelson while you're there.

Friday, March 25th 
Passover begins the 25th. Call your parents and tell them you'll be home for Passover Seder. Put it in your calendar now.

Sunday, March 31st
It's Easter. Spread the love. Surprise people with a chocolate bunny lollipop. Your doorman? Your priest after Easter Mass? Your partner who thinks he's too old for a lolly? No one is too old for a lolly, especially not a bunny made of CHOCOLATE.


how strong are you? {insights}



Last night in the Orlando airport a man I didn't know tried to make me doubt the hard work and sweat (literally) that I've put into getting fit and healthy. I felt my face flush and my eyes tear up when he told me I didn't look like a girl who could run a race.  Part of me agreed. Who was I to run a race?

Then I thought about it.

Eleanor Roosevelt said "No can make you feel inferior without your consent." She was absolutely right.

So, sir with the very bad manners, thank you for being mean to me. You just made me want to fight and win even more.

the happy guy: tim harris {video}

Meet the restauranteur who serves breakfast, lunch and hugs. He's also perfected a dance of magic.