The List 2015

It's that time of the year again, the Top 10 List of things I would love not to see again in the upcoming year.

The Top 10 Most Annoying Things of 2015

10. Movies set in dystopian future
9. Naked dresses. As Todd Chrisley put so eloquently: "Class, not ass!"
8. Bathroom selfies
7. Fake eyelashes. Unless you're performing on stage, there is no need to run around with tarantulas on your eyes.
6. Deflategate
5. Scalpers buying up all Adele tickets within minutes. Some of us mortals also wanted to say "Hello!"
4. Lena Dunham
3. 50 Shades of Grey (film) Please God, don't let them make any more!
2. All that nonsense over the Starbucks red cup. Red+green= holiday. What else do you need?
1. Political debates.

Happy New Year!

The DOs and DON'Ts of a Perfect Party Guest

How to be a perfect party guest

It's that time of the year again: Holidays! Which means time for parties. Hopefully, lots and lots of parties. Here's how to make sure you're invited back.

1. DO dress up!  It's a party - make the effort! Shower, wear clean clothes, and shine your shoes. It's always better to be overdressed than underdressed. And if you're really smart, you'll wear one size bigger to accommodate all the food you'll be eating (two if you've been invited to my house). Don't be caught off guard when asked to take off your shoes upon arrival by making sure your outfit works without the shoes and your hosiery is clean and in one piece. (Let's not have a Carrie Bradshaw moment here.)

2. DO bring a gift for the Host! Flowers always work - go with a potted plant, or an arrangement in a vase (in case you've entered a vaseless house, which happens more times that one would think). Designer candle, a box of gourmet chocolates are also a good idea. Don't know what to bring? Stores like Williams-Sonoma, or Pottery Barn, or Crate & Barrel will be more than happy to help. They'll even wrap it for you. Include a note with your name on it so the Host will know the wonderful and thoughtful item was from you.

3. DON'T bring food UNLESS you were asked! The Host spent months developing a menu, your dish - no matter how good it is - is not part of that menu. (If you are indeed asked to bring food, see the guide below.)

4. If you're bringing wine: DO know your audience. Otherwise you'll end up with a heart attack when someone tosses an ice cube into a glass of white wine you spent hours selecting.

5.DON'T go into the kitchen! That is a Guest-free zone. (In some homes - a hostile war zone, to be exact). You weren't invited for your culinary skills, you were invited to eat. Find a nut bowl, or a bar, and park yourself next to it.

6. DON'T wander off exploring around the house. If the Host wants to show off the house, you will be given a guided tour. If you value your life, DON'T bring a glass of red wine on the tour.

7. DO use your table manners. (If you need a refresher, check this out)

8. DO keep an eagle eye on your kids at all times! And their food.

9. DON'T start a heated political discussion during dinner. You will ruin everyone's appetite, will never be invited back, and the Host might even serve you laxative in your coffee for ruining the perfectly planned evening. Actually, don't start a political discussion period. This is not a forum, it's a party. Can't keep your mouth shut? Stuff it. Literally. With food.

10. DO leave your strange non-medically necessary non-religious self-imposed food restrictions at home. Or eat ahead of time, then just push your food around your plate a la Gwyneth Paltrow. Or just politely decline the invitation altogether. (A good Host will ask about legit food allergies and will be willing to accommodate. Within reason. But if you expect an-organic-gluttenfree-antioxidantrich-acai-berry-cake-made-locally-by-a-crueltyfree-baker-who-swears-he's-never-even-seen-a-peanut served on a PCB-and-BPA-free plates, you better be the one hosting.)

Guest's Guide to Bringing Food

1. Thou Shall NOT Chop! Whatever it is you're bringing, has to arrive fully assembled and cooked (microwave friendly), or arrive pre-cut (and pre-mixed in case of a salad dressing) and ready to be assembled. No, there is no room for you on the counter to work, no there are no extra cutting boards, or knives, or mixing bowls, or olive oil, etc. See Rule 5 above.

2. Bring your own serving vessel, unless the Host told you that one will be provided. Expect to take your dish back home still dirty. Or use serveware you're willing to part with and just leave it behind (Don't ever ask for it back, it's in the Goodwill pile).

3. DON'T touch that oven! I guarantee there is food already there. Brought something that needs reheating? Better make sure it works in the microwave. Remember Rule 5: Stay out of the kitchen!

4. Not all kitchen disposers are created equal. Just because yours grinds through a small animal, doesn't mean your Host's can. So if you're cleaning out the dish you brought so you can take it home, use the garbage can. Because if you blow your Host's disposer, and they have to call the plumber, you will never be invited back. Trust me, the Host will know exactly who broke their kitchen because the evidence will be all over the floor. And the plumbers (charging double because it's a holiday) love to explain in detail exactly what they just pulled out of the drain.

5. Don't bring anything that requires refrigeration-until-serving time. Because there is no room in the fridge for you. Plus, the fridge is in the kitchen. What do you do with Host's kitchen? Stay out of it!

6. Best food to bring? A dessert. If the Host asks you to "bring something" volunteer to supply the dessert. Then go to a gourmet store and buy something decadent. That will guarantee you an invitation back.

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How to be the Perfect Party Host

How to be the perfect party host. ©2015 Driving Master Danny

Entertaining in your home successfully takes a lot of work. Careful planning is key, so is making lists. We've thrown a lot of parties over the years in my home, from an intimate dinner for four to a cocktail party for 40, and have attended just as many. Some were stressful, some were a walk in the park. Some took a week to plan, some took months. Here's a guide on how to be the perfect Host. After all, you do want people to come back, right?

Fun at the Goebbert's Pumpkin Patch

It's fall. It's October. If you have kids, off you go to a pumpkin patch. We went to Goebbert's. It's big, commercialized, dusty (they don't believe in paved roads), and lots of fun. There is a pig race (my favorite), a camel ride with a complaining camel, you can feed carrots to a giraffe, lots various animals to see and touch (skunk anyone?), a pumpkin-crushing dinosaur (kids all-time favorite), a train ride (with an enormous line), and even a haunted house (which I completely avoided and chose to look at cute little piglets huddled around their enormous mama instead). There is also a well-stocked and strategically located gift shop with apples and pies and all kinds of fall decor. In the right weather, you can spend a whole day there. Just dress in layers and preferably rubber boots that you can just hose off later. And if you're so inclined to pick your own pumpkins, you can. They provide you with a huge orange wagon just for that purpose. I saw a guy hauling a pumpkin the size of a microwave oven. All they're missing is a country food restaurant with full service. And paved roads.
Swine Derby. Goebbert's Farm.
Place your bets, the swine derby is about to begin!
They must be bred for racing, because they were on the small and agile side.

Review: Wood Chicago

Wood Chicago, restaurant review

Wood, my husband's pick for pre-concert dinner on Saturday, is on Halsted. They have been around for over 3 years. The executive Chef is Ashlee Aubin, winner of 2013 and 2014 Michelin Bib Gourmand Award. The place is intimate, with great modern decor and rather interesting light fixtures. It's a long, narrow space with booth seating along the windows, and the bar running all the way down the opposite wall. One look at the bar and its bartenders and you just know that the drinks will be out of this world (the Lily Pad Lullaby that appeared on the table next to us came with a floating orchid, and blue cheese olives are hand stuffed at the bar with a piping bag).

The September Issue 2015

Vogue September Issue 2015, by the numbers.

Getting my hands on Vogue's September Issue proved a bit of a challenge this year. Even though I have a yearly subscription to the magazine, I have yet to actually receive the coveted issue in the mail. I finally broke down over the weekend and bought one in Walgreens. The Amazon orders arrived, however, mid August encased in a a white branded box. Next year I'm skipping the subscription and ordering one on Amazon. At least it'll arrive when it's supposed to. Watch, it will suddenly appear today, jammed into my mailbox. If that happens, some one at the school run is getting an early Christmas present.

2015 September Issue by the Numbers
Total pages: 832 (pages in 2014: 856; 2013: 902)
It is exactly 1'' thick
Weight 3.5 lbs
642 pages of ads
111 pages of ads before the First page of Contents
731 pages before the First fashion editorial (exactly as last year)
696 pages before the articles start
12 tip-in ads (same as last year, with Target and Nordstrom again having the most pages again)
Vogue does Star Wars: 2 Star Wars actors are featured, 1 product tie-in ad (Cover Girl)
4 fashion editorials, with 2 being heavy on fall jackets. "Jackets for fall... Groundbreaking." 
Kendall Jenner has 2 ads and a full editorial (where she manages to finally look her age).
3 articles on changing your physical self for the better, by either plastic surgery, eating fats, or purposely excising to obtain an enormous ass.
36 dedicated to so-called portfolio of fashion, featuring the same-old set of people – from designers to models – describing their new "groundbreaking" work. With Novak Djokovic, a reference to Anna Wintour's favorite morning exercise, bringing up the rear.
The Cover features Beyoncé, with much debated wet undone hair. The hair was an attempt to make a statement that the so-called Queen B is just like everybody else. Um, no. Just like fall jackets, Beyoncé on the cover is boring and predictable.

Expect to crave paté and butter, fall in love with a Victorian blouse, have a sudden desire to wear something burgundy, and spend the rest of the week squeezing your glutes. Ice your wrists while you're at it.

Want to compare to past issues? Click here: 2014, 2013

DMD Kitchen: Russian Cured Cucumbers (malosolnie ogurtzi) Recipe

Russian Cured Cucumbers Recipe (malosolnie ogurtzi)

It all started with my mom buying some cured cucumbers at a Russian deli one day. They're called Malosolnie Ogurtzi, meaning lightly salted. It's not pickling, it is salt curing. Just like you would with a salmon, for example. The cucumbers my mom got were gherkins, and tasted completely wrong. They had a strange metal taste, which was not pleasant of course. My father, after complaining loudly over the wrong taste, described what these cucumbers supposed to taste like. I was intrigued, and started digging for a way to make my own. I brought a batch to my parents yesterday, my father approved. He said mine tasted exactly like they're supposed to: crunchy, lightly salted, and fresh.

Russian Cured Cucumbers (Malosolnie Ogurtzi) Recipe

2 lbs (1Kg) of Persian Cucumbers. Make sure they're all the same thickness and length. I buy mine at Trader Joe's, they come prepackaged and are already of uniform size.
1T Table Salt
1T Sugar
1C Fresh Chopped Dill*
1/2C Fresh Chopped Parsley*
4 Cloves of Finely Chopped Garlic (if you have a garlic press, use it)
*make sure the herbs are completely dry after washing.

Trim the ends off the cucumbers. Cut them in half. Place them inside a large Ziploc bag. In a bowl, mix together salt and sugar (I use a form for mixing, I found it a lot better for mixing in the herbs than a spoon). Then mix in rest of the ingredients. Make sure that the salt and sugar mixture completely and evenly coats the herbs. You are looking for a consistency of a dry rub. Add the mixture into the bag with cucumbers. Seal the bag, making sure to squeeze out all extra air. Gently massage the mixture into the cucumbers, so they're all evenly coated. Place in the fridge. I make mine around dinner time, then flip the bag onto the other side before going to bed. They're ready in the morning the next day. The cucumbers will give a little when squeezed and the bag will be filled with light-green brine. Rinse the cucumbers in a colander under cold water, keep in a tight container in the fridge.
The cucumbers should taste salty (but not too salty), crisp and crunchy. If they taste too salty, soak them in cold water for about a minute to balance out the salt content.
I assume they would last in the fridge for a while, only in my house they're all gone in about two days.

Best served as part of Zakuzki, Russian appetizers spread. Tiny finger bites, lots of pickled things like herrings, caviar, top shelf vodka chilled to perfection. etc. Let's save that for another post, shall we?

Priyatnovo Apetita!

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Summer HIT List

LG, Vogue, Peter Thomas Roth, St. Tropez, Logitech

Chilling with Peter Thomas Roth's Cucumber De-Tox De-Puffing Eye-Cubes. Now you can finally eat all your cucumbers while saying bye-bye to tired eyes that announce to everyone that you had one too many summer beverages the night before.

Considering to take a shower with St. Tropez In-Shower Tanner. What? I don't have to stand like a cross while I wait for the self tanner to dry? Count me in! Although I read that you still smell like potatoes.

Geeking out over the new LG G4 phone. It's got the best phone camera on the market. But really, it's not about the camera, it's about the case. Come on, the back's made out of leather!  
Logitech Keys-To-Go iPad keyboard. It has mechanical keys and it feels like a keyboard. Pretty sure it will go home with me when I shop for school supplies. Now I can carpool and write my novels at the same time.

Waiting for the September Issue of Vogue. You can pre-order it on Amazon and it'll arrive in a nifty white box. But mine will arrive in August, because I'm obsessed and have a subscription. Do I still get the white box?

Color Forecast Fall 2015

Fall 2015 Color Forecast, fall fashion, Fall15

PANTONE®, the Gods of all things color, calls the Fall 2015 color palette "an umbrella of accord that weaves earthy neutrals with a range of bold color statements." The palette is supposed to make us feel warm and security.

Marsala – the color of the year – is a winey red-brown, and supposed to evoke a delicious and filling Sicilian meal. Unlike its predecessors (that stayed in the interior design), Marsala has dominated the fall runways, despite being a rather difficult color to wear. Go for a deeper version (more barollo) and mix it with black.

Gone Sailin'! Schooner Freedom Sunset Cruise

Schooner Freedom, St. Augustine, Florida
It was really by chance that I found the Schooner Freedom in St. Augustine. I wanted to take a boat cruise this year, while on vacation, and thanks to Google found the schooner. Their website showcased the sailing boat in all its glory right on the home page so yes, I wanted to be on it. We decided that the sunset cruise would be best – have a nice dinner in Old Town, cruise for two hours with drinks, enjoy fabulous sea breezes, go to bed happy. They have a moonlight cruise as well, right after the sunset one, maybe next year. Although I have no idea how they navigate in the dark... But you get live music serenading you while you sail under moonlight, so it's definitely on the list.

Gecko Lunch

Leopard gecko
We have a leopard gecko. She’s adopted. When we adopted her, we all thought it was a he. No, this was not a Bruce Jenner scenario, it's just hard to figure out sex in lizards. But once we discovered that it was indeed a girl, a lot of things were easily explained. Like her throwing a fit when we dared to leave for a weekend trip to Las Vegas (mind you she had a sitter and did not go hungry). When we returned she showed us what she thought about our trip by refusing to eat, overturning her cement pool and spilling the water all over. I bought her a new condo, twice the size, a new carpet in desert sand, and took her to a vet for a visit in a special lizard suitcase wrapped in a blanket. I even changed her diet from crickets (that chirped at night) to fat wax worms that I now had to keep in the fridge. All because she refused to hunt for her dinner. And I hate worms. She finally decided that I somewhat redeemed myself and started to get fat on worms. Her name is Felipa, by the way. It was Felipe, but we had to make it female. At least it was an easy change.

DMD Kitchen: Cinnamon Roll French Toast Casserole Recipe

Cinnamon Roll French Toast Casserole Recipe. DMD Kitchen

It's the end of the school year, so I thought I'd make something special for lunch today. Cinnamon Roll French Toast Casserole is what I came up with. Mainly because I had a loaf of cinnamon roll bread in my fridge and I used it to make French toast a couple of days before and it just begged to be all mixed together into one large delicious bite.

(prepare the night before)
1/2 Loaf of Cinnamon Roll Bread (or substitute with 2 tubes of jumbo cinnamon rolls) cut into 1 inch cubes
5 Large Eggs
1C Almond Milk (or cow if you do dairy)
1/2t Ground Cinnamon
Dash of Ground Nutmeg
Butter for pan or cooking spray

Whisk together eggs, milk, and spices into a smooth custard. In a very large bowl, thoroughly mix together the bread cubes and custard until all the cubes are coated. Deposit into a large well-buttered casserole dish with tall sides (I used Corningware oval dish with the glass lid)
Cover (either lid or foil) and store in the fridge overnight.

The next day, when ready, bake covered on 375º for about 30-45 mins until the middle is set (the bread should look like a moist cake, not a wet sponge). Remove the lid (or foil) in the last 10 minutes to brown the tops.

Serve with maple syrup and berries. Or, if you used the cinnamon rolls, you can use the sugar frosting provided.

*You can also add berries, such as blueberries or raspberries into the batter. About 1C should do it.

Serves about 6.

Bon Appetit!

Met Gala 2015: Best and Worst Dressed

"China Through Looking Glass" The Costume Institute Benefit Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a.k.a. The Anna Wintour Party

The Costume Institute Benefit Gala, held at The Met on May 4th - attended by only around 700 Oscar winners and losers, Wall Street moguls, Silicon Valley geeks with some social skills, designers, and Hollywood movers and shakers - is the party of the year.
Last year it generated more than $12 million, at $25,000 per ticket or starting at $175,000 per table of 10. (At these prices Cristal better be flowing as a raging river during cocktail hour, and Russian black caviar piled mountain-high on tables during dinner.)
Anna Wintour ruled the event with an iron fist, bedazzled on-trend by a rose gold Apple watch, since 1995. The recently renovated Costume Institute was even named after her last year. Before her, the Gala was just a party for local socialites. Wintour not only controls the guest list - banning the Real Housewifes from even attempting to buy a table, yet allowing Bieber and Kardashians - but dictates what certain guests will wear. Majority of her staff is required to handle the event planning that takes the entire year in addition to their everyday jobs (cue The Devil Wears Prada).
This year the Met Gala was co-hosted by Jennifer Lawrence and Marrisa Meyer who spends more time on the pages of Vogue than in a Yahoo boardroom. This is the event where haute couture is a must, avant garde is celebrated, and dressing to the theme is allowed. Although some take it way too literary. 
The Met Gala is all business nowadays, with certain celebs even calling the party "boring" a couple of years ago. The cost of the table is part of the business plan of any fashion house worth their salt, and any actress or actor clamoring for a beauty contract or a brand ambassadorship will die for an invitation. Chiara Ferragni of the Blonde Salad - the original fashion blogger from Italy - is attending for the first time and is most likely the guest of Calvin Klein since they dressed her for the evening (she should send a personal note to her 3+ million Instagram followers who got her to his point.) Katie Holmes, who undoubtedly is looking for more lucrative commercial work, chopped off her hair while doing a hand stand. She was on the arm of Zac Posen for the evening.

The HIT List: April

The number of candles one needs to make any party feel like a Hollywood event. 
The formula is: Square footage of space divided by 5. Which means an average house would 
need over 200 candles per floor. And the fire department on speed dial.

Nespresso Espresso
  Nespresso's new flavor: Mansoon Malabar. Indian espresso beans infused with flavors of wood and the sea. You can smell the ocean when it brews! Yum!

Bon Appetit's raspberry-ricotta cake. I don't bake but this is super easy and super delicious! And I taught Danny how to fold dry ingredients into wet. Maybe next time he's bake the cake!

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It won a Pulitzer. Let's hope I can swallow it before the library loan expires and it gets deleted off my iPad.

DMD Kitchen: Spinach and Strawberry Salad Recipe

copyright 2015 Kate Brankin. All rights reserved.
The Spinach and Strawberry Salad is perfect for spring and summer entertaining. Not only is it delicious and looks good, but unlike other green salads, it can be prepped in advance. I always serve it for Easter, it's a perfect light start to a large meal.

For the Salad
1lb of organic Strawberries, sliced.
1/2 Red Onion, sliced in half rounds and separated
1 bag of organic Baby Spinach
About 6-8" of English Cucumber, skin removed, sliced into 1/8'' slices

For the Vinaigrette
1/4C White Balsamic Vinegar
3/4C Olive Oil
1T Simple Syrup*
1t Poppy Seeds
Whisk together Vinegar, Simple Syrup, and Poppy Seeds. Slowly whisk in Oil until the vinaigrette comes together. Assemble the salad in a bowl big enough to toss the salad without spilling the spinach all over the counter. Dress and let sit a little before serving. The strawberries and cucumber tend to settle on the bottom, either toss again to bring them to the top or plate individually.

Make ahead: The Strawberries and the Onions can be diced a day ahead and stored in the airtight container in the fridge until ready to use. The vinaigrette can be whisked together and bottled. If it separates, just shake it up vigorously before use. I do not recommend slicing the cucumber ahead because it will release water.

*Simple Syrup: equal parts of sugar and water, bring to a boil while stirring continuously until sugar is dissolved. Cool completely. Can be stored in the fridge in a glass container for several months.

Review: Buttermilk, Geneva

I've got a new breakfast favorite: Buttermilk in Geneva. They just opened a couple of weeks ago, we checked them out last weekend.

What first peaked my interest was Buttermilk's branding. Any establishment with a good brand design always goes up a notch in my book. Being a breakfast place, they left the traditional egg kitsch behind and presented themselves in black and white with a touch of retro chic. The interior is clad in white clapboard with light grey ceiling and booths upholstered in black and white mod pattern. The staff is wearing a grey long-sleeved shirts with a large white milk bottle logo on the chest. The design of the restaurant is refreshingly monochrome, the only color is provided by the food, and an occasional customer's fluorescent running shoes. The space is light and airy with lots of large windows, the ceilings are high enough to absorb the sound – it just screams "hello beautiful morning!" The space between the tables is a little tight though, so leave the jogging stroller in the car.

The HIT List: March

up with The Skimm in my Inbox every single morning (except weekends). All the important news condensed into a nice one page format. And in case you were completely living under a rock, they even give you a refresh course on continuing stories. Now I'm ready to for that water cooler talk before my espresso is finished.
Coolest part? The Skimm is published by women.

 for Melody Gardot's new album. To tide me over, periodically watching a video of the new single "Same to You."

(Armchair) Traveling
To Paris. Thanks to My Little Paris, every Friday I lead a mental Parisian life.

The redesigned Maxim (yes I know it's a men's magazine). GQ move over! Maxim has a new female editor who's shaking things up with new content and graphic design.

to add more potted plants to my office. Research shows that greenery in
the work space boots productivity and happiness. But I think you need to have more
than one plant because I don't feel more productive yet. I am happy though.

DMD Kitchen: Colcannon Recipe

Irish Colcannon

The traditional Irish Colcannon is mashed potatoes with cabbage mixed in. I first heard of it over a decade ago, watching an Irish program on PBS. On the show, a stout redhead in a flowery apron served the host with a steaming bowl of Colcannon on a chilly foggy evening. Hers had ham, in addition to mashed potatoes and cabbage. And a liberal dollop of butter on top.
This is my St. Patrick's Day version. This is actually a perfect leftover dish because a typical Irish American family will already have all the ingredients left from a St. Patrick's Day feast.

Mashed potatoes (prepared from scratch of course), hot
Boiled cabbage, at least a quarter head, roughly diced (The amount of cabbage can be a personal preference)
Corned beef, cut into chunks (I eyeball the amount so I have a nice distribution of beef to potato in every bite)
Salt*/pepper to taste
Green onions, diced – optional (only if you already have them. They add a nice springy kick to the dish).
*Note on salt: if you prepared the corned beef properly (as in not boiling it to death), it will provide all the salt flavor you need since it retained it during its cooking process.

Mix all the ingredients. If the mashed potatoes gone a little dry and lumpy, a bit of cream or even hot water will fluff them back up. Serve colcannon in a bowl. Right before serving, make a little well on the top and drop in a dollop of butter. The heat of colcannon will melt the butter. Stir the butter in right before eating. I suggest using a spoon for this one.
Don't forget a pint of Guinness!


Vegas, baby! Vegas!

We finally made it West of Iowa! With a lot of milestones in the first 6 months of this year, one of them being our wedding Anniversary, we decided a little adult getaway was in order. So off to Vegas we went. It was in the upper 50s, bright and sunny. We stayed in the breathtaking Bellagio, and were wowed by Cirque Du Soleil's Zumanity. It was so gorgeous outside that we spent a lot of time walking the Strip and people-watching. Here's a little glimpse:

The Best and Worst of Oscars 2015

This was the year of playing it extremely safe, almost boring. At least on the Red Carpet, when everyone changed for Vanity Fair party, the theme of that event this year must have been "show your undies."

As usual, I like to start with the Worst List.
The Worst Dressed of Oscars 2015
Chloë Grace Moretz in Miu Miu
Scarlet O'Hara moment happening here. And she had to keep her hands in her pockets in order to keep the front of the dress off the floor since no one hemmed it for her (platforms honey, platforms! They saved everyone else). We all understood the necessity of keeping your dress up while walking, but continuing to do this on stage while presenting was just disrespectful to the audience.

DMD Kitchen: Pulled Pork, it's What's for Dinner

Pulled pork on a pretzel bun.

2 Cans (14.5 oz/each) of Diced Tomatoes, preferably nice Italian brand
1 C BBQ Sauce
1 C Spicy Bloody Mary Mix (the tastier then better)
Salt/Pepper to taste
2 Garlic Cloves, finely minced
Favorite Herbs (I use sage and thyme, both are frozen fresh in icecube trays in the fall and then I just toss in a couple of cubes right in the pot)
2 Pork Tenderloins (at least 1lb each, if you buy in Costco there are two loins packaged together already), but into 1 inch cubes
Pretzel Buns
Favorite Sliced Cheese (we like Swiss)

The HIT List: January

How to be a Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits by Anne Berest
If you think this is a how-to book or a self-help manual, find something else. This is just for fun, and at more than one point you will laugh and say: “Yep, that’s me!” Color photos and drawings, recipes, and mood charts included.

Marvel’s Agent Carter, Tuesday night at 8 PM EST
For the kiddos: Paddington (in theaters), charming with subtle adult humor once in a while just for the parents. 

Italian through Duolingo app while sitting in the car waiting for school to get out. Lesson plans range between 5-20 mins. If you already have some basic knowledge of a particular language you’re interested in, you can test into a level that’s right for you. And it’s free!

The New York Times 52 Places to Go in 2015 is a great guide when planning a new vacation adventure. Number 45 is a personal favorite, Numbers 2, 25, and 51 are definitely worth a serious consideration. There is even a new take on old favorites.

Planning to try Meatless Mondays. As in eating vegetarian one day a week. Although I would say that poultry and seafood works too, since they are not meat.

A Brick in the Wall

For God knows how long, a hideous Monster was living in this house. We hid it away from people for over a decade. But it was haunting me every single day I was in my family room, snickering from behind the picture frame "I'm gonna be here forever, you can't do anything about me, you can't even paint over me, I will outlive you!" Well, I finally killed. Or to be more precise, I hired some one to kill it.

The Monster was a floor to ceiling marble tile fireplace in our family room. The so-called centerpiece of this monstrosity was not the fireplace itself, but three hideous diagonal black stripes, also in marble tile. Miami Vice was the inspiration, if you can call it that.

The Best and The Worst of the 72d Golden Globes

Let's start with the Worst Dressed List, so our eyes can recover afterward by the Best List.

The Worst Dressed

Lena Dunham – if you can believe, this is a Zac Posen. I know they're friends, but she clearly does not do him any favors wearing this gown. The dress was designed for an actual waist. One word Lena: Spanx! Or, in your case, about twice as many as Adele wore to the Grammys (which was 4). You're in Hollywood, it's a job requirement!

Paris, Je T'aime.

I visited Paris twice. The first time I was a college student, my parents bought me a ticket after a bad breakup. It was their way of getting my mind off the breakup and on to something interesting. It worked, only by the time the trip came up I already had a new boyfriend.
I went with a friend, she was much younger than me but that did not stop us from ordering wine with oysters at dinner. We felt very sophisticated and Parisian, sitting in a tiny restaurant eating plates of tiny oysters and drinking a glass of wine. We walked everywhere, the city is quite easy to navigate on foot thanks to Eiffel Tower that one can use as a guiding beacon. We climbed to the first level of Eiffel Tower (stairs all the way), discovering in the process that both were afraid of heights. The trip down was a very slow one, clutching each other in a death grip. I opted for Musee D’Orsay instead of the Louvre, and found Degas pastels are rather quite small and are kept in a very dark room. Studying them previously in art history, I just assumed that they were much bigger, and the discovery of their actual size was a disappointing moment. But I got over it eventually. I loved the museum overall, it’s an old railway station and best part is to just sit on a bench and take in the entire space – it is breathtaking.