Naughty or Nice???

December 23, 2011

Tom Cruise was on Letterman the other night and I am still weirded out by how strangely youthful he looked — he just might be Dorian Gray. And whatever potions or lotions he’s into, I want some!!

The holidays truly are magical: George Michael has been released from the hospital in Germany, and will be spending the holidays at home in London. The final items from my Missoni for Target order have arrived, albeit 3 months late, and we’ll finally be able to drink our libations out of some fine looking plastic tumblers. And the after xmas sales are coming, where you can get a beautiful sweater at Banana for $8. Really.

I want to give a shout out to some companies that really seem to stand behind their products…and if at this late date you’re still shopping for some last minute gifts, you might want to check out one of these:

Bed, Bath and Beyond: Yes, not the most relaxing of shopping experiences, but their return policy is generous and I always feel like they actually want to help, a rarity in the day and age.

West Elm: I bought some lamps there and one was missing a few parts. I went back with just the receipt and they got me everything I needed, no questions asked.

Coach: I had a nice big bag from their Poppy line that I loved and always got a lot of compliments on…until one weekend when a button came off and I noticed the plastic which made it patent leather was starting to crack. I brought it back for repair — for $20 (for shipping) they’ll send it out for repair and mail it back to you. But the other night I got a call that they can’t in fact fix it. Bummer. But they will be sending me a $466 credit to pick out another bag. A little less of a bummer!

Tiny Prints: They screwed up, and they owned up, without any drama. How refreshing!

And under the naughty category:

Pier One: I never go into this store. Which explains why I had a gift card from 2005 that I had never used. So I tried to use it. Let’s just say the merchandise isn’t exactly my taste…but I did manage to find some coasters. But when I went to pay, they said the card had no balance because it had been de-activated. What? No where on the card did it say it would ever expire. So after some arguing, they miraculously located how much was on the card, and honored it. Really Pier One, it doesn’t have to be that hard.

And here’s what I am looking forward to next year on TV:

Mad Men! I — and everyone else who watches — have been waiting for it to come back on for a year and half. Come to mama!

The Newsroom: HBO is the place for Aaron Sorkin’s next show. I keep hoping for another West Wing…let’s see.

Etc.

It is hard to believe that 2011 is coming to a close…and it was 60 degrees today. I had some gelato from Eataly and sat outside in the park to eat it! Bizarre.

I got some incredibly thoughtful gifts this year, which proved to me once again that if you put some true thought into giving, no matter how much you spend, it will mean that much more for the recipient.

I’ve got so much to be thankful for this year, and I’m sure you do too. So in the middle of all of the holiday melee next week, stop and take stock of your friends, your family, a favorite pair of shoes — whatever makes you happy! Because that’s what it’s all about.

Happy happy and merry merry — I wish you all the best. Happy new year and Family Favs will see in 2012!

All Holidays, All the Time

December 16, 2011

Fro Yo at Forty Carrots

As we go into the last full weekend of shopping before Hannukah and the big Xmas, here are a few thoughts:

GO EARLY — Seriously, this will save you hours. Nobody seems to get it together that early in the morning, so if you can get there when the stores open — which is probably around 9am this weekend — you’ll have no one jostling you for counter space and minimal lines at the checkout. In fact, miracle of miracles, you might even get some sales help to help you out. I did it in the last couple of weeks at both Lord & Taylor and Bloomingdale’s, pre-11am, and it was sweet emptiness on every floor.

GO LATE — People seem to get hungry around dinnertime, so if you can eat early and then head out to the stores, you will miss the rush. And since most stores stay open late to maximize every last shopping moment, you will have an easier time getting in the door at 9pm. I have been in Macy’s in Herald Square post 9pm the week before Christmas, and the sales people were falling over themselves to help me. That is truly a Christmas miracle.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EVERY LAST COUPON — Before you head out, check online to make sure there isn’t a discount you’re missing. Banana Republic, Gap and Old Navy are all giving cardholders an extra 10% off, just make sure you have the code. Bloomingdale’s is giving another 15% off this weekend to anyone who uses their Bloomie’s card. Origins is giving a percentage off, depending on how much you spend. So the few minutes you spend on the computer, the few more bucks you’ll have in your pocket. And then you can buy yourself a present!

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A GIFT CARD…OR COOKIES — I am one of those people that always wants to find exactly the perfect gift for someone. But the truth is, in these times of economic turmoil, people seem just as excited to get a gift card from a store they truly love, and pick out something they might not have spent money on. And if money is tight on your end, a delicious baked good, wrapped nicely, is a great gift — especially if you get invited over to someone’s house. Most hostesses love something tasty they can put out for hungry guests. The point is, don’t make yourself crazy. While “it’s the thought that counts” may be over-simplifying it, there probably isn’t a need to spend hours upon hours on gift shopping.

SCOPE OUT SOME TREATS FOR YOURSELF…AND A NICE PLACE TO USE THE LOO — If you are spending a lot of time in stores, I am all for using the time to find some items for oneself. Treat yourself to lunch in a department store restaurant (the frozen yogurt at 40 Carrots in Bloomingdale’s in the bomb — I’m partial to the coffee with carob chips). And check out this list from Racked on the 16 best restrooms in NYC!

Good luck. Stay sane. And I hope you get everything you’re wishing for!

Etc.

I’ve had a slew of holiday parties this week, all fun but just a little too much festivity for one week. Last night was all about pink champagne, and tonight I went for the tequila sunrise. I hadn’t had tequila outside of a margarita in a good long while, and let’s just say it took me back…ha ha. At tonight’s party we had to wear our favorite concert t-shirt…so I went back to 1987 and wore my George Michael Faith Tour tee. Good times, people!

Toilet Tales

December 13, 2011

We need to file tonight’s post under “Truly Helpful Household Hints.” As in, genius. And I must say that the internet is really amazing when it comes to these types of things. A year or so ago I shared my experience with getting a water ring out of wood using mayonnaise (it really works!!), and now I will share a method for unclogging toilets.

Image

Your plunger's new best friend

We recently re-did our bathrooms and put in Toto low flush toilets. I really like them (we had Kohler low flush before and they were not very effective, shall we say). The Toto works well, and I like the 2 flush system — very European. The problem with low flush is that if they do get clogged, there isn’t much water to use for the plunger, to create the suction. And the last thing anyone wants to be spending money on is a plumber with a snake. (And those snakes can scratch — and who wants to scratch up your nice new porcelain bowl?) So the next time you need to unclog, try this at home.

First, put in 1/4 cup of dishwashing liquid. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Then, pour in a huge pot full of hot water. (Online, many people say to use boiling water. The risk is that it can crack your pipes. We decided not to take that risk, and went with hot water, not boiling.) Weirdly, the toilet will suck up the water. Let it sit for another 10 minutes or so. Then flush. You may want to try plunging again at this point.

It may take a few rounds to get back to normal, but it will work. If it saves your plumber a house call, I say give it a try.

ETC.

Is this time of year insane or what? I am feeling like if I make it through to next Wednesday, which will most likely be my last day in the office, it will be a miracle!

My suggestion is to make lots of lists. And cross off as you go. It will make you feel like you’re accomplishing things.

Good luck!

Peppadew For Your Thoughts

December 9, 2011

We haven’t had a recipe in a while, and now that the East coast weather has finally turned to what it should be in mid-December (i.e. COLD), something hearty and tasty is in order. Luckily guest blogger Michelle is here with a good one:

I found this great recipe for Chicken Scarpariello in Food & Wine Magazine.  I’d never heard of or tried Chicken Scarparello before, but the picture looked delicious and the recipe seemed simple.  The recipe uses jarred Peppadews, sweet-spicy picked peppers from South Africa rather than the traditional bell pepper.  I found my jarred  Peppadews in Whole Foods.  Here is the recipe:

8 small skinless, boneless chicken thighs (2 lbs)

All-purpose flour, for dusting

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

8 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise and lightly smashed

4 rosemary sprigs (I used 1 ½ teaspoons of dried cracked rosemary)

2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup Peppadew peppers

1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dust with flour.  In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering.  Add the chicken and cook over high heat, turning once, until browned and crusty on both sides, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for 3 minutes, until the garlic is lightly browned.  Transfer the chicken to a platter, leaving the rosemary and garlic in the skillet.

2.  Add the stock to the skillet and cook over high heat, scraping up any browned bits, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Add the lemon juice and butter and swirl until emulsified. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet.  Add the peppers and cook, turning the chicken until coated in the sauce, about 3 minutes.  Transfer the chicken and sauce to the platter and serve.

Serve with crusty bread to sop up the juices.  It goes well with a hearty red wine.

I love finding something that’s so easy, unique and delicious.  Hope you try it and agree.

Enjoy!