Month: January 2017

January in ‘Grams

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January is a tough birthday month– no one wants to do anything in the cold!  I managed to have a lovely time this year, though!  Here are some highlights:

[1] being chilly for Boston Winter! [2] loving my new Kindle [3] birthday dinners with the reason I’m so happy [4] Nubble Lighthouse in York, ME [5] a dachshund birthday card [6] Dashboard Confessional in concert [7] Boston harbor for serenity [8] haircut time! [9] loving Gloucester, where we’ll be married next year!

What are your favorite January moments?

Top Chef: Ah Spicy, Ah Ginger! Next!

It’s the episode I’ve been waiting for!  Michael Voltaggio guest judges for a very fun Quickfire– the blindfolded taste test!  This is one of my favorite challenges from the best of the Gordon Ramsay shows, so I always like seeing it.

When all is said and done, Emily, Silva, and Shirley named the fewest ingredients.  Brooke, Sheldon, and Casey did the best.  Sheldon got 10, Casey got 11, and Brooke crushed the competition with 16!  (John goes unmentioned in the middle of the pack.)

The challenge for the week is to create a meal that is reminiscent of your childhood. (more…)

Wedding Wednesday: Press Start

I’ve been dying to write a post like this forever, let alone since I got engaged!  Wedding planning can definitely be stressful, and the process is certainly daunting.  I thought I’d share some initial thoughts.

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So, you’re engaged…

The best advice I got the night we got engaged was from my friend Stacie.  Telling people the good news can be super exciting for some, but for others, like me, it feels overwhelming to suddenly have to share something so personal with everyone around you.  I announced my engagement to my friends with a texted photo of the ring on my finger– and then the onslaught began.  Stacie called me immediately after receiving the picture to congratulate me, and with a laugh warned me against people like her calling and monopolizing all of the night.  Sure, you might want to share the news, but don’t forget to enjoy the moment together.

When’s the wedding?

You will get asked this question the day you get engaged.  I think people recognize it’s ridiculous to ask when a couple has been engaged for hours or minutes… but, they will ask regardless.  Setting your date can be tough.  Venue availability will play majorly into this, so you might have a date in mind but it might shift once you find the venue.  I think the best you can do is pick a season or a month!  We knew, since it was late 2016 when we got engaged, that our wedding would be 2018.  I had a date in mind, but was horrified when Matt started telling people our tentative date when we hadn’t even looked at venues!  My best advice is not to get too attached to a date– it will go hand-in-hand with the venue.

First thing’s first

That being said, venue shopping is really your first step!  The Knot is a great resource for where to start, if you have no ideas at all.  It’s actually pretty easy to get started, visit the venues’ websites and email to get in touch.  (I created an email address specifically for wedding planning; good advice from my cousin!)  Most venues will send a packet with pricing info, but you’ll definitely have to make appointments to visit, see the space, and ask your questions!  Most girls, I think, have a vision of their wedding.  What we ended up choosing was not at all what my initial vision was, so keep an open mind!  We saw maybe 6 venues, but knew immediately when we found the right one.

Now you have a time & a place for your wedding!  It’s starting to feel real.  Now the fun details can fall into place.  You need the venue before the dress to see what truly fits, what the style of your wedding will be.  I’ll talk about saying yes to the dress in the next Wedding Wednesday, so stay tuned!

Top Chef: Tastes Like Strawberries

It’s the moment all the chefs have been waiting for: Restaurant Wars!  There is no Quickfire this time.  The chefs find themselves face to face with Daniel Humm, Will Guidara, and of course, Padma Lakshmi.  The space they stand in will be their restaurant… both teams’ restaurant, as they will serve on separate nights to see how each team can transform the same space.  They draw knives to determine teams.

Shirley and Katsuji pull knives to make them team captains.  Katsuji, who’s pulled first pick, selects Sheldon who admits he’s “had some luck” on this challenge before.  Shirley pulls Brooke, another solid Restaurant Wars veteran.  Katsuji picks Casey and Shirley picks Sylva, leaving John and Emily who are both tough picks after the last elimination.  Katsuji goes for John having worked successfully with him before and leaving Emily to Shirley.

Shirley naturally takes the role of executive chef.  She gives Brooke front-of-house, where she excelled in her last Restaurant Wars.  Katsuji, for whatever reason, does not want executive chef.  He wants to make three dishes.  He assigns this role to John and gives Casey front-of-house.  Katsuji also got to choose which night his team serves, and he’s opted to go second.

So, Shirley’s Red Team serves first.  Their restaurant is called Latitude, inspired by the sea.

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Brooke’s salmon is well received, but Emily’s squid ink pasta lacks both texture and flavor.  Shirley’s snapper goes over pretty well, but Sylva’s halibut is a big hit!  Shirley’s panna cotta is a disaster, though she knew it would be.  Emily buttermilk cake is surprisingly well received, though!

Katsuji’s Blue Team goes the next night.  They merge their styles using the south as their inspiration, since it is Top Chef Charleston after all.  Southern Belle serves up family style, making Tom ask, “Why are we sharing small plates?”

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Katsuji’s tamale is a bit confusing, but his beef tongue is a restaurant favorite.  His dessert is undercooked, though.  Sheldon’s soup doesn’t really work.  Casey’s dessert is nice and “tastes like strawberries.”

The Red Team wins, putting the Blue Team on the chopping block.  John, as executive chef, is under fire.  Katsuji, as the ultimate decision maker, takes the brunt of it and ends up packing his knives.

This was a tough one for me, as I like Katsuji!  Who do you think is next to go?!

Naked Ultimate Basics

Y’all know I’m an eye shadow palette-addict, and as much hype as Urban Decay’s Naked palettes get, I just didn’t find myself reaching for them all that much…

Enter, Naked Ultimate Basics.

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This baby has a lot of color variation– shades like those you’d find in all three of the Naked palettes, so it really bridges the collection.  Notice, I say “like” those you’d find in other Naked palettes, because all 12 of these colors are unique to Ultimate Basics.

This palette only contains matte shades, which is usually a drawback for me, but post-holiday season, I found myself looking for a more natural (read: less sparkly) look.  I’ve been reaching for this palette over and over again!  I’m extra obsessed with “Extra Bitter” right now.

The colors are:

  • Blow: light nude demi-matte, a great highlight shade
  • Nudie: soft pink-nude matte & the perfect base for my eyelids
  • Commando: light taupe-brown matte
  • Tempted: pale brown matte
  • Instinct: medium pink-taupe matte, love to blend with this one
  • Lethal: reddish brown matte
  • Pre-Game: pale yellow matte
  • Extra Bitter: burnth orange matte & the reason I love this palette
  • Faith: medium warm brown matte
  • Lockout: rich neutral brown matte
  • Magnet: smoky gray matte
  • Blackjack: warm black matte

Have you gotten your hands on Naked Ultimate Basics yet?

What palette are you loving lately?

Top Chef: Maybe Captain Planet is Coming

Last week’s Top Chef started with the most interesting Quickfire.  Based on the cheftestants’ zodiac sign, the chefs use ingredients to represent Air, Water, and Fire (there are no Earth signs among them) for Padma and guest judge Michael Cimarusti.  Unfortunately for the group, it’s a sudden death Quickfire.

When the dishes are tasted, Katsuji, Sheldon, and Jamie are the favorites, but Jamie takes the win and immunity.  Emily, Jim, and Sylva are on the bottom and fight it out in a cook-off.  Because there were no Earth signs, they must use those ingredients to create the same dish.  They choose steak tartar.  Graham Elliot joins Padma and Michael for judging.  Jim is shockingly send packing his knives!  Guys, this one hurts.  I’m rooting for him in Last Chance Kitchen!

The mood focuses to Black Beard the pirate, who apparently threw quite the party!  The chefs are breaking into teams for an ingredient treasure hunt through Charleston!  They draw swords to determine teams of three.  The yellow team is Sheldon, Shirly, and Sylva.  The black team is Katsuji, Brooke, and Casey.  The red team is John, Jamie, and Emily.  This seems like such a fun challenge, but it’s a tropical storm…

They run around in the rain with a map given to them by a pirate.  There are seven chefs, each with three ingredients.  The first team to the chest gets their first choice of ingredient.  Yellow is the first team to finish.  Black is just a few minutes behind, despite Katsuji’s abhorrence for the rain.  Red is the last to return, but they have plenty of time to cook with their booty.

The yellow team took an easy win, being the judges’ clear favorite.  Shirley is given the win for the team!  While Katsuji had a good dish, there were some issues with the rest of the black team’s dishes.  There were equally as many issues on the red team.  Jamie had immunity, but one of the worst dishes.  Jamie offers up his immunity to the judges to be judged for elimination among his peers; he feels that his dish landed his team on the bottom.  (Funny, Tom said the same thing tasting them!)

Tom & the judges think that Katsuji’s dish saved the black team.  Padma asks Jamie if he’s sure he wants to give up his immunity.  He confirms, and is sent packing his knives.  That was kind of crazy!  Jamie was very noble, and is off to Last Chance Kitchen to fight his way back.

Book Review: The Bone Witch

I can’t say I’ve ever done a full-fledged book review here on the blog, but I felt this book deserved it.  I’ve never read this author before, but I was immediately endeared to her upon reading her dedication to bowls of ramen.

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The Bone Witch, by Rin Chupeco, is a dark fantasy set in an incredibly rich magical world.  I was really impressed by the world created here; it’s not the system of magic itself that’s impressive, but the world that supports it.

Tea (pronounced Tay-uh, though you don’t find that out until the latter half of the novel) is an asha— a woman who wields magic.  She discovers this upon bringing her brother Fox back from the dead.  Mykaela, another dark asha like Tea, brings her to her asha-ka where she is to be trained.

An asha is like a geisha– they sing, dance, play music, entertain… but also are trained in combat.  Most asha draw elemental runes (this is how they use their magic), but Tea and Mykaela can only draw dark runes– their magic is death.  They also must control the daeva, giant beats and resurrect and wreck havoc every few years.

An interesting element of this world is the heartglass– people literally wear their heart around the neck and exchange them in the bonds of love/marriage.  Not everyone can read the mood-ring type color shifting of the heartglass.  Most people are just shades of red, while magic-wielders like Tea’s sisters are purple, but asha have silver heartglass.  A man with a silver heartglass would become a military Deathseeker, as asha are women only.  This comes into play in the book with Tea’s friend Likh, who prefers to dance but whose silver heartglass would force him into the military.

What I really loved about this world was the attention to detail in adornment.  Dress, accessories, and make-up play a pivotal role in magic.

Now, this world can also be confusing at times.  With the deava mythology and the world’s unique terminology, it feels like you’re constantly playing catch-up on the history and culture.

The shifting point-of-views also were a bit problematic for me.  The story is told interwoven with present-day Tea, who has been exiled.  She is obviously changed from the Tea we meet in the storyline.  While Tea tells the main tale from her perspective, a bard accounts the present by observing and interacting with Tea.  I personally do not enjoy reading large italicized blocks of text that don’t directly relate to the story at hand.  (This is worsened by the fact that the Kingfountain series that I’m also reading currently begins each chapter with italicized excerpts as well.)  It is intriguing, though, because present Tea is so different… perhaps even evil.  It’s alluring, as you’re enticed to know how Tea got to that point.

This intricate book is definitely worth reading; it’s dark and lovely and very different from a classic good vs. evil story.  It’s due to come out in March!

I’m always looking for book recommendations, so leave me a comment with something to read next!  Be sure to visit me on Goodreads too; I need more friends there!

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher, but all opinions are my own!