the beautiful things

{things i learned} in the frosty air

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[it's that time of year: williams-sonoma peppermint cremes]

 

 

 

 

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[holiday decor is springing up everywhere!]

 

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[my favorite street food]

 

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[adorably enticing chalkboard]

 

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[decadent brunch sweet ending, complete with mini pumpkin pie]

 

I've been trying to hold back the ever-advancing wave of holiday cheer that's descended upon the post-Halloween world. I've successfully done (a difficult task considering the how quickly stores switched gears) so but not anymore. This weekend it's on: holiday 2014 starts now. Seriously, the recipie-writing, menu-making, and list of gifts-compiling has switched to overdrive and I couldn't be more into it. Here's to having a great holiday season, and letting it last as long as possible! 

 

 

{things i shopped} holiday gifts for him

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I don't know about you, but when the holiday season rolls around, I find it most difficult to shop for the men in my life (this is probably because shopping for other women sort of seems like an extension of shopping for myself, but that's a whole other story). I start thinking about possible gifts way in advance, and here are some great ideas if you're looking for inspiration. I see them more as suggestions than order-this-exact-piece-right-now–books, bags, sunglasses, cologne, or headphones (in your specific price-range of course) all are great ways to fill the "for him" boxes under the tree.

 

{clockwise}

'Medieval Amalfi' Leather Journal, Fiorentina [$135]

The Art of Shaving, Unscented Initiation Kit [$60]

'The New York Times: 36 Hours USA & Canada, 2nd Edition' Book, Taschen Books [$40]

'Logan' Leather Backpack, Frye [$448]

'The Runwell Chrono' Leather Strap Watch, 41mm, Shinola [$750]

'F by Ferragamo pour Homme Black' Eau de Toilette Spray, Salvatore Ferragamo [$55]

'Troubadours' Zebrawood Headphones, LSTN [$150]

 

61mm Double Bar Pilot Sunglasses, Dolce&Gabbana [$275]

{things i covet} try, buy, spy

try1by1 spy1

 

{try}

a summertime classic reinvented: spiced apple cider sangria [mix]

natural, simple place cards for the thanksgiving table [see]

easy to serve (and pretty too!) individual pumpkin pies [recipe

{buy}

Minx leather pumps, Charlotte Olympia [$895]

'Panettone' spiked calfskin wallet, Christian Louboutin [$650]

Bow-embellished wool sweater, Red Valentino [$395]

{spy}

must-try foods to eat in nyc this winter [drool]

every hat and fascinator kate middleton has ever worn [look]

words that mean something different to fashion people [read]

 

{things i made} crunch-top apple pie

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It's hard to reinvent the wheel–and just so you know, in this case the wheel is apple pie. When it comes to the autumnal staple, I've already got a filling I love and a crust I love but I was looking to make things a little more interesting and special. I'd never heard of or seen a crunch-top pie before but I liked the idea (more crust to distribute over the sweet, jam-like filling will always be fine with me). Easy, tasty, and seasonal–go apple picking (stores count too) and make one tonight!

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2-2/3 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup oil
6 tablespoons milk

1. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl.
2. Put the oil in a measuring cup and add the milk without stirring. Pour mixture into the flour and mix briefly. Do not refrigerate.
3. Flatten dough by rolling on floured surface or between two sheets of wax paper. Place in pan. Repeat, with a second batch of ingredients, reserving for top crust.

 

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
Dash salt
1 tablespoon butter (or olive oil, frozen)

1. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl.
2. Using a fork, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Set aside.

 

2/3 cup sugar 
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 pounds Granny Smith and/or Braeburn apples, peeled, cored, and cut into wedges
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large bowl, combine sugar with cornstarch and spices. Add apples and lemon juice and toss to coat evenly.
2. Spoon apple mixture into prepared crust. Top and seal with second pie crust. Fold overhang up over the pie-plate's rim and pinch to form a decorative edge. Cut three vents in top crust. Sprinkle evenly with crumb mixture.
3. Bake pie 1 hour 10 minutes or until apples are tender when pierced with knife (to prevent burning, cover pie loosely with tented foil after 40 minutes). Cool pie on rack 3 hours to serve warm, or refrigerate to serve cold later. 

{things i wore} ankle boots

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There are some purchases that leave me wondering how I lasted so long without owning anything comparable. Flat, black ankle boots are definitely one of them. I'd like to think I was holding out for the perfect pair and these by Nine West seemed just that: interesting suede detailing on the heel, a concealed zipper and a just enough of a point to stay on trend. We're in the thick of fall now and I couldn't be happier to layer on the scarves and leather jackets (I'm going to hold off on anything down for as long as possible!).

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Silky Tee, Soprano [via Nordstrom]; Asymmetric Knit-Leather Jacket in Black, MICHAEL Michael Kors [$475 now $245]; Roxane Cropped Skinny Jeans, 7 For All Mankind [$178 $81]; Basic Extra Soft Scarf, Zara [25.90]; Orion Ankle Boots, Nine West [$119]; Saffiano Lux Double-Zip Tote Bag in Black, Prada [shop here]Thin Gold Band with Bezel Set Diamond, Jennifer Meyer [$175]; Threadbare Ring in Yellow Gold, Catbird Jewelry [$44]; Gold & Pavé Diamond Tiny Disc Ring, Sydney Evan [$375]; Round Cut Studs with Tension Back and Filigree Setting (0.84 cts. each) in White Gold, c/o Diamond Nexus [$249] Essie 'Forever Yummy'

 

{things i learned} we’ll take this way too far

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[decorative tomatoes still on the vine]

 

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[chocolate shell, sponge cake, and whipped cream--the 'oh oh' from bouchon bakery

 

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[pretty while they lasted but now it's time for roasting, cooking, and puréeing]

 

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[dried imported italian pasta]

 

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[newest obsession: crab fries]

 

I don't know why but I feel like I just can't adjust to the latest time change. I keep getting that it-can't-be-this-late/this-early feeling multiple times a day. Over- and under-sleeping haven't helped (ugh), and neither has completely relaxing or being super active. I think the middle ground will be best–as always everything in moderation.  Can I make an exception for Thomas Keller's "oh-oh" though? My boyfriend picked one up for me when he was near Bouchon Bakery and my order was, "Surprise me!" The little rolled-up swirl of chocolate cake and whipped cream filling is the chef's take on Hostess's ho-ho (random right?). They are of course so much more elegant (check out that sticker-studded foil wrapper), fresh, and tasty–I'd have eaten one or two (or three) more if they'd been in the box. Have a great weekend!

 

{things i learned} how to approach formalwear

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I've happened to have had a few occasions this fall where formal dressing was required. Crafting a look that suits an event is one of my favorite activities, and over the years I've streamlined my thought process to help myself make decisions that work.  Above are examples of my two basic approaches to the issue–read on to see how they differ and for some helpful hints!

1. The dress 

{left} specifically special // {right} wear-again classic

A good formal look always begins with clothes. I sentimentally attach memories to what I wear (and attach what I wear to my memories), so whenever an invite shows up, I always decided whether or not I need a very specific and special item or if I want to start with something I've worn already or would consider wearing again. I'll splurge for a show-stopping dress if I'm an important part of the event or if I know it will be heavily photographed. If the opposite of those are true, or if the tone of the party is a bit less fun, I'll probably reach for a staple I already own (as always, it's hard to regret wearing a beloved little black dress).

2. The shoes

{left} comfortably stylish // {right} dramatically arched

Since I haven't done a statement shoe in years I usually stick to complimenting my dress in color, which means a black, white, or nude heel. The remaining choices then are heel height and style. I always consider the type of event I'm going to before picking those: I'd rather be able to wear the shoes all night than to hobble home barefooted. If I know I'll be standing a lot, walking long distances over uneven ground, or dancing, I'll settle for a more comfortable style. If I know I'll be gliding from car to table and largely staying put, I'll venture wearing something a bit more steep.

3. The bag

{left} subtly elegant // {right} boldly unique 

For me, one of life's greatest joys is digging into my closet to choose the perfect handbag to add to an outfit.  My collection has taken a lot of time, money, and careful thought, so I'm lucky enough to have more than a few options to reach for when doing so. Clutches are the best way to keep things dressy, but beyond that I do one of two things: wear one that's subtly and elegantly matches my look or one that stands alone as an eye-catching work of art. I tend to reserve the latter for affairs I'm less invested in, as such pieces are often trendy and don't age well (but are still fun and worth wearing when you can!).

4. The hair

{left} upswept and different // {right} everyday but polished

I wear my hair down, loose, and natural, almost every day. It's not low maintenance but rather a style I find flattering and comfortable. It's also one everyone I know finds familar–when I change it, people always notice and comment. So if I want to designate a party as extra special, then I try to do something extra special with my hair. For me that involves sweeping it off my neck and away from my face (this of course would be something different for everyone). However I don't completely disregard my normal style–since I love it, I'll consider it too because I know I'll be happy with the way it looks.

5. The jewelry

{left} subtle sparkle // {right} chunky metals

My jewelry is always the last thing I put on, and when I do finally layer pieces I always take a step back to consider their effect in a full-length mirror. A fancy party deserves some sparkle, and I'll look for any reason to riffle through my jewelry box to look for dainty, gemstone-laden things. I think glitter is best reserved for nighttime affairs (as is the "less is more" rule). For day-time events, it's easier to wear heavier, chunkier pieces, and to displays flashes of metals (gold or silver or both, as I'll mix metals now as long as they match the rest of my look tonally). As for Coco Chanel's famous advice, it has its merits–always consider every part of your look and remove things (or add if you've shown lots of restraint) before you head out the door to celebrate.

 

Final advice? Wear what you truly love and you'll feel–and subsequently look–your best!

 

{things i learned} ten under $10: kitchen tools

 

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I happily spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but it has taken a few years for me to fully stock its drawers with everything I need to make everything I want. Of course, some tools I buy don't get as much use as others, but there a quite a few ones I couldn't imagine cooking or baking without. Remarkably, they're all under $10 so read on to see if you need to add any of them to your collection! 

 

[clockwise]

1. Bamboo Veggie Brush, Natural Home [$7.19] – I use a veggie brush mostly to scrub mushroom​s and potatoes (so I can roast them with their skins). It does wonders to rem​ove engrained dirt while saving your manicure at the same time.

2. Stainless Steel 25mm Scoop, Norpro  [$9.39] – I have one sm​all scoop that I use to form​ both cookies and ice cream​ accents on desserts.  If I want to go bigger than its offical diameter, i simplly overpack it.

3. Cheese Plane, Sur La Table [$9.95] – Rather than buying pre-made flakes, this tool lets you cut them​ fresh from​ a large piece of cheese (parm​esean is m​y favorite) to top salads, soups and pastas. A potatoe peeler or knife works in a pinch, but with a designed plane you have more control for even cuts.

4. Lemon Squeezer Aluminum, Target [$8.09] – This press is a wonder–it easily gets the last bit of juice from​ both lem​ons and limes. The big bonus is that you never have to worry about seeds falling into your ingredients again because they're easily trapped by its small holes.

5. 60-Minute Egg-Shaped Timer, Sur La Table [$7.95] – Even though cell phones and tablets have great tim​er apps, I still love setting one on the counter to keep track of cooking and baking tim​es. Its ticking reminds me that something needs my mindful attention.

6. Adjustable Pie Crust Protectors, Crate and Barrel [$6.95] – Although I was dubious at first, these work am​azingly well at preventing pie, tart, and quiche crusts from​ burning. They completley replace wasteful aluminm-foil tents (and prevent singed fignertips during their set-up!).

7. Lettuce Knife, OXO [$5] – It may seem necessary, but a plastic knife is the perfect way to chop romaine and iceberg lettuce. The cuts are cleaner, resulting in neater salads and less browning–plus there is no chance of slipping and cutting yourself as the leaves shift.

8. Collection Icing Spatula, Martha Stewart [$9.99] – You wouldn't believe how difficult it is to frost a cake with just a knife–most are just short enough to create a melted, sticky mess. This makes matters so much easier while giving you more precision and control over how the final product will look. 

9. French Whisk, OXO [$9] – I don't know how I stayed so long without a mini-whisk–often you just need something a bit smaller than a large one to finish mixing a salad dressing or other emulsion. 

10. Silicone Basting Brush, OXO [$10] – Basting brushes are not just for grilling (although this works there for mops and sauces)–it's also great for baked goods like buns or breads that need a quick glaze. Silicone is best as it cleans/sanitizes well.

 

{things i made} minestrone

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It is officially soup weather–chilly days somehow always creep inside and all I want to do is cozy up and keep out the cold with hearty, warming dinners. I have yet to meet a soup I didn't like, and this one's no exception. A good minestrone is incredible–lots of veggies packed in every bite, an herb-flavored broth, and a bit of pasta too–but bad, un-flavorful one is a tinny waste of calories. Luckily this one is of the first variety and exactly what a cold November night calls for.
 
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1 cup white onion, minced 
1/2 cup zucchini, chopped 
1 pound sliced mushrooms (about 6 cups)
2 russet potatoes, peeled, cubed

1 cup green beans, cut into one-inch pieces
1 cup carrots, chopped or shredded
1/2 cup celery, minced 
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 ounces sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
8 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
2 (15 ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 (15 ounce) cans small white beans or great northern beans, drained
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoon parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups hot water
4 cups fresh baby spinach, torn

 
2/3 cup  small shell or tube pasta, cooked
Finely shredded Romano cheese 
(or Parmesan), for serving 
 
1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Saute onion, celery, garlic, pancetta, green beans, potatoes, and zucchini for 5 minutes or until onions begin to turn translucent.
 2. Add broth to pot, plus tomatoes, beans,
mushrooms, carrot, hot water, and spices. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 40 minutes.
3. Add spinach leaves and cook for an additional 30 minutes or until desired consistency. Serve with pasta and topped with cheese.
 

{things i wore} white tee

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When I first put this outfit on, I literally thought to myself that it was my favorite look of all time. The funny thing is I'm not even overreacting. Relaxed denim, top-handle bag, white tee, black blazer, and classic pumps–you cannot get any more comfortable or chic than that.

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Classic jersey T-shirt, T by Alexander Wang [$80]; Dinner-Jacket Blazer in Black, H&M [$35]; Boy Jean, American Eagle [similar]; Saffiano Lux Double-Zip Tote Bag in Black, Prada [shop here]; Leather Stiletto Shoes, Zara [$99, similar here and here]; Thin Gold Band with Bezel Set Diamond, Jennifer Meyer [$175]; Gold & Pavé Diamond Tiny Disc Ring, Sydney Evan [$375]X3 Diamond Ring, 18k Gold Diamond Anniversary Band [$1400]; Threadbare Ring in Yellow Gold, Catbird Jewelry [$44] Urban Jungle Nail Polish, Essie [here]




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