Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen has done it again.  He has made a movie, captive of all audiences, to be watched over and over.  Hopefully you remember some of Woody's classics, like Annie Hall and Manhattan, just to name a few. Whether you watched them when they first came out, or like me, years later when you were old enough to appreciate them, they are classic Woody.  Midnight in Paris falls right into that category.

If you have seen a Woody Allen before, you know exactly the kind of movie you are oddly in for, and if not, you should really consider giving one of his classics a try. Woody has this uniquely creative way to make a movie like no other writer and director.  They may not always come out initially as Hollywood blockbusters, but unlike those that hit it big at the box office, these movies stick around for days to come.

The plot line for Midnight in Paris follows an engaged couple that travels to Paris current day, yet somehow the fianc√©, an aspiring writer, finds himself in a car that takes him back and forth between the 1920s, an era he idolizes with the authors he idolizes.  Unlike previous Woody Allen films where he not only writes the main character, but also acts in the portrayal himself, Woody Allen has stepped aside to let Owen Wilson play the part, and Owen Wilson, bravo!  I would never have thought that someone could come close to the individual talent that is Woody Allen when he takes the screen, but Owen, you sure did hit the nail on the head.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Boat Shoes

Dating back to 1935, there is nothing more classic on the east coast than Sperry Top-Siders. The name Sperry comes from the original founder and creator of the shoe, Paul Sperry, and the second part of the name, well, that will be explained herein. While these shoes have gained popularity more recently as a fashion fixture, they actually were originally made, and to this day still, to serve a purpose. Allow me to explain a few reasons as to why a boat shoe is what it is.


First of all, a boat shoe, which is also sometimes referred to as a deck shoe, is supposed to have a white or light bottom sole. The reason for this is in its name. The shoes were made for boaters that did not want to dirty or mark up the decks of their boats. So, they wanted non-marking soles as the "top siders" aboard their boats. Identification of a classic boat shoe number one.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Quick! Banana Bread

Brown bananas?  Do not even think of throwing them away.  While you could possibly make some good compost, there are just so many other additional uses for a banana in any shape or form.  If it doesn't happen already, when you see a browned banana, train your mind to naturally kick into gear to make some good old fashioned banana bread.  Well, the good part remains in the recipe below, but the old-fashioned bit may have been tweaked slightly.  When I have browned bananas, I know I can put them to use, but that means I need to make haste, a.k.a use whatever it is I have on hand.  So, through trial and error, I have created this recipe to be pretty standard upon ingredients, but still turn out quite tasty.  And boy, will your house smell delicious!


        Ingredients:
        3-4 well ripened bananas
        1 Tablespoon butter
        1/2 cup sugar, preferably brown
        1 teaspoon vanilla extract
        1 1/2 cups flour, all-purpose or bread flour
        1 teaspoon cinnamon
        1 teaspoon baking powder
        1 teaspoon baking soda
        1 teaspoon salt


Directions:
1)  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2)  Melt the butter in a medium sized bowl.

3)  Add the sugar, vanilla extract, and peeled bananas.  Mash together to a smooth and creamy consistency.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Chanel No. 5

When middle school rolled around, the young girls around me started dabbling into the world of the woman, or more specifically make-up, jewelry, purses, shoes, and perfume. I was a bit of a tomboy growing up, so it took me a little longer to blossom into my feminine side, but when I finally came around, I had a very specific desire to find my right scent. I was on a mission.

Having heard people start to say how a certain smell reminded them of someone, I wanted that. I wanted people to associate a smell with me, and obviously a good one at that. But, that meant I had to be smart in my decision, so it took some time to finally find the smell that was right for me. I forget how I was initially introduced to what would become my staple perfume scent, but I was immediately smitten:


Thursday, May 17, 2012

London

London, England should be a must-see on the bucket list for everyone. It's the very essence of many of our American customs, culture, and traditions. And okay, I'll go ahead and say it - there is a big plus in that there is no language barrier. While most other countries where English is not the primary language (France, Greece, Italy, Spain, etc.), the natives do typically still speak English, but there's that hinge of guilt that never leaves your side from feeling like an outsider. In London, all is equal with regards to communication, that is, assuming you understand each other's accents.

But aside from language ease, when it comes to London, there is just so much to do. Like most major cities, you can spend days moving around from place to place and still not cover it all. What is nice though about the set-up of the city of London is that there are a few tourist attractions that are within range of one another to be done in a day. They really are must see sites, and include attractions that have to be seen in person to truly appreciate the scope and magnitude of their significance.

First, of course, is the Royal Palace, more commonly known as Buckingham Palace. Since 1837 Buckingham Palace has been the official London residence of Britain's sovereigns; more currently it serves as the administrative headquarters of the Monarch. In May, June, and July, you can catch the changing of the guard around 11am.  An interesting fact to know is that the Queen is in residence when four guards are present at the gate, versus two guards when the Queen is away.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Hunger Games Trilogoy

OMG! I know it is a little silly, maybe too cliche, to start this post with such an acronym, but considering The Hunger Games is written for the middle and high school aged population, it just seems fitting. Besides, the book really are just that fun and exciting.

So yes, you first hear hunger games and immediately think of food, or rather lack thereof, but actually the series is more robust than a story of starvation. I like to compare it to the old Roman times of the Colosseum. It's intense. I can't go any further because I do not want to give anything away, but let me tell you, there is a reason everyone is reading the books and an even greater argument attributing to the story since Hollywood has picked up on the buzz. And this is definitely one of those times where I actually would recommend reading the book before going to see the movie. It doesn't ruin a thing, but is rather the perfect complement to knowing the big picture on the big screen.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Peacock Cafe

In DC everyone does brunch.  I'm not quite sure if it has always been a custom of the city, or if it is a more recent fad among Washingtonians, but the question always arises, not so much as to where to eat dinner, but more importantly, where should we do brunch?

One of the hot spots for brunch seems to be Peacock Cafe.  If you are hoping to experience brunch at Peacock Cafe, you may want to start looking for a reservation right now.  Truly, the place gets booked up pretty quickly, and while they do take walk-ins, you may have to wait for up to an hour on a Sunday, give or take depending upon your party size.  I would recommend being proactive and booking your calendar a couple of weeks out.  But if you forget, or don't like to plan far in advance, there are a few seats around the bar that tend to turn over pretty quickly.  Also, the bar seats are great because you have constant service at your command.


Something special to Peacock Cafe are the house made smoothies.  There are many different flavors and options, and each one is delightfully fresh.  The orange juice itself is almost more of a smoothie consistency (just a heads up), squeezed freshly in-house.  Aside from the smoothies, Peacock Cafe is also special in the fact that they do carry Wheatgrass shots on the menu.  Some people swear by a Wheatgrass shot as to the cure of a late night of debauchery, but be minded that they really do have a hint of a grass taste to them.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Encyclopedia Britannica

Did you hear these guys are no longer being printed?  Words to the wise - get your hands on a copy sooner than later because pretty soon these will be Antiques.


Recently my husband had the brilliant idea of adding a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica to his birthday wish list.  Not only does the newly acquired edition look really great on our book shelf, but the edition is the year of his birth.  How cool is that, right?!

Encyclopedia Britannica was first published in 1768 in Scotland.  In 1901 publishing moved over to the United States.  And sadly, in March of this year, Encyclopedia Britannica announced that it would no longer produce print versions, with 2010 being the last edition published.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Exorcist Stairs

Do you think we will get to a point where you reference the movie "The Exorcist" and younger generations have no clue what you are talking about? Nah, I don't think so either. It's a classic horror film, like Psycho or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Maybe one day they'll try to film it again, since it was such a success the first go around, but either way, I think the original will always be known.

The movie is quite unique in its scary factor. There isn't someone chasing after you with a knife; there's no plot to kill. Instead, a demon has decided to take up occupancy inside of a little girl. The not-so-religious family has to seek their faith in God by finding a local priest to perform an exorcism to remove the bad spirit from her body. I won't give any spoiler alerts, in the off chance that you haven't yet seen it (and if you haven't, go rent it now, or make sure it is on the schedule for next Halloween's movie marathon), but everyone remembers the Exorcist stairs.

Located just next to the Georgetown University campus, the Exorcist stairs actually maintain quite the popularity. Mostly they are visited by those in their fitness gear, looking for a workout. And man, I'll tell you from experience, going up and down the stairs, even just three times, will give you quite the racing heartbeat. Start at the top or the bottom, either way, you'll definitely get your workout in.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Virginia's Gold Cup

For us Washingtonians unable to make the trek to the Derby, we have our own supplemental horse races that also take place on the first Saturday in May.  They are known as Virginia's Gold Cup.

Having a later birth date than the Derby, Gold Cup started in 1925 in Fauquier County, a prosperous area in Northern Virginia known by many in DC as horse country.  The races take place at Great Meadow in The Plains, VA, a little more than an hour outside the city.  Buses start lining the city as early as 9am to take loads of Washingtonians out for a day at the races.

Unlike the track races at the Kentucky Derby, Gold Cup runs six steeplechase races.  Steeplechases literally come from referring to a church's steeple when out on the hunt.  The race is more of an obstacle course, including fences to jump, ditches to overcome, and other challenges to the rider that might have been faced if the horse was out hunting.  It can be quite the spectacle to see, and once in a while you do see a jockey fall off.  After all, horse hunting itself is quite dangerous.  Thankfully paramedics are on the standby and there haven't been many significant injuries to note.

Another entertaining aspect of Gold Cup, similar to the Derby, is crowd watching.  Women bring out their hats and spring dresses.  Men dress to impress, some with a sports coat and maybe a bow tie.  The drink is pretty much the same with mint juleps to be found around every corner.  Unlike the Derby, there is no in-field.  You either cozy up on the grassy knoll, purchase a ticket to a tent, pull in your car and create a tailgate, or up the anty by getting a badge to be on Member's Hill, which has a wonderful view of the races.

Every year entails the same debate, which one do we attend?  Either way, you can't make a wrong decision.  But the good thing about Gold Cup is that they do play the final Derby race (the one most people care to watch) on the big screen after the final steeplechase has been run.  Oh, and I can't forget to mention that before the horse races begin, Gold Cup does have an adorable terrier race as a teaser to get the spectators started.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Horchata

Inspired by Vampire Weekend...  When I first listened to this song, I thought they were saying, "In December drinking Hot Chowder."  It wasn't until someone reminded me that you do not drink hot chowder, that I realized it had to be something else.  So, I looked around and discovered this new delicious drink.  And the funny thing is, much to my surprise, it is served on ice (although they say they are drinking it in December?!).  Aside from the initial confusion, thank you Vampire Weekend for the introduction to this yummy treat.

Horchata (a.k.a. Almond Rice Milk):

Ingredients:
1 cup long grain white rice
8 cups or 2 quarts of cold water
1 cinnamon stick or 2 teaspoons of cinnamon powder
1 cup raw almonds (optional, but use of this ingredient is more traditional)
1/2 cup of sugar *
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean

*  To cut calories, you may choose to use a sweetener, but please be mindful of the side effects of different sweeteners, including Splenda.  My favorite sugar substitute is Truvia, and recommended a one to one ratio (1/4 cup of real Sugar and 1/4 cup of Truvia).  Also, if you don't like to taste a lot of sweetness, use 1/4 cup sugar blend instead of 1/2 cup.

Directions:
1.  Using a blender or food processor, finely grind the rice. 

2.  Keeping in the blending apparatus, add the almonds, cinnamon, and 3 cups of water.  Cover and let sit overnight.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Kentucky Derby

The first Saturday in May usually marks the biggest horse racing weekend of the year with the all too famous Kentucky Derby.  It all started way back in 1875 when a well-fortuned traveler from Kentucky was inspired to, like many of our traditions; bring some European culture back home with him.  From the roots of the Epsom Derby in England and the Grand Prix de Paris in France, we get the Kentucky Derby in none other than Kentucky.


The Derby takes place at Churchill Downs.  It is the first of the three races that provide the opportunity to gain the honor of the Triple Crown.  The other two races are the Preakness in Maryland and the Belmont in New York.  A horse must win all three to obtain the title.

The horse race itself only lasts for about two minutes, so don't blink, or you might miss it.  Also, it's good to note that there are multiple races to watch throughout the day.  The big one to watch is the last race.  That's the one where they adorn the horse and jockey with the Garland of Roses.

Another interesting tidbit is that the race horses are actually only 3-years old.  Imagine trying to run a race at such a young age.  As the horses get older, they retire at the ripe old age of six.  Multiply that by decades and that would still be considered early for us humans - shucks.  Though, really that means that the horses only get three or four chances to win it big.  Good luck, and try not to foil it up since there aren't too many chances.  Yikes, the pressure.  Maybe I'll stick with my 9-5.

As for us spectators that go to the track, or enjoy the race on the tube, the stress factor can play in on a different level.  Almost every person watching the race has some sort of bet or monetary obligation tied to the winner.  As if your heart isn't beating fast enough just from the excitement, then you tie it to your personal piggy bank.  For that, we tend to overindulge in the traditional spirits to calm the nerves on whether your horse wins or losses.  Another mint julep, please.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gold Monogram Necklace

My friend just had her 30th birthday, and while a gift of jewelry is sometimes clich√©, or best left for the significant other, I think jewelry is the right present to mark big moments - graduations, weddings, babies, milestone birthdays, etc.  So, for her birthday, I got her this gold monogram necklace:


These are so hot right now.  I see all the ladies wearing them, both in necklaces and earrings, and I just love them.  Get your hands on one now.  You surely will not be disappointed.  It's a timeless piece.