Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It's Back...FREE Subscription to Martha Stewart Living And Everyday Food!

Click for FREE year-long subscription to both Martha Stewart Living and Everyday Food!

If I've said it once, I've said it 1000 times...this is how I get almost all of my magazine subscriptions.  No credit card is required.  Just fill out a silly survey that takes less than three minutes and check your mailbox in a few weeks.  Woot woot!

Tip: You could always order this as a holiday gift, too!  I didn't.  I ordered it for myself.  Merry Christmas to me.  But I mean, you might be nicer and less greedy than me and order it as a gift.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

THE Best Turkey Recipe

Nearly a decade ago, I invited B (that stands for Bench) and two other friends over to my tiny basement apartment on the Hill in DC for Thanksgiving.  I cooked the entire meal in the teeniest tiniest kitchen you have ever seen and yet insisted on making two kinds of potatoes.  One just wasn't enough!  And if you ask B (that stands for Bench), it was the world's best turkey.

What started out that day as a Martha Stewart recipe has over the years sort of morphed into my own recipe.  Mostly because I've since lost the original and just wing it at this point.  {Y'all know good and well by now that I wing most things in life, for better or worse.}  Her recipe involved roasted garlic.  I'm far too lazy for that these days and feel that if it's going to be on a bird roasting for four hours, what's the point of pre-roasting it.  Her recipe involved a long list of herbs.  My recipe involves whatever herbs I happen to have in the kitchen at any given time.  Her recipe involved specific measurements.  My recipe abhors the idea of having to wash extra dishes when I can just guesstimate stuff.  Her recipe was consistent every single time.  My recipe has, shall we say, plenty of wiggle room.

Because I go to my cousin's house for Thanksgiving each year, I don't cook my own bird on Thanksgiving proper.  And yes, of course I come home with a plate for the next day to enjoy.  But I really want more than that.  I LOVE leftover turkey.  I love it in sandwiches and soups and casseroles and stews and enchiladas and burritos and pot pie and so on.  So every year, I cook my own bird at some point.  I eat it like normal for a day or two and then pick the bird clean to freeze bags with meat for later use.  It's awesome to have on hand in the freezer for quick meals during the year.

Last night was my bird night.  I cooked it {all 21 lbs}, ate dinner, then picked it clean to freeze.  Yup...all that work to eat one dinner.  I'm crazy!  But it will be so worth it later when I don't feel like making a big fuss at dinner time.

So in light of Thanksgiving in a few days, I think it's high time I share my recipe for THE Best Turkey EVER.  Which is really a combination of a recipe and a tip.

First the tip...

Cook your bird breast side down.  I'll repeat...cook your bird BREAST SIDE DOWN.  Now this only works if you don't need to make a fussy presentation with your bird because your bird won't look as pretty.  But I'm telling you, this is life-changing advice.  Truly!  Your white meat will be so moist and juicy and taste just as amazing as the dark meat if you cook it breast side down.  It won't dry out because the juices from the dark meat will run down through the white meat.

Now the recipe for THE Best Roasted Turkey

* A big turkey
* 2 sticks of butter at room temperature (most of it cook off)
* 2 tbls Kosher salt
* 1 tbls cracked black pepper
* 2 tbls fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
* 2 tbls fresh sage, roughly chopped
* 3 tbls minced garlic
* 2 onions, in large chunks

I know it seems like a lot but it most of it cooks off.

A simple but brilliant recipe!

* Deep clean your kitchen sink.
* Wash your bird in your super clean sink.  Remove neck, gizzards, etc.  I also cut off a lot of skin/fat, but that's a personal preference.
* Move bird to your roasting rack.  Pat dry with paper towels, including the inside.  Let rest at room temp for 20 minutes to get dry.
* Preheat your oven to 325.
* Combine room temperature butter, salt, pepper, herbs, and garlic in a bowl.
* Chop onions.
* Starting with the breast side up, generously rub both under and over the skin of the bird with the butter herb mixture.  Rub the inside of the cavity, too.
* Flip your bird over so the breast side is now down.  Rub the remaining butter herb mixture over and under the skin, touching every surface possible.  {This is why the bird needs to be dry}
* Put onion in bird cavity.  If some pieces fall out, that's totally fine.
* Make a foil tent large enough to cover the bird and pan.  Wrap foil tent around pan, place in the oven, and don't touch that bird for hours!
* I've learned NOT to baste my bird.  As long as you have a tent on the pan, you are really good to go.  Basting means that the oven temp lowers each time you open the door, thus taking longer to cook and drying out your meat.
* Cook for about 15 mins/lb or until an internal thermometer reads 190 degrees at the thickest section.  If your bird is breast side down, the little pop thingy won't work as it will now be upside down.
* If you want to roast root veggies (my favorite), chop them into large chunks and toss them in for the last hour of cooking.
* To brown your bird and crisp the skin, remove the foil tent for the last half hour or so of cooking.
* Let bird rest at least 20 minutes before carving.  This allows the meat to relax and the juices to settle back in place.

Start breast up

But cook breast down.  Also note the missing skin. I know it looks terrible but it's just how I roll.

Covered in buttery goodness.  Get it good and coated both over and under the skin.

Please let me know if you try these tips or if you have others to share with us.  I really just cannot say enough about how amazing your bird will taste with this recipe though.'s THE Best!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Quick Blog Question

So do you see the Search This Blog box on the right, about half way down?  Would you mind doing me a favor and searching for something?  Anything...the details are unimportant.

Did it work for you?  Will you leave a comment with that answer, please?  And if you have it enable on your blog, is it working there?

I noticed the other day that I couldn't get it to work in Chrome or IE.  Which stinks because I use that feature on my own blog all the time.  It's how I find recipes.  I'm hoping this is some sort of weird user error (read: my own fault) that can be easily solved.

It's getting annoying though.  But it takes Blogger months, at least six, to get back to me.  When I ask y'all, you always help the same day.

As always, thanks so much for your help, sweet friends!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Harry Potter and Hasidic Jews. Learning A Little More About Both.

Well my unplanned blog break has turned into a long blog break.  But I know you girls get it.  We all have times when we need to give our focus and time to other endeavors and projects for a spell.  It's just a busy time of year for me, and I suspect many of y'all, too.

But in the last day, I've enjoyed reading this and thought my fellow Harry Potter fans might enjoy it too.  The comments were even more entertaining to me.  I mean, I love the HP series but some folks get really hot and bothered by this topic.

According to this, Neville Longbottom is the most important character in the Harry Potter series!

I've also long been fascinated by all thing theology.  I didn't grow up around any Hasidic Jews so this was really interesting to me.  Don't you just love learning more about different cultures and faiths?!  Me too!  Watch's worth your time to broaden your understanding a bit!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Happy Birthday, Lilly Pulitzer!

Happiest birthday wishes to one very fine lady, who has no doubt colored the clouds vibrant shades of pink and green.  You are so loved and adored, Lilly Pulitzer!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Store Opening: Crate & Barrel Pop Up Shop


The North Pole is store limited.  As in, there's a lot we do not have.  Or if we do have the store, they often carry a very limited line of what normal stores carry.  And admittedly, I spend a great deal of time whining about intelligently pointing out this fact.

BUT...we have been making strides lately here in the Capital Region.  Or...maybe not strides...maybe more like baby steps.  But still...a step is a step.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of our latest baby step.  The Crate & Barrel Pop Up Shop in the Crossgates Mall.  Like all things I do in life though, there is a story within a story.

So I wasn't entirely sure where Crate & Barrel was located but I assumed it was near Pottery Barn.  I parked and came in via that entrance.  But I didn't see the store.  How, I do not know.  But I didn't see it.  So I walked and walked looking for it.  The entire upper length of the mall.  But I didn't see it.  So I went downstairs and proceeded to walk the entire lower length of the mall back to my starting point.  But I still didn't see the store.  So I went up the escalator thinking I just needed to leave, walked toward the exit and turned back just to double check as I was dumbfounded that I walked the entire upper and lower level of the mall without seeing it, and there it bloody was.  RIGHT THERE.  I had walked right past it.  I seriously question my sanity sometimes!

I popped in to find that the store is really cute.  But it's also really small.  It sadly doesn't include any of the beloved favorites like glass ware, dinner ware or furniture.  The store is pretty much a holiday gift store only.  Lots of beautiful ornaments and cute gift items, including treats for your favorite pup.  The representative from their Chicago corporate office was there and so sweet as she made the rounds to talk to every single person at the opening.  She encouraged us to take photos and was very welcoming.

Marshmallows are HOT this season.  But you can make your own!

I'm in love with this silver glitter wreath.

So overall, I think the store is fun and hope it does well this season.  But as I said to the C&B rep, I really hope this is the beginning of a real C&B store here in Albany.  Gifts are nice but every Crate & Barrel fan knows that the glass and dinner ware is where the love lies for this brand!  Crossing my fingers that this Pop Up Shop leads to bigger and better next year!

Sadie needs a few of these dog gifts.

A photographer and reporter for the Times Union were there too to cover the story.  What's funny is that 1. I am in the first photo (blue velvet J.Crew pants, white Lilly Pulitzer shirt, green Vineyard Vines blazer and new disaster turned making it work hair-do).  And 2. I know the reporter, Eric Anderson.  But I only saw his back so I didn't think to say hello.  They don't call it Smallbany without reason!  (Thanks for sending me the link, L!)


Reminder: Lilly Pulitzer (& Stuart Weitzman) Sale

Just a reminder that Lilly Pulitzer gifts are on sale on Rue today!  I picked up a cute set that I will use as a donation item.  Who doesn't love Lilly?!

Pencil case and calculator.

Great gift set at a crazy great price!

I almost ordered this for myself but I have no need for it...

A new phone is happening for me this week.  Which one will I choose?!

While picking that up, I noticed that there is a great Stuart Weitzman sale happening too.  Lots of beautiful boots, bags and other shoes.  If you're in the market, it might be worth checking out.

I love the clean lines.

But the quilting is really pretty too!

Loving this tote!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Gift Ideas

So did you know that Christmas {and other gift-giving occassions} is around the corner?  I came as a shock to me too.

Like everyone, my list includes both large and small items.  For children, adults and everyone in between.  So I am forever in search of clever little treats to use as gifts during the year.

Today I thought I would show you a few of the small gift items that I'm thinking about {or in a few cases, have already purchased} this year for family and friends.  Everything I'm listing is under $100 and at least half are under $50.

Beer bottle and wine glass in an insulated cup.

Is it a Tervis?  Is it a wine glass?  It's both!  And I love it.  With a bottle of wine, this is going to be a really cute gift for my family's Dirty Santa {aka Yankee Trade or White Elephant} Game.  The beer bottle cup would be equally fun with a six pack of beer.  I'm always looking for one or two gifts that can be gender neutral and these are perfect!

Set of two enamel bangles.

Pink Bow Earrings

These also come in silver.  Can you tell I am obsessed with bows this season?

These are only $12!

Jewelry is always fun.  I try to make or buy pieces that the recipient might not buy for herself.  Things that are cute and fun but also able to blend into normal wear.  The studs above are only $12 and come in several stone options.  I often have to bring a gift to a party {work, volunteer, friend dinner, etc} that is under a specific threshold and these are a great alternative to the typical go-to bottle of wine.

Nail polish set.

Favorite undies.

Set of nine on sale for $28, normal $124!!

Things that make you feel pretty are ideal for best friends.  I admit that you have to be exceptionally close to give someone unmentionables.  But Bestie pretty regularly gifts me with Hanky Pankys and I have to say it's a total favorite.  I'm so bad at buying pretties for myself so I genuinely love that she sends them to me once in a while.  And do you see the note under the Stilla lippys?  That's a great price and a really fun gift!

Pretty pajamas are always a good gift.

Polka dot pajamas.

I'm pretty sure I will be buying this gift item for myself.  That's allowed...right?!

Comfort treats are ideal any time of year.  I would live in pajama pants if it was socially acceptable.

Who doesn't love a gourmet gift basket?!

I love sending cheesecakes.  It's unexpected and a crowd pleaser.

Fancy Cheese.  No explanation necessary.

And if all else fails, yummy gift baskets are a great option!  You certainly buy them pre-filled but it's also just as easy to pick up fun treats at any grocery store, TJ Max and Marshalls {and the like}, or places like Trader Joes.  Making your own means that the price and ingredients can be very specific.  {Here are some tips on creating gift baskets as gifts.}

How are you doing with your holiday gift shopping?  I have purchased two gifts but know what I want for about 80% of the list.  I keep a spreadsheet all year round and jot down ideas as I think of them.  Whether or not I can pull of completing my list by my rarely attained goal of December 01, is yet to be seen.  I'm betting on no {that's right...I bet against happens} but it's a good goal all the same.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween Hair Horror Story

I have been in desperate need of a new haircut.  It's been all sister-wife, all the time around here.  And it was just not working for me.

But my hairdresser is in Vermont.  I've tried MANY salons locally.  Many.  And at best they have been OK and at worst they have been a royal disaster.  So normally I gladly drive the 75 minutes one way to get my hair done.

However I frequently decide at 4 PM that I want to get my hair cut the follow morning.  It takes me forever to decide what to do and then BAM...I want it done immediately.  So it really would be so helpful to have a local alternative for months when taking a full day off to get my hair done isn't realistic.

Enter Groupon.  I randomly bought a Groupon to a local salon.  I knew nothing about this place other than it was 10 minutes from my house and that sounded better than 75 minutes.  I figured that it couldn't be worse than any of the other local salon experiences I've had.

You can guess where this is going...right?

My very own Halloween nightmare in broad {rainy} daylight.

First things first.  Making the appointment.  The person on the other end was unfriendly and unprofessional.  I asked what was available in the coming week and was offered the following day.  She asked if I could come the following day and I said yes.

A pit was in my stomach after I hung up though.  Just making the appointment felt off.

I arrived five minutes early to a hole in the wall.  And I don't mean that in the good way you describe a hidden, beloved, secret to most, amazing restaurant.  I mean it as in it was kind of a dump.  It was just old and sad.  Basically a small room with a bar for the front desk, including bar stools on the side, and four chairs along the other wall.

One hair stylist was there and she was working on another customer.  So I sat in the "waiting area" and no one said anything to me.  I was sitting no more than 10' from the stylist and customer.  It was bizarre.  About 10 minutes later, she said she would be with me in a few minutes.  OK.  No offer to take my coat and nowhere in view to hang it myself.  No offer for a drink.  Or magazine.  That was it.

Before things went really wrong, I snapped a quick before shot.  Check out the disaster of a salon.  

40 minutes after I arrived, I was finally greeted and put in a chair.  She was nice though and I was just going with it.  I mean, I was already there and resolved to get my hair cut and colored.

I wanted Gwyneth's cut in the top right corner.

I explained exactly what I wanted, including a photo of the cut.  I also clearly explained the all over color {I basically wanted the same color I already had or very similar}.  In an effort to make this story read-able, I will skip a bunch of details.  But the gist is that everything felt very amateur, unprofessional and dated.  Everything.  Warning signs were going off in my head right and left.  And I hit ignore to all of them.

She gets the color ready and does about half of my head.  While doing so, she is dripping globs of color all over the place.  On my arm, on the chair, on the floor.  It was also all over me.  Both ears were burning as they were so coated in the color.  Ditto on my entire back neck, forehead and temples.  This was also taking bloody forever.

So when she casually said that I would need to pay an additional 25% because my hair was using so much color, I about fell out of my chair.  I said that would not work.  I purchased this service already and it said nothing about hair quantity.  Nor did their website.  I was upfront in both making the appointment and when I got there that I was using the Groupon.  And now here I am sitting in this hole of a building with soap operas blaring on the TV and absolutely zero customer service and a head full of hair color and you are telling me I owe you more?!  She argued that this was just what they do because they can't be expected to deal with this much hair.  I said that nothing on the Groupon or their website stated as much.  She was like, well this is just what we do.  And I'm all, well that makes no sense.  You can't quote a price and then once a customer is held hostage because you are mid-hair color, increase the price.  This went back and forth for several minutes.  More than anything, I was just in shock over this conversation.

And that is when I started crying for the first time.

It wasn't about the money.  It was that I knew from the first phone call that this was a bad idea.  I knew when I walked in that this was a bad idea.  I knew when I sat in that chair and had to put my coat on the floor that this was a bad idea.  And here I am, unable to leave but not wanting to continue, knowing full well that this was a very bad idea.  I don't typically burst into tears like that.  And I'm very embarrassed that I did as much.  But it happened and I'm owning it.  I just didn't know what to do and the end result was tears.

She at first said something like, don't cry ma'am, we will just charge you more because you have so much hair.  Which was bizarre as that was the tipping point that made me cry in the first place.  I believe that is when I turned to her and said that I didn't know what to do because I couldn't leave but couldn't continue.  {I want to point out that we were the only two people in the salon at this point.  I highly doubt if others had been there that I would have had this reaction.  Then again, I am still surprised that this was my reaction at all in public so who knows.  I was clearly more emotional about this hair situation than I realized.}  I couldn't stop crying though.  I was just really upset.  Not bawling.  Just sort of quietly crying.  I was super worried about how things would turn out.

Eventually she was so thrown off by my tears {as was I, to be honest}, that she said don't worry about it.  I could tell she did feel badly.  Or maybe uncomfortable is a better description.  She wasn't trying to be mean, I think she just had no idea what my overall perspective of this situation was.

So she continued to color my entire head.  Even though she said {and I agreed to} the color would only go slightly beyond where I wanted it cut {I cut off at least 8"}.  She also kept doing this weird twist thing with strands of hair, which would pull my head and tangle my hair in the process.  It was an honest to goodness painful and hour-long process just for the application.  For all over color, not highlights.  I often color my hair at home and start to finish, including processing and rinsing out in the shower, I can be done in 45 minutes.  That includes a full shower!  Then I sat there to let it process {they didn't have a heat helmet thingy} for OVER AN HOUR.  During which time the salon owner came in, more customers who she cut, etc, and never-ending loud NY style conversations happened.  This wasn't a salon, it was a damn bus station.  Or that's what it felt like.  It was so loud and not at all peaceful in there.

I read four magazines cover to cover.  Ask me anything about Gwyneth Paltrow, Katie Holmes, Kim Kardashian or the Jonas Brothers.  I now know it all.

I was finally rinsed and the color looked fine.  It's not perfect.  But it's fine.  I'll re-do it with the shade I prefer in a month anyway.  Time to cut.  I asked if she wanted to see the photo again.  She doesn't but is like, if you want to, OK.  I did.  I knew we would again need a review of this simple hair cut.  She said, I know, like 3".  No no...I want it above my shoulders.  See the photo.  Oh, OK.  No problem.


She finished and I then cried for the second time.

It's ALL wrong.  It's so long.  And not tapered.  And not layered.

I have never done this but I felt like I had nothing to lose at this point.  And after another review, she set about cutting it for a second time.

Nearly four hours later, I left with a decent color and a decent cut.  I was not charged the additional 25%.  I did tip generously, though why I am not sure.  She asked if I wanted another appointment.  And I did not say HELL NO.  I instead said I would like her card.  I held myself together without any more emotional outbursts and got the heck out of dodge.

I was going to take a photo to show you the before and after.  But then I didn't get home until so stinkin late after getting nothing done today and I was upset and well...that didn't happen.  I will be sure to get one this weekend though.

The moral of the story is that you should trust your gut, ladies!  From now on, I will be driving to Vermont.  It's worth the time and effort.  And by the way, I could have driven to VT, got my hair cut and colored, popped into Vineyard Vines, picked up a curry chicken salad and Diet Coke, and driven home in roughly the same amount of time.

Have you had any hair disasters lately?  Consider this a safe space and feel free to share!


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