Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

For those of you that know me I am really not a "fan" of Halloween. I mean for a kid its great- you get to go trick or treating, and get candy that lasts till Christmas. As an adult, its just silly-really. What is the point?

For those of us that get sucked into decorating, dressing up, and entertaining each year on Halloween here are some ideas that I found to be less irritating.

Finally! Something other then a jack-o-lantern! How pretty do these pumpkins look!

Love this candy scape!

Ok, I can handle this!


Serves 12 to 14
Candy Spiders, optional
Vegetable oil cooking spray
18 ounces chocolate wafers (about 90), finely ground (4 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon coarse salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 61 percent), finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
32 ounces cream cheese, softened
11/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, cold

Make the crust: Coat a 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Mix wafers, sugar, butter, and salt in a medium bowl. Pat mixture into pan, pressing firmly into bottom and all the way up sides. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to fill.
Make the ganache: Place chocolate in a food processor. Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan, then pour over chocolate. When chocolate begins to melt, process until smooth. Reserve 2 tablespoons ganache for decorating, and spread the remainder evenly on bottom and all the way up sides of crust. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to fill.
Make the filling: Beat cream cheese with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and slowly add sugar and salt. Raise speed to medium-high, and beat until very fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in lemon juice.
Whisk cream until medium-stiff peaks form. Whisk 1/4 of the whipped cream into cream cheese mixture, then fold in remaining whipped cream. Pour filling into crust, and spread evenly. Gently tap bottom of pan on counter to release air bubbles.
Transfer reserved ganache to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round tip. Starting in the center of the cheesecake, pipe a spiral, spacing lines about 1/2 inch apart. Pull the tip of a paring knife in a gently curved line from the center of the spiral to outer edge. Wipe knife clean, and repeat every inch or so to form a web.
Cover, and freeze for at least 1 hour or overnight. Unmold cheesecake, garnish with candy spiders if desired, and serve immediately.

All photo and recipe credits

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Turquoise and Tory

One of my favorite designers is Tory Burch. She was recently interviewed for Elle magazine. Her lady-like preppy designs are seen through out her home-I especially love this turquoise table scape that she created.

I love, love, love her green kitchen floor! It works so well with the white cabinets and white marble counter tops.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Have I died and gone to heaven?

Honestly, I do not have much to say about the Jimmy Choo/H&M alliance, besides the fact that it is amazing! I was not a fan of other collaborations H&M has done in the past (cheap material, ugly styles, over-priced) however-I am LOVING these designs. In select stores November 14, 2009.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday, Sunday...

We spent our weeks in suburban NJ, and our Sundays in Queens. It was a ritual. Every Sunday we would go to church, and then head to Grandma and Grandpa’s. Oldies were always playing in the car. My dad was a hard core Oldies fan. If we talked too loudly in the car while he was singing, he would literally pull over. So I would sit there quietly and day dream about me dunking Grimaldi's bread into grandma’s sauce.
I remember driving up to their block, Key Food on the corner and Grover Cleveland High School across the street. We would get out of the car and it would smell like every Italian grandma lived on Tonsor Street- and they were all cooking their Sunday “gravy.” The smell of garlic and onions filled the air. When we entered the house the smell was so intense that my brother and I would run down the stairs to sneak a meatball from the bubbling red sauce.

I not sure why- but almost every old school Italian family has two kitchens. One upstairs- which is rarely ever used-and one in the basement-where all the magic happens. My conclusion was that they didn’t want to dirty the kitchen upstairs, so they built a second one in the basement. Strange-I know.

I spent many hours of my childhood watching my grandma make sauce and baked ziti. I would study how many dollops of ricotta cheese she would use, and how many carefully placed layers of pasta and mozzarella there was that made up this “heavenly dish.” There is just something about the combination of melted cheese, pasta, and sauce that is just so amazing. Even after years and years of “studying” grandma, I still had to call up my mom today just to confirm that the process is- “first sauce, then pasta, several dollops of ricotta, mozzarella, then repeat. I would have called up grandma, but I don’t speak Italian.

Photos by Cara Gardner

So hear is my take on Grandma’s Baked Ziti.

Serves 6

1 pound ziti pasta
3 1/2 cups marinara sauce
1 package of shredded mozzarella (whole milk)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously, and boil the pasta until al dente, tender but still slightly firm. Drain.
In a 9 x 13 inch baking dish cover the bottom with 1 cup marinara sauce. On top of the sauce add a layer of pasta. Next add ricotta cheese, about 1 tablespoon, spread in pinches, followed by sprinkling a layer of mozzarella cheese. Repeat this with another layer of sauce, pasta, ricotta, and mozzarella. Add a final layer of sauce and sprinkle parmesan cheese across the top. Cook until cheese is bubbly and golden brown.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sample Confession

Ok I have a confession to make. I am a sampleaholic. But really, who doesn’t love samples? My obsession is beauty products-mainly face creams. I have no idea how this all started, but once I figured out that I can ask for a sample-that would last for weeks, I was addicted. I thought I have found a way to beat the system. I would think to myself, I have used all the most expensive face creams, exfoliators, masks, and eye creams, and never paid a dime. I am such a genius! I would also think, “how dare they charge $90 for this eye serum!”

Well, I was wrong. I didn’t really beat the system. Every time I went to get a “sample,” I would always end up buying something else. Eye shadows (which I never wear), the next “best mascara,” bronzer, eye brow gel, etc. All these products add up. Was I buying these products because I was feeling guilty for getting “samples?” Or did I not beat the system at all- the system beat me!

For the first time in (need I say it) 4 years, I have bought my first cream. Oh, and guess what? Its from a supermarket (shriek)! My best friend a fellow sampleaholic introduced me to it. As stated above, I have tried every high end brand, and I have to say Olay Regenerist Night Recovery Moisturizing Treatment sits with the best of them. It goes on super silky and smooth. When I wake up the next morning I swear may skin looks like I just a facial, or as Olay claims-a "mini-lift." So for all of my fellow sampleaholics, if you are going to buy any product you should get this one. Plus, for $19.99, it’s a “steal.”

Thursday, October 22, 2009

For the Love of Weddings

I was not one of those girls that dreamed about her wedding day since she was little. The thought came across my mind from time to time, but I definitely did not have details all planned out. Before Kevin and I got engaged, I probably attended two weddings.
The day I after we got engaged I ran out to buy a “wedding binder,” and from that moment on I have been wedding obsessed. A year after our wedding, I am still reading wedding blogs and magazines to keep up on the latest trends (of course I still watch Platinum Weddings!). Call me a wedding junkie, or whatever you will, but I just can not seem to let go.
One thing that I find useful in searching wedding sites, is the ideas that I can use for everyday entertaining. They feature great table settings, and centerpieces that you can use for any dinner party. You can also find great color palettes to use in decorating your home.
One of the best ideas that I found was the idea of the “picture canvas.” Instead of framing your wedding photos, why not apply them to a canvas? I asked my photographer Richard Jopson, to create this for us, and the result is magical- it looks like a work of art!

I do not know if I will ever “move on” from wedding planning, as for now I am hooked.

Here are the images we chose to apply to a canvas.

Here is the view of the canvas hanging on the wall so you can see the dimension.

Photo credits: Richard Jopson

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Optical Illusion

If your bored of the same old bathroom accessories, check these out

How cool is this bathmat? It gives the illusion that you are standing in a bath tub! So different! If your bathroom is in need of a little updating you can find these items at Anthropologie.

Makeup of the Month

My Aunt introduced me to Giorgio Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Foundation and I am hooked! It is hands down the lightest makeup with the most coverage that I have tried. I usually do not wear foundation in the summer, but in the winter my olive skin tone needs a little pick-me-up. This foundation goes on seamlessly and adds a subltle glow. It also allows you to build the amount of coverage you need, unlike other foundations that just cake on. No wonder why its formula won awards, its genuis!

Breakfast in Bed

This idea is genius! These Lappers serving trays have indentations for a dish and cup that are lined with an anti-slip silicone mat. Now you can enjoy breakfast in bed without spilling all your orange juice on your sheets! This would make a perfect hostess or holiday gift that you can purchase from

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lust List: Handbags

I am one of those people that get a handbag and wear it everyday until its ripped and torn. I am not really a fan of changing my bag every season, nor do I change it to match an outfit. Once I find "the bag" I expect it to last. Here are a few that I am lusting over right now.

I love this Prada tote! It's made with super soft napa leather, and is big enough to act as a briefcase/work bag. I also love the optional long strap.

This bag Mulberry bag is perfect for any season! The zipper detail around the edge and front buckle add an updated look to this classic hobo bag.

How fabulous is this handbag by Antik Batik?

Cross body bags tend to be really casual, but the sequin detail really dresses it up. The fringe also adds some edge and personality. I love this bag, and it is exclusive to Shopbop.

Clean and Simple Design

I love to decorate and then re-decorate interior spaces. I get my inspiration from browsing design websites, and reading magazines. One of my favorite designers is Atlanta Bartlett. She uses plain and simple colors and is known for her relaxed style. I want to share with you some of her creations.

This is such a great idea to use tea cups to hold jewelry!

If you have an old couch or chair that you can't afford to upholster, just place a place a couch cover, and add new pillows, and Voila...a new couch!

Hearty Soup

I just finished reading my Bon Appetit magazine (yes, I am upset about Gourmet). This month I was inspired to make the White Bean and Pasta Soup. It was scrumptious, really. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. When I cook I have to always keep in mind my husband's "hearty" appetite. Well let me tell you, this soup was "Hearty Boy Approved". I paired it with crusty garlic bread, and we had leftovers for two days. This recipe is super easy, and warms the soul.

White Bean and Pasta Soup
Serve with crusty bread and a salad, if you like.
Recipe by Lori de Mori
Photograph by Levi Brown
October 2009
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
2/3 cup chopped carrot
2/3 cup chopped celery
3 1/2 cups (or more) water
2 to 2 1/2 cups cooked white beans with 3/4 cup reserved cooking liquid (see Cannellini Beans with Garlic and Sage)
1 large tomato, seeded, finely chopped
1 cup small pasta (such as farfalline)
1/3 cup chopped green onions (white and pale green parts only; about 2)
Extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrot, and celery. Sauté until all vegetables are soft, about 12 minutes. Add 3 1/2 cups water, beans with cooking liquid, and tomato and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 25 minutes to blend flavors, stirring occasionally. Mix in pasta; bring to boil. Cook until pasta is just tender but still firm to bite, adding more water to soup by 1/2 cupfuls if very thick, about 10 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper.
Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle with chopped green onions, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, and serve.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Boot Wish List

It's that time of year again, the leaves are changing, the wind is brisk, and mums are planted on almost every doorstep. I have a love hate relationship with cold weather. I love the idea of getting all bundled up by layering sweaters, or cuddling up on the couch watching football on any given Sunday. However, I dispise having to wake up for work in the pitch black when all I want to do is crawl under my covers until spring. One thing that keeps me going in the cold winter months is finding the best boots to get me through. This year I have found some great styles that not only are super stylish, but will keep my feet toasty warm as well!

These Moschino Cheap & Chic ankle boots are perfect dressed up or down, with skirts or tucked into skinny jeans. The bow in the front adds some girly charm!

I adore these Sigerson Morrison lace up boots! The weathered finish makes these perfect weekend boots. If you are like me and can never find boots to fit your ankle, the lace detail allows you to adjust the size, need I say more?

Entertaining Done Right

I love entertaining, and with the holidays quickly approaching its time to prepare for the three F's, Food, Family, and Friends. Every week I will post tips on entertaining with style and elegance, with a "frugal budget." If you want to impress your guests, you must follow some easy rules.

1. Keep decor and food clean and simple.
2. Try to follow a theme.
3. Stick to one or two cuisines at a time.
4. Prepare ahead of time
5. Enjoy your food and guests!

One of my go to places for entertaining ideas is Williams-Sonoma. They have great ready-to-make products for sale made with the best quality ingrediants. If you are planning a Halloween party this year, why not impress your guests with a unique drink such as an Apple Cider Cocktail? It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside just thinking of one!

Apple Cider Cocktail
Apple cider takes on a grown-up twist with the addition of Calvados, an apple brandy produced in Frances Normandy region.
Ice cubes as needed
1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 cup Calvados
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. pure maple syrup
2 apple slices, cut sides rubbed with lemon juice,
for garnish
Chill 2 cocktail glasses. Fill a tall cocktail shaker half full with ice. Add the apple cider, Calvados, brandy, lemon juice and maple syrup. Cover with the lid and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into the chilled glasses.

For the fruit garnish, cut a thin slit partway into each apple slice and perch a slice on the rim of each glass. Serve immediately. Serves 2.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Holiday Entertaining, by Georgeanne Brennan (Oxmoor House, 2007).

Lemon Grass Martinis and Henna Tattoos

I hope everyone had a great weekend! I celebrated my 27th birthday at Mehndi in Morristown, NJ. From the outside the buildling looks dark and vacant. It is not until you get inside that you are greeted by three doors in which to choose from, the Indian restaurant, the asian restaurant, or the bar/lounge. It was definately in a very pecular location but felt like I had just found a secret. The food was amazing, I would go back anyday! I thought I would share some of the pictures of the night.

We loved the grilled homemade cottage cheese appetizer and chickpea spread. I also sipped a martini made with lemon grass, which was amazing!

There was a master henna artist giving complimentary tattoos! I love, love mine!!

They have a wonderful and exotic cocktail and martini menu. Here is a similar recipe for the one that I had...

Lemon Grass Lychee Martini

Lemon Grass Simple Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4 stalks McCormick® Gourmet Collection® Lemon Grass , cut into thirds
For each Lemon Grass Lychee Martini:

2 ounces vodka
1 ounce Lemon Grass Simple Syrup
1 ounce lychee juice (from canned lychees)
1 lemon wedge
1 lemon twist
For the Simple Syrup, mix sugar, water and lemon grass pieces in small saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 10 minutes or until sugar is completely dissolved. Refrigerate 2 hours. Strain. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. (This makes enough simple syrup for 8 martinis.)

For each Martini, fill cocktail shaker half full with cracked ice. Add vodka, simple syrup and lychee juice; shake until well mixed and chilled. Strain into martini glass. Squeeze juice from lemon wedge into martini. Rub lemon twist around rim of glass, then drop into martini.
Panna Cotta, an Italian cooked cream, is a perfect dessert to showcase the delicate pairing of lemon grass with lychee.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Inspiration Board: From SMP


Credits: Julie Martin, Serendipity Photography LLC, Lisa Lefkowitz, Spark Photography, Unknown (2), Kawartha Photography, Clary Pfeiffer Photography, Docuvitae

I just love this board!

Two Words: Marco & Pepe

If there is anything that makes me happy it’s french fries (besides my husband). French Fries served with a side of aioli is just heaven. At Marco and Pepe in Jersey City they do just that. I have never had a bad meal there. I am obsessed with the grilled chicken sandwich and garlic shrimp. They have a wine on their menu called Tunnel of Elms that can be pared with anything. It is the cheapest, best tasting wine I have ever tasted!

Every End is a New Beginning

I usually do things a bit backwards, so I thought, why not start my blog on a Friday?
I recently decided my previous career was unfulfilling and dull. By Friday, I had no energy left to enjoy the weekend ahead of me. I needed a change. It was a huge decision to quit my job in financial times like this, and the transition has not been a walk in the park. So to keep myself sharp and sane, I have been writing. I noticed I have a lot to say, and a lot to share, so here it is...a collection of my inspirations.

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