when in doubt, wear black

Author: angiem, 11 15th, 2011

This is my recipe for dressing well and looking good. With the holidays coming and parties galore, I’m often tempted to go shopping for things to wear. However, I do have a smallish problem: I have very little fashion sense. But there are some things I’ve learned through the years from my super stylish friends, and from the mistakes I’ve made. I hope this post saves at least one of us, from looking like we belong in the wrong decade, or looking a decade older.

Ingredients:

1.)   Know the weaknesses and strengths of your body and work to emphasize or de-emphasize as needed. Be honest with yourself about this. Have the discipline to say ‘NO’ to the wrong skirt, pant, shirt, sweater, shoe.

2.)   Buy the best shoes and handbag you can afford. If they are made well, they will last for years and years.

3.)   Avoid trends. I read somewhere that trends are like fast food. So true. And if you’re like me and you wear what you have until it goes to pieces, remember this: nothing will date a look faster (or bring attention to a sagging bottom) than the velour sweatpants with ’sexy’ written on the backside.

4.)   Ditto cheap, synthetic fabrics.

5.)   Bulky pants or skirts do not go with bulky tops, unless you’re super tall and super slim.

6.)   Smile. Blind everyone with your pearly whites and they won’t notice what you’re wearing. Haha.

7.)   Stand up straight. Look people in the eye. And if you don’t know what to do with your hands, grab a drink, or put them in your pockets where they should stay without clenching and unclenching.

8.)   Be well groomed. Hello…

9.)   Develop your own style: classic, cutting edge, bohemian, glamorous, the list goes on.

10.) Boring=safe. And safe does not equal fashion disaster. So when in doubt, wear black.

11.) No scratching, no chewing gum, no yawning with your mouth wide open. Because if you’re already a fashion disaster, why bring more attention to yourself?

Since this is a recipe which takes kindly to adjustments and the addition of other ingredients, what do you all recommend?

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My earliest memories of Christmas are all involved around this delicious recipe from my mother.  She used to make platters of it, then cut it up, roll it into two inch long pieces and wrap it in crinkled paper and foil and hang it on the fresh cut Christmas tree my father had just brought in.  Also hanging on the tree were precious oranges, walnuts in their shells, prettily wrapped candy, cookies, and real candles dripping wax.  We lived in communist Romania back then and didn’t have strings of lights, electric trains circling the tree, nor ornaments weighing down the branches.  Life was much more simple, much more real.  Maybe because we lacked what we now take for granted, any unexpected treat was such a luxury and such a joy.

Eagerly we anticipated the carolers we knew were coming anytime between nightfall and the crack of dawn on that Christmas Eve night. We dressed in our finest, helped set out the pastries, the cookies, and the little fancy sandwiches my mother, my aunts, and my grandmother had worked on for the last several days.  The best china was brought out, for it was a perfect opportunity to show it off.  Butter, sugar, chocolate and coffee were precious commodities hoarded throughout the year, and only used for special occasions: Christmas, New Year, Easter, birthdays, weddings, christenings, and funerals.

The house filled up with guests who reminisced all through the night, feasting on sausages, creamed potatoes and delectable desserts.  The kids got to stay up too, and usually there were so many of us that when we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore, every available surface or parent’s lap held a softly snoring child.

725 grams (3 cups) powdered milk

5 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder unsweetened

500 grams (2 cups) sugar

1 cup water

2 sticks unsalted butter cubed and at room temperature

1 tablespoon (or more) rum

1 cup roasted walnuts or hazelnuts (optional)

Coat a large cookie sheet with non-stick spray, or if you are seriously self-indulging, butter.  Have it ready and close by.

Sift the powdered milk and cocoa powder into a bowl, and combine with a whisk until well blended.  On medium heat make a syrup of sugar and water by pouring the cup of water into a deeper pan and gradually whisking in the sugar.  Don’t forget to stir!  Let it simmer a few minutes and check readiness by placing a teaspoon of it into a glass of water.  If it holds together it is ready, if not keep stirring! Add the blended powdered milk and cocoa and mix with a wooden spoon until it’s well incorporated.  It should have the consistency of batter - not too thick, not too thin. If it is too thick, you can add water, but only a little at a time. If it is too watery, add a little more powdered milk and powdered cocoa.  Work those muscles in your arms until it resembles a smooth chocolate frosting, otherwise you get air bubbles, or a mouthful of powder. Add the rum and the nuts, take it off the heat and stir in the cubed butter until all melted.  With the help of a spatula spread it on the prepared cookie sheet and let it cool at room temperature.  It will harden as it cools.  Enjoy it!  I guarantee it won’t last long.

By the way, I have no idea on the number of servings.  And since I have never made or eaten the American version of fudge I don’t know how closely it resembles it, in either recipe or taste.

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magpie 39

Author: angiem, 11 03rd, 2010

Maybe it is the sight of smoke curling out of chimneys, or maybe the scent of damp earth, or it could even be the sound of hissing pines in the wind, or the feel of frost touching the tip of my nose on my late afternoon walks, but in autumn my body craves the comforting taste of soup.

When I was young, my family had a rooster who in turn had his own little harem of hens. Whenever one of the hens would stop providing the required daily eggs, my mom or my dad would catch it, cut off her head, pluck off the feathers, and plop the body in the soup pot. But every once in a while it was determined that a new rooster would need to become the king of the henhouse.  The overall egg production was too low, the hens bickered far too much, and my parents were in no mood to humor their jealousies, or his disinterest.  And so it was decided that the rooster would be made into soup. And what a soup it was!

Honestly, I cannot tell you that rooster soup is better tasting than hen soup. My dad insists that it is so.  I, however, tend to think that it is the combination of chicken broth, my mother’s home-made noodles, a few slices of carrots and a bit of parsley, that make that simmering bowl unforgettable.

1 whole free-range rooster (or hen), beheaded and de-feathered. Wash well and discard the liver, neck, and heart.
8-10 large carrots, peeled
6 celery stalks
1 large yellow onion peeled
1 parsnip (small)
1parsley root (small)
1 cup parsley chopped
1 tablespoon salt

Fill large pot with cold water. Add the salt and the chicken. Cover. Keep it on medium high until it starts to boil, then lower the temp to medium. Add the carrots, celery, parsnip, parsley root, and onion and bring to a boil, partially covered. When the meat is fully cooked (check by inserting a fork, or approx. 2 hours later), turn off the heat and let it sit for about 20 minutes. Then strain it, discarding everything but the chicken and carrots, and let it cool a bit more before refrigerating.

In a saucepan bring some of the broth to a boil. Add the home-made noodles and let them simmer over low heat, covered for 10 minutes. Ladle it into bowls. Garnish the serving with the chopped parsley.

It is particularly delicious with a buttered chunk of baguette. Oh, and the meat you can lightly brown in some olive oil. Add sauteed mushrooms, some polenta, and a green salad and you’ll have every excuse to stay in, build a fire, and perhaps play a game of Scrabble.

Anyway, Bon Appetit!

This is a Magpie Tale.

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repost:baton de ciocolata (a variation of fudge)

Author: angiem, 12 14th, 2009

My earliest memories of Christmas are all involved around this delicious recipe from my mother.  She used to make platters of it, then cut it up, roll it into two inch long pieces and wrap it in crinkled paper and foil and hang it on the fresh cut Christmas tree my father had just brought in.  Also hanging on the tree were precious oranges, walnuts in their shells, prettily wrapped candy, cookies, and real candles dripping wax.  We lived in communist Romania back then and didn’t have strings of lights, electric trains circling the tree, nor ornaments weighing down the branches.  Life was much more simple, much more real.  Maybe because we lacked what we now take for granted, any unexpected treat was such a luxury and such a joy.

Eagerly we anticipated the carolers we knew were coming anytime between nightfall and the crack of dawn on that Christmas Eve night. We dressed in our finest, helped set out the pastries, the cookies, and the little fancy sandwiches my mother, my aunts, and my grandmother had worked on for the last several days.  The best china was brought out, for it was a perfect opportunity to show it off.  Butter, sugar, chocolate and coffee were precious commodities hoarded throughout the year, and only used for special occasions: Christmas, New Year, Easter, birthdays, weddings, christenings, and funerals.

The house filled up with guests who reminisced all through the night, feasting on sausages, creamed potatoes and delectable desserts.  The kids got to stay up too, and usually there were so many of us that when we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore, every available surface or parent’s lap held a softly snoring child.

725 grams (3 cups) powdered milk

5 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder unsweetened

500 grams (2 cups) sugar

1 cup water

2 sticks unsalted butter cubed and at room temperature

1 tablespoon (or more) rum

1 cup roasted walnuts or hazelnuts (optional)

Coat a large cookie sheet with non-stick spray, or if you are seriously self-indulging, butter.  Have it ready and close by.

Sift the powdered milk and cocoa powder into a bowl, and combine with a whisk until well blended.  On medium heat make a syrup of sugar and water by pouring the cup of water into a deeper pan and gradually whisking in the sugar.  Don’t forget to stir!  Let it simmer a few minutes and check readiness by placing a teaspoon of it into a glass of water.  If it holds together it is ready, if not keep stirring! Add the blended powdered milk and cocoa and mix with a wooden spoon until it’s well incorporated.  If it is too thick, you can add water, but only a little at a time.  Work those muscles in your arms until it resembles a smooth chocolate frosting, otherwise you get air bubbles, or a mouthful of powder. Add the rum and the nuts, take it off the heat and stir in the cubed butter until all melted.  With the help of a spatula spread it on the prepared cookie sheet and let it cool at room temperature.  It will harden as it cools.  Enjoy it!  I guarantee it won’t last long.

By the way, I have no idea on the number of servings.  And since I have never made or eaten the American version of fudge I don’t know how closely it resembles it, in either recipe or taste.

Also:  HUGE congratulations to Autumn of#mce_temp_url# for winning this week’s $25.00 giveaway to Target.  Now leave me a comment and go check out her site.  Don’t forget any comment from today on qualifies you for the next $25.00 giftcard giveaway.

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sick in bed, yet enjoying myself

Author: angiem, 12 09th, 2009

Apparently I work too many hours, have horrible eating habits (too much chocolate, coffee and pastries), and sleep too little.  For the second time, in as many weeks, I am sick again.  I’ve had the flu shot and the H1N1 shot, to no avail.  I have no idea what exactly is the matter, as I dread going in to see the doctor just to be told to go home and rest.  But my right ear hurts so, I feel like cutting it off, and I who have never smoked, have a smoker’s raspy voice.

It’s been sunny, yet very cold.  At night the wind scratches at the windows and sends the kids to our bed, where they snuggle in wide eyed, clutching at the covers and twining their legs with ours.  And although I am sick and should know better, I love the warmth of their little bodies and let them stay, only to awaken hours later my limbs all numb, hubby gone down the hallway to sleep in the empty room.

My hours awake are spent in bed, looking through my journal for favorite recipes,

pasting cutouts of images from my favorite magazines,

opening my mail (yay, Christmas presents have arrived!),

and reading this lovely book:

Finally, I will be enjoying a bowl of this delicious stew prepared by my darling hubby, with a chunk of crunchy French bread, at the kitchen table surrounded by the dear faces of my family.  I adore the primitive taste of bone marrow.  There’s something so satisfying in it’s goodness.

And then off to bed for sleep and another day of the same, until I feel better.  Stay safe and healthy!

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the easiest homemade tomato soup

Author: angiem, 09 16th, 2009

6 large garden tomatoes, halved lengthwise

half cube butter

4 large cloves garlic

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. dried

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried

sprinkle of dried crushed red pepper

2 cups chicken stock

½ cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

lots of baguette slices

olive oil

Heat the butter in large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and let the butter and garlic blend with it until it becomes almost a sauce.  Stir in the rosemary, thyme and dried crushed red pepper. Add chicken stock and bring it to boil. Reduce heat and add the half-cup of heavy cream. Simmer uncovered until soup thickens slightly, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat broiler. Brush baguette slices with some olive oil. Transfer to large baking sheet. Broil until golden. Serve alongside soup.

Now, I am really not a cook which is a shame, for I sure love to eat.  And more than anything else, I gravitate to those foods that take time and patience.  I’ve read and heard some amazing women say that the trick is having a few fabulous recipes up one’s sleeve to whip up at a moment’s notice. A few for every season, I suppose is best.  Enjoy!

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