Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Thrifted Outfit of the Day: Professional Buffalo Plaid

I think this may have been one of my all-time favorite outfits, combined from some of my all-time favorite thrift store finds. This shrunken buffalo plaid jacket, for example, was scrounged for 25¢. When I found it, I was working for a Catholic Charities agency and spending one day a week at a community store and thrift shop. Each day was spent with the crew of volunteers - all elderly - as they sorted through immense piles of donations, maintained order among the racks, and took numerous breaks for coffee, coffee cake, and lunch. Often, one of the volunteers would set aside a sweater or jacket she thought would suit me, and, whether or not I agreed, I was excited and touched to see their suggestions. 

I love this outfit not just for the individual items, but for the way they balance one another out. The curve-hugging skirt softens the boxy jacket; the bold check adds some needed edge to the professional, businesslike skirt. 

Finally, I was happy to be able to add one of my favorite tights tips to the outfit. I have a lot of colorful jewel tone tights, but I often feel shy about wearing them to work - they're just so bold! Today I layered a pair of dark red tights under lightweight, sheer black tights. While they look solid black from a distance, you can just get a hint of the red underneath.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Lenten Special: The fluffiest vegetarian quiche

Happy Friday! No matter what your Friday has in store, here is a treat for you. Simple? Hearty? Seasonal? Chic? Meat-free? This vegetarian quiche has you covered - with a trick to make it the fluffiest quiche you've ever made.

 Fluffy Quiche with Kale and Cornbread Crust - With Gluten-Free and Lactose-Free Options

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour, or all-purpose gluten free flour, or rice flour.
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Ice-cold water

5 eggs, separated
2/3 cup plain yogurt
2/3 cup milk (sub lactose-free milk or unsweetened milk alternative of your choice)
4 generous handfuls of kale, spinach, or other seasonal greens, (or a combination!) - enough to fill a large colander.
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons crushed sage leaves (If you have ground sage, use 1-2 TEAspoons instead.)

Optional: Parmesan cheese to grate over the top
Roma tomatoes

Preheat your oven to 375°. Spray a 9" pie pan with non-stick spray and set aside.
To make crust:
Place dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.
Cut in the butter, or use your fingers to blend it.
Add water a tablespoon at a time, using a large spoon or your hands to mix it in, until a dough forms.
It will still be crumbly - that's okay!
Be careful not to overmix.
Squish the dough together and then press it evenly into the pie plate, guiding it up onto the edges.
If you like, use your fingertips or a fork to make a fluted edge.
Poke a few holes into the bottom of the crust with a fork.
Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and set aside.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.
Wash the greens and chop coarsely.
Place them in a steamer basket and steam for 3-4 minutes, until they are limp and bright green.
Drain and squeeze to remove excess moisture.
You might need to steam them in two batches, depending on the size of your steamer basket.

Into the same bowl that you used for the crust, add the milk and yogurt.
Separate the eggs; put the yolks in the bowl and set aside the whites.
Add the seasonings and blend thoroughly.
Add the greens and toss to coat.

Now it's time for the trick!
Beat the egg whites to soft peaks.
I have found that the fastest, easiest, most fun way to beat egg whites is with my stick blender.
I put the whites in the cup, and I use the whisk attachment. Soft peaks in two minutes - it's a miracle!
When the whites are beaten, fold them into the mixture and pour onto the crust.

If you would like, grate some fresh parmesan over the quiche - just enough to lightly cover it.
You can also slice tomatoes and arrange them on top.

Place carefully in the oven and bake 30-40 minutes, until it's not jiggly, and a knife or fork comes out clean.

Full disclosure: This was an earlier version of the quiche - last night's fluffy quiche, the inspiration for this post, was so quickly devoured that it could not be photographed.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The World's Easiest Candle Holder

Yesterday felt a bit dreary and stuffy in my office. It was a grey and tired day, and I was sleepy, but determined to slog through my tasks with a bit of cheer. In a burst of inspiration, I reached for my favorite candle, one with a rich, sweet, rosy scent and a colorful, funky jar. Soon I was feeling so luxuriously comfortable and ready to get to work.

I picked the candle up on clearance, with a gift card, so it was a great buy. However, I wasn't crazy about its stock image of roses, or the neon yellow CLEARANCE sticker irremovably plastered onto the jar. I decided to get the candle anyway, and fix it up to a more attractive state.

Fixing it up was one of the easiest craft projects I've done. Here's how to do it!

First, do a little hunting to find the most visually striking pieces of ready-to-be-recycled paper you have. I chose a wide strip of newsprint and a page from a knitting catalog. It's important to choose a page of newspaper that was mostly text, and all black and white, so that it will appear as a subtle pattern; a graphic, not distracting text. (I find that the Catholic Worker is best for newspaper craft projects.) For the strip of magazine, I was attracted the colorful swatches of yarn in the knitting catalog, and the simple, geometric way they were presented. In other words, what started as an article or a product display worked, for the purposes of my candle, as straightforward patterns. 

Cut the newspaper to be as wide as the thickest part of my candle was high, and cut all the way along the page, so you can be sure the strip will be long enough to wrap around the candle. Since the second piece of paper will cover the bottom edge of the newsprint, it doesn't matter if you cut awkwardly through a column on the bottom edge. Place the neat edge of the paper at the top, affix the first end of the paper to the candle, and wrap the paper around.  Trim the excess length, being sure to leave half an inch of overlap, and attach the second end to the paper. I used Zots Glue Dots, but you could also use rubber cement, a very tidily-applied loop of Scotch tape, or a judicious dab of craft glue. 

Next, cut the magazine paper to fit around the candle. This time, instead of half an inch overlap, you'll want about two inches. Fold the top and bottom edges under so that you have two clean edges, and so that the final width of the magazine paper is half the width of the news print. 

Place the magazine paper over the newsprint. Use a glue dot, tape, or dab of glue to affix the first end to the newsprint before you wrap it around the candle. Finally, twist the end of the paper about two inches back from the end. You can twist it once or twice to get the look you want. Then affix the end with another glue dot, loop of tape, or dab of glue.

Now light your candle and enjoy!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Thrifted Scarf Braid

Some of my all-time favorite thrift store finds are scarves. There's the floaty ombré grey scarf that looks like smoke or mist. There's the square silk with abstract splotches, like a Calder mobile came to rest in two dimensions. And this black scarf shot with gold thread and tiny, jewel-tone flowers, like cloisonné. I like scarves because they're an inexpensive, easy way to add flair and interest to an outfit, and can be used in so many ways. 

For Christmas this year, my best friend gave me Fifty Ways to Wear a Scarf, by Lauren Friedman. I really enjoyed the whimsical illustrations and fresh ideas for scarves. I tried the scarf braid, giving it the unique twist of pulling my braid to one side. 

To begin, part your hair one side, then gather your hair and pull it to the opposite side.

Next, take your scarf and place it about two inches back from your hairline, and place it so the ends rest along your ears. The end that is on the same side as your part should be about two inches longer than the end that is on the same side as your gathered hair.

Pull the end that was on the same side as your part across the nape of your neck and under your gathered hair. Let it rest a sec.

Bring the front section of your hair, the chunk that is in front of the scarf (and your ear), forward and out of the way. You can clip it or hold it with your mouth if you need to. 
Make sure both ends of the scarf are about even and tie them together once - in other words, into the first half of a square knot. 

Now put the front section of hair back with the rest. Separate your hair into three sections, and put the scarf into the front section.  Braid away! 

When you reach the end, put an elastic around the whole thing, scarf included.

Now tie the scarf in a square knot over the elastic and let the ends dangle!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Orange-Mango Roasted Carrots

Another snow day! All day, the scene outside my window was shades of white and grey, and as evening fell and the shadows lengthened across the snow, I was in the mood for something bright. I was glad to remember the bag of baby carrots I'd stashed in the back of the fridge to have as a snack someday. When I decided to repurpose them for dinner, glazed carrots came to mind, but the brown sugar and butter seemed too heavy for a day I'd spent barely moving! Instead I put together a glaze with orange-mango juice and put the carrots in the oven to roast. The bright color, fresh taste, and satisfaction of creating a masterpiece from what was already on hand cheered me right up!

Orange-Mango Roasted Carrots
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 C 100% juice orange-mango juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 t cinnamon
dash or two of nutmeg
1 lb. bag baby carrots

Preheat oven to 425°.
Mix the glaze ingredients together in a 1.5 quart baking dish.
Toss the carrots in the glaze to coat evenly.
Cook for 40-60 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Here they are with sweet-potato-tortilla crusted fish and paper-maché candle lanterns - projects coming soon! 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Sunny Snowstorm

On Wednesday, I headed back for a long day of work after a cozy snow day the day before.  My outfit, therefore, needed to meet several challenges: the first consideration was keeping me warm and dry on a slushy, icy, gloomy day. While being winter-appropriate, however, it needed to provide a burst of cheer to make up for the clouded sun. It needed to be comfortable enough to get me through the long day (and, let's face it, soften the blow of returning to work), but it also needed to be professional enough to remind me that the mid-week vacation was over. Fortunately, I couldn't sleep the night before, so I had plenty of time to come up with the ideal outfit, one that met all these needs while still being almost completely thrifted. 

The earth tones of this patchwork skirt keep it from court jester territory, I think. Pairing it with a solid color is non-negotiable, but since the sweater is bright, I definitely needed neutral accessories. Because both the skirt and sweater are boxy, I added a belt to define my waist. I liked the almost-peplum effect it created. 

Sweater, skirt, and belt: Thrifted
Tights: Target
Boots: Teva

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Banana Ice Cream Dream

You may have heard of the dream-come-true that is frozen banana "ice cream." The idea is simple: You freeze a banana and blend it, without anything else, to create a delightful treat with the consistency of ice cream.  There's just no negative any way you look at it: Using up a banana about to turn? Check. Healthy? Check. Delicious? Check!

 But that's not all! You can make an even richer dessert by including a slice of frozen avocado to the mix. Once you've got the base, you can use other fixin's - whatever you have available - to create all manner of delectable flavor explosions.  One of my favorites is cinnamon-honey-almond. 

Have you tried this recipe? What are your favorite flavors?

Banana Ice Cream Stockpile

4-6 bananas
1 avocado
Optional toppings

Peel and slice the bananas. Place the slices in a gallon freezer bag, and spread the slices out so they form a single layer inside the bag. Lay flat to freeze to keep the slices from sticking. 
Peel and cube the avocado. Place the pieces in a quart-size freezer bag, and spread the pieces out in a single layer inside the bag. Lay flat to freeze to keep the slices from sticking.

When you are ready to make the ice cream, place a generous serving of banana slices and a few cubes of avocado in a blender or food processor. If you would like chocolate ice cream, add a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder. I use the food chopper attachment of my stick blender.  Give it a few generous pulses until it is well blended.  If your banana is very firmly frozen, you may need to stir it with a spoon to get a creamier texture.

Topping suggestions

Shredded coconut and frozen cherries
Cinnamon, raisins, and maple syrup
Honey, cinnamon, and optional nuts
Granola or any crispy cereal
A dollop of peanut butter and a spoonful of jam or preserves
Kahlua or creme de cacao for a grown-up treat
Chia seeds

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Volunteering for hurricane recovery in the Rockaways was so surreal. After I moved from Shrimp Country, I just didn't think I'd be experiencing devastation like this again. The day filled me with sadness, admiration for the families who were rebuilding, and nostalgia for Shrimp Country. It was and remains an honor to be present to families who have lost so much and accompany them as they begin to rebuild.