Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Brooks Brothers

While I admit to having little insight into the style savy of the fashion elite, when it comes to men's clothing, Brooks Brother's has gone too far:

A cape is NEVER ACCEPTABLE on a man, unless it is Halloween or a Jane Austen movie.

In a noble effort to draw in a younger, hipper crowd (perhaps the older generation isn't buying enough overpriced stodgy clothes?) the new high-end collection, Black Fleece, by Thom Browne was introduced in true blue blood fashion. The ankle-baring gray flannel suits and cropped jackets are novel concepts for the old world Brooks Brothers brand.

I'll admit, the dapper look still has it's appeal. With the popularity of Gossip Girl on the rise, it would not surprise me if the preppy-Upper-East-side look really takes hold. I actually wouldn't mind seeing a little more of this old school style with a modern twist.

Find out just how much Brooks Brothers paid for the trendy Thom Browne Collection on the Wall Street Journal

...and about that $2,500 men's cape...


Monday, April 28, 2008

Mexican Chocolate Cake

While scraping off the smoldering remains of cake drippings stuck to the bottom of my oven, I wondered what exactly had possessed me. Graduation celebrations require champagne for toasting and some sort of decadent treat to be shared. The treat can be purchased from a shop. It does not have to be made from scratch on a Sunday night before the event.

Yet, here I was in my kitchen at 8pm on a Sunday night, scraping charred cake remains off the bottom of my oven. I had initially hoped to keep the smoke contained for as long as it took to bake the cake. Things did not go to plan.

The problem with trying a new recipe is that you never know what might happen. A normal looking cake batter might expand 2-3 fold the volume you expect, overflowing the pan and spilling into your oven, where it then blackens and burns, thereby producing a tremendous amount of smoke.

Despite this (and other frosting-related) setbacks, the cake was baked, iced and neatly decorated with crushed almonds in time for the morning commute.

...and yes, it was delish!

Mexican style chocolate cake with chocolate orange icing

For cake
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
4 oz unsweetened dark chocolate
3/4 cup milk
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt

For icing
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
5 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped
zest of one orange

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter cake pan well and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Melt butter (2 sticks) in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, and whisk in chocolate until smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in separately sugar, eggs, milk and yogurt.

Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and spices into a bowl, add in chocolate mixture and mix until just combined.

Pour batter into cake pan (**HALF-FILL**) and bake until a wooden pick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs adhering, 45 to 55 minutes.

Cool cake in pan on a rack 20 minutes, then loosen edges with a thin knife and invert onto a plate.

Make icing:
Melt butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, then stir in confectioners sugar. Add chocolate and cook, stirring, until smooth. Remove from heat. Cool glaze until slightly thickened.

Spoon glaze over top and sides of cake (cake will still be warm) and spread with a small offset spatula or knife to cover completely. Coat sides of cake with crushed almonds.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Swiss almond apple cake

Thinking I had accidentally wronged a particular Swiss post-doc who works in a lab upstairs, I decided to bake a cake in order to try and make amends. As a regular old Chocolate Devil's Food Cake just would not do, I settled for something entirely uncharted: A Swiss almond apple cake.

Swiss Almond Apple Cake

2/3 cup sugar
1 stick butter
2 eggs
2 tbls lemon juice
2 cups flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup red raspberry preserves
2-3 apples peeled and thinly sliced

1 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
2 tbls flour
1 tsp lemon zest

1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease and flour a 9 or 10-inch springform pan. In a large bowl, combine 2/3 cup sugar and butter; beat until light and fluffy. Add 2 eggs and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice; beat until well blended. In a small bowl combine 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt; blend well. Add to egg mixture; beat at low speed until well blended. Spread in prepared pan. Then spoon preserves over batter. Top with apple slices; slightly pressing the batter. In medium bowl, combine all topping ingredients; blend well and pour over apples. Bake at 350F for 55 to 65 minutes until edges are light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, then carefully remove sides of pan. In a small bowl, blend all glaze ingredients until smooth; drizzle over cake.

I later discovered that it was not a Swiss post-doc I had wronged, but in fact an American lab tech. She may not realize the origins of this fabulous cake, but at least she'll still have something to eat at the end of the day. I just hope she's not allergic to nuts...


Aroa Fine Chocolate

On the way home from World's End we stopped at a new patisserie/chocolate shop in the South End run by Alejandro Luna, former pastry chef at the Langham Hotel. Aroa Fine Chocolate is a small little shop located a half block down the street from the famous Flour Bakery. How could this new spot possibly compete?

As it turns out, Aroa may do just fine. They specialize in afternoon tea sorts of delicacies: homemade eclairs, French macaroons, cakes, scones, cookies and little handmade chocolates. We opted for the large, steaming pots of loose leaf tea and some pastries. The macaroons were good; sweet and chewy with a bit of crunch from the crisp exterior, but lacking in flavor (I could not tell the difference between salted caramel, hazelnut and pistachio.) The peanut butter cookie was PHENOMENAL in a melt-in-your-mouth, just-the-right-bit of soft-and-crumbly kind of way. The tiny little scones were also buttery delicious. While we did not have a chance to try the hot chocolate, I will certainly have to make a trip back specifically for this item. The chocolate comes in a variety of flavors including, "chai" and "infused," and is served in elegant silver pots. I think it would taste particularly good with the homemade marshmallows (vanilla, passionfruit, or chocolate.)

Not a bad place to spend a weekend afternoon.
Images lifted from


Aroa Fine Chocolate
1651 Washington St
(between Concord St & Worcester St)
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 425-4988

(Lil) Green Patch

Click on the widget and save 1 square foot of Rainforest!

For some reason these (Lil) Green Patch plants have always weirded me out. I mean, what kind of plant has arms, legs and an anime-style face? On the other hand, sending "plants" to 10 friends on facebook supposedly saves 1 square foot of rainforest from deforestation. The developers of (Lil) Green Patch are using sponsorship revenue from advertisers to make donations to the Nature Conservancy's Adopt an Acre program. Adopt an Acre is a program that provides critical funds for rainforest protection and restoration. I figure if I'm going to waste time on facebook, I may as well save some Rainforest while I'm at it.

(Lil) Green Patch has so far saved 2,487,426 Sqft of Rainforest on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica. Think of how happy this has made the butterflies.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Valentine: the piglet

Byford's Farm in Taynton, Gloucester: In time for Valentine's Day this year, a cute little piglet was born with heart-shaped markers on her side. Momma hog, Mandi Lou, has already gotten used to her piglet stealing the show...but what will be the fate of the other less glamorous litter mates?

Read more about the aptly named Valentine online!


Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Gossip Girl is no longer available online...

“While the buzz on the show has remained strong, we decided to have it be that you can only get it on our airwaves,” said a CW spokesman, who deemed the withdrawal an “experimental” move. “We’ll see if that at all impacts the numbers.”

Unfortunately, this fan will not be switching to the "airwaves."

#1. I work late on weeknights and won't be home by an 8pm showtime.
#2. I don't even own cable.

...not even for the guilty pleasure of knowing the fates of Blair and Serena (and certainly not to prove the CW right in their "experimental" move.)


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Kendra Binney

While perusing Etsy one day I came across some fantastic work by Kendra Binney. Binney describes her studio as 9'X16' with no windows, a place where she paints, daydreams and paints some more. The images she creates are simple, magical, and inspired by her childhood when she spent most of her time "barefoot, searching the tall grass for spiders, snakes, and other hidden treasures."

These limited edition prints are mounted on thick birch plywood and sealed with plastic resin. Everything is signed, numbered by the artist and arrives ready for display.

Check out more of her ethereal pieces on her online gallery.

Images lifted from and

Friday, April 18, 2008

SPATS...for ladies?

My latest obsession has been with these gorgeous, custom made spats by Bonzie. I had no idea whether or not one would actually wear such a thing in public, but I felt the combination of funky vintage lace and fabric would make me bold enough to give it a go.

Although spats were originally designed as a men's shoe accessory worn in the late 19th and early 20th Century (think French infantry) and are currently still seen on marching band members (*gag*!) there is something high fashion elegant about these odd, seemingly frivolous bits of clothing. The spats sit over high heeled shoes and can fasten up the back. I think they are a unique way to spruce up a simple sheath dress or a solid colored skirt.

But what do I know?

Check out blog entries by Chic&Charming, fashion nation, and the shoe blog.



...but if Serena van der Woodsen can pull them off and Chanel or Miu Miu can make them, then maybe my fashion tendencies aren't so far-fetched. At least that's what I'll tell myself once I get myself a pair custom made. ;)


Images lifted from, and

Letters from Nature

lutterbyblue in Letters from Nature:

Butterfly Letters (wings)
Nature Letters

Image lifted from

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Franc Grom: the new Fabergé

Until recent years, I was never a huge fan of eggs. For eating that is. As time went on I began to appreciate this food under certain conditions. However, regardless of my food particularities, I have always loved egg art: gaudy fabergé, hand painted Ukrainian Easter eggs...and now add to the list, hand drilled eggs by master egg artist, Franc Grom.

Using an electric boring tool, Grom is able to drill several thousand holes into a single eggshell. Inspired by Slovenian designs, he creates works of art from this simple, yet elegant "canvas."

Images lifted from and

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Etsy art: fall down tree

I absolutely love the etsy shop, fall down tree. These creative images are adorable and somewhat other-wordly (in a fun kind of way!) I particularly love the prints based off of children's stories: "humpty", "3 mice that are blind" and "Little Red." A series of these would be perfect for just about any part of the house (and I don't even have children!)

Adam Record, the owner of this quaint little shop, also has a blog where one can view more of his work.


Images lifted from

Monday, April 7, 2008

Edith Piaf

Last night my friend and I finally got around to watching La Vie En Rose, the story of Edith Piaf, French singer and icon (NOT, as I learned, to be confused with Ma Vie En Rose, the story of a 7-year-old boy who thinks he's a girl trapped in a boy's body.) Not having any real concept of who Edith Piaf was before seeing the film, probably detracted from the unbelievably acting talent of Marion Cotillard. Even so, the film was beautiful, and the story, though meandering and a bit confusing at times, was fascinating.

I can see why Marion Cotillard won the Oscar this year for Best Actress. In the film, she portrays Piaf from street urchin to rising star to French Icon to decrepit old woman. The truly amazing thing is that while on screen, Cotillard looks harsh, awkward and extremely bizarre, while in real life, she's incredibly beautiful:

See the real Edith Piaf perform the title song:


A light and healthy menu!

In an effort to make a light and healthy meal, I attempted a menu with minimal butter, oil, sugar and salt. Here's what I came up with:


Black pepper cracker twists
Marinated olives


Lemon mustard broiled flounder
Quinoa with toasted almonds and orange
Braised cauliflower with capers


Dark chocolate soufflé

I ended up using a LITTLE butter for the flounder topping, but the recipe did not require much. Adding some garlic to the topping, along with the mustard, parsley and lemon zest more than made up for any lack of fats (probably I could have left out the butter entirely!)

Quinoa has grown on me in a surprising kind of way. Boiling the grain for 15 minutes followed by a 10-15 minute steam, creates a nice, fluffy product that goes well with toasted almonds and orange zest.

The miracle that is the soufflé tastes remarkably rich and flavorful considering it consists mainly of beaten egg whites and dark chocolate. Whoever first invented this fine dish (probably some French guy?) deserves some serious accolades.



Sunday, April 6, 2008

BBC video footage

Why huddle for months on end in freezing subarctic temperatures when you can fly down to South America for a holiday instead? Now there's a bit of evolution for you to chew on!

Guitar Hero: you Rock

While I'd heard quite a bit about Guitar Hero, I never really took it too seriously. Do 20-somethings actually play this game? Apparently so! On a recent episode of Gossip Girl, Guitar Hero had a feature as a bonding/breaking-the-ice moment between blond bombshell, Serena van der Woodsen, and the unbelievably gorgeous, Vanessa Abrams. The take home message:

Guitar Hero is cool.

You are cool if you can play Guitar Hero.

I've actually heard the game is pretty difficult. Based on my skills (or lack-thereof) when it comes to Dance Dance Revolution, I'm going to take a leap of faith and assume that I probably suck at this game. For now I will leave it to the experts:

yours without coordination,

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Spotted: gossip girl style

Spotted: C and A with former college roommies having brunch at Maxie's in Canton, C decked out in laundry day clothes and A in glorified loungewear. They all looked fabulous, obviously.

Can't afford to dress like Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl? Why not fake it for less? And be sure to check out the 10 gossip girl style essentials.

#9: shoulder bones that could cut glass.

Well, maybe some things you just can't fake. You know I love you.

Image from


Killing time before a showing of Shining City, we stopped by a local Starbucks. As usual, the place was packed, but I was able to find a small table with a single chair. I wandered around the shop in search of a second chair and came across an old man doing a crossword puzzle. Two extra chairs (no extra coats) were at his table.

"Excuse me, are you using this chair?" I asked politely.

The old man didn't look at me and simply nodded slowly at his crossword. I mistakenly took this to mean, "Please go ahead." As I reached down to grab the chair, his head snapped up and he barked, "Don't take that! Someone's sitting there!"

I apologized and circled another table instead. Irked and very suspicious, I watched his table from afar. Eventually an old woman sat down next to him, "Someone just tried to take your seat..." he was telling her.

I may be a young, dumb-headed whippersnapper, but even I can count:

3 chairs + 2 people = 1 extra chair (that, incidentally, remained unoccupied the entire time the couple sat at Starbucks.)

I recognize that when people get old, they get crotchety, but was it necessary to be so rude? To be fair, the old man could have been blind in his right eye and not seen the third chair at his table. One should always be given the benefit of the doubt.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008


When leggings came back into style some years ago, I merely rolled my eyes. After all, such a fashion faux pas could not POSSIBLY make a serious comeback for long. Leggings, along with tapered jeans with zippers, were throwback items from the 80's that (I repeat) could not POSSIBLY make a serious comeback.

It is now Spring of 2008 and the leggings have not exited the fashion realm. I wrote a blog entry in which I featured a particularly grievous item, a pair of shiny bright blue footless tights from American Apparel.

I actually LIKE American Apparel. Their t-shirt fabric is comfortable and supposedly sweatshop free. They treat their employees well and feature said employees on their online catalog. That's all well and good. It does not, however, explain this:

Aptly named, "Vegas," these high-waisted leggings (that's right, I said HIGH-WAISTED leggings) are made with matrix foil nylon spandex. The photo does not do the hologram effect justice. And for a mere $45, these babies can be yours.

All I can figure is that the model wearing these reflective leggings didn't oppose to having her photo taken because it would only be shown from the (high) waist down. To be honest, I can't quite figure out how one would wear such an item. If one is obscene enough to buy a pair, then one really ought to showcase them at full exposure, perhaps pairing with reflective sunglasses and a matching halter top (if there exists such an item!)

Well, my fashion commentary has about reached it's end. If hologram leggings are not your style, then I leave you with these:

Opaque two color Pantyhose.

For the inner Jester in you...

Images lifted from
Jester image lifted from