Saturday, February 26, 2011

Top Hat White Tie and Tails

I love hats. I think it's a shame that they're not in fashion anymore... well, in the way they were 70-100+ years ago where as much care went into choosing a hat as did an outfit. It's also a shame that my head is so darned big that even if they were in fashion I couldn't really wear them... well, off the rack, anyway.

One of the fun things about living in England is that people still wear hats. Well-- sort of. To weddings... and even then, not many. But there are still some who hold strong to the tradition. To me a hat automatically makes an event more formal-- more special. And the evolving trend of "fascinators" which are beautiful (and sometimes fantastic) feather and flower (and other things) designs flowing from headbands; or attached to clips that are "fastened" to the hair, is setting fashion a flutter with possibility (or maybe just me a flutter with it inspiring a resurgence in hat wearing). This one that Kate Middleton recently wore (a gorgeous handmade design by Vivien Sheriff Millinery) includes a cameo and badges from a Welsh military uniform (apropos considering the event she wore this to was to launch a Welsh ship-- her first official Royal engagement with her hubbie-to-be). It's hard to see but the pheasant feathers and other baubles are attached to a small, chocolate brown velvet pillbox hat. *LOVE* Perhaps not quite the drama of a hat, but oh so chic. Definitely enough to still warrant my affection. I'm secretly hoping that the impending Royal Wedding will inspire a resurgent trend around hats (I think Kate's already making headway-- pardon the pun).

I spied this one at Zara last week and I'm sort of coveting it. It makes me want to go on an exotic beach vacation somewhere in the French Riviera. Of course, it likely wouldn't fit my head.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Wayfaring in 2010

  1. Los Angeles (x3)
  2. San Francisco (x2)
  3. Benecia, California (x2)
  4. Napa, California (x2)
  5. Birmingham, UK (x too many to count)
  6. London, UK (x too many to count)
  7. Windermere, UK
  8. Newcastle, UK (**NEW DESTINATION!**)
  9. NYC
  10. Hartford, Connecticut
  11. Chicago (x3)
  12. Nashville/Cookeville, Tennessee
  13. Paris, France (x4)
  14. Honolulu, Hawaii
Now to work on going to places I've never been... though I suppose technically this counts as wayfaring.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Couldn't resist posting photos of the deliciously adorable Miss Amelia. No, it's not because her mom doesn't (dig-dig-dig). It's because she's just too cute not to share. Plus, the outfit is courtesy of me (right down to the shoes-- although admittedly, the shoes were more for her Camper lovin' mom and gifted when Amelia was still in the womb. But who would have known my fore-thought for the outfit purchased nearly a year later would have paid off so well and in such a coordinated way?). Future fashionista indeed (Amelia, that is. Not so much me...).

P.S. I made the blanket too. I may not be able to sew but man, can I crochet square objects.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sew-lusions of grandeur

I'm thinking about taking a sewing class. It's not a new idea... I remember thinking about it way back when I lived in New York... and again in Chicago... even going so far as to try to find a class. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find a sewing class. Home economics doesn't exist for the adult set, I guess. Maybe because we good girls should have taken Home Ec in junior high and high school when we were supposed to be learning about being good wives (I mean, 'cause come on-- even though my mother's generation liberated us, clearly the message wasn't passed down to the public education system who still offer Home Ec as a regular course selection). I took student government and AP classes like calculus and art history instead (of course)-- which I suppose was my way of turning my nose up at the domestic smothering that the public school system was trying to cram down my throat.

However, now that I'm older and a tad more level headed, I realize that some of those skills might have been good to learn... like sewing. I mean, how often do you need to sew a button back on a coat, or hem a pair of pants... or sew patches/badges on a shirt (okay, maybe not so much the latter, but believe it or not, I actually have had the need to do that and it was not, shall we say, an optimal outcome). Plus, I have very happy memories of my full-time working mom making our Halloween costumes; Of field trips to the fabric store to flip through patterns to find just the right costumes. And I'm not talking run-of-the-mill ghosts made out of bed sheets. I'm talking about proper, better than you'd ever buy in a store, costumes. Clowns, Spiders, Watermelon slices (Aloha); Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, Princesses and, errr... Princesses (Me). They were fantastic! She also made beautiful dresses for special occasions-- holidays, school plays. It was the best. She is the best.

I've been thinking a lot about that; not only how it would be handy to do some repair work myself, but also actually be able to make something. Have you ever been in the situation where you have some event coming up and you have in your mind a picture of the perfect dress? Only you can't find anything to match what you've conjured up in your head? Imagine if you could just whip it up yourself?? I don't really have a passion for fashion in the haute couture kind of way. I do love me some Anthropologie and am a little obsessed with Rachel Zoe because she's bananas-- in every sense of the word (sorry couldn't resist). But a desire to design clothes? Not in the slightest. But lo and behold, a swift Internet search of sewing in Burnley turned up a 10-week adult education course at the local College. It seems a little excessive for my needs, but for 100 bucks (or pounds...) meaning 10 GBP per class, it's a pretty good deal. And if I do have a child one day, it would be pretty great if I could make their Halloween costumes from scratch and give them a memory that will always remind them of how much their mom loved them.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Makes me wanna dance

And now for an installment of makes me want to dance (inspired from previous Gwyneth on Glee post).

Friday, February 18, 2011


Am I the only person who thinks Lady Gaga is a total freak? I mean... 72 hours "incubating" in an egg to be "hatched" at the Grammy's to sing a song that is literally Madonna's "Express Yourself" with different lyrics (seriously-- sing Express Yourself over Born this Way... it's the same song). Don't get me wrong... Gaga's tunes get my toes tapping. She's even on my workout mix. The really irritating thing is that she really can sing-- she's uber talented. So why all the theatrics? It's annoying. But maybe that's what makes her genius. Everyone talks about her; everyone is waiting to see what she does next. And no one will say a remotely negative thing against her-- read the press, watch the news-- it's seriously like there's been a spell cast over the media. That in itself is genius.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Channeling Elton

This performance is so deliciously BIZARRE that I couldn't help but post it. Muppets? Big guy in armor and feathers? Is it Carnival? Or is it that people just have to do crazy crap to top Gaga (which, try though you might, you can't). And, oh Gwyneth. There's no doubt that you have a good voice. You totally rocked it out on Glee; but this performance was awk-ward with a captal AWK. Listening to it back isn't bad because she sounds great but doesn't have the lungs (or maybe practice) to belt it out on stage live. But she just looked so uncomfortable (I think it was the shoes-- or maybe the writhing around on the piano). Maybe stick to singing on screen? Don't get me wrong-- I still worship her. She's definitely concentrating-- it reminds me of when I performed because I think I always looked like I was in a little bit of pain instead of having fun with it.

This version however? Made me dance around my living room:

Let's go get some tacos! I *heart* her.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Hollandaise is a heart attack waiting to happen

Seriously. But it's oh-so-good.

No, I'm not pulling a Julie and cooking my way through Julia Child's ever famous bible of cooking. Mostly because the book itself is freaking intimidating. I mean, there are seven pages-- SEVEN-- dedicated to hollandaise. If a sauce that literally has three ingredients in it takes 7 pages, there's no freakin' way that I can make anything more complicated.

I cheated, though. Julia says that if you're making hollandaise for the first time, you should really whip it by hand. But then the very next page there's a recipe for making it in the blender that "even a child could make." So, even though it was my first time, I used the blender. Intimidated by the prospect of the eggs curdling or the butter separating, I copped out-- and out came the blender.

It was easy enough for a child to make. I over-salted it... and it was probably a bit more thick than it should have been (product of over-whipping of the yolks). And the sheer amount of butter in it-- astounding. An entire stick... relative to the 3 egg yolks and tbsp of lemon juice... this is definitely not something that should be on the daily menu. But as a treat? Yes please.

Julia Child's Hollandaise
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 oz of butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pinch of pepper
Cut butter into tabs and melt on med-low heat until foaming. Place egg yolks, lemon, salt and pepper in blender and blend on high for 2 seconds. Drizzle melted butter slowly into blender while blending on high (be careful of splashing-- I solved this by putting a funnel in the top of the blender and pouring the butter into the blender). Be careful not to pour too much in because the eggs will curdle). Once incorporated, serve immediately. If not serving right away, place in tepid water bath (eg put in glass measuring cup and place measuring cup in water bath) to keep it warm, but not so it cooks). You can also stir in additional salt / pepper to taste.

I thought this could use a little bit more lemon-- so I may try that the next time. Super easy (despite the multiple page description)... and deliciously delectable. And easy thing to add to the menu (for eggs Benedict, as a sauce of veggies like asparagus, or a number of other things, I can imagine!). After all as Julia says, you can never have too much butter.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Learning to play

A few years ago I asked my parents for a guitar for Christmas. I missed music-- I missed playing music and singing music and I wanted to see if I could learn an instrument again. Instruments were never my strong suit-- I always had to work at it; it never came easily. First was the piano and recorder. My wonderful Auntie, for whom I was named, taught both my sister and I to play the piano. The problem was that she was so good, and I so enjoyed my lessons with her, no other teacher ever was able to hold my attention or interest... and so while I'd dabble every once in a while, I never was able to play in the way I would have loved to.

Then came the clarinet-- the instrument that I chose for junior high band because, well, to be totally honest, it was the smallest and lightest and would easily fit in my locker. I had originally wanted to play the bass in orchestra... and then the trombone. But when I was reminded that I would have to lug that thing to and from school the appeal wore off. And I settled on the clarinet. Which I loved-- and I still love to pick out the clarinet in the orchestra... the rich sound of a clarinet solo. A much overlooked instrument if I do say so myself!

In college I sang. And the instrument background did me well because I could read music and had inherited a somewhat decent ear from my talented dad (and the Benedicts in general. What can I say? Music is in the Benedict blood. I was lucky to get a little glimmer of it). While I had sung all my life, it was the first time that I really performed and was disciplined about it-- singing in a group, recording albums. And I certainly got my fill of music.

But as I got older, music and the more artistic things I loved were fewer and far between. Working for the man and being in an office offered little creative expression and I was craving some sort of outlet, if even just for me. Hence, the guitar. I tackled it with gusto-- I signed up for lessons at the Old Town School of Music in Chicago (where I was living at the time); and I faithfully trudged to class-- rain, snow, sleet or shine, every week for about a year to try to master this new instrument-- or at least to be able to pound out a few notes that formed a song. It didn't hurt that one of my favorite japanese restaurants was across the street too...).

Unfortunately-- my lack of natural talent failed me. Or perhaps it was my greater love of singing. As with most instruments that I've played, I really had to work at it. But the bigger challenge was once we started singing while playing the guitar at the same time, I'd forget about the playing and just sing. My instructor found it amusing. I found it to be vexing.

When I moved to England, the guitar came along with me. But it has mostly hung on the wall in my office as a piece of art (and collecting lots of dust...). But this week something caused me to take it down and attempt to play again. My fingers are definitely rusty-- and I need to build my callouses back up (because MAN my fingers HURT), but I'm liking playing again. The desire to sing is still vexing me but maybe if I stick to it I might actually be able to play this thing. Well-- I can hope.

Friday, February 04, 2011

What to write

I'm in awe of people who can blog everyday. I know they exist because I follow them-- religiously. They have this knack-- and art, really, of engaging you to WANT to read what they have to say-- everyday.

Unfortunately I have neither this ability nor gift. Partially because I can't think of something to blog about everyday. And if it's ain't interesting to me, who out there in cyberspace would be interested?

I attribute part of the death of blogging to facebook and twitter. Why write a novel about something you can tweet in a sentence? (Plus, I have to admit, that fact that those vehicles force an over prolific me to tone down my prose into short tidbits of information is better for everyone).

Of course, it's very tempting to use a blog as a diary of sorts... and way to spill guttage. But that's not fun for anyone-- particularly the author when (s)he looks back on old posts and wonders "what the heck was I thinking?!?"

All the same, I still push myself to encounter something inspiring everyday. Thanks to the faithful few who continue to visit to see what's up with this wannabe wayfarer.

Speaking of which-- thinking of Cyprus in March. Anyone ever been? It's still cold (around 60 degrees F), but something adventurous about it (and importantly, somewhere I've never been...). :)

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

One upon a dream...

Giant cheese ball that I am, I caught the end of Fame (the remake, not the original; doesn't stand up to the original, but the principle is the same), and it actually made me a little misty eyed. All of those kids with their big dreams; still thinking anything was possible in all of their ignorance--err, innocence. It got me thinking... and then really thinking, about what my dreams used to be. And then, at what stage they disappeared.

I don't think I had super lofty dreams... I was going to marry a prince (or maybe Pete Sampras), be an astronaut (the first female shuttle commander, to be exact), an interior designer / architect, a doctor. I was going to live in a house with a window seat and drive a BMW 325i convertible, just like Kelly Taylor on 90210. I was never one of those kids who knew exactly who I was going to be or what I was going to do... I was good in school and liked, well, everything. I think as a result I never really had any solid path and have made decisions about where to live and what to do somewhat on a whim. But at 35, none of my dreams have necessarily come true (well, besides the prince part, perhaps).

Maybe dreams change; your naivete and innocence disappears with age. And you have new dreams. But when I think of it now-- in my jaded adulthood, I don't really know if I have dreams anymore. And I think it's sort of sad.

I think it's time to take a lesson from my dear old dad and find and follow my passion. Now-- to just identify what that is.

What are your dreams?