3 Ways To Grill A Cheese

I know what you’re thinking. I can read your mind. It is broadcasting,  “Um, yeah thanks. I totes know how to make a grilled cheese.” Insert confident chuckle here. But when you are gazing sadly at the dwindling loaf of bread, and you’ve already had two grilled cheeses this week, do not despair. Here’s a few twists on the classic prep:

Panini Style

via linkzzkitchen.blogspot.com, click the nom for a recipe.

I am basically crazy for paninis. I took a brief vacay in Italy and ever since then I’ve been hooked. They are all over the place here so I am unsure why I had to leave the country to discover them, but anyhow they’re here now, and we are in a committed relationship.

The basics are:

  • Select strong bread and spread one side with flavoring like a pesto or spiced mayo.
  • Spread butter or olive oil on the opposite side for grilling.
  • Gather assorted meats, cheeses, grilled veggies etc. The key here is to be sure you alternate the cheeses so that when they melt, they hold all the other ingredients together and onto the bread.
  • Heat up a heavy skillet and grill, placing foil on the sandwich and a weight that basically “smashes” everything together.

The recipe above includes a step-by-step, but there are hundreds of combos for paninis.

Patty Melted

via SeriousEats.com, click the nom for recipe.

Sometimes served “open-faced”, this grilled sammie is composed of Swiss and American cheese, melted over a ground beef/turkey patty. Get sassy and add some caramelized onions.

The Sandwich of Monte Cristo

Via saveur.com, click on nom for recipe.

This one is a new favorite of the hubby, it blends sweet and savory flavors in a divine way. White or potato breads work well, but you can really use whatever you have on hand. Go for lighter cheeses like Swiss, and choose thinly sliced turkey, ham or even bacon. The sandwich is stacked together and held with a toothpick, then dipped in an egg batter and thrown into a skillet, much like French toast. The final flourish is a sprinkle of powdered sugar on the top.

Use what’s on hand, on sale or leftover. Make your own artistic flourish to any of these, then name it after a friend. They love that.

Need more cheese knowledge? Wikipedia has a lovely list divided by region.

Mindful Mocking: Sullen Scarf

via Swipelife.com

Ordinarily, Edward would be thrilled to don his tangerine tango leopard scarf. But on this day, it was only his default, as Ricky had borrowed his favorite paisley Ascot and had not returned it. A default scarf, he thought bitterly, is never as chic as one’s primary choice.

Your Brights Are On

I was feeling overly summery last week with our shoe-melting heat waves, so I finally decided to actively participate in the new(old) super-bright color trend.

We all know that row of crayons that looks like they have been charged with electricity. Boasting names like:

Laser Lemon
Razzle Dazzle Rose
Sunglow
Shocking Pink
Neon Carrot

How can you resist?

Walking briskly through the isles, unable to settle on just one color and a steadfast budget to stick to, I finally settled on this little number. A tank dress in a candy stripe brings me an array of the colors I was hunting for, and pairs nicely with my golden sandals and a medium wash denim jacket. I will admit, right after this picture was taken, I abandoned my jacket and fled immediately inside to the bliss of the air-conditioned office.

Here’s a few ways to rock those bold hues:

Image from intheircloset.com
Image from trendmill.com
Image from Volcomunity.com

Take a stab at it yourself, if you haven’t already. Feeling nervous? Buy a box of Crayola Crayons, spread out those colors and get to know them a bit, hold them up to things in your closet and dream up the possibilities.

Want to make some quick and easy art with those crayons after your adventure? Click here for a video how to for melting crayons on canvas.

Kentucky Derby Time

It’s Derby Season! I think of mint juleps, big hats with plenty of flop, and pretty polka dot dresses that flutter in the breeze.

Think you’d like to attend The Kentucky Derby? Well good news! The MAXIM Party Package is still available for a thrifty $2,000 a person. Seems like a logical thing to dip into your 401K for, right?

 

Anyway, I pay homage today to the fanciness of it all in my own pretty polka-dot dress. It boasts spots of color, is actually sleeveless and has a flowing, chiffon-like layer that has those accordion pleats I love. Pairing it neatly with my riding boots and a classic black blazer with satin lining that looks adorable with the sleeves rolled.

Isn't it nice to have a manhole in the back of your style photos?

I am wearing this blazer to death and I am not sorry. It gives that little bit of structure to anything with fluid lines and I’m really enjoying the results.

Here’s a few ways you can do the Derby:

And here Esquire tells you how to make a mint julep Like a Man.

Western Wednesday

Western Wednesday
Round these parts, a friend of mine has championed Western Wednesday at the office. It was originally begun, I believe, as an excuse to buy some fancy cowboy boots. But it has morphed into a rather enjoyable event where those who love plaid shirts can proudly don their threads, lovers of fine Western footwear can walk side by side and whoa boy, you better believe those cowboy hats come out.
I recommend you give it a try, since we all want to sport that over-the-top belt buckle now and then. You can find the items you need at retailers like Stetson or Zappos, or even at your local thrift store.
Look for:
  • REAL leather in neutral tones.
  • Denim that is distressed or has a worn-in look.
  • Bootcut. For obvious reasons.
  • Contrast topstitching.
  • Floral embroidery and tiered peasant skirts (for the ladies).
  • Snap-up fronts, not button ups.
  • Pointed back yokes on shirts.
  • Plaid prints on woven cotton.
  • If you’re going to buy used cowboy boots, know the haps on them and check for cracks. Also know that they will NOT stretch, the fit is what it is.
  • Spring for one key item, maybe a nicer hat or some fancy boots.

Here’s a snap of my Western Wednesday:

See there? I definitely can’t be tamed in that get up.

Pictured above:

10 and 2: Colorblocking

Hurrah, this one’s a two-fer! I found myself absent-mindedly perusing some style blogs and observing pupils dilate at the site of all the colorblocking still going on. Wow self, you should totes try that. Casual glance toward my chosen stack of 10 and 2 Challenge items and bam! Idea.

Layering my wrap blouse in a killer Kelly Green over a lovely blue dress and pairing it with my black suede Carlos Santana peep-toe heels and I’ve got some electric colorblocking going on indeed.

Enter Item One: A blue halter dress with another of those pleated skirts I was very fond of six years ago when I bought it.

What I love:

  • The color. Blue and I have a romance.
  • The pleats of course.
  • The neckline and bodice. You can’t see it but it is lovely for my ladies.

What I dislike:

  • The halter. It prevents you from wearing a decent bra.
  • The waist tie. It fits so well already, no need to tie it.
  • Again the length, just a bit too long for my height.

Enter Item Two: True wrap blouse left over from the banking days.

What I love:

The color. It is such a rich, bold green.

The fact that it wraps and ties like a wrap dress would.

The surplice neckline.

What I dislike:

  • It runs a little short if you wear it with jeans.
  • The tie sometimes feels bulky.

All in all I think I’m going to end up keeping both of these,  I really like how they play off of each other and I can think of many more ways to use them.

Check out Refinery29’s “How to Colorblock” for a few styles that play to the trend.

Or better yet? Do a Google image search for “colorblocking”. There’s a whole world out there and lots of ideas to try. Odds are you already have pieces available.

10 and 2 : Wide-leg Trousers

I have a lot of things still lingering in my closet from my banking days. I’ve managed to reconnect with some of those old blazers by rolling back the sleeves and introducing them to a cute dress or blouse. But I hadn’t yet embarked on that journey with trousers. And why shouldn’t they get to play?

What I love:

  • The rise, it fits me and my butt perfectly.
  • The wide leg has an elegant drape to it and balances out my curvy figure.
  • The button-tab detailing at the waist.

What I dislike:

  • The length, too long not to don heels, although tailoring could fix.
  • The color, not bad but maybe a little boring.

Well-cut trousers are never a bad thing to have in your arsenal. But will they make my final cut? I think I will have to see what else they can be paired with.

A few ideas here:

Image from gogoshopper.com
Image from gogoshopper.com

10 and 2: Sunshine Polka Dot Dress

So I was supposed to be documenting the 10 and 2 challenge I took on a few weeks ago, until I realized that meant I would need to spend a lot of quality time in my closet. And much like a frazzled young girl scared of commitment, I just kind of avoided the issue and didn’t return its phone calls. But now, I think I am ready. So let’s take that next step, Closet. Together. Yes, I will meet your family.

This dress is a real conundrum for me. I understood the theory when I bought it, but I NEVER wore it.

What I love:

  • The accordion pleats.
  • The neck tie.
  • The silky texture.
  • Polka.Dots.

What I hate:

  • It’s just a shapeless bag if you don’t belt it.
  • Not sure on the colorway.
  • A bit odd where the hem falls on me.

Jury is still out on this one. We will see how I feel at the end of the challenge. Have you started spring cleaning your style yet?

Corners of California: The Getty Museum

I’m a nerd of many disciplines, and art is one of them. I hinged most of my trip to L.A. on a visit to the renown Getty museum. I had only been there once before with a beau of years past, and I looked forward to walking through its stone splendor once more.

The museum is free to enter, and thusly always crowded. The parking is where they get you, at $15 per car. So if you have a willing friend who can drop you off and the patient to wait for them to come back later and pick you up, you can keep this experience no-cost.

The Central Gardens, created by artist Robert Irwin, provided a delightful area to stroll or have lunch outside.

It would take a lengthy amount of time to address the plethora of treasures that The Getty holds. I did have a few favorites. The timeless pieces by Van Gogh, and the Gothic Grandeur: Manuscript Illumination exhibit that the history nerd in me was positively freaking over. I was also thrilled to learn that soon they will be “turning the pages”.

I was fairly parched while looking at this lovely Italian painting in hour two of our museum romp. I absent-mindedly pulled a water out of my bag and took a sip. A few seconds later, an angry whisper of “Ma’am, you need to put THAT drink, BACK in your back. Now.” Yep, one of the guards was creepin and decided I looked like I was going to…throw my beverage on a painting?

This architectural marvel boasts many disciplines of artwork from the Middle Ages to the present, and also some of the best views around.

The Getty Notes:

  • Go during the week if you can.
  • Bring snacks and drinks, but hide them in your bag in those “touchy” exhibits.
  • The guards will tell you if you can take non-flash photos. Don’t assume.
  • Plan to spend 3 hours or more there if you are any kind of art buff.

Their website is always up to date with new and upcoming exhibits, and even the nearby road construction. Check it out.

Bonus:

A giant list of California museums.

101 20-Minute Dishes for Inspired Picnics. Pack ’em up and put them in your purse.

An inside look at the high-tech awakening in Las Vegas

A great article from gigaom.com about the downtown scene in Las Vegas.

Gigaom

I live in Las Vegas, and have since 2006. I’ve seen the best of times here — the times that spurred the construction of the behemoth CityCenter on the Las Vegas Strip — and I’ve seen the worst of times — when the city’s unemployment rate peaked at 14.9 percent during the peak of the recession.

Unemployment currently resides at 12.7 percent. If you’ve asked me how I like it here, I’ve probably replied that, for myriad reasons, I don’t all that much. But maybe there’s hope on the horizon thanks to, of all things, online shoe retailer Zappos (s amzn).

You might have read one of the handful of stories that have been written about Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project, but it’s hard to do his $350 million investment justice if you haven’t been here and don’t know the hurdles he’s facing. The abandoned city hall that…

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10 and 2: A New Challenge

Hello, Closet. Not to be rude, but I’m going to conquer you. We will be better friends afterwards, you’ll see.

Resolution #10, Defeat the Closet, is in full effect. I’ve started by pulling everything out and re-hanging it based on color, like I’ve seen them do at Plato’s Closet. I briefly debated then breaking it down into categories (long sleeves, tank tops etc.), but I needed to be realistic about it. It is already an extra step when I’m putting my laundry away to divide it by color or individually hang each item one at a time in the proper section – did I want to also have to sort by type? No no, far too much to think about. Really it is fortunate that I do my laundry at all.

And so I am going to embark on the 10 and 2 Challenge, created by the lovely Megan at Feathers and Freckles.

The Rules:

  • Pick 10 items from your closet that you avoid or have never worn (include accessories if you’d like).
  • Wear at least one of those items every day for 2 weeks.
  • Take photos so you can see what other people were looking at all day.
  • Make a decision; to keep or not to keep. No second guesses or second chances!

Here’s the one I’ve got planned for tomorrow:

I haven’t worn that gold dress in a few years, and until now it has just taken up space. It has a pretty,sort of art nouveau print I’ve always liked. I am hoping pairing it with the solid blazer and my riding boots will give it the edge and wear-ability I’m looking for.

I have a super long day tomorrow including work, a 5-hour meeting, happy hour, possibly dancing and then some copy writing and tech socializing at the Jelly. We shall see if my ensemble is up to the challenge.

After this closet cleanse, I will be embarking on a new 30 for 30 Challenge in March. Anyone up to join?

Corners of California: Manhattan Beach

I recently took a long weekend trip to L.A. with my mom and all my sisters. No boys allowed. Thanks to the remarkably efficient planning and execution of said trip, we hit every single mark and I came back with over 350 photos of various travel flotsam and jetsam. Yikes.

So I am going to break it down and post on some of the corners of California that we came across on our journey. Today, the place where we founded our HQ: Manhattan Beach.

Manhattan Beach

The beach itself is tidy and expansive, peaceful and deserted in the mornings. The typical beach bungalows and grandly priced condos crowd the edges, and parking is scarce and pricey in the afternoons – my guess is because the locals have finally awakened? A hopeful group of surfers and body boarders hover around the pier and wait for the perfect wave.

Ayres Hotel, Manhattan Beach CA

We stayed at the Ayres Hotel, a lovely little gem that boasts the decor of an Italian villa. Antique furnishings, replica paintings with decorative frames, winding staircases, a veranda with trees and fountains, a giant hearth fireplace and stone floors.

Top it off with a masterful on-site restaurant called Matisse that also hosts the best “included” breakfast I have ever had. Check out more photos here.

Tangerine, boutique in Manhattan Beach.

Along the streets near the beaches you can take a stroll and get a glimpses of little local galleries, a homemade ice cream shop and a number of cute boutiques. We popped into a few that were way beyond our price point, but there were a couple that granted us some delightful sale items. Oddly, there was a whole section of boutiques all named after citrus. Tangerine, Mandarin, Clementine and Nectarine. As refreshing as it sounds.

Manhattan Beach is a nice, central place if you’re looking for an ideal jumping-off point to visit the surrounding areas. We were able to get to and fro with ease, and come back to a lovely hotel in a quiet area that was still full of resources.

Manhattan Beach Notes:

  • Pizza on the beach is awesome.
  • Do not jump off piers.
  • If you do find a good parking spot, DON’T move – ever.
  • Name your boutique after an orange.

Outfit: Table For Two

Another outfit write-up hits the electronic pages:

Image by Zappos.com

” The day has been filled with cobble-stone streets, new flavors of gelato, crowded museums and peaceful walks through ancient architecture. Now as the sun fades and the evening begins, you dress for the magic that awaits you at a secluded table for two. A pretty peasant dress with flowing lines and drawstring details is the perfect piece for this romantic evening, and the sweet ruffled clutch you managed to tuck into your suitcase is a welcome respite from your packed day bag. The platform heels that match beautifully are completely worth the space they cost you, and you don dangling stone earrings that you know the candlelight will catch. The hostess seats you at the outdoor table you hoped she would, and as the wine is poured and the gentle whisper of music is heard around the square, you can’t imagine a better day. A glance across the table at his smile tells you that neither can he.”

Plato’s Closet

A colorful romp through perfectly categorized fashions in proper “rainbow” order (as I call it), almost makes you feel like you are in a sweet little boutique candy store. But you’re not – you’re in Plato’s Closet. A marvelous apparel thrift store that takes great care to populate their haven with only mindfully trendy, classic, or quality items.

Everything is grouped with like items, then sorted by length or color. This is ideal for strategic shopping, and a lovely sight for the eyes.

Although most apparel is name brand, they don’t snub things from places like Forever21. This brings plenty of options for even the strictest thrift fashionista who is on a super-tight budget. Keep your eyes open for fun costume jewelry and scarves in pretty, exotic colors at a real steal.

All items are well laundered and don’t carry with them the typical “musk” of normal clothing thrift emporiums.

Double Bonus: They actually have an exquisitely organized section for our boys! In a boutique-y place this is rare. We will see what happens when I drag Jason there.

Since it isn’t payday yet, I only had a ten in my pocket, but I was able to score two colors of crackle nail polish and this fun Relic Handbag (on sale) for a grand total of $9.83.

If you’re in an area near one of their locations, you must stop in and check out their treasures. They also take items in for cash or store credit, have an email membership, a get-stamps-for-discount card, and a friendly staff who all seem to be their own brand of adorable.

For my local Las Vegas lasses, it is located on Sunset right in front of the Galleria mall in a small, separate shopping center. Map here.

33 Resolutions

2011 has come and gone, and I am none the worse for wear. This new year however, I plan to get myself in gear in any way possible – or at least get myself out of neutral. Don’t freak out, Past Self, you did okay. But we can do better.

Here in no particular order are the 33 Resolutions I will concentrate on this year:

1) Get over it.
2) Conquer unfinished projects.
3) Revive Date Night.
4) Follow my curiosities.
5) See more live music.
6) Take more photos.
7) Reconnect with family and faraway friends.
8) Mix it up.
9) Read 30 books.
10) Defeat my closet.
11) Keep running.
12) Complete another half marathon.
13) Save money.
14) Prepare something from each cookbook I own.
15) Update my guest room.
16) Tone up.
17) Try even more new things.
18) One hour every day dedicated to all things creative.
19) Find balance.
20) Banish useless things.
21) Make a list of what I love.
22) Finish home decorating.
23) Build better habits.
24) Organize.
25) Evolve my blog.
26) More surprises for Jason.
27) Let go.
28) Be realistic without losing optimism.
29) Get healthier.
30) Worry less.
31) Schedule “self” time.
32) Complete 30 hikes.
33) Write. Always write.

Some of them seem a bit cryptic but I dive in I will define it all. In a perfect world I’ll have an action plan for each – but as part of #28 I will admit that isn’t going to happen. So I’ll just keep at it and see where it takes me. A year that has begun with mimosas and masquerades…and who’s official Pantone color is Tangerine Tango (yes, this actually happened, see here) is shaping up to be a good one already.

What is your year going to be?

Adrienne Vittadini via pantone.com, colors Tangerine Tango with Bellflower

Check out the Pantone 2012 profiles of other fashion designers here.