Food

Unreal

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“Oh look, there’s Meg Ryan.”

A curly topped slim blond woman in oversized jeans, striped tee, sunglasses and Dansko clogs stood in the lunch line with us.

Peeking out from under a floppy hat like the celebrity I am not, I whispered to my husband, “She looks sweet.”

Of course, I’m appraising this from the soft landings her movies emote — When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle… I have no idea if she is sweet.

Since I wrote the article about cosmetic surgery, I’ve been thinking about what is real and what is not. What’s artificial beauty? Are cosmetic “enhancements” and hair dye unnatural? What about hair extensions?

Meg Ryan looked like Meg Ryan.

In my last post, a reader left this comment about the characters in one of my favorite Netflix series:

“Seeing Jane Fonda on Frankie & Grace and Meryl Streep makes me ill. They’ve aged sooooo well.”

Remembering the scene where Grace (Jane Fonda) takes off her makeup, hair extensions, and the little clips on her face that give her a surgery-free facelift, makes we wonder whether passing judgment on what is real and unreal has any merit at all, especially in the entertainment business, an industry so inflated, so distorted.

Maybe Meg Ryan had facework like the tabloids claim. Maybe not. To me, Meg (apparently, we’re now on a first name basis since we stood in line together) looked like the other 50-something-year-old women waiting for sandwiches.

She looked sweet. She looked real.

Is it real when you feel comfortable in your skin?


A few extra notes:

Note #1 Eco-design followers: I haven’t forgotten you! Here’s Meg’s design philosophy:

“The whole idea is to keep things as simple as possible; I like everything pared down to its purest form.”

Check out how she puts this into practice in her Martha’s Vineyard beach house.

Note #2 In my summer travels, UNREAL candy — “reUNventing your favorite candy” — has been popping up — and into my mouth. Is candy with “real” ingredients and less sugar unjunk?

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Mental Vacation

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Mental Vacation: “A mild cerebral hiatus from consciously entertaining expectations from the perilous and numbing things that infiltrate our lives. It can last as long as one desires, and, depending on one’s skill, can go completely unnoticed.” ~ Urban Dictionary

Small simple stressors build up. We all need a mental vacation from time to time. I took one last weekend with an inspirational visit to DiaBeacon, a beer at The Hop, and Korean take out on my screened-in porch. We wrapped the day with a viewing of Before Midnight at Upstate Films. Ah.

Do you step away and allow your mind and body to relax? How?

Image: Design Seeds via Pinterest

DIY Valentine’s Day Staycation

"How did it happen that their lips came together? How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill? A kiss, and all was said." ~ Victor Hugo

“How did it happen that their lips came together? How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill? A kiss, and all was said.” ~ Victor Hugo

I once gave my unwavering opinion that staycations were not my idea of a vacation. You can read why I felt I would need a vacation from a staycation here.

Can I change my mind about this?

Although I will not go as far as to say that I would give up a delightfully warm week at the beach to stay home and watch the grass grow or the snow fall, I’m making a staycation exception: Valentine’s Day. All the usual Valentine Day niceties say “stay home.”

Seriously, all you need is love.

Rock found while snowshoeing with my honey after last week's snow storm.

Rock found while snowshoeing with my honey after last week’s snow storm.

DIY Valentine’s Day Staycation

Cards

I am a sucker for handmade cards. I’ve toyed with the idea of making a machine-stitched Valentine card like this, or an easy hand-stitched card. Folding origami valentines has been a suitable alternative. Although, these DIY Alexander Girard-inspired cards are begging to be tucked into a handcrafted envelope.

Home Décor

Along with romantic headboards, like this dreamy lipstick red DIY headboard, I’ve been noticing the allure of bed canopies. Here’s a round-up of DIY bed canopies.

Candlelight

Whenever candles are mentioned, my first response is to ditch paraffin candles (nasty by-products that emit greenhouse gases and soot). Here’s a DIY beeswax alternative.

How about LED tea lights? There’s a bit of a debate about whether or not LED lights pass the snuff test as a viable design alternative to the natural glow of wax candles. I picked up a 12-pack of LED tea lights at Homegoods and enjoy the muted glow of these candles in a candle holder — especially nice in a dark bathroom. This DIY threaded candleholder was created for use with LED tea lights.

Chocolate

I don’t cook much (hubby does), but I like to bake. These healthy chocolate cherry Valentine scones are on this year’s to-make list. Yum. The recipe includes DIY directions for creating a gift box that uses a homemade glue recipe.

Flowers

Unless you give organic flowers, conventionally grown flowers generally get a thumbs-down for eco-friendliness. Most cut flowers are grown in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. They are heavily sprayed with pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and even DDT, creating problems for workers and florists. Add in the transporting time, and traditional flowers are not so lovely. Instead, create a dozen origami roses. Use leftover holiday tissue paper or cards. Or, how about a button bouquet?

Wine

Did you think my next suggestion would be to make wine for Valentine’s Day? Not. Although, my husband did make wine once for me. Love that guy. We still celebrate with wine, and here’s some organic wine pairing suggestions. I’m a big fan of  a mellow, rosy red Pinot Noir.

Staying home or going out?

Photo of heart rock: Ted Fink

Only Fools Dye Their Young

Sometimes I think I might get arrested for loitering in the grocery aisle. I read every single food label. I’m a food marketer’s nightmare because I can sniff out misleading and meaningless food lingo in a heartbeat. Why? Because I’ve been reading labels incessantly since my daughter was young.

It’s Not Nice To Dye Our Young

It started with an innocent breakfast cereal that made grandiose claims of being “All Natural Berry, Berry Goodness,” “Kid Approved” and “Contains Healthy Antioxidants.” After ingesting bowlfuls of her new favorite cereal, my daughter started to display frightening symptoms. First, she developed a headache. So we gave her Children’s Tylenol. The headache got better. Then she broke out in hives. We gave her Children’s Benadryl. Very quickly after taking the antihistamine, she complained that her throat was feeling weird, like she couldn’t swallow. We rushed her to an allergist, who confirmed what we had already figured out. My daughter was allergic to Blue Dye #2…a common food dye that was an ingredient in the cereal and the two over-the-counter children medicines.

Of course, we learned to avoid food dyes like the plague…reading labels like one would read an FBI file. Everything from lip balm to ice cream became suspect. Who knew?

It’s Not Nice To Fool The Bees

French apiarist Andre Frieh holds a sample of normal honey (right) besides a blue colored one (left) Ribeauville, France, October 5, 2012.

I was reminded of this parental chapter (nightmare) when I recently read that beekeepers were discovering blue honey in their hives. Apparently, bees were harvesting M&Ms manufacturing waste from a plant that processed the industrial runoff from a Mars candy factory.

“The plant operator said it regretted the situation and had put in place a procedure to stop it happening again…The company, which deals with waste from a Mars chocolate factory, said it would clean out the containers, store all incoming waste in airtight containers and process it promptly.” ~ BBC

We’re not innocent bees, we’re conscious consumers who should not be duped by honey-coated claims. Although labels are supposed to say exactly what’s in their product, the food aisle is teeming with misinformation. As parents, we like to fix things like this. How can we fix marketers who aim to make money by poisoning our kids? We can’t.

But don’t be a fool…Real food doesn’t come with labels.

The World Is My Oyster

Painting ©2012 Nadine Robbins

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.” ~ Ernest Hemingway, ‘A Moveable Feast’

What is it about oysters that people either love or hate? It’s a slippery slope, and oysters slide right into one of those polarizing food categories, kind of like cilantro. I happen to love fresh, briny, sweet oysters. But my daughter…not so much. These sea-dwellers don’t float her boat.

Nevertheless, a few weeks ago, while I was vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard with my family, my daughter and her partner (in business and life) were in the midst of branding their client, Honeysuckle Oyster Farm. To inspire the design process, early one morning, they set out by boat to go oyster farming. Their research is this photo story:

The seafarers returned with a full bag of oysters. As it turned out, my daughter sampled a raw oyster on the boat and she was still not enamored with the texture and taste. So my recipe resourceful husband decided to make oysters more palatable for her and grill them over an open fire (with a few clams). Here’s his recipe:

Wood-Fired Grilled Oysters 

  1. Scrub oysters clean. If available, use oak or hickory wood.
  2. The fire is hot when you can’t hold your hand above the grate for a few seconds.
  3. Place the deep cupped half of the oyster shell facing the fire (flatter part facing up).
  4. In 2-3 minutes the oysters will open. Immediately, take the oysters off the grill before the liquid dries up.
  5. Can be served with a simple Rose Mignonette sauce.

The beauty of this dish is that it is like inhaling the sea…and while my daughter may not have “lost that empty feeling” towards eating oysters, she was inspired to “make plans” and brand Honeysuckle Oyster Farm.

Photos (except the grilled oysters): Ben Scott for Bluerock Design
Painting: Nadine Robbins