Archive for February, 2015

Join Us!

February 25, 2015

Tonight, we are hosting a very special event on behalf of Cycle for Survival. Please join us to enjoy great performances, wonderful food and drinks, win amazing raffle prizes and more importantly, help us raise money for research and clinical trials to fight rare forms of cancer. Every dollar raised will be matched, and all funds go directly into global lifesaving research at Memorial Sloane Kettering Hospital. All of us have been touched by cancer in some way, and we all know how devastating this disease can be. Help us imagine a world where it can be cured, or even eradicated.

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If you can’t make it tonight, but would like to join the battle against rare cancers, please go the website:

http://mskcc.convio.net/site/TR/CycleforSurvival/AG_Cycle_Event?px=1218161&pg=personal&fr_id=2340

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Table Settings

February 24, 2015

 

 

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Table setting can be tricky. It always amazes me that people who reached adulthood don’t know which side to put the fork on. This is probably because they have experienced incorrectly set tables for most of their lives. Even restaurants don’t always follow protocol.

Have you ever been seated at a round table and not known which bread plate is yours? Most people don’t, and wait awkwardly for someone to use a plate and follow suit. Often, it is the wrong plate, but at least everyone has one.

A long time ago I stumbled across this little trick and it solved that problem instantly.

With your palms separated and facing one another,make a circle with your thumb and index finger. The hand on the left will look like the lower case letter “b” which stands for bread plate, and the right hand will form the letter “d” for drink. It’s a great way to remember that your bread plate is on the left and your glass is on the right side of your plate.

Now for the rest of it:

The fork goes on the left, and the knife goes on the right side of the plate. The spoon goes next to the knife.  If there are multiple forks and spoons, they are placed from the outside in, in the order you will use them. Therefore, the salad fork is on the left of the dinner fork, and the soup spoon would be on the outside of teaspoon, at the far right.

If you have dessert cutlery set at the beginning of the meal, it is generally placed above the plate.

The napkin is traditionally placed under, or next to the fork, but it is often placed on top of the plate decoratively.

Bon Appetit!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Fashion Statements

February 23, 2015

Political statements on tee shirts are not new. People often take to tees to show their support for various causes. This season, designers are using the runway to get the message across with oversized graphic treatments expressing thier points of view.

It started with Alexander McQueen’s menswear collection, when he showed pinstriped suits and chunky sweaters emblazoned with virtuous words, such as honour, and valour.

Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen

Just a few days later, Acne Studios made their statement on long fringed scarves bearing the slogans ” radical feminist” and “gender equality.”

Acne Studios

Acne Studios

Acne Studios

Acne Studios

 

Marc Jacobs continued the trend, featuring the words, “choice” and “solidarity” in his Marc by Marc Jacob women’s collection, shown in New York this week.

Marc by Marc Jacobs

Marc by Marc Jacobs

 

Marc by Marc Jacobs

Marc by Marc Jacobs

This kind of gives a whole new meaning to the term fashion statement, doesn’t it?

Photos: Style.com

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Washing Their Hands of It All

February 20, 2015

 

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The Republicans have long argued that there is too much government regulation in the world for their tastes. The latest “onerous” business mandate to be the bone of their contention is hand washing.

Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina suggests that restaurant owners should have the option of posting signs saying ” We don’t require our employees to wash their hands when leaving the restroom,” in lieu of the current sign that does require clean hygiene.

First of all: Gross. Second of all: Doesn’t he  have anything more important to deal with? Third of all: Gross.

Proper hand washing protects us from the spread of fecal-oral pathogens which can contaminate our food. Allowing restaurant workers to have the option to transmit disease and infection to customers through poor hygiene is ridiculous and dangerous.

Tillis does acknowledge that hand washing is important, but feels it is the restaurant owners perogative to decide if they want to risk people boycotting their establishments due to questionable sanitation or not.

Is it just us, or is having to have a sign stating that employees didn’t wash their hands just as much regulation as having one that requires they do?

While this isn’t meant to be about political party affiliations, it is about politicians spending tax dollars to discuss policy that is ridiculous, unnecessary, potentially harmful to their constituents, and did we mention GROSS?

photo: glasshouse images

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Fur Stole the Show

February 19, 2015

Designers are embracing the arctic chill this season by showing new twists on the fur stole. These oversized fur scarves are appearing everywhere, offering both form and function as they add a luxe element to every look.

Michael Kors updated his classics with a fur and tattersol checked scarf, tucked into a skinny leather belt.

Michael Kors

Michael Kors

Phillip Lim tossed a fur piece over the shoulder of his surplus inspired vest for a luxurious take on casual.

Phillip Lim

Phillip Lim

Jason Wu tucked a fur stole into the waistline of a simple wool dress in olive green.

Jason Wu

Jason Wu

JCrew took a more whimsical approach, adding brightly colored rep stripes to a fur scarf, putting a cozy spin on preppy chic.

JCrew

JCrew

At Houghton, designer Katherine Polk  proves size does matter, with her over-scaled fur trimmed scarves.

Houghton

Houghton

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Give It Up

February 18, 2015

It is February. It is freezing in most of the country. Those New Year’s resolutions seem so far away, even if it has only been 6 weeks.

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I don’t know about you, but my resolve has weakened a bit. It started with broken cookies. (Insert shameless plug: those homemade graham crackers from indigo jones eats are amazing!) With a double boiler full of melted dark chocolate on the stove from morning until night, I confess that I took to dribbling a little on my fat free Greek yogurt in the morning. Without going any further, I will just state that you would be amazed at what tastes great dipped in a little chocolate.

There have been birthday dinners, followed by an extreme desire to stay in and binge watch series on Netflix and Hulu.

Something has to give, and I think I just found it.
Today, Christians observe Ash Wednesday,which marks the beginning of Lent; a period of “fasting” which extends until Easter Sunday. This is typically a time when they give up something they enjoy for 40 days. Although this time frame is longer, Sundays appear to be fair game.

While I am not Christian, and do not wish to exploit a meaningful religous practice, the idea of giving up something for Lent is kind of appealing to me. It is a good long period of time to let a bad habit go, be it a food, drink, or doing something we know is not good for us. Why not designate this period as a non-denominational time of cleaning up our collective acts? My list of things I could give up is a little longer than usual, but picking just one, and commiting to it could make a big difference in my life.
The idea that it takes 21 days to form a habit has been widely disputed by experts, but certainly 40 days should be enough to at least get on the right track, right?

So who’s with me? What are willing to give up for 40 days to get on track for a better, healthier lifestyle?

photo: glasshouse images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Brown Sugar 101

February 17, 2015

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We love the taste of brown sugar. It has a rich, mellow flavor that adds depth to our homemade graham crackers and deliocous cheesecake crusts. Recipes generally specify which type of sugar should be used: light or dark brown, confectioner’s or refined white sugar, which is usually just listed as sugar. So what’s the difference?

To make sugar, fructose is combined with glucose. The juice is filtered to extract the plant matter and is boiled down, forming a thick syrup.
The syrup is then spun in a centrifuge to separate out the crystals, which become what is commonly referred to as raw sugar. The rest is molasses.

If the molasses are boiled again to remove the next level of crystalized sucrose, it becomes second molasses, and if done again, it creates third molasses, or “blackstrap molasses.”

If the sugar crystals are not refined further, they will become brown sugar. Continued refinement will result in pure, white sugar.

Commercial brown sugar is often made by adding back molasses to refined white sugar.

If you are baking and discover you are out of brown sugar, it is possible to create your own at home. You may even find it superior enough in flavor to get into the habit of making it yourself.

All you need is plain, white granulated sugar and molasses. It’s best to use pure, dark, unsulphured molasses, which are free of additives. Blackstrap molasses can tend to be a bit bitter for this use.

Start with a cup of plain, granulated white sugar. For light brown sugar, pour 1 tablespoon of molasses over the top of it, and for dark brown sugar add 2 tablespoons of molasses. Mash this together with a fork, until it is fully combined. Use your fingers to break up any lumps that appear. If you are mixing large quantities, you can use the paddle attachment of your stand mixer to do this.

It’s best to use it right away, but you can store it in a tightly sealed container as you would store bought brown sugar.

photo: glasshouse images

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Image Issues

February 16, 2015

Cindy Crawford is arguably one of the most beautiful women on the planet. At 49 years old, she is still posing in a bikini with the confidence of a 20 year old, and from most accounts, looking pretty damn good doing so.

Recently, this unretouched photo from a 2013 Marie Claire photoshoot leaked and has been taking the internet by a storm. It features Ms. Crawford in a bikini, looking a lot more average than we expected.

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Ah, the wonders of Photoshop! Celebs have even taken to using it to touch up their Instagram selfies. The blatant overuse of this tool has given us a false sense of what people really look like, and has caused some damage to our self esteem in the process.

As regular readers, you know I work out hard and often, and try to eat as healthfully as possible. I hate the idea of looking good for my age, and want to just plain look good. I am forever comparing myself to other women, often those half my age, and trying to fine tune my body to fit the image of attractiveness I see out there. Although I am in pretty good shape, I am self conscious in a swim suit, and I constantly obsess over every little imperfection.

Seeing Cindy Crawford raw and unretouched made me instantly feel better about myself. It made me realize that a good part of the things I try so hard to perfect, aren’t perfect on the celebrities I see either. Many stars have admitted to wearing double Spanx that are so tight they can’t eat or use the bathroom at red carpet events. We have all seen photoshop fails where the pictures are so over edited, that the model appears deformed, but we forget that all magazine photos have been retouched to some extent. Those jiggly parts are simply removed, and skin is smoothed over to look almost poreless. While it is nearly impossible to spot reduce in real life, it’s super easy to do with Photoshop. And all of this retouching has created an unrealistic view of what is beautiful. It holds us to a higher standard that apparently, even supermodels can’t achieve.

Seeing Cindy Crawford looking a little “soft” shows us another side of beauty that is more about feeling comfortable in your own skin, albiet skin that is a little puckered and blotchy.

photo: Marie Claire

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Going Postal

February 12, 2015

 

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I would like to apply for the position of Postmaster General. There does not seem to be a business in existance that is more poorly run than the United States Post office. While I acknowlege that running a large postal system might be out of my realm of expertise, I honestly think I could do a better job than whoever is doing it now. At least I have common sense.

This is a busy time for indigo jones eats. It is a new business in which there is one person shopping, baking, packing, shipping and cleaning up. Each item is handmade and time consuming. I am happy when I am baking, and the process can be very soothing. That is, until I have to ship something.
Case in point:  Monday, I had 12 orders that needed to be shipped. Although the post office calls the service “2 day” delivery, I learned over Christmas that two day service can actually take five or six days, and they are not responsible for missing their promised deadline. Bearing that in mind, I decided to ship on Monday, so that they would all arrive by Friday, prior to Valentine’s Day.

When I had the food ready, I went to the post office to pick up their special boxes, which are supposed to be the easiest and most cost effective way to ship. None of the kiosks were stocked, so I joined one of the lines snaking through the entire post office. People were randomly in the lines, as there were no signs directing you to the proper line for your needs. When I am the Postmaster General, I will have clearly marked signs to help people find the right line to stand in. I will also stock the self serve kiosks with supplies, so that people can come in and out and not have to stand in line for 20 minutes to ask for them.

Fast forward 20 minutes later, when the crabby employee at the window told me to order the boxes online. I sweetly explained that I needed to ship things today, but I would keep that in mind for next time. He disappeared for about 5 minutes and came back with less boxes than I requested. When I asked if I could have more, he replied that he didn’t want to use up his whole supply on me. Really? What did he think I was going to do with them? Maybe use them to ship something through the USPS? (eye roll)

I went home, packed up the boxes I had, and printed the mailing labels. The smallest boxes that the post office has are very difficult to assemble. I mean, it’s like origami. They don’t stay together until they are folded closed and sealed. How am I supposed to get the stuff in there? When I am the Postmaster General, I will design the boxes to be more user friendly.

I went back to the post office to deposit them in the bin, and get another size box. Guess what? They didn’t have any. I proceeded to the next post office a few blocks away. I did not pass GO, or collect $200. Did I mention it was rainy, slushy and freezing cold?

I obtained the necessary boxes, returned home, packed them, printed labels and went back to deliver them to the post office. So far, I have done all the work, and paid between $5.25 and $12 per box. I have spent over four hours of my time. When I am the Postmaster General, I will offer significant discounts for those who do all the work, rendering my useless employees unnecessary. That might just free up some dollars to pay the others to be useful.

Now comes the fun part. Tracking.
Box #1, which was ironically only going uptown, was supposedly returned to me at 11:39 a.m. Tuesday. At this writing, it has not arrived. I called customer service, and after 49 minutes and 52 seconds on hold, I had the sad realization that it was past their hours of business and they were not going to pick up. Ever.

When I am the Postmaster General, I will provide human customer service, to help people find the packages that my team has misplaced.

Today, I had box #2 be listed as undeliverable at the current address. I had the client verify the address on the actual shipping label in case there were typos. There were not. There is not available information as to what they plan to do with the box.

There is a service called “intercept package” which I thought would allow me to direct them to another address. These packages, while meeting all the criteria listed, are not interceptable. When I am the Postmaster General, I will not only allow people to track their packages, but also allow them to do something with the information.

Package #3 is enroute to Schenectady, in upstate New York. After sitting in New Jersey, it is now out for delivery in Philadelphia. Really? Delivery to whom?

Package #4 is my favorite. It states that a label was created, but that doesn’t mean they actually have a package and they will let me know if and when it moves. Seriously?

The other 8 boxes have arrived at their destinations.

Tomorrow, I will take my paperwork to the post office, and stand in line for 30 minutes to try to get someone to help me find my packages. I do not have high hopes that they will. Tonight, I will start baking enough to replace, at my expense, the 4 boxes in question.It is already 10 pm. I will hand deliver one, and pay to have the other 3 resent, and disappoint my clients by having them arrive late. This is the right thing to do, but the wrong thing for a small business that does not have the people or the financial resources to have to do. In fact, it sucks.

Does the current Postmaster General realize that the USPS has such poor customer service, that when someone goes crazy and randomly starts shooting people, it is referred to as “going postal.” After this week, I can certainly see why.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Confectioner’s Sugar

February 10, 2015

 

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Sometimes when we’re baking, we realize at the last minute that we are out of a key ingredient. Although we always read through the recipe first, when there are others in the house, things are not always where you left them.

If you run out of confectioner’s sugar, or powdered sugar, as it is commonly called, do not panic.. Before you head out to the store, read this post.  You can transform regular granulated sugar into confectioner’s sugar with the pulse of your food processor. 

Confectioner’s sugar is simply regular sugar that has been ground into a fine powder. The term 10x on the package, refers to the sugar having been ground 10 times, to achieve it’s light consistancy.

Commercial brands typically contain cornstarch to keep the powdery texture shelf stable. If you are using it right away, you may omit the cornstarch.

To make confectioner’s sugar from granulated sugar:

Place one cup of granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cornstarch (if using) into the bowl of the food processor or blender. Process until the sugar turns to powder.

Pour the powdered sugar through a sieve to remove clumps and store in an airtight container.

Photo: Glasshouse Images “Come Alive” collection

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