When you mother asks "can you make the gravy?", and you know that the other option is powdered gravy from a packet, just say "yes, I can".
And then, only after you've made a kick-ass gravy and everyone is full of feast-y bits, mention that you'd never made gravy before and were just kind of messing around and making shit up as you cooked.
Watch her brain decide whether to explode with confusion or admiration.


sweet smell of success

Mmmm. I ordered a bunch of sample vials from The Perfumed Court, and I've spent the past few weeks prancing up to friends and offering them my skin for olfactory inspection. A few things that I thought I'd love were less than stellar on me, and a few sneak winners came through.

The obsessions:

Parfums d'Empire, "Cuir Ottoman". You called it, Skinny. This is warm leather + sexy sweat, and I must have it. Mmmm. It's made girls step in for a third and fourth whiff, and boys stop and give me the eye. Amazing.

Tom Ford's "Black Orchid". Credit goes to Laia for turning me on to this one. At first application, it seemed a little one-note and "mature" for me, but it developed into something musky (sans hippie connotations), with a little bit of what I imagine a nice dressing table in the 40's smelled of: opulence, anticipation, and seduction. Yes. This one is definitely on my list.

"L de Lolita Lempicka": this is a huge departure from the sexy-dirty-postcoital scents. It's sweet-ish, caramelly, with some bergamot and salt. It's a food-y type smell, and it's just different enough from Thierry Mugler's "Angel" (a longtime favorite) to remain interesting. This scent on my arm sent two classmates into raptures, which seems to be a sign of approval.

Alan Cumming's "Cumming". This is ostensibly a man's fragarance, perhaps because it smells like rubber, smoke, scotch, and a bit of leather. I love it. It's dirrrrrty. I wish it came in an eau de parfum instead of an eau de toilette, though.

The others:

Alexander McQueen's "Kingdom". I was hoping for more leather and sweat, but as some other Kingdom-tryer-outters have said, this can go all cumin on you. It went fairly intensely cumin on me, which was too bad- I really love cumin, but I do not love it on my forearms. I'll still wear this on occasion, as that initial wham of cumin wears off, but that first hit of spice scent was too much to let me fall in love.

Caron's "Tabac Blond". Meh. This seemed astringent and overly alcohol-y on, and dried to something that screamed "grandma!" on me. Now, I love my grandma, and she's excellent and might even wear this. And perhaps she does, and perhaps that's why I was displeased with what it smells like on me. I might just chuck this sample, unfortunately. I wore it a handful of times and kept reaching for other scents once I felt I'd given it a fair try.


lazy girl's guide to primping

Paint only the toenails that are visible through your peep-toes.


climate change

It's 35 degrees today, but I still refuse to give in to actual wintry weather and start wearing jeans every day. As long as I can get by with thick wooly socks and dresses, I shall.

This dress is the most comfortable thing ever. It's made of sweatpants, essentially, and is cozy and lovely and really, it has no business looking as pretty as it does. Sweatpants dress! Hooray!

Grey sweatpants dress, Delia's; black wooly socks, American Apparel; boots, vintage;
scarf, Target; gloves with little tiny buttons up the side, Tulle; bracelet, Until There's A Cure.



I apparently did something very, very bad to a former image host, and now there are giant swaths of "Image Not Found" spread across the blog. Sorry about that. I'm working on it. Right after I finish slamming my hands into the desk in frustration.

(don't) Gett Off (because god is watching!)

Prince, I've had it up to here. I took it in stride when I saw you play St. Paul in 2001 and you didn't play any of the sexytimes songs; I rented "Under the Cherry Moon" although I should've known better; I defended you against the haters of short men.

And then you had to go and start (literally) bible thumping? Too much. I hereby revoke your Minnesotan card, along with your Uptown Minneapolis card. Please turn in your "Erotic City" cassette single in the dropbox.

Man, just when you think you know someone, they have to go and get all crazy. It's a disappointment to all good eyeliner-fearing glam rockers out there, really.


the internet brings you presents!

About a month ago, a very rollicking dinner of ribs and beer with a dozen or so friends ended with an excited remembrance of our favorite Y.A. books. Other bar patrons were probably befuddled and annoyed at a group of us trying to recall the title of a certain book- "you know, where they move to an old house next to a graveyard, and then that girl tries to drown the other girl, and then she bikes to the library, and then the floor caves in!"- until finally, someone yelled at top volume "Wait Til Helen Comes"! It's good to be friends with other book-dorks.

There seems to have been a dichotomy in other girls' lives as to whether they read Sweet Valley High or the Babysitter's Club series- one or the other, but never both. Ann M. Martin and Francine Pascal held equal sway over my bookshelf, but I did get annoyed with those blonde twins and their "perfect size-six figures" after a bit. (Way to instill body insecurity in a nine-year-old, SVH!)
I don't remember many pertinent details from the BSC series, but I do remember Claudia's outfits. Oh, how I wanted to be like Claudia when I was a kid! Photographic evidence of me in hot-pink high-tops, black leggings, a gigantic men's dress shirt, and a tapestry vest shows just how much I took fashion cues from a fictional Japanese junk-food fiend. (Someday, I will find these photos and scan them. There may also be photos of a ten-year-old me wearing a big fisherman's sweater over a ruffly bridesmaid's dress, in what I call my "Marc Jacobs totally ripped this off for Perry Ellis" look.)

And then I found What Claudia Wore. It is a public service, really, to catalogue Ms. Kishi's wardrobe choices for posterity. Kim does not update the blog on a schedule, but each little installment of Claudia's sartorial splendor is worth the wait. Go, reminisce, and break out your tie-dyed legwarmers in celebration.



I have spent the entire day in bed, and not for fun reasons. No, I have been swaddled in my down comforter because I feel like moderate-level death. (High-level death involves throwing up and being unable to stand under my own power. Moderate-level death involves weakness, aches, and angry badgers living in one's throat and head.)

Although I'm absolutely certain that no doctor would ever advise me to eat a lot of creamy, bacony, cheesy soup as a remedy, once I got the idea of corn chowder in my head, it would not leave me alone. Some half-hearted searching led me to this Ina Garten recipe, which I then played with a bit. Happily, I was able to drag myself to the grocery for ingredients and get home before anyone I know saw me wearing snowflake-print fleece pajama pants in public with a ratty, cat-hair-covered hoodie. (Yes, I thought about this before deciding to get groceries. I might be ill, but I am also endlessly vain.)

Cheddar Corn Chowder, with my notes in italic:
I made only about half the recipe, as I only had about 3/4 of a bag of frozen corn kernels. Plus, I didn't want to buy four little pints of heavy cream, because they're expensive.

8 ounces bacon, chopped
1/4 cup good olive oil
6 cups chopped yellow onions (4 large onions) (I am anti-onion, so I went with two large shallots and diced them into miniscule bits so I could get yummy flavor without the oniony texture)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter (I used about a pat, because I probably used more bacon than called for- surprise, surprise- and was pleased with that amount of fat already in the pan.)
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric (I used cumin, as I didn't have tumeric, and also because I love cumin.)
12 cups chicken stock
6 cups medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 pounds) (I hate potatoes. I skipped right over this step. Potatoes are an abominable tuber.)
10 cups corn kernels, fresh (10 ears) or frozen (3 pounds)
2 cups half-and-half (Dude, this is expensive. Plus, I've never had good luck with half-and-half in a recipe- it always tends to break. So I would've gone for heavy cream, but heavy cream is also expensive. I just bought a half-quart of whole milk and winged it.)
8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. (I didn't feel it necessary to pour olive oil over bacon.) Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter (now, time for olive oil! I somehow had no qualms about adding butter AND olive oil to a bunch of bacon drippings) to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, (no potatoes for me, so I went right ahead to the "add corn" step.) bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.)

Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon. (I put the bacon back in the soup along with the cheddar. If I have a bowl of crispy bacon pieces around the kitchen, just waiting to be used as a garnish, they're going to be used as a snack first.)

I have eaten two bowls of this already. This much dairy is probably a very bad idea, but it was also an extremely tasty idea.


pink is the navy blue of wtf

The last time I wore this dress in Cincinnati, I was caught in an unexpected thundershower.

Today, I was caught in an unexpected thundershower on my way home.

Hot pink scarf, Target (I need these in every color, for real); orangey-coral wool dress, vintage; grey tights,
Old Navy (I bought these in 2000 during what I remember as the coldest Minnesota winter EVER, and would
layer these under jeans so my legs would not turn blue on the walk to 8 a.m. French class. Yes, I did just admit that
these tights are eight years old); boots, Colin Stuart; black cuff watch, Marc Jacobs; silver cuff, Until There's A Cure.

I really need to find an umbrella that matches this dress.


the dinner I am not making this year

It's about two weeks from Thanksgiving, and the menu-planning in my head has gone wild. Now, I won't be hosting Thanksgiving (hell, I do not even own salt & pepper shakers, as I realized this week- god, I only own two chairs, and they're not even real chairs!), as I will be flying back to my parents' house for Thanksgiving the first time in about eight years. I won't be cooking there either, as my mother is in charge of the turkey-potatoes-stuffing-pumpkin pie brigade.

But let's pretend I have 1) a dining room, 2) chairs with backs, 3) more than 6 square inches of counter space in my apartment. In this lovely dream scenario, I'm having a nontraditional Thanksgiving meal and inviting you over, because although I do not especially enjoy turkey, I DO enjoy your company.

I'm probably not serving this with the correct forks, and the stemware doesn't match. So if this is a thing for you, maybe you could bring over some fancy wineglasses.

Menu, with notes and justifications:

Nicolas Feuillatte brut réserve particulière, because champagne goes with everything, as far as I'm concerned. (Also, because Bill and Lorin at La Belle Vie have spoiled me for champagne for the rest of my life with their excellent taste, and got me hooked on this stuff.)

Roasted beet and goat cheese terrine- I'm a little skeptical about the cream cheese and chévre combination, though. I'd probably go heavier on the goat cheese than the recipe suggests, because I am the kind of person who will eat a log of chévre sans accompaniment (or, for the matter, without sitting down).

Gougerès with cumin (from the Chocolate & Zucchini cookbook). Are these better than plain white rolls with butter? Hell yes they are. That's all the justification I need.

Butternut and apple soup- I'd probably kill most of the onions in this, because I am weird and don't like onions. But I'd top it with fried leeks, in a nod to the can of French's Onions that gets plundered by me every time someone brings it out to make green bean casserole.

Braised collard greens with cranberry beans and sausage- though I'd serve it over whole-wheat couscous instead of rice. I might also sub out chorizo for andouille in this, because what my life needs is always MORE CHORIZO.

Pear and blue cheese crostada- I'm not going to think about the butter content. Instead, I'll focus on the cheese content. Ah, that's better.

Roasted grapes with walnut oil
over mascarpone. I cannot believe it's never occurred to me before that I should roast grapes. Time to remedy that!

And after dinner, a nice big glass of tawny port, for how many occasions does one really have that call for retiring to the study after dinner for a glass of port? I'll be waiting in a leather club chair, glass outstretched.


some minor effort on my part

Let's not pretend I got fully dressed too often over my long weekend, ok? Yes, when I left the house on various errands, I did make sure that I was wearing clothes that matched and looked like some (small) effort had been made. And thank god for the recent suggestion of Nivea's Kiss of Color Cherry Balm, as it makes me look like I have painstakingly applied a berry lip stain and matching topcoat of soft balm, but is really just an excellent lip conditioner and costs three dollars. (Also recommended: MAC's Tendertones in Hot n' Saucy. Terrible name, wonderful red pot of balm. A little sticky, though.)

Today I must leave the house and interact with others, so:

Brown hooded pocket sweater, Macy's; grey pencil skirt, American Apparel; caramel boots, vintage; Nivea cherry balm.

As I must be out and about this afternoon, I think I'll try to find a way to parlay "run to the bank to cash that check" into "plunder every drugstore within 5 miles for more of this Nivea berry balm". I may have a little problem with lip balm addiction.


sweet tweed

WHY did I have to find the Soia & Kyo website? And why did I have to fall in love with a $380 coat that I cannot, under any circumstances short of winning a whole bunch of money with my nonexistent lottery ticket, afford?

Well, the answer to the second question is obviously "because it is amazing and everything I've ever wanted in a winter coat".


antisocial... or genius? you decide.

I cannot understand why more people don't go to movies alone. What other "aw, my friends have plans and I already have pants on and it's not that hard to walk down the street and I should really get out of the apartment every few days to make sure the nuclear holocaust has not occured yet" activity requires neither effort (as at the gym) nor conversation with strangers (as at the bar) nor involves being asked to leave Target for excessive fondling of their newest limited edition clothing lines (um, sorry, Target)?

Right. So, movies it is. Movies with a student ID and a large purse full of trail mix tend to come in at under $10, and did I mention that it's two hours in which you're almost guaranteed to be entertained and not have to actually interact with anyone? As a bonus, when people ask what you did with yourself last night, you can always say "oh, I went to see that new Russian movie- yeah, the one about the despair of life?- and by the way, I'm a more cultured person than you are". (I'm going to pretend that I didn't buy a ticket to next week's midnight screening of Quantum of Solace.)

I just don't understand why, when I tell people I saw a movie, they stop for a moment and ask: "alone?" Yes, alone. It's not like I told you I went riding on a bicycle built for two, but all by myself. Moviegoing requires two things after the ticket purchase: the ability to sit down, and the ability to be quiet and watch the pretty moving pictures. I do not see how other people are in any way necessary for this. I can completely understand it when someone says "but I like to have someone to talk to about the movie afterward!", but too often that conversation with me begins and ends with "my god, you have shitty taste in movies".
If I want to see a neofascist movie about singing Spanish cross-dressers, then I will see it. I do not need to be reminded that you don't like my taste in movies. Likewise, when I say that I would rather groom my cat with my own tongue than watch another buddy comedy, I do not want you to roll your eyes and mutter "killjoy". I'm not claiming that my ever-so-highbrow taste is simply unappreciated by the masses, oh no. I love a good gratuitous-sex-and-violence film as much or more (probably more) than any 15-year-old boy out there. I'm just saying: I had a good time at the movies by myself. And I plan to continue to have a good time at future movies, which I may also attend alone.

Stop acting like I've just admitted to having leprosy when I answer your question with "yes, really, just me". And please, can you get your codependence off my seat? Thanks.


smells like teen spirit

Whew. Though not everything voted on yesterday turned out the way I'd hoped (California, wtf? Minnesota, get on that Senate recount!), I'm ecstatically anticipating the Obama administration. With the big heavy national stuff over, and my schoolwork tapering off into two classes for the next few weeks, I feel like I've been given a license to indulge in frivolity again.
(Such as: scrolling through All Lacquered Up and doing ridiculously detailed comparisons of various shades of grey polish, and also reading umpteen product reviews on Makeupalley before deciding to spend $2.99 on a Wet n Wild lip crayon.)

But since the economy won't jump from recession to Clintonesque boom overnight, I'm trying to rein in the more indulgent potential purchases and err towards frivolity. McQ by McQueen? Sadly, no. But the upcoming diffusion line Alexander McQueen is doing for Target this spring? I'm already in line.
Thank god for The Perfumed Court- I get to satisfy my desire for new scents, but without having to buy a $65 bottle of perfume that might turn skunky before I use it up. Currently, I'm all about leathery, smoky scents (Meredith and Skinny are devilishly reinforcing this obsession), and TPC's "find perfumes by notes" feature makes it so easy to find a whole batch of perfumes I believe I'll fall for. I'll be relatively good and wait until I get an extra cash bump from some Amazon.com sales, but when that comes through, I'm going to indulge in decants.

Thus far, my list includes:

Cuir Ottoman
Kingdom by Alexander McQueen
Black Orchid by Tom Ford
L de Lolita Lempicka
Tabac Blond

... in tiny little affordable vials, I promise. Any other smoky/leathery/dirty* scents I should consider?

*I still lament not stocking up on Demeter's "Hedwig" perfume years ago. It was released only as a marketing tie-in with the movie, and it's amazing. It smells like wet pavement, sequins, stale cigarettes, and skin. I should've bought a case of it.


signed, sealed, delivered...

...literally, in fact, as Ohio's early voting was by absentee ballot that had to be (yup), signed, sealed, and delivered.
I wish I had some seriously excellent blue heels to complete this outfit, but nope. I did want to wear my blue-state-best vintage ribbon dress today, but it's probably not strong enough to withstand much excitement, and I'd really rather not actually rend my garments in ecstasy as I watch results come in this evening. Instead, I went for a celebratory headpiece.

Finally! A fascinator! Well, a feathered headband, to be precise, but I found it much more practical than a feathered clip or tiny hat made of feathers. And practicality is of utmost importance when buying such headwear, yes?

Fascinator, TaratotheT on Etsy; black tie-neck blouse, Target (it's scandalously
but blousy enough that I get to pretend you can't see my bra at most times through
the front
slit); Joe's Jeans; black pointy flats that got cut off in the photo (seriously, I need
some practice
with this tripod. And why does the lighting in my apartment suck so badly,
when the light in
here is so beautiful?), Payless.

Go vote today, obviously. I'll show you my tits!

Ok, hell no. But I will show you this:



I spent my entire Sunday in line with a laptop, sandwich, and the Sunday paper. From noon until 9:30, I waited amid cranky and excited people while I frantically texted friends to join me.

Secret Mike & Chris sample sale? Book signing by Anthony Bourdain? Free wine?

No. Better.
Much, much better.

Please vote. Especially if you're a Democrat.


got some 'splainin' to do!

Oh, my! Wine! Don't mind if I do!

This costume is made entirely of things I already had in my closet. Well, minus the wig.

Lucille Ball disapproves of something.

Oh, you silly girls in your Slut-o-ween outfits!
I simply don't know what to think of the kids today!