Friday, November 18, 2016

Stepping Up Your Game: Holiday Help

Beautiful holiday arrangement by Teleflora

Holiday entertaining when I was young always involved home cooked food, but little to no attention was given to setting a nice table. We had lovely china and sterling silver flatware, but my mother rarely took the trouble to use them. Unless I polished the silver, it sat, tarnished and unused in the drawer.

My sister-in-law is basically the opposite. She outsources much of the food, concentrating on flower arranging, exquisite linens and elegant serving pieces. 

The elegantly set table at the Momtrends Holiday Soiree
I strive for a mix of the two, and was encouraged to see how I could become the boss of my table at the Momtrends Holiday Soiree.

An elegantly set table featured bouquets from Teleflora, and there were examples of other holiday Teleflora bouquets throughout the room. I did a little research at home and discovered that the holiday arrangements are quite reasonably priced, and would be wonderful to send if you don't have time to make a hostess gift.

Avery labels add a professional touch to homemade gifts
The table also had serving pieces for Nambé. I have several bowls and platters from my wedding, but what is new this year is a jewelry collection, sold at Macy's. There were lovely bracelets and earrings, all in sterling silver.

Organic Smashmallow marshmallows
At the event, I also learned how I could up my game with homemade gifts. For the last few years, I've given hostess gifts like homemade bitters or infused liquor, putting them in mason jars and attaching a card with ingredients. But Avery has a whole line of labels and tags that elevate these gifts to near professional status. Maybe that is what Momtrends is up to, encouraging entrepreneurship in all of us. Could I have a business making bitters?

If you are giving gifts to teens or adults who don't drink, you could also make a custom blend hot chocolate mix. Those Avery labels could be on a mason jar filled with great cocoa and spices and you could include a bag of Smashmallow organic, gluten-free marshmallows.

The swag bag we got from Momtrends at the end of the evening included a bag of mint chocolate chip marshmallows, which would add a nice touch to a cup of hot chocolate; there is also an espresso bean flavor, for mocha lovers.

Note: I was a guest of Momtrends at the Holiday Soiree and was not compensated for this post.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Day in the Country: Thanks Lexus Performance!

The 2017 Lexus RC F fits in with fall foliage
Traffic around New York City can be so bad that many New Yorkers are tempted to stay put. Why venture below 14th St if you are happily ensconced on the Upper East Side, or explore Queens when you live in Brooklyn?

For that matter, why leave the city at all?

Well, when you handed the keys to a $100,000 Lexus performance car, you need to get on the open road. The speed limit on New York City streets is 25 mph, and on highways, it tops out at 50.  If you can even go that fast.

But on a recent drive to Beacon, only an hour or so outside the city, we were able to go 60 miles per hour! Woo hoo.

The 2017 Lexus GS F also looks great
I drove up in the 2017 Lexus GS F and back in the orange hued Lexus RC F sports coupe, which is a relative bargain. It's starting price is only $64,165.

I was excited about our lunch spot, the newly reopened Roundhouse in Beacon. In fact, the restaurant hadn't even officially opened when we went there, so we had a preview menu that offered great vegetarian choices.

The appetizer: make this for Thanksgiving!

The soup was brought to the table with just the dry ingredients; the rest was poured in table side 
The heirloom pumpkin bisque was a must; we got a bowl with some pomegranate seeds, bits of wild mushroom "marmalade," granola and a dried swiss chard leaf. Then the rich soup was poured in table side. A dramatic flourish for a delicious soup.

I made pumpkin soup for Thanksgiving, and some years, I have scattered the top with a swirl of pomegranate molasses, chopped chives and mascarpone. Then I wipe the sides of the bowl with a dish towel and give everyone a perfect Instagram-ready serving. Other times I dump a ladle full of soup in each bowl and call it day.

This year we have 28 for Thanksgiving. Guess which option I'll choose?

Second course

Roasted and raw cauliflower over a rich puree of...cauliflower
Cauliflower has become one of my most versatile vegetables. I roast it, make a rice of it that is great for a gluten free pizza crust, puree it in soups. I've also roasted it whole, which makes a great vegetarian main course.

At The Roundhouse, we had 'cauliflower variations" - it was roasted, pureed, and carpaccio, (aka raw) with parmesan, lemon and pistachio.

My kids favorite was is when I break the cauliflower into florets, dump on some olive oil and salt, and roast it till it's caramelized and soft.  Broccoli also takes to this treatment well.

I would love to spend a little more time in one of the Lexus sports cars to see the art at Dia: Beacon and try more of the local produce featured at the Roundhouse.

Note: I was a guest of Lexus, which paid for my lunch. I was not otherwise compensated; opinions and calories were all my own.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Holiday Time: KidzVuz' Holiday Gift Guide

Once, I was supermom, able to wipe drippy noses while cooking gourmet meals, read picture books aloud, with different, consistent accents on no sleep, and the type of party guest who always showed up with the perfect, locally sourced  - maybe even handmade - gift.

Now, I am just likely to order a couple of presents from Amazon and call it day.

Which is why I felt a bit out of touch, and a bit excited, at the KidzVuz Holiday Party.

Easy bake cookies

Here’s how I needed help brushing up on those parenting skills. Sweet Loren was at the event, offering samples of two of their 'place and bake' whole grain cookies. There were oatmeal cranberry (yummy and festive) and chocolate chunk.

What I craved was the peanut butter chocolate and I thought since I was late, I had missed the boat. No, it’s just - peanut butter. Allergies. Duh. That never even occurred to me, which means I need to seriously rethink my bona fides in the future when my 20-somethings bless me with grandchildren.

[Sweet Loren cookies, by the way, are all natural, with no high fructose corn syrup or trans fat. And you can bake as many, or as few as you need, fresh]

But I have lots of nieces, nephews and little cousins who would love the wares on display, particularly the Rock Band Rivals game for XBoxOne and PS4. If you had kids who took music lessons and refused to practice, then this will be your jam; it makes playing music fun.There’s a story line built into the game; you play your way through a rock documentary.

The nonprofit Heart of Haiti sold handmade ornaments to benefit the victims of Hurricane Matthew. It's always nice to spend money in a way that will help others, and the artisan gifts were perfect.

Music - for girls?

And if Disney princesses are not your thing check out the animated series SpacePop Girls. This show has short episodes on YouTube; the music is on iTunes and Spotify and merch, including books, is everywhere.

I’d love to say that the audience is free of gender constraints, especially when the producer calls it “Spice Girls meets ‘Star Wars,’” but the reality is that most boys won’t watch a show that has the word girls in the title, while girls will watch show or read books that feature mostly male leads (see: Harry Potter).

That being said, the show is cute, catchy and sure to please any budding princesses; the five teens form a band to cover their plot to overthrow the wicked empress.

And since I have’t gotten over MY princess fixation, you can find me bingeing on episodes of ‘The Crown.’

Note: I was a guest of KidzVuz and was not compensated; opinions expressed are my own.