Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Everything's Coming Up Roasted

Roasted Chicken with Potatoes

Whole roast chicken is just about the simplest thing you can make for dinner, and yet, it always seems so impressive coming out of the oven. I like to think of it as the "little black dress" of the poultry world. I like to make this recipe when people are coming over for dinner because I can do all (five minutes) of the prep work ahead of time. Then, once my hair's done and I'm wearing my own L.B.D. (of the non-poultry variety), I pull the glorious, glistening bird out of the hot oven as my guests gather at the table, and I graciously revel in their admiring gasps, like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. It's all about the spectacle, people- they don't call it entertaining for nothin'. And if you throw some chunks of onion and little roaster potatoes (red or white skin are nice) in the bottom of the pan, the whole meal practically cooks itself for you. Now, that's entertainment.

Here's what you need to serve 4 people:
A whole roast chicken (3-5 lbs)
2 lbs small red or white-skin potatoes, halved
1 large yellow or white onion, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
3 tablespoons soft or melted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Course salt and pepper
2 tablespoon (total) assorted dried herbs: any combo of basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley, sage, oragano, etc. Click here for tips about buying dried herbs and spices)

Preheat oven to 425.
Put the potatoes, onion and olive oil in the bottom of a medium roasting pan (any pan with a 1" rim will do). Sprinkle with salt, pepper and half the herbs, and stir to coat.

Remove the giblets from the cavity of the chicken and throw them away (unless you have some pâté recipe you are dying to try, in which case, by all means...)
Rinse the chicken inside and out with cool water and pat dry (inside and out) with paper towels.

Sprinkle the cavity of the bird generously with salt, pepper and herbs. Tie the drumsticks together with twine, and then place the chicken in the middle of the roasting pan. Spread, or pour, the butter all over the breasts and legs of the chicken. Then, sprinkle generously with salt, pepper and remaining herbs.

Stick that sucker in to the oven and forget about it for about 45 minutes- 1 hour, or whenever the juices run clear when you pierce it in the thickest part of the thigh. Or whenever you are ready to make your entrance.

On a side note, if you are concerned that this chicken recipe is just not the one to help you accomplish your personal and romantic goals, the helpful gals at Glamour magazine published a recipe for "Engagement Chicken"- supposedly, it's so delicious that your man will almost immediately drop to one knee and ask you to spend the rest of your life with him. I'd try it, but I already have all the husbands I can handle, thanks. Let me know if you try it, though, or if my chicken recipe causes any remarkable events to transpire in your life- say, pregnancy or a promotion at work.

photo credit: thanks again for the pic, Martha Stewart.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Fake it 'Til You Bake it

I have so few vices left, really. Sure, I like coffee and butter and the occasional glass (or four) of wine, but that's not exactly lounging around in an opium den, now, is it? But the one thing that's bad for me that I can't give up is the sun. I mean, how could something bad for you feel so good? Nothing sets my mind at ease, gets my endorphins flowing, and makes me feel that all is right with the world the way a good sunbath does. And, maybe it's my California roots showing, but I truly believe that everyone looks better with a little bit of a tan. Yes, even you, Nicole Kidman. However, since I have no plans to jet off to Aruba in the near future, and Jack Frost doesn't seem to be getting the memo ("Dear Jack, SCRAM. Regards, Lily"), it seems artificial tanning methods will have to suffice until the real sun comes out. But fear not, I am not about to direct you to Lindsay Lohan's new line of fake tanners, to turn you into a walking tangerine, but to something a little more subtle: my friend, Stila Sun Bronzing Powder ($24)in Shade 2. Just brush a little of this good stuff over your cheekbones and the bridge of your nose, along your forehead and a little on your chin and jawbone- essentially think of everywhere the sun naturally hits your face when it's out (if your memory is able to reach that far back in time). It won't make you look like you just got back from Jamaica ( if that's the look you're going for, I suggest putting cornrows and beads in your hair, instead), but it will give you a glowing-from-within radiance. And, yes, it has SPF 15 in it, for you goody two-shoeses. So, can we have that summer glow now? Yes, we tan!

Friday, March 27, 2009

An "Amazing" Vid

Check out this music video by Jem- it is made using 25,632 still photographs compiled together. They save that as a reveal at the end of the video, but I'm blowing the surprise because watching it with that knowledge is awesome, and watching it without knowing that just kind of made me seasick. I dig the catchy tune, too- you might recognize it from the Sex and the City movie. Or you might not, because you're a man.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cute Outfits: Spring Day

After this eternal, everlasting, perpetual, undying, enduring, amaranthine, infinite winter, it seemed that Spring would never come. Even when the buds started appearing on the trees and baby ducklings and goslings appeared in the Reservoir in Central Park, it was still too cold to go outside without a coat. However, my good friend Al Roker informs me that tomorrow is going to be 69 degrees and sunny. I've been burned (or rather chilled) before, believing that Spring was finally here, only to get a freaky snowstorm instead, so I am hesitant to buy into the good weather propaganda (fool me once, Sam Champion, shame on you, fool me twice...). However, I am getting pretty tired of my winter gear, and a little Spring wardrobe fantasizing never hurt anyone. Hopefully, I'll see you all out in the sun tomorrow, and I'll be wearing something like this. Until then, I'll keep my down coat and galoshes by the door.

1. Green cardigan, $29.50 from Old Navy, 2. Gold braided cuff bracelet, $34, from Banana Republic, 3. Gold bead hoop earrings, $40 from Robin Woodard, available from Twist Online, 4. White bootleg jeans, $59.50, from the Gap, 5. White Mar-a-Lago leather tote, $358 from Lilly Pulitzer, 6. Yellow "Gigi" leather thong sandals, $79, from Sam Edelman available from PiperLime, 7. Red ruffled top, $30 from Nine West.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dim and Dimmer

One easy way to enhance the ambiance and mood in any room is to install dimmer switches. Even if your life isn't full of bubble baths, lingerie, and Sade, consider this: dimmers save electricity and make light bulbs last longer. And dimmers can create lighting that flatters everyone, so you can also save money on that face-lift you were considering. And, who knows, that may lead to rose petals and champagne, after all. Let the romance commence!

Most people (even avid do-it-yourselfers) are a little wimpy when it comes to electrical work- I guess it's something about the threat of painful electrocution (and possible death) that scares them off. Which is why electricians can charge you three months salary for five minutes work, and you'll happily fork it over. And listen, I'm not advocating that you do a full re-wiring of your house in a lightning storm, but there are some very simple electrical tasks that you really truly can do yourself. And this is one of them, my friends.

But first, read this:
DO NOT attempt to install your own dimmer in any of these circumstances:
1. You have fluorescent lights. You can't dim those suckers- you are stuck with that horrible unflattering light, unless you are willing to change the fixture (another easy job, but that's a whole other post).
2. Your switch controls a ceiling fan. You can still do it, but you have to get a special "ceiling fan compatible" dimmer, and follow the directions in the package.
3. Your switch controls electrical outlets, rather than a direct lighting fixture. If you want to dim a table lamp or floor lamp, there are special accessories that you can buy to attach directly to the lamp, that you are better off with. If you plug an appliance (say, a vacuum cleaner) into an outlet that is controlled by a dimmer, it could have disastrous repercussions. I'm not even really sure what would happen, but I do know that it would be bad.

If none of those warnings apply to you, congratulations, and continue!

1. Gather your materials. You will need: a screwdriver, a dimmer switch (available from the hardware store for about $12), and maybe pliers and electrical tape.
2. Go to your circuit-breaker box and turn off the power to the fixture/room you are planning to put the dimmer in. If the circuits aren't labeled, just flip the switches until the fixture goes off (then, for crying out loud, go get a pen and label the switch). Once the appropriate switch is flipped to the "off" position, you are in absolutely no danger of electrocution. Phew.
3. Remove the decorative plate from around your switch (you'll probably need a screwdriver). 4. Remove the screws holding the switch into the wall (again, using a screwdriver), and pull the switch unit out from the junction box in the wall.
5. Count the wires going in to the switch terminals- these are screws on the side of the switch unit (don't count the green "ground" wire, if there is one, though). Two wires terminals indicate a single-pole switch, and three wires indicate a three-way switch (meaning more than one switch controls the light). If you count three, stop- you will need a special dimmer if you have a three-way switch.
6. Unscrew the plastic caps attaching the wires from the wall to the wires from the switch unit. If the wires from the wall connect directly to screws in the switch unit, unscrew those screws and release the wires.
7. Connect the black "hot" wire from the wall to the black wire on the new dimmer switch, using a plastic electrical cap twisted over both wires, and securing with electrical tape. Do the same with the white "neutral" wires. In some cases, your house wires might be different colors- a "hot" wire might also be red, and a neutral wire may also be beige, yellow, or blue. When in doubt, use an electrical tester (also available at the hardware store) to discern between the wires. If your house has a third, green, wire, connect that to the green ground wire from the dimmer. If not, you can cut this green wire off the dimmer, or wrap the exposed wire end in electrical tape.
8. Once there are no bare wires exposed, push the dimmer back into the wall and into place. You may have to shove the wires back deep into the wall with your fingers in order to fit everything in, but just make sure nothing comes loose in the process.
9. Make sure the switch is right-side-up, and then screw the dimmer into the wall.
10. Go back to your electrical panel, and turn the circuit-breaker back into the "on" position. If your light goes back on, it has worked! If not, turn the circuit off, unscrew the switch again, and figure out what you did wrong.
11. Once all is well, reattach the decorative switch plate and put away your tools. Dim the lights to your preferred level, and bask in the warm glow of flattering light and the pride of accomplishment.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Big 100!

This is my 100th post! Yay, me! When I started this little experiment, I wasn't sure I would make it to ten posts, so this feels like quite an accomplishment. Thank you guys for your ongoing encouragement and readership- here's to the next 100!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

New Beginnings!

On Saturday night, we were fortunate enough to be present to witness my husband's brother, Kent, proposing to his lovely girlfriend, Ali (we were hidden inside their apartment, watching from the windows along with their close family and friends). Right afterwards, we celebrated with an Insta- Surprise Party complete with heart-shaped brownies and lots of champagne. I am so excited for Ali to become an official member of the family (and for what is bound to be an exceptionally fun wedding)! In honor of their milestone I am posting an email exchange I had with another recently-engaged friend about where to start with wedding plans.

I just got engaged. Oh my gosh what do I do next??????

Congratulations! Such wonderful news, and what a lucky guy!
Here's my advice:

1) Frankie says "Relax". First, take a couple of weeks to just enjoy being engaged and celebrate with your fam and friends. Once you start planning, it doesn't let up until the wedding, so just relax and be happy for a little while.

2) Dream a Little Dream. Have fun dreaming about your wedding and all the possibilities and really talk them out with your fiancé, so you know what's important to both of you. Think of adjectives you would use to describe your perfect wedding (some of ours were "Classic" "Homey" "Fun" and "Summery"). We also made "top five" lists of our priorities- my husband (then-fiancé, obv) cared about the church, the band, the bar, what the boys would wear, and the food. Knowing that, I made sure those things were not skimped on, and made sure to include him in those decisions. Turns out, he didn't care about the flowers or the cake at all, so I didn't even ask him about those things. (Trust me, if your families are anything like ours, you'll end up looking forward to the things that don't require a huge committee decision).

3. I Can See Clearly Now. Start looking at bridal mags and art books and non-bridal mags and blogs (my faves are below) and whatever else and gather together some "inspiration" for what you want the feeling/vibe/colors/formality level to be like. Gather the images in a binder or a folder on your computer. Even if you already have the whole thing in your head, it is really great to have something visual to show a planner/florist, etc so you're totally on the same page.

4. Step By Step. Decide roughly when and where you want your wedding to be and what size it will be, and what your budget is. You will need to have at least that much worked out before you book a venue, which should be your first step. If you are planning to use a wedding planner, jump on that early, too- every other decision depends on those ones.

5. People Who Need People. If you use a planner, she'll direct you to vendors she likes and trusts (but don't be afraid to say no- I flew in my friend who is a florist, and tried several make-up people before I found one I really liked). If you aren't using a planner, get suggestions from the venue about people they like working with. And shop around! Cake tastings are fun! Hair trials are fun! I wish I could do it all over again!

A thousand congratulations and best wishes!
Xoxo and love,

Great Bridal Blogs:

Friday, March 20, 2009


You must have done something really good, because today you get two delicious rice recipes for the price of one! And they're so economical because one bag of Arborio (short-grained) rice will make you several batches of each (not that I'm suggesting you go on an all-rice diet). So keep some in your pantry, and dinner and dessert will always be rice and easy.

Spring Vegetable Risotto
I like this recipe from Everyday Food just the way it is with a green salad on the side, but if you want something a little more hearty, you can add chunks of chicken or cooked shrimp to the risotto at the end. And feel free to improvise with other veggies- tomatoes or broccoli would be delicious additions.

You need:
2 cans (14.5 oz each) reduced-sodium chicken broth (or you can use vegetable broth if you want to make this vegetarian).
3 tablespoons butter
1-2 large zucchini or yellow squash (or both), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Course salt and ground pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1. Heat broth and 2 1/2 cups water in a small saucepan over low heat; keep warm. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add zucchini; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until zucchini is golden, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer zucchini to a plate.

2. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add onion; cook until soft, 5 minutes. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Raise heat to medium. Add rice; cook, stirring, until translucent around edges, about 3 minutes. Add wine; cook until absorbed, about 2 minutes.

3. Cook, adding 1 cup hot broth at a time (stir until almost all liquid is absorbed before adding more), until rice is tender, 25 to 30 minutes total.

4.Add zucchini and peas; cook until peas are bright green, 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining tablespoon butter and Parmesan. Serve, topped with more cheese.

Creamy Rice Pudding
I adapted my recipe by simplifying Emeril's rice pudding recipe a long time ago (I got rid of all the bells and whistles...and raisins), and I like to make a big batch which will keep in the fridge for a week. It is very rich and creamy so a few spoonfuls make a delicious and satisfying dessert that really "rices" to the occasion.

3 1/2 cups cooked medium or long-grain rice, at room temperature (follow the cooking instructions on the bag or box)
2 1/2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large saucepan, combine the rice, milk, cream, sugar, and salt. Bring to a simmer, stirring, over medium heat. Reduce the heat slightly to maintain a low simmer and cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until the mixture starts to thicken, about 30 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking, until the spoon is just able to stand up in the pudding, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Rice, rice, baby.

photo credit: risotto: Martha Stewart, rice pudding: Real Simple.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bag 'Em Up, Roll 'Em Out

Sorry for the late post, folks, but I have had the electrician here all day rewiring our fuse box, and when it came to blogging, I was powerless. Literally.

Until I can afford my own set of monogrammed Goyard trunks (oh, come on, you know you've had the same fantasy), and as long as my husband stubbornly refuses to hire a personal valet to carry my bags when we travel (so inconsiderate), I find myself seeking affordable, carry-on-sized weekend bags with wheels. Here's a little round-up of some cute wheelies that are currently available for purchase from fine online retailers. And you're sure to stand out from the pack when you pack one of these.

1. "Tropical" rolling suitcase, $99 from Pottery Barn Teen, 2. Tommy Hilfiger suitcase, $139, available from Amazon.com, 3."China Cove" canvas and leather suitcase, $335, from Halsea, 4.Gold quilted pleather suitcase $69,(so bad, it's good) from Spiegel, 5. Hurley suitcase, $90, available from Zappos.com, 6. Liz Claiborne "Bridget" rolling duffle $88, available from luggage.com, 7. Cars rolling suitcase, about $300, from Orla Kiely, 8. Diane Von Furstenburg "Marlene" black and white bag, $80, from ebags.com, 9. Yellow "jelly bean" suitcase, $185, from Flight 001, 10. Bric's "Crocco" leather rolling duffle, on sale for $265, available from ebags.com

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sweet Spring Sunshine

Here's a riddle: What is always coming, but never arrives? Tomorrow.
And, seemingly, this Spring.

In an effort to bring a little faux spring sunshine in to our apartment while my mom is in town (checking out her grandbaby), I picked up some Spring blooms at the corner store for our kitchen table. I grabbed a bunch of yellow tulips and some sweet daffodils (make sure you get them while they are still totally closed up, as they will open and bloom quickly). The flower stands are also full of gorgeous hyacinth and freesia (which smell as good as they look) this time of year.

It's a whole lot of cheer for under ten bucks. Which leaves you with plenty of your bottom dollars to bet with Little Orphan Annie about when that sun's coming out.
My guess? Tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

You'll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind. - Irish Proverb

photo credit: www.allposters.com

Monday, March 16, 2009

Welcome to the World!

I am so proud and excited to announce the birth of my first niece, born yesterday to my brother and sister-in-law, Andy and Kelly. She's a little beauty already- she's all chubby and cute like a movie baby, not funny-looking like most newborns (I can say that because there aren't many newborns who read this blog).

Sofia Brogan Fink
March 15, 2009 4:10pm
8 lbs. 12 oz.
Fingers and Toes: 10 and 10
Parents: Happily exhausted
Just Perfect.

Update: A couple more shots, demonstrating both her stunning beauty and long Elle Macpherson legs.
photo credit for last two pics: Omri Chaimovitz
Remove Formatting from selection

Friday, March 13, 2009

Video Double Feature Pt. 2

This video is a sweet statement about the collective memory of marriage.

Happy Friday!

Video Double Feature Pt. 1

I'm a big fan of Ira Glass, and his This American Life series. These little animated shorts are from the show, and, stated plainly, I think they're awesome. Though simple and amusing they are also quite poignant. This one is a statement about the responsibility of the media.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Let's Talk Shop(ping)

In these tough economic times, we're all tightening our belts and doing a little less needless spending. But let's be real: Spring is about to arrive, and a girl has to keep up appearances!

I recently was tipped off to the new phenomenon of online "members only" shopping websites that offer current designer clothes at deeply discounted prices (with different designers featured every day).

Gilt Group (www.giltgroup.com) has recently featured Catherine Malandrino and Marchesa, and today has a sale on Marc Jacobs (up to 70ish% off).

Ideeli (www.ideeli.com) currently has a sale on Ginette NY jewelry and Michael Kors Home, with YSL and Burburry on the horizon.

Rue La La (www.ruelala.com) has sales on Free People and Birkenstock today, with Betsy Johnson and Dolce & Gabbana coming up later this week.

As a disclaimer, I have never bought anything from any of them, but I have checked out the sales which seem good (although the best stuff sells out very quickly). It never hurts to have another way to discount shop.

Because they want to maintain an air of exclusivity, you have to be invited by a current "member" to visit the site. Luckily for you, I'm in with the In Crowd, and I'm inviting you now, if you want to check it out. I'm going to try to set up an automatic link from here, but in the meantime, shoot an email to acharmedwife@gmail.com and I'll send you the link.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Remember back in November, when I was waxing poetic about silhouettes? And how I was talking a big game about how I was going to try making them for my husband and myself ("A great project for this weekend", I think I said)? Well, half a year later I finally got around to it, and it turns out it's so much fun. In fact, I've become obsessed, and want to do a whole wall featuring the profiles of all of our favorite people, animals and things.

Kind of like this gorgeousness from Apartment Therapy: And, yes, silhouettes will be sized according to how important the subject is to us. Watch out, because I'm totally in love with those tiny ones.

There are two ways to make them: high-tech and low-tech. The high-tech way is to open the photo in Adobe Illustrator and outline the profile using the pen tool (on a separate layer). Fill with black, and delete the original photo.

The low-tech way is as follows:

1. Take a photo of your subject's profile with a digital camera. Here is mine:

2. Print out the photo with the size that you want the head to be. Then, use a piece of tracing paper and a pencil to draw the outline. You can chisel your chin or clean up a messy bun (like I did) a little if you want, but don't give yourself a full silhouette rhinoplasty or else you won't end up looking like you.
3. Use carbon paper to copy the silhouette on to a black piece of paper (You can get it from Kate's Paperie or Paper Source, but I just got mine at Staples). Carefully cut out the silhouette using nail scissors and an Xacto blade.
4. Mount the silhouette on white (or patterned, if you want) paper. Voila.

If you're still confused, I found fully illustrated instructions on one of my favorite blogs, Design Sponge.

I'm going to buy some cheap oval and square frames and and spray paint them glossy back and gold for my display. I'll post pictures once it's up...which, at this rate, will probably be some time next year.

So go ahead and get shady.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Whip it Real Good

One of the greatest simple pleasures in my life is homemade whipped cream. And I like my simple pleasures in large dollops, and frequently. It's simple to make and simple to enjoy- it goes with everything from pancakes to fresh fruit, and makes it all so much more delicious. Surprisingly, it has about half the caloric content of butter. Not to say that it's a health food, exactly. And not to bad mouth my dear friend butter, which I would never do.

Here's how you make it: take a 1/2 pint of whipping cream (make sure it says "whipping" on the carton, or else you'll be whipping for a long time) and pour it in a medium bowl. Add 1/4 cup confectioners sugar, and 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract. Using an electric hand mixer, beat to combine (about 2-4 minutes) until peaks form (but don't over-mix).

If you feel like getting fancy (you Jacques Pépin, you), you can add cocoa powder, almond extract, Grand Marnier, Cassis, or other flavored liqueurs to make flavored whipped creams. But, really, there's no need to gild the lily... it's most delicious at it's most simple.

We went so far as to register for one of these whipped cream makers for our wedding, and it is filled and ready to go in our fridge at all times. It's like Redi-Whip, only tastier (and classier). It makes this simple pleasure even simpler.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Groomsman Grace and Bridesmaid Bliss

A friend of ours, who had recently been asked to be the Best Man in his brother's wedding, came over for dinner last night, and was asking us what, exactly, that responsibility entailed. I am sure a lot of you will be in weddings this summer, so here's my advice, spoken from the perspective of both a veteran bridesmaid and a recent(ish) bride.

So you've recently been asked to be a member of someone's wedding party. That's where you made your mistake- you were too good of a friend to someone, and this is your punishment. It's obviously an honor to be asked to be in a friend's wedding, but it is also a big responsibility- physically, financially and emotionally. Your jobs, while simple, extend beyond wearing an ugly dress or tux and holding your friend's hair/car keys at the bachelor/bachelorette party (although those things are certainly required, as well).

Technically, the responsibilities are as follows:
Maid of Honor: plan the bachelorette party and collaborate on the shower, give a toast at the wedding or rehearsal dinner, help the bride choose bridal party attire, serve as a liason between the bride and the rest of the bridal party (answer questions and deal with logistics, etc), help the bride get ready and stay calm on the wedding day.
Best Man: plan the bachelor party, give a toast at the wedding, help the groom choose groomsman attire, serve as a liason between the groom and the rest of the groomsmen (answer questions and deal with logistics, etc), help the groom get ready and stay calm on the wedding day.
Bridesmaids/Groomsmen: Help Maid of Honor and Best Man deal with all of these responsibilites.

But there are other, some might say more important, considerations, which come down entirely to your attitude. Here's a list of the things you should remember to do in order to be the best Best Man, the most honorable Maid of Honor, or the savviest bridesmaid or groomsman you can be.

1. Show Up
This sounds obvious, but the biggest responsibility of the wedding party is to make the bride and groom feel special and happy and unstressed and to help them have fun. And in order to do that you have to be present. That means you should plan on attending the shower, the engagement party, the bachelor/bachelorette party, the rehearsal, the rehearsal dinner and the wedding, and that you should also try to be available for envelope-stuffing and making favors and dress fittings, if they ask you (or, if you want extra credit, you can offer). And be on time for all of it. Seriously. If you live far away and simply can't make it to all the auxiliary parties, you should at least pretend to try to make it and apologize a lot (and you should still send a gift to the shower, bridesmaids).

2. Listen Up
Planning a wedding is stressful- dealing with different tastes, merging two families, and dealing with the delicate business of budget can be overwhelming. Chances are, your friend is going to need to vent to someone other than their fiancé(e). Sorry, but you're that person. So whether your friend wants to regale you with the difficulties of finding the perfect ribbon, or is just desperate to talk about something- anything- other than the wedding, try to be a pal and listen. As a bonus, they may honestly ask your opinion about things, allowing you to gently suggest the less expensive hotel, or the less hideous cummerbund. But if they don't ask, don't tell. That brings me to...

3. Shut Up
Look, unless all of your friends are from Stepford, it's not likely that five women are all going to love wearing the same dress. Sure, it stings to shell out $200 for a dress that normally someone couldn't pay you to wear, but that's part of the deal you made with the devil...oops, I mean, the bride. Don't complain about it unless she genuinely seeks your input. And even then, tread very softly. Also, try to keep your feelings about what you are paying to be in the wedding to yourself. Unless the couple is really out of control with what they are asking (bachelor party in Monaco, anyone?) and you truly feel an intervention is necessary, zip it. Don't drop snarky hints, no matter how tempting.

4. Party Down...
During the wedding festivities, try to be an active and fun participant in everything. Pay attention during the rehearsal, have a good attitude during the hair/make-up part of the morning, be available to take the groom to a fun, casual lunch if he needs a break on the day of the wedding. At the reception, smile and mingle, chat with the people at your table. If asked, deliver a toast (it doesn't have to be perfect- enthusiasm goes a long way), and pay attention during other people's toasts. Ask the bride's nephew or the groom's great-aunt to dance, if it seems like they might like to.

5...But Not Too Much
Really, really, try to limit the amount you drink at the wedding events. Lord knows that open bars are tempting, and feel free to have a few drinks (it's a celebration!) but stop before you start losing control. Do you really want to be remembered as the groomsman who was wearing the tie on his head? Remember, people take a lot of pictures at weddings. Also, limit yourself even further at the Rehearsal Dinner, and resist the urge to drink a lot and stay out late. The wedding day is a big, full day, with a lot to deal with for the wedding party. In order to be the best friend you can be (not to mention, to hold your head high in that ridiculous outfit), you are much much better off without a hangover. Chalk that one up to personal experience.

If you do all these things, you will be admired and beloved by your friends, who will feel so grateful and indebted to you that they will never ask you for anything again.

Until they have a baby.

photo credit: Elizabeth Anne Designs

Friday, March 6, 2009

Trash of Genius

Although it's certainly not glamorous, I wanted to share a little housekeeping tip that I picked up from the janitorial staff at my old office.

Instead of hunting down a box of garbage bags to re-line the can every time you take out the trash, just leave a few fresh bags at the bottom of the can. They'll already be there whenever you need 'em, and should your garbage ooze or leak, perchance, you can just throw out the extra bag, and not have to wash out the whole can.

Perhaps you're thinking, "that trick is nothing new- the janitorial staff at my office does this, as well." To which I counter, "Yes, but do you do it at home?" Because, say this trick saves you 30 seconds every time you change the trash, which you do four times a week. That means that over the course of the next twenty years, you could save 36 hours. That's time you could use to write a book or learn to play the banjo, or watch one-and-a-half seasons of 24. Don't throw it away.

photo credit: Simple Human

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ask Me Anything: Rug Shopping

Last week, I started a new feature on the site, where I field reader questions to the best of my ability. The questioners get moderately useful information, and I get out of thinking up my own topic for one day, and get to act like a total know-it-all. So everybody wins. Email your own burning questions to acharmedwife@gmail.com, or leave a comment on the site, and I will do my best to relieve the burning. For today's installment, we hear from my friend, Rachel.

Lil, Where is a good place (besides the obvious) to get a good rug? Rach

Dear Rachel,
That depends on what you mean by "good" and what you mean by "obvious"...and what you mean by "good" the second time.

Ask yourself this: are you looking for a rug that makes a statement, or just for something plain and simple to fit into an already-established room décor?

High-End, Underfoot
If you are looking to invest in a truly fabulous high-quality rug (the kind that will be underfoot as you fall peacefully to sleep in your rocking chair while your great-grandchildren play nearby), now is an excellent time to do so. The current economic status has even high-end retailers scrambling to sell, with many of them marking down prices significantly. ABC Carpet, for example, has marked down prices and is currently offering an additional 15% off: enter "sale15" at checkout.

On the other hand, if you just want something to keep your feet warm on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and want it to "disappear" into your décor, there are many options for that, too. We are all lucky to live in an age where good design can be had for cheap.

Stop, Shop, Roll
The best thing to do is to peruse as many web retailers as possible to get a sense of what you like and what you are looking for (with some sites, you may have to wade through some pretty ugly options to find the diamonds in the rough). Then, if there is one near you, you are best of going into the retail store and seeing and feeling the rug for yourself. Instead of soft butter yellow, you might find aggressive mustard, and instead of thick downy pile, you may encounter itchy bristles. Best to know now. You are also better off buying the rug directly from the store and paying local delivery (or conning a friend into carrying the other end) as shipping for rugs can be exorbitant- they are heavy suckers. (One exception is Overstock.com, where shipping is a flat rate of $3 for anything).

Hug Your Rug
Once you get your rug home, make sure to put a good quality rug pad underneath it. It will keep your rug from sliding around, protect it from damage, make it feel even more cushy underfoot, and reduce floor noise for your downstairs neighbors. Vacuum once a week, and treat spills and stains quickly- the biggest trick is getting to them before they dry. You should only have them professionally cleaned every 1-2 years.

Online Resources:
Pottery Barn
West Elm
Neiman Marcus
Restoration Hardware
Pier 1
Home Decorator's Collection
Ballard Designs
Shabby Chic
Room and Board
Cottage Style Living
ABC Carpet and Home
Bed, Bath, and Beyond
Payless Rugs
The Great Indoors
Room Service Home
Z Gallerie

You'll be floored by the selection. Happy shopping!

Rugs shown above are from (left to right): Pottery Barn, West Elm, Overstock.com, Payless Rugs, Ikea, and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Spice Up Your Life

After a valiant effort at reorganizing and consolidating my spice supply a couple of weeks ago, it occurred to me that there were probably a lot of more aesthetically-pleasing and accessible ways to store them. And there are definitely a lot more economical ways to navigate the spice market. Let's explore them, shall we?

25 Essential Seasonings

Here are the top 25 spices you should have in your kitchen if you are attempting to be a proficient home cook.

1. Allspice
2. Apple Pie Spice ( a combo of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and ginger. If you have all the others you can mix your own and decrease the size of your spice rack by one).
3. Basil
4. Bay Leaves
5. Cayenne
6. Chili Powder
7. Cinnamon- Ground and Stick
8. Cloves
9. Cumin

10. Curry Powder
11. Dill Weed
12 Garlic Powder
13. Ginger- Ground
14. Nutmeg- Ground
15. Onion Powder
16. Oregano
17. Paprika
18. Peppercorns- seriously, buy a pepper grinder and grind your own. You will never go back.
19. Red Pepper Flakes
20. Rosemary
21. Saffron
22. Sage
23. Tarragon
24. Thyme
25. Vanilla Extract and Beans

*Update: for those of you wondering what was up with the funky numbering (now fixed)- I wasn't trying to send you secret messages in code. I sorted them alphabetically, and thought that the numbers would reset automatically, but apparently that wasn't the case. Sticklers!

Spices with Nice Prices
There are several online retailers that sell superior spices at way-reduced prices. I am a huge fan of Penzey's which provides delicious seasonings and great vanilla extract for a good price. Or you can buy them on an as-needed basis from the overpriced spice aisle at the Supermarket. It's up to you.

Just a Dash
I recommend only buying 1-2 ounces at a time, since spices lose their potency after about a year or two. Unless you are really into gingerbread, even in June, you aren't going to use up more than that. Smell your spices each time you use them. If they stop giving off a distinct aroma, it is time to replace them.

Nice Rack
Instead of shoving a bunch of odd-shaped jars into a drawer, why not use one of these attractive and useful storage methods? These magnetic jars can be attached to a metal plate on the wall, or just stuck onto the fridge. For a lower-priced option, you can buy these containers, and attach magnets to them with a hot glue gun.

If you have more counter space than cabinet space, the Dean and Deluca beauty pictured above is as pretty as it is functional. Or, this rotating rack keeps all your seasonings close at hand. Both of these racks are available from the Container Store. Wherever you store them, just keep them out of direct sunlight, which will age them faster. Now, that's a spicy blog post.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pot Pie-Eyed

If we're going to be friends, one thing you should know about me is that I am obsessed with chicken pot pie. There is something about that creamy combo of fresh veggies and meat and pastry that really sends me to the moon. I've never met a pot pie I didn't like.

When I first moved to New York and was living in a tiny apartment with two other girls, and was "cooking" for myself for the first time, I would eat at least two frozen Stouffer's pot pies per week (I found them far superior to the Banquet brand in flavor, and much less expensive than Marie Callender's, that dirty swindler), until I finally read the back of the box and realized that that was why my chins had doubled in number.

Since then, both my cooking skills and my nutritional sense have improved, but my insatiable appetite for pot pies has not changed a bit. In order to get my fix without going up a pant size, I have tried every "lighter" chicken pot pie recipe in the book, and I have a lot of new favorites. In fact, the only reason it has taken me so long to do a post about pot pies is because I have so many favorite recipes, it's hard to choose. So I am attaching the links to several really good ones, and I'll let you choose. After all, you can take the girl out of the tiny starter apartment, but you can't take the pot pie away from the girl (without getting a black eye).

"Enlightened" Chicken Pot Pie from SELF magazine (with Bisquick crust)
Tarragon-Cream Chicken Pot Pie with Polenta Crust from Rachel Ray (I swap regular milk for the cream)
Everyday Food's Lighter Chicken Pot Pie, with a phyllo dough crust
YumSugar's Light Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

So now you can pot your pie without popping a button.
Pot pie photo from Bon Appetit via Epicurious

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cute Outfits: Snow Day

It's such a beautiful frosty dream of a day outside (for those of you not on the East Coast, who also don't watch the news or read the paper, we got hit with 5-12" of snow last night). Makes me want to go out and play and take pictures in the Park. I'll probably end up just sporting the same old sweatpants and Ugg boots I'm wearing now and shoveling our sidewalk instead, but here's what I would wear if I had any money left to spend on clothes. Hey, anyone looking to hire a well-dressed sidewalk-shoveler?

Clockwise from top left: Cotton spandex leggings ($26) from American Apparel, felt necklace, handmade by Elsa Mora via Twig & Thistle's blog, Michelle cardigan sweater($70) and gold belt($17) from J.Crew, Blue Westbury Drawstring Opus handbag ($395) from Kate Spade, Coastal Macintosh jacket ($99) from LL Bean, Red Wellington Hunter Boots($115) from Amazon, Elsa V-neck white tee ($16.50) from Delias.