Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In Any Event...

It wasn't my intention to take almost the whole month of February off from blogging, but somehow almost all 28 days passed by with nary a peep from me. I even forgot to post a cute picture on Valentine's day anthropomorphising my dog, like I normally do. Why, you may have been wondering, did I forsake this blog for nearly a whole month (granted, the shortest month of the year)?

It's because I have been busy starting a new business, Harrington & Luscia Special Events- I am now officially working as an event planner!  Please check out my new website (still a bit of a work in progress): (The "Luscia" part is my great friend, former Martha Stewart colleague, and business partner, Anthony, who is also an exceptional planner and more fun than should fit inside one human man).

Don't worry, I'm still keeping up the housewivery, and I still love to make/fix/clean/cook things and write about them, so I will keep up this blog and my other writing. But, in some ways, planning parties in an official capacity feels like the fulfillment of my destiny. I have always loved throwing parties- when I was a little girl, I used to make the guest lists and plan the menus for my birthday parties six months in advance, even though I had (and still have, for the most part) the exact same group of friends I made in preschool. In college, I was the Social Coordinator for my women's club, and even once erected a large white party tent myself in order to save money (good thing it wasn't windy that night). After college, I went to work for Martha Stewart Weddings magazine for five years, where I was the Real Weddings editor, and spent my days designing crafty decorations, arranging flowers, and tying thousands of "perfect" bows on programs and favors (in 2008, my own wedding was in the magazine). I've helped many friends plan their weddings and parties through the years, and had my first "official" wedding in February, which went off without a hitch!

Event planning (and wedding planning, in particular) suits me because it's creative, aesthetic work, that also feeds my appetite to be hyper-organized with lists, timelines, and spreadsheets, get to know people people and families at an exciting, celebratory time in their lives, extol the virtues of tradition and etiquette, and boss people around a little bit (but never my clients!). It's kind of a perfect fit.

We are still building and expanding the business (look for a blog on all things party and wedding-related to come!) We are planning events all over the country in the next few months, and are always excited to talk to other people in the industry, or to offer advice and help to party planners and engaged couples. So please be in touch!

Meanwhile, thanks for hanging in there with me on this blog! I promise much more frequent posts and updates in March.  (But, just in case, my dog says Happy St. Paw-trick's Day in advance).

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mise, Please

In the past few years as a housewife, I think I have grown to become a pretty competent little home cook. I can chop like a champ, whip like a whiz, and  puree like a pro. The one thing that took the longest to master, though, and that I still mess up every now and then, is timing everything so that it all is finished at the same time. Inevitably, the salmon sits out getting cold or, worse, overcooked, while I wait for the potatoes to bake through.
One strategy I have learned to combat this, is using the technique of mise en place. "Mise en place" is french for "put in place" and refers to "having all the ingredients necessary for a dish prepared and ready to combine up to the point of cooking" (thanks, Epicurious). Like in a cooking show, when the host has everything all chopped and measured in little bowls in front of them, and all they have to do is throw them together. Haven't you always wished you could cook like that? Well, you can!

When you are cooking dinner, even just for yourself, don't just flip on the stove and dive right in. Slow down, take stock of what you'll need, and get everything organized in front of you, so it's all easily reached and ready to go at just the right moment. Dice the herbs, slice the veggies, and measure all the spices into a bowl. Because I work from home, sometimes I will chop the onions or slice the carrots in the middle of the day, and cover and set them aside for dinner. If you invest in a set of small dishes, like these  Pyrex containers with lids, $14, from, you can take things right from the fridge to the stove. You can even lay out the pots and pans you will be using. It may seem like this will produce an unnecessary number of extra dishes, but if you are smart, and combine ingredients that can be added at the same time, and reuse bowls, you'll be surprised at how much work it saves you in the long run. I keep a small bowl of chopped parsley in my fridge at all times- I pull it out and use it over the course of a week, saving myself precious herb-chopping time every week.

You'll be amazed at how much more fun cooking is when you aren't scrambling to mince the garlic before the sauce burns on the stove- you will truly feel like the star of your own cooking show. It's up to you whether you want to narrate your actions into an imaginary camera as you go, like I do. Bam!

Top photo: Ranger Mike Designs

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Striking Idea (with Guest Blogger Lea)

 Out of the blue this week, I got an email from my childhood friend, Lea (who you might remember from this post or this post), with a couple of pretty great ideas for blog posts (with even the photos included!) that she just whipped up 'cause she felt like it. I have been busybusybusy (so what else is new?) and this little unexpected surprise arrived in the nick of time. Check out yesterday's post for the best method for cleaning waxy, smokey, dirty old glass votive holders. And read on today to see some of the unexpected ways Lea has used them around the house.  Candle holders: They aren't just for holding candles anymore. Thanks, Lea!

I hate throwing things away and, just like my mother, I have nightmares of landfills filling up. So, instead of trashing the old votive candle holders I collected for my wedding, I cleaned them and repurposed them. I even turned a hexagonal votive into a great matchstick holder and striker- just the thing to accompany all those candles. Here's how to do it: 

Step 1: Cut the striking strip off a box of all-purpose strike anywhere wood matches.
Step 2: Use an all-purpose glue stick to adhere the strips to the side of a glass holder. 

Step 3: Wait until glue dries,  then fill the votive with matches. Much cuter than a matchbox, you can keep this match holder close at hand for whenever you need a light. It's one way to really strike a bargain.

And even if you aren't feeling quite so crafty, you can find a million uses for glass votive holders all over the house. Votives are so pretty, match with any decor, and are very useful for holding all sorts of things. They make great bud vases, cotton swab holders, toothpick holders, mini bins for office, sewing, or art supplies, and whatever else you can think of (the possibilities are endless).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Rock the Votive (with Guest Blogger Lea)

Out of the blue this week, I got an email from my childhood friend, Lea (who you might remember from this post or this post), with a pretty great blog post that she just whipped up 'cause she felt like it. I have been busybusybusy (so what else is new?) and this little unexpected surprise arrived in the nick of time. Plus, we're only a couple weeks away from Valentine's Day, and who couldn't use a little cheap, romantic candlelight in their lives? So bust out those gross, burnt, waxy, old glass votive candle holders you were going to throw away (or pick some used ones up for next-to-nothing at a thrift shop- they look great mixed and matched en masse), and give them a new lease on light (see what I did there?) PLUS: check in tomorrow to see a few unexpected uses Lea has found for her votives (including one brilliant craft project I wish I'd thought of).  It'll be all the candle you can handle.  Thanks, Lea!

 Every year, before the holidays, starting from when I was a child, I have made it my job to clean all of the votive candle holders in the house and get them looking fresh and new and ready for the season. I've always liked this job because it's a big mess/project/production and I get to experiment with different ways to remove candle wax. And when I was finished I loved the atmosphere that candles brought to the house.
I tried many different approaches: Melting off the wax in hot water on the stove (what a mess...), putting the candle holders in the freezer and then picking off the wax (works OK for big pieces of wax but does not leave a clean look), scraping the wax off with a butter knife or fingernails (ouch!) or razor blades, or using hot water from the faucet to soften the wax. All of these approaches were difficult, time consuming, and always left me with a terrible waxy mess to clean up afterward.
 I was married a little over a year ago and I wanted to have a candlelit dinner as part of the celebration. Lil (a.k.a A Charmed Wife)'s mom had 50+ glass votives left over from Lil's brother's wedding that she said I could have. I was up for the challenge of cleaning them, but I knew I needed a better method.
What I came up with put all of my previous years of work to shame! It is very simple and effective (at least for glass votives) and best of all... it leaves no mess! Here's what you do.

Step 1: Put the oven on VERY low (100 to 150 degrees F) because you don't want an oven fire, and place all of your votives on an old baking sheet. (note: I did once cause an oven fire in my mother's oven when I was trying to make new candles from old ones and beeswax crayons... The oven was on WAY to high but luckily there was a fire extinguisher nearby... what a mess... sorry mom, you were so patient with me, I love you).

Step 2: Once they are warm and you can see some melted wax, remove only one of the votives from the oven with an old oven mitt or pot-holder (take care not to burn yourself) and pour the melted wax into an open paper bag that you have already set in the trash. 

Step 3: Next use paper towels or cut up old t-shirts or paper napkins (I hold on to unused takeout napkins and keep them in a drawer -just like my mother does- so I can use them for dirty jobs such as this) to wipe away the left over wax and any soot or dirt and !VOILA! you are done!

4) Repeat for all of your votives, throwing away your wiper into your paper bag when it gets to much wax on it. If any wax got on your baking sheet you can also just wipe it of:) Don't forget to turn off the oven, something I always need to remind myself to do, or else my husband reminds me with a worried look in his eye.

5) After this process, your votives will be very clean and ready for new candles. If you want them extra sparkly or if you want to repurpose them (check in tomorrow for some novel ideas), just wash them like dishes.  I hope this gives you a motive for cleaning your votives!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rubber Match

In case you have been in a coma, or had your arm stuck in between two boulders since September (welcome back, by the way!), or something, you probably have noticed that this has been a pretty crumby winter in New York City, weather-wise. It's been really snowy and cold and slushy and mucky and generally awful. Which usually I don't mind, because it gives me a good excuse not to wear heels when I leave the house (almost never), and to instead wear my black rubber Hunter wellington boots.  I happen to love these boots because, whenever I put them on, they make me feel like the lady of an English manor going out to oversee the grooming of my horses, even when I'm really just going to CVS to buy toilet paper.
However, lately, my charming ladylike rubber boots have started to look a little worse for wear, what with the mud caked on them, and the water spots, and the rubber "blooming" some weird white powder at the seams. I still feel like I'm in an English manor when I wear them, but now I'm more like the disheveled old squatter who mucks out the rabbit cages.
So, I started to wonder about cleaning my boots. What, pray tell, I asked myself, shall I use to spiff up my wellies? (obviously, I was speaking in a British accent when I said this).

AND THEN inspiration hit me like a ton of rabbit pellets in the face- what else is made out of rubber and gets mucky and muddy and needs to be cleaned? That's right- tires! I hopped right out and bought some Mothers Tire Shine (That's just what they had at my store- I am sure other brands, like Armorall, would work just as well). Spray the polish onto a clean soft rag and rub it into the boots. Let them sit for 10 minutes, and then use a dry part of the towel to buff them to a bright shine. You'll be back to feeling like your royal self again, in no time, your ladyship.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Save Your Skin

As I've mentioned (confessed, really) before, I have worn the same makeup types and brands for so many years, it's amazing that most of them are still in production.  I recently had to stock up on some discontinued lipgloss on eBay- a pretty gross thought, really, but desperate times call for, well, pre-owned lipgloss. However, I recently was looking through photos of myself on Facebook (oh, come on, you do it, too) and I noticed something disturbing- I have a tendency to get shiny a few hours after I get made up. And not in that pretty-fresh-dewy-glow way (more in a I-just-rubbed-a-slice-of-pizza-on-my-forehead way). I first noticed this issue in a series of photos from my friend's wedding last summer (witness the horror at below right), but I consoled myself that it was a warm summer day, and I was probably just a little overheated. But my distress increased as I flipped further and further back in time, and realized this has been a bit of a chronic problem. Like, since forever. How did I not know this about myself, you ask? I'll tell you how- denial. It's powerful stuff, people.
And as if that wasn't enough, this discovery coincided with another unpleasantness, which was the arrival of my first legitimate facial wrinkles. Pretty much the same day that I stopped getting zits with regularity, my skin decided to inflict a different kind of punishment on me, in the form of smile lines and crow's feet (which can also be spotted in the photo at right). Ugh. It became clear to me that I needed to add a new weapon to my grossness-fighting arsenal. Luckily, my friend T, whose make-up skills have evolved since college, showed up just in the nick of time with exactly what I never knew I needed: BareMinerals powder foundation ($25, from It's a super-light and natural looking powder that looks and feels way better than a liquid foundation; it just gently masks the flaws and leaves you looking like you. And it's SPF 15, too, so it actually prevents more wrinkles! Plus, it's made entirely out of natural minerals that won't poison you or clog your pores, and cause the acne to show up to the party, too, when you fall asleep with your make-up on (which I never do, particularly not after friends' weddings). My only suggestion would be to try to get to a Sephora store, or a make-up counter that carries BareMinerals to make sure you pick the exact right shade for you (there are 20 to choose from)- the only thing worse than a wrinkly oil-slick is the Kabuki mask of wrong-color foundation.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sweater Weather

I grew up in California, and, in case you were wondering, what the Beach Boys and Katy Perry have told you is true about us California girls.  I was tan and wore flip-flops, shorts and bikinis all year. There was nary a boot, turtleneck, or scarf to be found within 100 miles of my closet. So, needless to say, when I moved to Boston for college, I was more than a little out to lunch and wildly unprepared for winter. Suffice it to say, I brought twelve sarongs with me, and zero coats.
The first day it really got cold that fall, I had to wear all of my clothes at once in order to keep from freezing on my way to the dining hall. Over the course of that year, I picked up a thing or two in the classroom, but what I mostly acquired was a collection of sweaters, which the intervening years of my east-coast residence have only served to multiply. And, strangely, I have come to love sweaters. The problem with sweaters, though, is, unlike sarongs, you can't just throw them in the laundry. And, if you, um, glow like I do when the radiator kicks on, dry cleaning can get rather pricey. Luckily, after years of trial and error, I discovered a method for washing my wool and cashmere sweaters at home, which leaves them cleaner, fresher, and softer than dry cleaning.  Which is good, because I now pretty much wear a daily uniform of jeans and cute sweater from October until May. The rest of the time, I'm back in shorts and flip-flops. After all, you can take the girl out of California...

 Step 1: Fill your sink with hot or warm (you heard me!) water and a squirt of Dawn, or another gentle dishwashing liquid, and carefully place your sweater in it. Contrary to popular belief, hot water is not damaging to wool, but regular laundry detergent (even Woolite) and agitation ARE. So avoid the urge to swish or agitate the water once you have put the sweater in, and just let it soak until spots are dissolved. 
 Step 2: If your washing machine has a Delicates setting for "Rinse" and "Spin", you can move your sweater into the washer and use those two cycles to, well, rinse and spin it. If your washer doesn't do that, gently drain the soapy water in your sink, and refill the sink with warm water a few times until the sweater is rinsed. Then, carefully transfer the sweater to a dry towel and roll the towel until the sweater is just damp.
Step 3: Transfer the sweater to a dry towel, and lay it out flat, in the shape the sweater will be worn. Allow sweater to dry completely before folding and putting it away.  See- no sweat!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this:  To rise above the little things.  -John Burroughs