Niffy’s Nifty Gifty

21 Dec

Since most people do their holiday shopping last minute, why not do a last minute gift guide? Presenting Niffy’s Nifty Gifty…

For Your Sister Who Is Very Beautiful, Smart and Funny

For the smart, funny and beautiful sister I recommend getting her something that you want so that you can borrow and or steal it at a future date. If you are like me and inventoried your sister’s entire wardrobe, then you know the pieces she is missing and the holidays are the perfect time to fill those holes. This year I filled the “everyday day to night black bag” hole.

On sale at Barneys, click to buy

Alternative to the black bag is a Clarisonic (which I got her last year) and she got me this year. See – buy things you want for others and they may come back to you!

Clarisonic Mia in Jaguar, click to purchase

For the Parents Who Have Everything

Shopping for my parents is hard – they always say they don’t want or need anything. Even the most obscure gift, like the oyster shucking knife I was going to buy my dad, is shot down because he already has two. This predicament makes gift giving especially challenging so this year I decided to give them the gift of memories in the form of a holiday calendar filled with old family photos.

Wall calendar from Pinhole Press, click to purchase

Alternative to the old photos calendar is matching pajamas for everyone in my family which I have done in years past. It seems dopey but its actually really fun to sit around all wearing the same outfit, its like a cult!

Pajamas from J.Crew for the whole family, click to purchase

For The Boyfriend Who JUST Signed Up For Gilt Groupe

There comes a point in every girlfriend’s life when she asks herself, “am I willing to date someone who wears mesh shorts in public or am I going to have to buy him some pants?” For me that question came four years ago and now I am dating a consistently fashionable guy. Since I have created this monster, feeding the beast is important in order to consistently reach new sartorially heights. A sporty yet stylish jacket is the perfect gift that harkens back to those mesh short days without actually reverting to them.

Arc'teryx Jacket, click to purchase

Alternative to the spiffy jacket is a re-imagined movie poster of one of his favorite films in an updated style.

Topgun movie poster from Moxie Creative, click to purchase

For The Best Friend That Continues To Abuse The Blue Mercury Samples Policy

Best friends are easy to shop for because you just get them what you want since you are so much alike and bff forevaaaaaaaaa! But seriously there are so many eligible best friend gifts its hard to pin them all down. Below are a smattering of choices for the special gal in your life.

Lip scrub and balm from Blue Mercury, click to purchase

Pom pom beanie that coordinates with her hair color from Calypso, click to purchase

Cuisinart immersion blender for winter soups, click to purchase

For Everyone Else on Your List

Don’t know what to get your landlord/mailman/professor? This apple. Trust me. It is delicious, impressive, inexpensive and all around incredible.  One year (ok every year) I have ordered myself one and its my favorite holiday tradition.

Giant caramel apple from Williams Sonoma, click to purchase

Hope everyone has a very happy holiday season and enjoy all your gifts both material and immaterial!

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Wintour Sparkle

30 Nov

It is amazing to me that someone as entrenched in the fashion industry as Anna Wintour would stick to the same style season after season – and yet she does. Perfectly coiffed hair, knee length skirt or dress and a bit of sparkle around the neck.

Layered bling

Death stare bling

Federer Bling

This sort of  jewelry stick-to-itiveness seems like a rut, but who am I to challenge Anna on her style? (Please don’t euthanize me Ms. Wintour!) As someone who doesn’t have a strong jewelry gene it does seem like a good idea to just reach for the same few baubles every day and remove the guess work from accessorizing. Oh first world problems…

A quick search leads me to believe these necklaces are either Cartier or H. Stern, code for woefully out of my price range. However, I did find a few interpretations that I think would look fit the bill and make Anna proud.

A jcrew version that comes in multiple colors, click to purchase

Support crafty entrepreneurs with these etsy necklaces, click to purchase

Go for broke with Tom Binns, click to purchase

These necklaces would make an excellent holiday gift but PLEASE no one rush out to get one for me. The Tom Binns necklace is already en route…

Thanksgiving Dos and Don’ts

23 Nov

Last year my sister and I took on the task of cooking Thanksgiving for our family. Prior to this endeavor I had never made a turkey, stuffing or gravy in my life, but thanks to hours of research on epicurious, food network and any other source I could find we honed our recipes and came up with a turkey day game plan timed to the minute.

The finished bird. Notice the photo behind me where I am doing the same hand on hip 20 years earlier (and on a dude ranch)

This year we are prepared to do it all again with some valuable lessons learned from last year’s inaugural effort. Below, a list of dos and don’ts to get you through cooking your Thanksgiving meal:

Thanksgiving Dos:

  • Do pick out all your recipes ahead of time and create a schedule based on oven time and temperature
  • Do prepare a cohesive shopping list for your dad so that everything is purchased in advance
  • Do brine your turkey
  • Do have one blow up fight with your sister early on in the cooking
  • Do delegate dessert to others so that you are not completely overwhelmed

Thanksgiving Don’ts:

  • Don’t listen to your sister when she says your 20lb turkey is done after 3 hours of cooking
  • Don’t lug your ice cream maker from DC to Philadelphia on Amtrak – just buy some Haagen Daaz and call it a day
  • Don’t forget the wine
  • Don’t make “an extra mac and cheese just in case”
  • Don’t you dare think you ever have enough herb butter

This year we are going with a smaller bird, but we will definitely be using the same recipe from Tom Colicchio. It was super juicy and fairly simple once my sister pointed out that I had confused the breast side from the back of the bird (oops!)

Buttering and stuffing your bird may require an extra pair of hands

Make sure you give constant attention to your bird

Monitor temperature

Let your turkey rest a bit before carving

In addition to the turkey, we will also be serving:

I can’t wait for this gluttonous feast and I am grateful that I get to spend another year with my family and friends who I love very much.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Stoney Creek Farm

16 Nov

Sometimes this die hard city girl needs a nature break. It is extremely rare, but every now and again I crave fresh air, a good hiking trail and a farm animal thrown in for good measure. If I can get all of this and a claw foot bathtub then even better. Luckily I was able to tap into my inner country gal at Stoney Creek Farm – a gorgeous bed and breakfast an hour west from DC.

A horse at Stoney Creek Farm

I was looking for a great bed and breakfast nearby to go with my boyfriend, but so many places looked like they were decorated by Laura Ashley’s grandmother. Seriously, what is with matching cabbage rose printed wallpaper, drapes and bedding – is this a prerequisite for opening a B&B?

Stoney Creek Farm is the antithesis of chabby chic – it was modern and rustic. The proprietors are a brother and sister duo who are super helpful, make great breakfasts (caramelized banana french toast – yum!) but otherwise stayed out of our hair and let us enjoy our weekend.

During our stay we went to Antietam National Battlefield, the site bloodiest one day battle in American history, and also hiked in Cactoctin Mountain Park.

One of many memorials at Antietam

Burnside's Bridge where the Confederacy and Union armies clashed

Nearby cornfield

We had great weather the whole weekend and it was wonderful to escape the city, peep some changing leaves and get outside. The entire experience has me thinking that I might need to go country a little more often.

Carving Out a Fun Afternoon

31 Oct

This weekend my friend invited me over for a pumpkin carving party. Early on I struggled with my pumpkin until I was rescued by my friend Emily who has a hidden talent as a carver. She scooped and sculpted my pumpkin, bringing my little frog cauldron to life.

My pumpkin, with the aid of a stencil and a patient friend helping me along the way

Others were more talented than I, but my natural competitive spirit was dulled by the abundance of cider and gingersnaps provided by our lovely hostess. All in all it was a great way to spend a crisp Fall Sunday and recover from the spooky storm that struck the night before.

A few of the other pumpkins created

The pumpkin carving crew

Happy Halloween!

Line ’em up

24 Oct

Fall screams several things to me – among them are hot toddy time and boot weather.

Click the boots for more info

As a tall and big-footed woman (do I sound sexy?) footwear has always stymied me. In heels I am a giant and even in the cutest flats I can look like Sasquatch. However boots have somehow transcended these issues and are my favorite shoe to shod myself in. Luckily after years of cultivation my boot wardrobe is full – I have knee highs, to the knee, shorties and booties – but I rounded up a few potential booties for my sister and I thought others might enjoy as well.

One person I know who will hate these shoes is my friend Lea, who is always chiding me for loving a chunky heel. Lea I can’t help it, they are more comfortable! Hopefully you can look past the chunk and see these shoes for what they are – overpriced, mildly comfortable, and perfect for fall. See below on where to purchase.

Rachel comey boots
$403 – lagarconne.com

J crew shoes
$198 – jcrew.com

Belstaff leather shoes
$550 – net-a-porter.com

Rag & Bone mid heels
$495 – net-a-porter.com

Belle Sigerson Morrison bronze boots
$350 – net-a-porter.com

Supper Club

20 Oct

For almost two years, I have been involved in a weekly supper club. Each week a group of friends gather for a home cooked meal, wine and a gabfest.

Roasted asparagus from last night's dinner

Not everyone can make it each week, but the act of sitting down during a hectic schedule and eating a meal with your friends is really wonderful. Over these past two years I have had homemade enchiladas, roast chicken, meat and potatoes, Vietnamese pho and soft shell crabs to name just a few of the memorable meals I have devoured. Each week, one person cooks the entire meal and everyone else comes over and gobbles it up.

Last night I made chicken marsala, polenta, roasted asparagus and an apple galete for dessert. I had checked the weather before planning my meal and knew it was going to be cold and rainy so I wanted something comforting.

Cooking down mushrooms and onions for chicken marsala

Chicken marsala with polenta and fresh parsley

An extremely "rustic" apple galete

Supper club used to be only 3 people but the group has since ballooned to 8 people on any given night. Cooking for that many people can be hectic, especially on a week night. I have tried to fine tune my supper club skills to a science so that when it is my turn to cook it doesn’t involve into kitchen chaos. Invariably I forget something, but here are a few of my tips for cooking a big meal for a large group:

  • Check the kitchn, epicurious, milk and mode, smitten kitchen or food network for an inspiring recipe
  • Shop for the food the day before (two days is even better)
  • Do prep work the day before and make things ahead including dessert.
  • On the day of try to cook things at the same temperature or at the same time
  • Use disposable plates (eek I know, not very green, but much easier to clean up)
  • Wine will make any meal better

The best part is obviously sharing a meal with friends, but homemade whipped cream also helps.

Delish!

Unfortunately most times I am cooking for Supper Club I do not have time whip out my iPhone and snap photos, so the evidence of my previous meals is all in my belly. However here are a bunch of recipes from meals past that I really enjoyed.

Hopefully you make a meal for a few buddies soon!

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