Ode to Maxi Dress

In the Northeast United States, Summer has a way of creeping up on you.  The year begins frigid. We are pelted with ice and snow. If we are lucky, some bone-chilling winds kick in, too. They don’t call it a Nor’easter for nothing.

Spring is timid, dipping its toe in sun-soaked days… occasionally.  Otherwise rainy and quite cool. Still jacket weather. Not quite time for open-toed shoes. Not yet.

Then one day it hits you faster than a bus on Queens Boulevard. And you feel funny carrying a black leather bag or wearing anything jewel-toned. It must be Summer in New York.

I used to dread the wardrobe choices this time of year.  Most fashionable shorts are tiny, and made for girls to whom cellulite is not yet in their vocabulary.  Anything longer has you looking like an overly-zealous scout leader fixed to lead her troop on a camping expedition.  And the pleats! Don’t get me started on those.

When maxi dresses first debuted I thought that they would only suit the hipless, wiry types. Curves would ruin the lines and have a stuffed-sausage effect. Turns out, I was wrong. By far, maxi dresses are some of the most flattering garments I own. If you haven’t purchased one, you must. Not matter your body type, there is a silhouette for you.  The fabric is so light and airy, cottony. Feminine. Gone are the days of forcing myself into a pair of jeans on the warmest of days. (“Swamp butt,” be gone.)

Accessorize the hell out of them, or don’t. Maxi dress doesn’t care either way. Thank you, maxi dress. I do believe you’ve saved summer.

My Big Fat Italian Sunday Dinner

Before it turns murder weather here in New York and all we can bear to do is barbeque on the grill, I’ll share the normal Sunday tradition in my family, which involves a big pot of red sauce.  Tonight we’re having cavatelli, but really this pasta itself it not the important part, because this sauce goes with them all. So put your favorite Louis Prima song on blast and get ready to eat.

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Olive Oil

3 cloves of garlic peeled with the ends cut off.

1 28 oz can of peeled crushed tomatoes

1 small can tomato paste

A little red wine

A container of grated or a hunk of Locatelli Cheese

Add a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a large sauce pan and add the cloves of garlic.  Heat the stove on medium.  Leave for about 3 or 4 minutes until you see the oil beginning to heat up.  Do not allow the garlic to turn brown.

Add the large can of tomatoes and the can of tomato paste.  Fill the tomato paste up with water one time and dump into the mixture.  Turn the burner up to high and allow the tomato mixture to come to a boil.  Then turn down to low and cover the pot.  Let cook for about an hour.  If the sauce is too bitter, add a couple of tablespoons of red wine and let it simmer for an additional fifteen to twenty minutes. Never ever ever ever put sugar in your sauce. It will sweeten up naturally the longer it simmers.

After draining the cooked pasta of your choice, place in a large serving bowl.  My favorite way to serve this dinner is to place a helping of pasta in each individual bowl with a modest amount of sauce on top.  Top with a generous spoonful of grated Locatelli cheese.  To complete the experience, yell the names of each family member expected at dinner from the kitchen, even if they are standing next to you.

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Garlic: the elixir of life.

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Start with good ingredients and you can’t go wrong.

You’re not Supermom, but You Are a Wonder, Woman

hands

A few months ago, I left my house in such a hurry, I forgot to say goodbye to my youngest.  He was upstairs getting dressed, and I was doing my usual manic Monday routine.  It hit me on my way into the office. I pictured him at his tiny table in Kindergarten class, tearful, sullen, declining his tiny chocolate milk carton . Perhaps the teacher would ask “What’s wrong, sweetie?” And he would recount the morning when I had failed as a mother by neglecting our good-byes.  Boy, did I beat myself up…all…day…long.

I called my mother, who often serves as a confessional, and admitted my misdeed.  “He’ll live,” she stated dismissively. You know what? She was right. I came home that evening, and he bounded down the stairs and wrapped his arms around me, like every other day.

Today’s mom obsesses over perfection. Over doing everything and being everything. I often fall into this trap. I cannot bake very well, and I am not great at crafts.  When it comes to sports…also, not so good. Sometimes I let a curse slip. Sometimes I forget to sign a paper. And I’m not checking every piece of homework that leaves the house.  After much research and debate, I believe this all to be normal.  We are all imperfectly perfect.

Let’s do an exercise. Instead of focusing on all of the things you neglect to do, or “weaknesses,” think of all of the gifts you bring to your children. You know, the things that make you Mom and not an automaton.  I am a killer library partner and skilled bedtime story reader. No matter what your interests are I can scope you out the best of the bunch.  Got a report? Editor-in-chief, here. Let’s talk about your syntax.  I am a great nighttime cuddler, and I’ll watch movies with you all rainy day long. I have a limitless imagination, and I come up with all types of “Let’s pretend” games.

The next time you’re beating yourself up over some minor misdeed, or how you feel you are less than perfect, think about all of the intangible gifts you provide to your kids. Stumped? Ask your kids. I bet they know.

 

Beauty Space-Saver: Colorless Lip Liner

If your purse is anything like mine you have four or five lip liners strewn about, and when you go to reach for a pen you inevitably grab one of them thinking you can write with it.  Space is at a premium in my makeup bag, and I’m prone to more than one shade of lipstick. That’s why I think this colorless lip liner, called Borderline by Too Faced is brilliant.  It keeps lipstick from going outside the edge of your lip but matches with everything. And it’s both moisturizing and waterproof. I know, right?

Pizza a Deux: Margharita Pizza and Pizza with Carmelized Onions, Arugula, and Goat Cheese

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Pizzerias in New York are a dime a dozen, so I buy my dough pre-made from them. The rest I do myself.  If you don’t have a pizzeria near you, you’re stuck making your own dough.  Here’s a link with a recipe for that.
(Pizza Dough)

The Margharita Pizza is for the kids and the Goat Cheese one is for us grown-ups. Don’t be turned off by its name, as I was for years. This cheese is nutty and mild all at once.

Olive oil

2 lb. pizza dough, divided in half

I medium yellow onion

1 can peeled crushed tomato

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 container crumbled goat cheese

1 cup arugula

balsamic glaze (or you can make a balsamic reduction by bringing balsamic vinegar to a boil and lowering it to a simmer until it turns syrupy)

Kosher Salt

Preheat the oven to 425.  Spread each lump of dough out on a pizza pan (round and non-stick) lightly coated with olive oil.  Flatten with your fingers until each lump of dough is thin like a pancake.

For the margharita pizza, spread 2 to 3 tbsp. of the tomatoes in a thin coat on top of the pie. Leave about 1/2 along the outside diameter of the pie.  Use a pastry brush to pain olive oil along the edges without sauce.  Sprinkle kosher salt and mozzarella cheese on top.  Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Let cool slightly, and cut into triangular pieces.

For the goat cheese pizza, cut the onion into long strips.  Place in a frying pan with 1 tbsp. olive oil on medium-high heat.  Allow the onion strips to caramelize, turning a dark brown color.

Spread a thin layer of crumbled goat cheese on the top of the other helping of dough, leaving a half inch diameter on the outer edge.  Use a pastry brush to paint olive oil on the outer edge.  Sprinkle a small amount of kosher salt over the entire top of the pie. Add a bit of arugula.   Using a slotted spoon, generously place the caramelized onions over the top of the pizza.  Bake  at 425 for approximately 20-25 minutes. After removing from the onion, drizzle the balsamic glaze delicately over the top.  Cut into triangular slices and enjoy.

Makeup Must-Have: Laura Mericer Primer

One of my favorite beauty bloggers, Divya of the Conscience Fund, got me thinking about primers.  This primer by Laura Mercier has been a staple in my makeup drawer for years.  It goes on before foundation, and acts as a moisturizer, while filling in fine lines.  If I fail to use this type of primer, I wind up using up way more foundation, as it seeps into my skin.  This primer acts as a sort of barrier keeping the foundation from getting sucked into my pores.  The effect is that foundation goes on more evenly and has a kind of air-brushed effect. It’s also very hydrating and packed with vitamins. You can order this primer by clicking through the picture.

Weekday Meal: Pat’s Casserole

pat's casserole

 

This is on my steady weeknight rotation and was always on my mom’s, too. It’s so quick and the kids think it’s a treat. Again, I’m able to sneak a veggie in. Think of it a homemade version of hamburger helper. Minus those ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Makes 4 to 5 servings

1 box small shell pasta

1 lb lean ground beef

1 8 oz can of tomato sauce

1 green pepper diced

1 small onion diced

2 to 3 slices of american cheese

Olive Oil

 

Add tbsp of olive oil to a large frying pan and set stove on low-medium heat. Add green pepper and onion and cover. Sautee until peppers are soft and onions are translucent.  Stir frequently and turn heat down if necessary so onions don’t brown. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Drain fat if necessary and add can of tomato sauce. Bring to simmer and turn off heat.

Prepare elbow pasta as indicated on box. Return the cooked pasta to the pot, adding a small amount of olive oil to keep it from sticking.

Add the beef and veggie mixture to the pot of the small shell pasta and mix together.

Tear the American cheese into small pieces and add to the pot, stirring it in until cheese is melted. Serve and enjoy.

Style Crush: Isabella Oliver Maternity Dresses

There were five years between my children, and I saw maternity fashion change quick as a blink between those pregnancies.  Nearly six years after my youngest, and now being inundated with new styles to review, I have seen maternity wear go from frump to tres fashionable. No longer is there a need to wear babydoll shirts and tent-like frocks. And in my opinion, no one does maternity style better these days than Isabella Oliver. I am wowed by dress after dress, all designed with both fashion and comfort in mind.  Most flattering is the fitting and ruching that are true to their line. Although priced a bit on the high side, these chic designs are more likely to take you through multiple trimesters. I particularly like these three pieces. Stay tuned in for more maternity chic, for you stylish moms to be.

T-Shirt Dress, $159

Urban Ruched Dress, $185

Ruched Tank Maternity Dress $155