Thursday, September 30, 2010

Top 10 Songs Currently on Repeat

 When I find a song I like, I tend to play it to death.  As in, three listenings in a row while on the Metro.  As in, belting it out multiple times while cleaning the bathroom.  Music has always been a big part of my daily commute; when driving Haley to and from high school during my junior and senior years, we loved dueting on Rocky Horror Picture Show and various Me First and the Gimme Gimmes covers.  Once I sold my car during the move to DC, I started packing my iPod shuffle to keep me company during walks to and from Anthropologie or jogs to the White House.
The following ten songs are my favorite to listen to, several times, on my walks to and from Catholic.  I can't get them out of my head!

1. "Melody" Kate Earl
2. "Colourless Colour" La Roux
3. "Make Her Say" Kid Cudi
4. "Locked Inside" Janelle Monae
5. "Good Ol' Fashion Nightmare" Matt and Kim
6. "Jump" Glee cast
7. "The Way I Am" Ingrid Michaelson
8. "These Girl" Childish Gambino
9. "Kids" Sleigh Bells
10.  "Miss America" Something Corporate

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Okay, I'm going to be honest with my opinion on this book, which was the most recent pick for my book club:
I really did not care for it.
There.  Wow, I feel great getting that out into the open.
This best-selling novel by Steig Larssen has been a topic of discussion since it was released in 2005, and has two sequels.  There are two plots: the first is centered around the strange disappearance of Harriet Vanger, an heir to the well-known Vanger company; the second plot revolves around the male protagonist's desire to prove that a powerful Swedish businessman is, in fact, a crook.  Henrick Vanger's beloved niece mysteriously disappeared from his life nearly 40 years ago, and his poor health and old age have encouraged him to enlist the help of investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist.  Mikael is reeling from a guilty charge for publishing a libelous article about Wennerstrom, a Swedish billionaire and businessman.  Vanger promises to tell Blomkvist some dirt on Wennerstrom in exchange for his help in solving the case of the missing Harriet.  Along the way, Blomkvist picks up Lisbeth Salanader, a young punk computer prodigy who helps bring together the missing links in both cases.
Now, if you haven't already read the book, I do think that it's worth the time to pick up the first and develop your own opinion on the characters and themes.  I hate to spoil too much of the plot, but my biggest problems with the book dealt more with the characters.  I found Lisbeth to be unsympathetic, and every woman Mikael comes in contact with falls deeply in love with him, a trait that gets boring.  Not much is given on Lisbeth's backstory, although I'm told that she has more development in the following novels.  The plots themselves did not seem to match up, and I found it odd that Larssen included both within the same pages.  And, in case you've heard that the book is violent and has some disturbing passages, that's absolutely true.  During some readings at breakfast, I had to stop eating cereal because I felt a bit gross with myself. On the other hand, any book that elicits such a strong reaction can't be wholly bad, and I'm glad to have given the trilogy a shot.
I will not, however, be checking out the rest of his works.
P.S. Happy 100th post!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ruffly dots

Blouse: Catherine Malandrino
Skirt: F21
Clutch: Vintage
Heels: Nine West
I moved to DC and knew a very small handful of people: John Paul, his sister, and my best friend Jessilyn.  After a bit more than two years, I've met such amazing people and have great friends surrounding me; I'm so lucky! 
Two of our friends will be getting married soon, and we went to a brunch at Blue Duck Tavern on Saturday to celebrate their union. So, I get to be lucky for another reason, and it involves getting to eat completely decadent and delicious food for almost four hours with some of the most beloved people in my city. We chowed down on baked cherry-stuffed pancakes, rockfish dip and croissants, and homemade peach ice cream, oh my!

It was great to have an excuse to wear this outfit, which is absolutely one of my favorites. The top is superformal without being stuffy, and the clutch is incredibly soft black velvet with a gold chain. It's great to show off the legs while it's still warm enough to do so!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Asparagus-Gruyere Tart

Oh, I loooove this savory tart.  It's supereasy, looks incredibly impressive, and can be eaten alone or with a simple salad.  There aren't many ingredients, and everything comes together beautifully.  Gruyere cheese is a little smelly, salty and pairs really well with the asparagus.  The two go on top of buttery, flaky puff pastry.
It's one of my favorite easy things to throw together, and you'll love it!

Asparagus-Gruyere Tart (from Everyday Food)
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 c. Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 1/2 lbs. medium asparagus
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400. On a large baking sheet, roll out puff pastry to a 16x10 in. rectangle. Lightly score pastry dough 1 inch from the edges to mark a rectangle and use a fork to pierce the dough inside of the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
2. Remove pastry shell from oven and sprinkle with Gruyere. Trim bottoms of asparagus to fit horizontally inside the tart shell, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, 20-25 minutes.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Old Lady Furniture Shopping

Tank: Arden B.
Cami and vest: Gap
Leggings: H&M
Sandals: Steve Madden
My man and I spent last Sunday looking at furniture and home stuff in Logan Circle; are we old for thinking that's actually a good time?  We're in the market for some new accouterments for when we move into the new place in mid-late October, and having a blast figuring out how to decorate everything.

The weather was beginning to feel like fall over the weekend, but it's back into the 90s this week. I'm really looking forward to wearing long pants again; it's been skirts and shorts since May!

P.S. How much do you love that black swan in the first photo?! I swoon.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Steak and Onion Sandwiches

Every time I post a vegetarian recipe, I can hear my Aunt Nesi in the background saying, "I'm a carnivore, Abbi, where's my meat?!"  And she's right; there's nothing wrong with indulging in a little steak every once in a while.  If I'm going to have some red meat, though, I like to do it with lots of know, to balance out the protein.  Add a little caramelized onion, a couple slices of cheese, and I'm in nirvana.  Obviously, top this sandwich with whatever makes your skirt fly up: mustard, homemade mayonnaise, tartar sauce...

Steak and Onion Sandwich (courtesy of John Paul, cook extraordinaire)
For 2 people:
2 onions, sliced into strips
4-5 shakes of Worcestershire sauce, to taste
1 ribeye steak, sliced thin
2 ciabatta rolls
Salt and pepper
1. Toss onions into olive oil and soften in a large sautee pan over medium heat, about 15 mintues.
2. Remove onions from pan, and cook steak until opaque, in batches if necessary. Remove to a plate until ready to assemble.
3. Without cleaning pan, put onions back in and turn heat up to medium-high. With a wooden spoon, scrape off burnt parts of the steak in order to "preserve the essence of the meat" (JP's words, not mine!) and add Worcestershire.
4. Toast rolls.
5. Pile a ton of onions onto rolls, top with steak and your choice of toppings. Eat with your hands, like a caveman would!


Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Remember a couple of weeks ago when I recommended The Hunger Games?  It's a trilogy by Suzanne Collins about a young girl's fight against a totalitarian government.  Mockingjay is the last book of the trilogy, and I am incredibly torn about what to reveal.
Here are the things you can know whether you've read the book or not:
1. Katniss Everdeen is the heroine of the Hunger Games for two years in a row.
2. The Capitol puts on the Hunger Games each year, in which two young citizens from each of the 12 districts are pitted against each other in a fight to the death.  Finally the citizens get sick of it and rebel, choosing Katniss as their spokesperson.  This is a role that Katniss isn't sure she wants.
3. Katniss isn't sure who she should spend her life with: Gale, her lifelong friend from the 12th District, or Peeta, her fellow Hunger Games player.
4. The entire trilogy deals with themes of familial loyalty, how to think in morally ambiguous situations, and the effects of war.
This book has the same quick pacing of the first two, but focuses even more so on Katniss' role as rallying point for the rebels and her decision to go against authoritative figures.  The third book ties up the loose ends, although not in the happiest or most positive way.  Collins has written a fabulously enthralling science fiction, and I was so sad to close the pages on these great books.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


X-Men Tee and sequin skirt: Thrifted
Heels: Nine West
Clutch: H&M
Watch: Michael Kors
My man looooves comic books; I, in turn, looove wearing comic book T-shirts.  It's my little homage to John Paul, and I like to think that he loves me a little more when I show Wolverine some respect.
John Paul, Summer and I went to a happy hour on Friday night, and I couldn't quite decide whether to go for casual or dressy.  I think this outfit combines the two quite well, and I didn't even have to change shirts to go to bed after Circle Bistro.  Yes, please!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Summer Corn Soup

There is a picture of me as a wee Abbi, in which I have fallen asleep in my high-chair right into a plate of corn.  Clearly, I have long adored the sweet taste of summer corn.
My wonderful mom, knowing this tidbit, suggested I try this easy soup recipe.  It's got lots of quinoa, so the protein is covered, sweet corn, basil, and is topped with some tangy feta cheese.  This is an absolutely delicious meal, especially when sopped up with some freshly baked bread.  Because I did not read the recipe through before making the soup, there is no zucchini in my version, and I used frozen corn in order to save a bit of time.
Thanks Mom for turning me on to this delicious soup!!

Summer Corn Soup with Quinoa (from Delicious Living Magazine)
3 c. frozen corn
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 ounces minced fresh basil
1 ounce crumbled feta cheese

1. In a deep pot, heat olive oil. Add onion and garlic. Sauté until softened.
2. Add broth; bring to a boil. Add quinoa; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes.
3. Add fresh basil and corn. Simmer 8-10 minutes. Serve hot with feta cheese sprinkled on top.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Lovely lavender

Dress and clutch: H&M
Shoes: Marc Fisher
Oh, I love date night!  After getting my first paycheck on Friday, I treated John Paul to a romantic dinner at an Italian restaurant in Georgetown, and wore this great new dress for the occasion.  It's the perfect shade of lavender, and I wore these old sandals to jazz it up a bit.  They're silver with a wood heel; not great to walk in, but fun to look at!
We ate at Il Canale, near the C&O Canal, and were pretty impressed with the food. Although we had appetizers and dessert, I would have been totally happy with their delicious brick-oven pizzas with smoked buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto. They're almost big enough to share, if you're feeling generous.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Banana Rum Layer Cake

A couple weekends ago John Paul and I were invited to a lovely rooftop barbecue, and a friend informed me that the couple throwing the shindig is very gourmet.  With that tidbit, I knew that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Oreos were out of the question.  I broke out the big guns: two banana-rum layers with ganache covering everything.  Not only did we not bring home any leftovers, but I'm still getting compliments on it!  If there is an event and you need to impress, break this out.

Banana Rum Layer Cake (from Nick Malgieri's The Modern Baker, 2008)
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 large eggs
1 c. mashed bananas (about 2 large bananas)
2/3 c. milk
1 Tbsp. dark rum
1 1/3 c. heavy whipping cream
1/4 c. corn syrup
1 lb. semisweet chocolate
4 Tbsp. butter, very soft

1. Set rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and mix well in a small mixing bowl.
3. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, sugars and vanilla until lightened in color and texture. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. In a separate bowl, stir bananas, milk and rum until well-blended.
5. With the electric mixer set to low, alternately add flour and banana mixtures until everything is incorporated. Increase speed to medium and beat the batter continuously for 3 minutes.
6. Divide batter equally between 2 round, well-greased cake pans. Bake until layers are well risen and deep golden, 25-30 minutes.
7. Cool layers in pans for 5 minutes, then turn onto racks to finish cooling.
8. While the cakes are baking and cooling, combine cream and corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When heated through, add chocolate chips and stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in butter until incorporated and shiny. Cool in fridge for 1/2 hour.
9. Place a dab of ganache onto a cake plate. Put one layer over it, and pour enough ganache just to cover the top. Place the other layer on top, and cover top and sides with ganache. Put cake in fridge to set the frosting, then serve!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Line

Olga Grushin has crafted a lyrical novel set in Communist-era Russia.  A specific year isn't given; the important thing is that people are oppressed and in need of hope.
A line forms outside of a kisok one winter day and, though no one knows what is being sold, citizens queue up.  One woman, Anna, hopes for something frivolous, like a cake or perhaps an orange.  After one week, the line is still going strong and rumors begin to swirl that an exiled composer will be returning to his native soil to perform a new symphony.  Anna, her husband and teenage son begin to take turns waiting in the line, which extends for months, from 10A until 2A.  Alexander, her son, befriends an older gentleman in line who claims to be a distant relative of the composer, while Sergei, her husband, suffers a bit of a midlife crisis.  Anna's mother, who hasn't spoken for years, tells stories of her past life as a ballerina, which her family hears through the walls.  In the end, all four of them become more honest with each other; perhaps they need that more than concert tickets.
The only negative thing I can say about this book is that the language is a bit overly flowery at times; in that respect, Grushin has stuck to her Russian roots.  The story itself is engrossing, and beautiful in its simplicity.  I guess the point to be gleaned from all of this is that hope in anything, or anyone, can sustain us through some pretty miserable experiences.  Because it is Russian, don't expect any overly happy moments, but there are beautiful instances of humanity within the pages of The Line.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Girl is All Right

Sweater: J. Crew
Skirt: J. Crew
Wedges: MIA
Necklace: Thrifted (but I tell people it's an old family heirloom)
Clutch: In My Vast Spare Time (birthday present from my mom, check them out!)
John Paul and I went to a matinee of The Kids Are All Right, and I love this outfit for an afternoon out.  It's casual and comfortable, but the shoes elevate the whole ensemble.  The movie was excellent; the acting is absolutely phenomenal, Mark Ruffalo is smokin hot, and I laughed out loud and felt my heartstrings pull a bit.  Rent it as soon as it comes out on DVD, or catch it while it's still in theaters!

I guess the official gift for my family's 24th birthday is a clutch, because both Haley and my mom got me very cute handbags. This one is canvas and perfectly adorable, with colorful birds and a bright red ring on the zipper. I'm enamored with it!


Monday, September 13, 2010

Marina and Young

 Last Monday, we went to the 9:30 Club here in DC to see two great acts perform: Young the Giant and Marina and the Diamonds.  It was a great way to spend Labor Day, and John Paul and I had great second story spots to catch the whole thing.
We got there early enough to snag some 9:30 cupcakes from Buzz Bakery.  They were sooo good!  Chocolate cake with a cream filling and a double chocolate frosting is always a good combination to me.
Young the Giant is a a mellow rock group from SoCal.  We saw them open for Minus the Bear back in May, and were blown away by their stage energy and how great their music was live; when we saw they were opening for MATD, it clinched the deal.  Check them out here, and definitely see them live if you get a chance.  They wandered around the club after their set, and were so friendly and appreciative of their fans.
I completely fell for Marina and the Diamonds when I saw her video for I Am Not A Robot.  It's crazy catchy, and the rest of her debut album is fabulous.  She's quirky with a powerhouse voice; I absolutely enjoyed her entire set. 
Marina played all of her singles and did a great cover of 3OH3!'s "Starstrukk."  So much fun!
Oh, and Luke came with us and got some slammin' new glasses.  As you can see, he's really excited to be wearing them.  (Oh No! is Marina's new single.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Girl's Best Friend

Hat: H&M
Button-down: J. Crew
Skirt: F21
Shoes: Converse
Mia just matched this outfit too perfectly to leave her out!  

John Paul and I headed over to Summer and Luke's wonderful new apartment for brunch last Sunday, and I took the temperature dip into the high 70s to mean it was time to break out the knit hat. Brunch should be a step up from casual, but as we were eating at their place, I wore the ol' lo-tops. They're well-loved, and shoes don't come more comfortable. Isn't it great that they really look better worn-in? The shirt is an old sale find, and the skirt dresses the whole outfit up a bit. I felt a bit downtown chic, and the forgiving elastic came in handy when it was time for seconds on the biscuits and gravy!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Welsh Scones

 If I find myself in a coffee shop in need of a snack, I generally grab a scone.  They're crumbly and a little dry, so pair perfectly with tea or coffee.  It's just never occurred to me to actually try my hand at making scones; I thought they would be complicated and take an incredibly long time or something.
Thanks to Nick Malgieri, whose book is really changing the way I look at baking, I gained the confidence to make scones in my own kitchen.  Seriously, they couldn't be easier, and take a total of 30 minutes to bake.  Scones are great served with butter and jam along with tea or coffee.  John Paul and I had them with blackberry jam and fruit salad; yum!

Welsh Scones (adapted from Nick Maglieri's The Modern Baker, 2008)
2 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 large egg
1/2 c. milk
1. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450.
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt in a food processor fitted with metal blade and pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture is mealy, but dry and powdery.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and milk.
4. Empty processor into a medium bowl and use a fork to combine the egg mixture with the flour mixture, until flour mixture is evenly moistened.
5. Gently knead dough 4-5 times, until it is smooth. Divide dough in half and press each half into a 6-inch disk. Place both disks onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
6. Use a knife to score each disk into 8 wedges, not cutting all the way through. Bake until they are golden and firm, about 15-17 minutes.
7. Slide disks onto a platter and break apart. Enjoy!