Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Best Summer Cocktails & Mocktails

Are any of you entertaining over Memorial Day weekend? Summer is my favorite time to have people over for BBQ and drinks. These are my favorites to try this summer, and I bet most of them would taste great even without the alcohol...

Cocktails

Watermelon Basil Margarita



Vodka Thyme Lemonade



Sparkling Peach Punch



Summer Fruit Sangria



Honeydew Granita Spritzer



Mocktails

Melon Quencher



Minted Mango Tea



Blueberry Fizz



Rhubarb Iced Tea



Cucumber Lemonade



Another fun way to spruce up your summer drinks is with these amazing flavored ice cubes!

Floral iced cubes are so beautiful in a clear drink


Coffee cubes will chill your iced coffee without diluting it


Citrus cubes for OJ or mimosas


Coconut ice cubes would be yummy in anything, even a glass of milk!


Lastly, I can't wait to try lavender iced cubes in a gin drink (or sparkling water for me)



Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Organizing Photos & Videos

I know many of us constantly take pictures via digital cameras, iphones, SLRs, video cameras, flip devices... the list is endless. These days, clicking a picture is like snapping your fingers. The challenging part is what to do with memory sticks filled with adorable, incredible, cherished moments caught on camera.

Sharing Pictures & Videos
My system is not perfect, but I try to be diligent about uploading, organizing, storing and sharing media. Once the pictures are on my computer, I created folders in iPhoto (Mac software) delineating each major event. For example, "Summer 2012" or "Mexico Trip, March 2013" - from there, its easy to share photos on facebook with a simple click of the button in iPhoto. However, if you don't want to share some or all photos on facebook, but do want to share them with a group of people, the best option I've found is Picasa, Google's image sharing program which is free and pretty user friendly. You can adjust your privacy settings so they are not visible to just anyone on the internet, but only accessible to those with the link (which you can send via email).

Organizing & Printing Pictures
Having a Mac really helps me to stay organized and up to date with my pictures (although I am currently falling behind!) Whenever I create a major folder in iPhoto, I try to order pictures on a Mac Photobook. Mac makes this so easy to do with a simple click of the button that creates the book, allows you to choose a basic layout, and it will even populate the pictures for you if you are not picky about the particular layout. This is so key for me because I can hardly find the time an energy to order pictures via a photo book, and I definitely can't find the time to lay them out perfectly. If you do care about the particular layout, you can specify every detail of your photobook! For me, it's just enough to have placed the pictures in a book and push order :) The books can be hard or soft, thick or thin, and range from about $25-75. This program also allows you to order cards and prints! If you don't have a mac, you can use a service like Shutterfly or Mixbook to create similar books, order prints & enlargements, and photo gifts. Both are extremely user friendly, fun to use, and well-priced. While I'd like to print every picture I've taken, I know that's not realistic, and I try to just print the best ones as part of books. I always make books out of trips, and big events like Little J's 2nd Birthday. These make such great gifts too.

Organizing & Burning Videos
Videos are a lot more challenging to store and utilize. I find myself taking so many great video clips of my daughter, or on vacation, but storing them in a way that they will actually be found & seen is more difficult. The best way to preserve short video clips of the same theme are via iMovie, another Mac program that makes short movie projects (if I can do it, you can do it) that you can set to music, add still images, and other fun features. Again, this is a time consuming project, so I try to just make iMovies for big trips and big events. I find that it is the best way to watch video clips, or the best portions of a longer video. Without these mini movies, I fear our videos would just sit in a storage drive without anyone actually ever accessing them! I do store and organize all my videos to allow for easy access, but I only pick the best and most important videos to make mini movies with. Here are a few examples of my favorite videos that I will always cherish. This romantic video was a Vday gift for hubby, and this one was from our trip to Whistler. These are the kind of videos that I will burn to DVD (via iDVD, also by Mac) and store in the living room along with other home videos :) The rest of the videos just live in my external hard drive, hoping to get a few views from time to time.

Storing Media
Additionally, I am strict about transferring pictures and videos to my incredible back up drive which remains connected to my computer. This drive has an amazing storage capacity of 1 TB (many great options here), and allows me to create folders that are easy to drag from my computer and drop into this drive. I have it organized first by type of media (videos, pictures, etc) by year, and major life events. I have it broken down into categories like Trips, Family Events, Weddings, Little J's First Year and Miscellaneous. This last catch-all folder, is for daily, random, fun pictures that don't fall into a major category, and are labeled with timelines like Fall 2010. I have also set up daily backups of my hard drive (via Mac's Time Machine software) for the extra security.

How do you organize and share your favorite pics and videos? I'd love to hear about other programs, software or websites that I'm missing!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Recipe: Summer Salads

Since Memorial Day Weekend is officially around the corner (signaling the kickoff to summer!), I'm looking forward to fresh, summery meals, BBQ and tropical drinks. There are so many fun salad options throughout the season, especially for vegetarians. Adding fruit to a basic salad can really pack a great punch and a great cheese brings the flavors together to melt in your mouth. Below are a few of my favorite recipes.

Blueberries & Gorgonzola Cheese, tossed in Mixed Greens with Walnuts and a Raspberry & Walnut Vinaigrette


Chunky Tomato Avocado salad, sprinkled with Red Onion, Cilantro in Lemon juice with a dash of salt



Grilled Peach, Mozzarella Cheese, Green Onions in Cilantro Vinaigrette with a dash of tequila



Watermelon & Feta Salad, tossed with Spinach, Red Onion, thinly sliced Tomatoes & Avocado in Balsamic Vinaigrette (so good with fresh mint!)


Nectarines, Strawberries, Sliced Green Tomatoes & Basil with Feta and candied Pecans in a Lemon Poppy Dressing, tossed in Arugula


Grilled Corn, Heirloom Tomatoes, Black Beans, Bell Peppers & Mixed Greens in Lemon juice with sea salt


Mandarin Oranges, Almonds, Red Onion, Celery tossed in crunchy lettuce with Pomegranate Dressing
and fresh pomegranate seeds


Can't wait!! Whats your favorite summer salad?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mother's Day & BBQ

We had a wonderful, relaxing mother's day weekend in East Hampton... spending time with cousins & family, and it was such a treat to have perfect weather and tons of sunshine on Sunday. The kiddos had a great time running around, skipping rocks, and playing with my parents' dog. It was so nice to see them starting to bond!





It was a weekend filled with great food... from omelets to hearty Indian dishes, and we topped it off with a Mother's day BBQ feast!  Hubby grilled delicious black bean burgers, and we also made a grilled veggie salad over warm couscous as well as paneer kebobs. The burgers went so fast I didn't get a chance to take any pictures, but you'll have to trust me - they were yum.





How did you celebrate mother's day?


Friday, May 10, 2013

More Pregnancy Style for Spring

Many of you have asking me to post about my favorite places to shop for maternity clothes... so here are a few links to affordable, stylish clothes that you can wear on the weekends.

Adorable, comfy dress I plan to wear with cute flats!



Old Navy Jeggings fit just like skinny jeans, and come in fun summery colors. I got "Watermelon" :) Enjoy the extra 20% off through Monday. Old Navy & Gap supply all my pregnancy basics from leggings to tanks!



Perfect top with leggings or white jeans...comes in white too. Extra 30% off through Tuesday.


This plum dress looks luxurious and casual at the same time. Liz Lange for Target has great, inexpensive options.


Cute dress worth the splurge from Rosie Pope, in white and black. Also on sale!




What a cute bathing suit for the bump!



Pregnancy is a great time to focus on accessories. These necklaces would be so cute with a simple, loose tee, or even a fitted plain tunic. And the bonus is that you can enjoy these post-pregnancy, too!

Tortoise flower necklace from JCrew


Obsessed with this Kenneth Layne stunner



Sweet and powerful piece from Anthropologie



These shoes are not exactly maternity, but they definitely had a pregnant woman's feet in mind when they designed them! This is the most comfortable shoe I've ever found. I use them for weekends, commuting, heading out with little J, and everything in between. Here's the style I'm sporting lately...



Happy Friday! I'm lucky enough to not work on Fridays, but had to go into work today for a hearing. Being at work on a Friday definitely felt like this.... my sympathies to all. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Recipe: Thai Salad & Vegetable Red Curry with Tofu

I have never been successful at any of my attempts to make Thai curry, but recently decided that I was going to figure out a way to make this dish at home. I followed this recipe almost exactly, but replaced the chicken with an array of veggies, and replaced fish sauce with a combination of soy sauce and worcestershire sauce... which I think worked pretty well! I also threw in a couple of stalks of lemongrass for the flavor and aroma, and of course, added chili peppers. While it requires many ingredients, this dish was surprisingly simple to make and extremely delicious.

 


I served it with pan-seared tofu (this time, I decided to lightly fry it rather than bake) and brown rice which I lightly seasoned with shredded coconut.


Lastly, I made a side dish of a simple Thai salad - lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, grated radish and peanuts tossed in a peanut oil dressing. I sort of made this one up as I went along, but Rachael Ray has a recipe that looks great as well.


This was a great vegetarian dish, and as I mentioned, it was so much easier to make than I had thought. We basically licked our plates clean...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Being Pregnant on the Subway...


One of the perks of pregnancy is getting a seat on the subway...right? Standing up for a pregnant woman is a nice gesture and I'm always touched when someone offers me their seat. I feel akward in accepting it right away, so sometimes I do a little dance of "are you sure?" or "that's okay" before I happily accept the seat.

Lately, I have started to notice that the people standing up for me are usually women. It makes me angry to see a subway car filled with men who are too oblivious, selfish or busy to notice that the person standing next to them is very pregnant. I am about 6 months along and very visibly pregnant. None of my coats can button up across my huge belly so it's usually protruding for everyone to see. I don't think its one of those cases where someone can be unsure if I just had a big lunch, or if I'm carrying a child. It's pretty clear!! The whole situation really makes me feel like chivalry is definitely dead...at least on the subway in NYC.

So why are men not standing up? I did a little experiment in the last month, and I calculated that 85% of the time, it's women who offer their seats.  Is this because these women are more aware, observant and in tune with other women's needs? Are these men nervous to say something in case I was not pregnant? Or are they not paying attention? I don't get it. Today, I was in a crowded car that was almost all men except for one woman - who stood up soon after she saw me. Most of these men were not reading or listening to music, they did not seem to be busy -- they seemed to be staring striaght ahead. Did they miss my big belly? Were they too tired to stand up? Or do they believe a pregnant woman can stand just like anyone else can?

I try to remind myself that New Yorkers are generally polite and willing to help, especially in times of need. On the other hand, is it wrong of me to expect a seat on a crowded train during rush hour just because I'm pregnant? I generally believe it's a respectful, kind gesture to extend that kind of courtesy... and I think the same goes for elderly or disabled people.

I was curious so did a little research on the subject...seems like there are strong opinions out there! Take a look if you're curious, or as apalled as I am:

6 Reasons People Do Not Give Up Their Seats for Pregnant Women

Faking a Pregnancy to Get a Seat

Pregnancy & Subway Etiquette

What do you guys think? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Girls Weekend in Charleston, SC


I went to Charleston, SC last weekend to celebrate a close friend's bachelorette party. It was a wonderful weekend filled with girl talk, good eats, dancing and relaxing. We rented a beautiful house on Folly Beach, which is a cute, laid back beach town about 20 minutes outside downtown Charleston.


We had a great dinner at Coast in downtwon Charleston on Friday night, and continued the celebrations afterward at Cocktail Club, and then Ok-U, a fun place with great music. Saturday, we spent some time at the Charleston City Market... and admired the adorable city with horse carriage rides, quaint streets & so much history.





Some of us did yoga on the beach... and others just vegged a bit...


The highlight of my weekend was brunch at Lost Dog - the most adorable little spot in Folly Beach's tiny town. The food and drinks were delicious, and the atmosphere was fun and laid back. Plus, dogs are welcome and were everywhere! So cute.


Sweet CeCe's is a delicious, glamourous version of 16 Handles... frozen yogurt with tons of toppings!


The weather was warm, but unfortunately not as sunny as we had hoped! Still, it was so peaceful to look out on the water, and we all had such a great time. Charleston is such a charming place -- the people are beautiful, friendly, and the southern vibe (as well as the cheesy grits) really soothes the soul :)