- Chantez et vous trouverez votre chanson -

Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.
     -George Bernard Shaw

It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves- in finding themselves.
      -Andre Gide

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I'm domestic, who knew? The Pecan Pie Adventure

It's one of those classic stories from my childhood that I'm still teased about - one time while trying to make chocolate chip cookies with my best friend, we didn't read the recipe correctly and put a 1/2 cup of baking soda in the batch instead of a 1/2 teaspoon. Salty and disgusting, it was determined that I was not a baker.

Over the years I've learned how to cook various things, and when provoked, I really can cook a nice meal. Problem is, I'm not provoked enough and the "kitchen" in my studio apartment is literally the size of a small recessed closet, so it's extremely difficult to make anything of substance in there. I'm a work in progress and still waiting to figure out what kind of cook I'll be when I "grow up."

My mom is what I'd call a good midwestern cook - she loves the crock pot, her top dishes are meatloaf, chili, baked mac 'n cheese, and homemade soups/stews, and she's known for her crunchy fudge sandwiches (a butterscotch and chocolate version of rice krispie treats - yum). And somehow, she didn't know until about 5 years ago that garlic came in other varieties than powdered seasoning. My dad is the grill master - he loves his classic Weber charcoal grill, and uses any opportunity to bbq. Every year we do our Thanksgiving turkey on the grill in fact, and it never disappoints.

In college, I dated an Italian guy, and discovered all sorts of delicious foods I hadn't been exposed to previously. I never thought I'd learn to like anchovies or olives, and never realized just how delicious a good veal cutlet was. My stomach grew 3 sizes while we were together. I acquired so many great recipes from his grandma and impressed my Irish/German/French/Dutch/English family (I'm basically the European Union) on vacations with alige, mashed chi-chi beans, zucchini pie, and sauteed vegetables.

Living in France, I learned the value of eating real things versus synthetic and processed foods. There is no substitute for real butter, herbs, cream and sugar - if you're gonna do something, do it right. Helping the chef Bernard in the kitchen of the monastery in the mountains, I saw the care he put into each dish, and the joy of creating a meal from scratch and presenting it to others.

I try to take something from all the great cooks that have touched my life, but I've never conquered baking. I don't have as much interest in it (I have a latent sweet tooth, and I'm a mindless eater, so it's best for me not to make or buy sweet treats) and I'm always afraid of screwing it up. With cooking, you can sort of fudge your way through things, but not so with baking - one little mistake and the whole thing gets messed up!

This Thanksgiving, however, I decided to learn to make a pie. I wanted to pick an interesting one to be my sort of "signature." I decided on Southern Pecan Pie. Yes I knowww it's like one of the sweetest, worst-for-you pies, but if you only eat it once a year, it can't be that bad. Plus, it's delicious, not your basic apple pie, and reminds me of my Florida roots and my Aunt Regina that used to always make it for holidays growing up. And guess what - it was easy and I didn't mess it up! Maybe I can bake after all!

Here's my Aunt's recipe:
3 eggs
2/3 c. sugar
dash of salt
1 c. light corn syrup
1/2 c. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 c. broken/chopped pecans
1 nine-inch unbaked pie crust

Beat eggs thoroughly. Add sugar, salt, corn syrup, vanilla, butter and continue mixing with a whisk or hand mixer on low setting until it starts to foam/bubble (about 5-10 minutes).

Layer the bottom of the pie crust with pecans. Make sure the bottom is completely covered and that no pie crust shows through. Pour mixture over pecans (the pecans will rise to the top).

Bake 350 degrees for 50 minutes and voila - all done!

I admit I used a pre-made Pillsbury pie crust, though. One step at a time people!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ombre Hair

I first read about "ombre hair" around January of this year. I was bored with my haircolor and kept seeing pictures of celebs (including one of my favorite style icons, Rachel Bilson) with dark hair that gradually faded to a light brown/blond at the tips. It looked so naturally un-perfect with just the right hint of surfer chic. It made me wish my hair could be sunkissed despite the frigid cold temps and I made the goal right then to go lighter and get these "ombre" highlights as soon as the weather warmed up.

As the months went by and I continued to daydream about kickass highlights, I saw more and more articles about the style... WhoWhatWear, Allure, Glamour, etc. It seemed like every actress I loved was embracing the look, too. So I assumed that when I went to a Manhattan salon in late May, the hairstylist would totally understand the look I was going for. Au contraire, my friends. She had no idea what I was talking about when I said "ombre highlights."

"You don't want your roots done?? Umm okay..." (with a scrunched up stank face, I might add) was her response.

Uh oh. Thank goodness I brought pictures with me. I know every magazine tells you to show your stylist pictures of celeb hairstyles you like before a cut/color...but do you guys actually do that? I always feel so corny whipping out a fan photo of Nicole Richie. Well, pride aside, I've learned my lesson over the years, and sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand descriptive words. Good news - the highlights turned out great. It was subtle and pretty and grew out to look even better than it initially did. And, special bonus, once I actually got some sun over the summer, the highlights lightened even more! I haven't had to touch the color since May.

But now, six months later, the color is fading away and my hair is unruly (it's long and thick and turns into a knotty bird's nest if I don't trim it every few months), so I decided to redo the color and get a cut over Thanksgiving at a salon back home in Pittsburgh. Good ol' mom called and booked the appointment for me yesterday and guess what - hairstylists still don't know what ombre highlights are! Say what you want about Pittsburgh, it's no New York and sometimes trends do get there a little slower...but the term "ombre highlights" has been used on ten million beauty blogs and magazines over the past year and 1 in 5 Hollywood celebs are rocking the look. Why do I still have to fully explain myself and sound like a crazy person that "doesn't want their roots done?"

...Or AM I a crazy person? Does no one else outside of the beauty PR world know what ombre highlights are?

Sigh, someday you all will catch up to my coolness and ahead of the curve-ness (kidding).

*check out my lovely little montage of various ombre-headed actresses...plus me, with wind-whipped and messy but oo-la-la ombre hair in Cali this September. Jolie, ne c'est pas?