Friday, January 29, 2010

Ask-a-Muse: Breakfast for the Office

The Muses were recently asked this question:
Dear Muses:

My team at work has a Friday breakfast schedule in which we rotate bringing breakfast for about 15 people on Friday mornings. While everyone likes bagels and donuts, these options get a little boring. What do the Freelance Muses suggest bringing to a Friday work breakfast that is
1. Relatively inexpensive (preferably $20 or less)
2. More exciting than bagels
3. Relatively easy to transport
4. Quick to make the morning of, OR ok to sit overnight (if made on Thursday)

Stumped in South Carolina

We’re sorry lovely – we can't answer this question. You’ve put far too many restrictions on us.

Just kidding! Who do you think we are, losers? Lazy ladies? Limited lackeys? Think again.
Your question immediately conjures up the idea of a breakfast casserole - which honestly isn’t our favorite. Casseroles, when done well, are warm, gooey, delectable concoctions. But far too often they’re mushy masses that do nothing but gag our texture-sensitive peeps.

Here are our ideas:

A crock pot of oatmeal
Since we just mentioned our texture-sensitive friends, you may immediately write this off as a no-go. But particularly in the winter, who doesn’t love a bowl of hot steamy goodness? Not only that, but this fiber-rich substance staves off hunger for hours and is kind to your waistline (since we all know that even the best of us have allowed the running shoes to hibernate ‘til spring…) The best part is that since you are serving the oatmeal out of a crock pot, it is not allowed to congeal into a solid mass.

Consider bringing a few garnishes along in little Tupperware containers or baggies to suit a variety of taste palettes, and allow folks to serve themselves buffet style. A few ideas:

Brown sugar
Chopped toasted almonds or walnuts
Figs, apricots or craisins
Soy milk

Breakfast pizza
One half of the Muse team could eat pizza until she expanded to the size of the bloated, floating Violet in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Breakfast pizza is a fun brunch item, since it combines a breakfast concept (fruit) with a lunch concept (of course if you want to eat real pizza for breakfast, I’m certainly not going to argue).

We’d like to share with you this favorite recipe courtesy of Food Network’s Giada DeLaurentiis.

The mascarpone cheese and fruit may cost you a little more; perhaps this is more of a special occasion Friday. Like for when you get promoted because of your Friday morning culinary spread.

Along the same lines as oatmeal – healthy and hearty. But if you have the energy to make it yourself, please, by all means do it! Everyone will appreciate the effort. Perhaps bring along some fresh fruit and yogurt so that your co-workers can make themselves little parfaits. We like this recipe.

Cinnamon Rolls
Let’s diverge from the healthy route for a moment. Who doesn’t love gooey, warm cinnamon rolls that make you want to slap your mama?! Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman, has a wonderful, easy-to-transport recipe complete with a photo tutorial.

Or you can try this recipe from Fine Cooking which requires no yeast or rising but the buns turn out just as soft and delicious.

Photo thanks to The Kitchn

And if you have a morning when you’re feeling less than ambitious, never underestimate the value of fresh fruit. Everyone (except possibly a freedom hater) loves the cold delight of fresh fruit in the morning, and it is always the perfect accompaniment to muffins or bagels and coffee. Get creative with your presentation and have fun with it - display the fruit in a brightly-colored bowl, use another piece of fruit to garnish it (star fruit is super fun), or arrange on a platter with a few fresh flowers.

We hope to have helped!

The Freelance Muses

Physical Touch - not only for Valentine's Day

If you know that your beau appreciates physical touch, consider the following:

  • holding hands
  • back rubs -allow your to Muses suggest their favorite massage oil
  • cuddling while watching movies/TV/the neighbors do yard work
  • walking with your arms around each other (please note: you are setting yourself up for much mockery with this one. just be aware)

Beyond that is up to you. Yes, we know what you're thinking, but no, we can't publish that. That's what publications like Cosmo are for.

Discreetly yours,
The Freelance Muses

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ask The Muses - Calendars & Planners

Dear, dear Muses,

Any recommendations for 2010 calendars for work? I need to infuse some artsy into my admin workday. It would be extra-magical if they were cheap
enough to expense with a clear conscience :)


The Artsy Admin

Dear Artsy Admin:

We appreciate your desire to have an artsy space at work! Administrative & office duties can get a bit mundane – it’s always a great idea to have a little splash of personality to offer creative inspiration.

We Muses loooove calendars. We’re the planning kind, one of us loves to have agenda items categorized by color and the other is utterly useless without her Franklin Covey prioritization system and red daily planner .

Since we’re not sure exactly what you’re looking for, we'd like to offer you a few options:

An artsy wall calendar – sure, it looks like you’re working – but you’re really walking the streets of Paris.

A calendar that does more than just look good – support a charitable cause while enjoying a bit of modern art.

A hip dry-erase calendar – because your boss is allowed to change his mind about who he’s eating lunch with and the all-staff meeting will most likely get rescheduled. Just say no to scribbled-out appointments – clearly articulate what he’s doing on a calendar that’s large enough for you and the rest of the office to read without spectacles.

Moleskine daily planner – you can’t go wrong with a classic. There’s a reason it’s been around since the days of Hemingway.

And don’t forget – say yes to color! I can think of at least two people (ahem) who love to coordinate their boss’s administrative Outlook/Entourage calendars in shades of pink, purple, teal and blue.

Administratively yours,

The Freelance Muses

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Who doesn't love surprises?!

Ok, not everyone (including one half of this muse team. One would imagine that if a boyfriend surprisingly showed up in a girl’s city, 902 miles away from his own city, knowing that engagement was imminent, said girl would be happily surprised. Not so my friends, not so – can’t catch a lady off her guard!)

But if you are aware that your man enjoys a little suspense and a surprise now and again, consider surprising him this Valentine's Day!

We don't recommend surprising him with an engagement that you propose - these Muses are a little more old-fashioned than that.

The Party Guy
Does your guy love a crowd? Arrange for a bunch of his friends to meet up with him at a bar - a social function that he gets to enjoy without having to go through all the phone calls and e-mails. It will show that you're secure enough in your relationship with him to not demand all of his time.

Adventure-Seeker - without an agenda
Trips are always fun, too. Maybe it's a trip that the two of you already plan to make - but you can surprise him by preparing the details of the trip ahead of time so he doesn't need to worry about calling for reservations, purchasing tickets or navigating the way on his iPhone. Google Maps has a nifty little trip planner tool (props to you if you can learn to use it without watching the tutorial) that can help you find your way.

We like this idea for the girl who is a planner but is dating a spontaneous guy. You could plan for MONTHS in advance but if you don’t let on until the day of, it will be the perfect surprise to him.

Dinner - the Muses are here to fully endorse that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Prepare his favorite meal for him and have it ready by the time he gets home. Or surprise him with dinner at his favorite restaurant - on your tab, of course.
Act of love
This may fall under acts of service - which we'll come back to later. But if you know your beau appreciates you helping him out with something small - in this household, it would be taking out the trash/recycling and cleaning the kitchen stove the "right" way - then do it for him! Don't make a big deal about it. Try not to draw his attention to it. But chances are, if it's something important to him he'll notice and be thankful for it (and maybe he'll reward you with a surprise! Like an extra date night! OK, we're not endorsing doing something so you can get something out of it - that wouldn't be a true act of service. But it's fun to fantasize that your man would be so enraptured by your act of love that he would reciprocate with pearls. Or something.)

There are lots of ways to do little surprises too. These are much easier (and cheaper) to do...and are good on many other days besides Valentine’s Day:

Leave a love note in his sock drawer or briefcase.
Buy his favorite candy bar and leave it in the cup holder in his car.
Check out these fab hidden message collar stays. Totally practical, totally fun!

Surprise him at work with lunch (best if you know his schedule and are in cahoots with his assistant). Or order lunch to be sent to him via Take Out Taxi.

People that are loved through surprises thrive on that feeling that they are thought of and cared for when it’s not prescribed. So go ahead. Break out of your anal-retentive calenderized life and do something spontaneous! Don’t give any hints either. Hints so easily ruin have our permission to lie a little in this case.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bake Sales for Haiti

The next several weeks many cities across the country are selling baked goods whose proceeds will benefit Haiti. Yours truly will be providing a trio of citrus macarons as well as banana cream tartlets in San Francisco tomorrow. The muses have tried to locate bake sales all over the country and put all the info in one place for you. We like shoes and parties but we love people more. Go. Buy. Savor. Help.

Caribbean cupcakes every weekend until Feb 14
@ Small Cakes
660 Irwin St

Atlanta (Vegan)
Saturday, January 30
12:00-4:00 PM
@ Criminal Records
1154-A Euclid Ave

Austin (Vegan)
Saturday, January 24
12:00-4:00 PM
@ Ten Thousand Villages
1317 South Congress Ave.

Saturday, January 23
2:30-6:30 PM
@ Medici on 57th
1327 E 57th St

D.C. (Vegan)
Sunday, January 24
10:00-2:00 PM
@ Takoma Farmers Market

Las Vegas (Vegan)
Tuesday, January 26
10:00-2:00 PM
@ UNLV (Student Union and Library)
4505 S Maryland Pkwy

Little Rock

Saturday, February 6
12:00-3:00 PM
@ White Water Tavern
2500 West 7th St.

Los Angeles
Sunday, January 25
12:00-5:00 PM
@ Home Ec.
3815 W. Sunset Blvd.

Los Angeles (Vegan)
Sunday, January 31
11:00-4:00 PM
@ Locali
5825 Franklin Ave.

Milwaukee (Vegan)
Saturday, January 30
12:00-5:00 PM
@Riverwest Co-op
733 E. Clarke St.

New York (Vegan)
Sunday, January 31
11:30-6:00 PM
@ Moo Shoes
78 Orchard St.

Oklahoma City (Online)
Order deadline: Feb 10
pick up @ American Red Cross
1205 Halley Ave.

Sunday, January 31
12:00-7:00 PM
@ Tattooed Mom
530 South Street

Wednesday, February 10
7:00 PM - 2:00 AM
@ Sugar Mom's
225 Church St.

Philadelphia (Temple)
Monday, January 25
10:00-3:30 PM
Temple University, Atrium of Annenberg Hall
2020 North 13th St.

Portland (Vegan)
Sunday, January 31
2:00-5:00 PM
@ People's Coop
3029 Southeast 21st Ave.

San Francisco Bay Area
Saturday, January 23
10:00-2:00 PM
@ Pizzaiolo (Oakland)
5008 Telegraph Ave.

@ Gioia Pizzeria
1586 Hopkins St.

@Bi-Rite Market (
San Francisco)
3639 18th St.

Friday, January 22
5:45 PM
@ Chief Sealth High School
5959 Delridge Way SW

Seattle (Vegan)
Sunday, January 31
2:00-5:00 PM
@ Neptune Coffee
8415 Greenwood Ave. North

If you know of more bake sales that we've missed, please let us know and we'll update.

Your Muses

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Quality Time: Valentine's Day Based on the 8 Love Languages

“In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, ‘I love you,’ like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of man is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby. " - The 5 Love Languages

So what do you do with a man who thrives on Quality Time? The key here isn’t to just do something together (e.g. see a movie or go to a sporting event). You need to do something that causes you to interact fully.

Make a BIG meal together. For those who are cooks, this can be a truly enriching time. Try making something a little more in-depth like homemade pizza. Enjoy the process of pizza - from kneading the dough to watching it rise (or finding something else to do while it rises, ahem) to assembling the toppings. Pour a glass of wine and spend some time in the kitchen together.

[note: if you need the Muses to share their delectable recipe for homemade goat cheese & argula pizza, they will indulge you. Just ask]

Or grab Table for Two: French Recipes for Romantic Dining and try some of its fantastic 2-serving recipes like Quail in Baume de Venise stuffed with arugula, apples and currants or Chocolate mousse with candied ginger.

Go to your favorite coffee shop or bar to sip on drinks and have long talks - or just to be in each other's presence while perusing the New York Times.

If you live in a place that is freezing or flooded, grab a good book and read to each other (if you have a fireplace, we are SO jealous right now).

If your current locale is not covered in snow or torrential rains, find a nearby place to go hiking together.

Or find a time when you can do exactly what he wants to do (not just what you project he'd like to do) - listen to him recount the last Ken Burns documentary he watched on PBS and ask questions so he knows he gets to teach you something you didn't know ("So what he's saying is that Jack Johnson was the rebel of the progressive era...?)

Bottom line: enjoy it, don't dictate it. Quality time is all about just being together.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gifts: Valentine's Day Based on the 8 Love Languages

Well, it’s just around the corner: Valentine’s Day!

Don’t get depressed. Don’t hide away. Celebrate love! If you don’t have a beau at the moment, no worries. Feel free to send Valentine’s gifts to your favorite muses. We like chocolate (preferably dark), fancy jewelry and anything involving Europe (particularly France and Italy). All gifts are tax deductible...wait, crap. Nevermind, send gifts anyway.

But what if you DO have a man in your life? Not every man will be satisfied by a new set of cufflinks. So the Muses are here to give you some gift ideas day-by-day based on love languages. We LOVE the book by Gary Chapman... but we think he missed a few. These will be the love languages (and corresponding Valentine's Day ideas) we’ll be hitting over the next week.

1. Gifts

2. Quality Time

3. Surprises

4. Physical Touch

5. Food

6. Words of Affirmation

7. Boobs

8. Service

Gary says “The receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If your man speaks this language, the perfect gift shows that he is known, cared for, and prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to him.”

So what are some good gifts?

For the Trendy Man

G-Shock Watch

Leather Messenger Bag

For the Tech Man

Bose SoundDock (Very useful for dancing to romantic music)

Unchartered 2: Among Thieves (sorry, this one won't work out as well for you)

For the Intellectual Man

A People's History of the United States

Subscription to the Economist

For the Business Man

Driving Gloves

Shaving Travel Kit

For the Sports Man

Tickets to His Favorite Game

Gear from His Favorite Team

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Happy Almost There Day!

Generally on Wednesdays we just feel like we could use a stiff drink. However, it's not exactly kosher to be packin' red wine in our to-go coffee mugs. Naturally, the next best thing is chocolate.

With this in mind (and a stiff drink in hand) one little goddess decided to bake cupcakes last night. Lacking inspiration, she did what anyone should do in such a situation...she called her muse.

After a few hurried texts back and forth, it was decided: Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting would be just the fix for Almost There Day.

For the Cupcakes
2 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 cup hot coffee
2 cups sugar
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Combine chocolate and hot coffee in a bowl. Let it stand for a few minutes, then stir until smooth.
Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. In another large bowl beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (3-5 minutes). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.

Divide mixture between 24 muffin cups. Use a scant 1/4 for each cupcake. Bake for 20 minutes or until set in the center.

For the Frosting
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
11 oz room temperature UNsalted butter (22 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 oz cream cheese
2 oranges zested
1 tablespoon triple sec

Put egg whites and sugar in the heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture registers 140 degrees on an instant read thermometer, 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove egg mixture from heat and beat on high until mixture is fluffy and cooled (5-10 minutes)

Reduce speed and add butter several tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla, and mix until buttercream comes together, 3 to 5 minutes.

In another bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add buttercream, orange zest and triple sec and beat until well combined.

All you have to do to assemble these little suckers is to pipe the cream cheese buttercream onto the cooled cupcakes. I used a large star tip (below) and simply made a little swirl around the top of the cupcakes.

Enjoy ladies, we're almost there!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

2010 Wedding Color Trends

Several of our lovely readers have inquired regarding the 2010 wedding color trends. In our most humble opinion (which we're not so humble about, ahem), we would like to propose that this year's sought-after color is not a new concept, but a recreation of the old. The lustrous appeal of vintage elements has not corroded yet.

White is the wedding color of 2010. Don't fall into the "white is too typical" train of thought - it's faulty. We are noticing that brides are returning to traditional colors. We're not talking Billy Idol's White Wedding. We're certainly not suggesting a white ball gown and 80s ringlet curls. We do not condone a cardboard cake covered in white buttercream roses. And we strongly advise against wearing those horrid satin white wedding shoes. (Please note: if those come back, these muses are throwing in the towel on American wedding fashion and taking a vacation to Phuket).

In 2010 we will be seeing lots of white weddings with great modern twists. Take for example this beautiful all-white cake with lovely white magnolias from Kristine Bender of K. Rose Cakes.
An updated alternative to the mid-90s satin shoe is this fabulous pair of Jaceline shoes by RSVP.

We are quite fond of these blooms by Laura Dowling.

Lastly, take a look at this brilliant idea from Martha Stewart: Rosemary Sea Salt favors.

Allow us to take a moment to have a heart-to-heart with the public regarding wedding favors. Please, PLEASE, stop a) wasting your money b) cluttering our houses and c) making us feel guilty for throwing away useless wedding favors, which are largely chokshki items with your name and wedding date engraved on them. A box of matches with your names? Go for it! We all love candles, therefore matches are useful. However - a mini terracotta pot with “the perfect pear” and your wedding date painted on it? Ahem. If you’re gonna spend a wad of cash, spend it on something your guests will enjoy. Like more alcohol and extra shrimp.

Bottom line: for those lucky gals planning a wedding in 2010 (or helping a dear friend or sister), consider a white palette. It’s clean, simple, classic, bright and can be reinvented in a number of ways. The possibilities are endless!

For other great ideas, we suggest you check out Snippet & Ink or Green Wedding Shoes, just two of our long list of favorite wedding blogs. Collect ideas from these gals and the weddings they feature from other parts of the country and then use them to make your event unique and demonstrative of your personality.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

under the sea

The Muses’ sweet friend Amanda wrote in asking for inspiration for her daughter’s nursery…a daughter who just so happens to be the most precious child on the face of our planet. Our daughters will most likely develop inferiority complexes because of this perfect little girl.

HEY BABY GAP! Do you see her? Do you see the most gorgeous baby ever? Use her in your advertisements!

Amanda posed an interesting question: how to decorate a little girl’s room without the use of pink? With market saturation of pink accessories for little girls, this task can be a bit challenging. But never fear, Mandy! The Muses are here to tell you that despite what a multimillion dollar industry may try to tell you, you don’t have to use pink to create a precious nursery for your daughter. In fact, we’ll go so far as to tell you to use BLUE!

This nursery is inspired by one of my favorite things...mermaids! Can I get a show of hands for those who wanted to grow their hair out to be like Ariel’s? Can I get another show of hands for those who put diving rings around their ankles in the pool and pretended to swim like a mermaid? Who here would still sell their voice for a pair of fins? Ooo...that one was just me...awkward.

Regardless, here we used a beautiful “under-the-sea blue” to make it more feminine, as well as adding dainty accents such as the adorable mermaid blanket and beautiful fish parasol.

Far Out Chinese Parasol from Land of Nod, Graco Sarah Dressing Table from Changing Table Store, Floating Fish Mobile by Livs Lullaby, Alphabet Mermaid Print by Pomegrante Ink, Mermaid Baby Blanket by La Lune Designs, Acqua Crib Bedding by Carousel Designs, Fish Tank from Fish Tank Warehouse, Dark Pink Round Rug from Rug Zone