Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Anything But Old-Fashioned" Housewarming Party

Dear Muses --

I love your blog. It's adorable.

We are under contract for a house. Maybe ya'll could give me some advice about house-warming party ideas? We'll be hosting it ourselves but don't expect gifts. I'd love some cute but not-cheesy ideas.

Love,

New Homeowner in GA


Dear Georgia Gal,

First of all, thanks for the praise. We aim to inspire and are pleased as punch to be helping lovely ladies like yourself!

Secondly, congrats on the new house! We are still in the renting phase...could we live in places more expensive than DC and Silicon Valley?!?! Well, London, but who's keeping tabs, really? Anyway, congrats from the Muses on owning your own place. Maybe some decorating inspiration will be next ... did you see the nursery inspiration...eh? eh?

When you think of a classy party, the first thing that comes to mind is usually wine and cheese. Trust us, we don’t think it gets much better than a glass of Chianti and some Roquefort but this is fairly typical. And typical is something that describes neither you nor us!

Here are the bones of a great Anything But Old-Fashioned housewarming party.

Fruit Cubes from fotobank, Old Fashioned from Epicurious, Red Toile Apron from Anthropologie, Deviled Eggs from The Kitchn, Life of the Tupperware Party from Anne Taintor


Signature Drink: Old-Fashioned

Menu: Highlight Retro Foods. This should be a guide to delicious items. It would be easy to get carried away and make your guests eat your grandma's favorites that would may notx be cocktail party friendly. Take some old-school items and make them with your own savory twist.

Appetizer: Deviled Eggs

Dinner: How about a casserole? We love The Casserole Queens and suggest you get some inspiration from them! Macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole, chicken pot pie - you can't go wrong!

Dessert: Gourmet Jello Mold! (PS - at least one half of the Muse team thinks it's a great idea to SPIKE that Jello Mold)

4 oz lemon juice
7 oz sparkling water
2 oz simple syrup*
3 1/2 (1/4 oz) packets of gelatin powder

40-50 fresh raspberries

Combine the lemon juice and simple syrup in a small saucepan. Add gelatin powder.

Stir over low heat until the gelatin has dissolved and is fully incorporated, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in sparkling water.

Place a few raspberries in the bottom of ice cube trays, carefully pour the gelatin mixture over the fruit. Refrigerate the ice cube tray until set, preferably overnight.

*To make simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan, and stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.

Details: Please grab some Anne Taintor napkins. You can usually find these at any girly boutique house wares store. Or get them here. Other 50's era motifs to consider: cherries, Hawaiian print, checkerboard.

Attire: Suggest your guests wear 50's clothes. Guys in white short-sleeved button-ups with skinny ties, girls in A-Line dresses with pearls. And you better get yourself into a lovely apron!

We hope that we've been able to provide you with some inspiration. Have a blast, and take photos - we can't wait to see!

Love,

Your Muses

P.S. We just saw this on one of our favorite sites, The Kitchn. It's a completely different style and element than what we suggest here, but maybe it's right up your alley. Take a peek!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hungry? Why Wait?

And no, we are certainly NOT touting the benefits of the popular sugar-laden, peanut-y pile of goo.

Instead, act like the goddess that you are and grab a Lemon Zest Luna Bar. Delish!!



Consider this the perfect way to stave off hunger without too many calories and plenty of fiber. Note that this pairs so well with a cup of “Sip for the Cure - Pink Rose Green Tea." It's quite unfortunate they don’t make that soul-soothing tea anymore. When the last tea bag leaves the container, I have no idea what will happen.

OK, so maybe I do. I'll instead try these other rose teas:

Rose Petal Full Leaf

Cherry Rose Green Tea

Rosey Chai

Rooibos Rose Garden

Don't leave your boss hanging while you have a hypoglycemic melt-down. Energize and revive yourself with good-for-you ingredients (that come in pretty packaging).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sleepover!

Alternate Title: Celebrate even if there's no inherent reason to celebrate!

One half of the Freelance Muses team (the Pretty West Coast Muse) is on spring break with her adoring husband this week. Spring break incidentally falls during said Muse and her adoring husband’s two year wedding anniversary (it’s this Monday, if you’d like to extend your congratulations, best wishes and warm feelings to them!) So it’s a week of celebration and a break from blogging for her.

The other half of this team is going to take the reins and blog about something that happened about two weeks ago – while Adoring Husband was busy cramming for finals and spending time into the wee hours of the night in the library and whatever else it is that law students do, Pretty West Coast Muse decided to have some girls whose husbands were also in the law library over on a Saturday morning. They decided to have a sleepover, but without the sleep. Which I suppose makes it just an “over,” but let’s not split hairs. It was the perfect time to invite over all the other law school widows.

Allow the Muses to encourage you to invite guests to help with the party-planning efforts. The bones of this party were fairly simple, and guests were a key collaborative component.

PWCM picked a pretty and feminine blue, pink and red color palette - store-bought pink and berry lemonade along with some fresh berries to garnish the granola kept the look cohesive.



Other friends brought cinnamon rolls and delicious strawberry apple crisp (coincidentally in a lovely pink dish).

Homemade granola (we'll post the recipe another day), yogurt flavored with vanilla bean and fresh fruit kept the do-ahead work to a minimum.


Every party needs activities, but keeping things simple can be best and allows guests the freedom to entertain themselves how they wish. The "over" included 2.5 hours of Wedded to Perfection, schmutty magazines, nail polish, and facial masks/scrubs.

photos courtesy of CMP

Don’t wait for a special occasion to host a party of your own. As spring approaches and the season beckons celebration in and of itself, consider having an “over” of your own with your lady friends. Brunches are always fun and festive of course, but a late afternoon tea party or an evening cocktail party would both be fun as well. Put the men out (or send them to a bar to drink beer and throw darts and do manly man things) and enjoy your time with your girlfriends. And don’t feel like you have to be the hostess with the mostess – ask each lady to bring an activity and a food item. This way you are relieved of doing all the work yourself and the party truly embodies the personalities of the collective group.

Happy Spring, Happy Celebration and Happy Times!

Love,
The Muses

Monday, March 8, 2010

vegan pizza

My husband gave up cheese for Lent.

You can imagine how well that's gone over with his very, very Italian wife.

Regardless - I support him. After an outdoor run and a city-wide bike ride (thanks to the sudden spring weather here in DC), we were both seriously hungry and craving some carbs. Pizza seemed like the ticket.
I'm going to show you here through a series of photos how to make pizza. Homemade pizza really isn't the arduous, labor-intensive task that most think that it is. With a Kitchen Aid mixer or a food processor, all the hard work is taken care of for you.

I use a recipe loosely adapted from the Joy Of Cooking cookbook.
Flip to page 607. Remember, my recipe is loosely based off of this one.
Start with 1 tsp granulated sugar. Place it in the bowl of your mixer outfitted with a dough hook, or the bowl of your food processor. [Note: it doesn't matter which; I probably would prefer the food processor, however mine isn't big enough to accommodate the liquid.]
Add one packet of yeast to the sugar. I use the old-fashioned kind, not the quick-rise kind. I don't really have a reason, other than the same reason why I prefer slow-cooking oats to instant oats - it's what my mom used and it seems right.
Add 1 1/2 c. of very warm water. PLEASE NOTE! You can kill the yeast if the water is too hot. I've done this a number of times because it is a very easy mistake to make. Joy Of Cooking recommends water that is 105 - 115 degrees Fahrenheit. My general rule of thumb? Make sure the stuff isn't boiling and that you can cup your hands around the measuring cup holding the water without wincing or squealing.
Gently stir the ingredients together - if in the food processor, give it a few quick pulses; if in the mixer, mix it on 2 for no more than 30 seconds.
Add to the water mixture 2 3/4 c bread flour,
1/2 c semolina flour (you can find it at Whole Foods or Publix, or any other speciality grocery store),
and 1 tsp salt.


Mix together for a few minutes - be sure not to over mix the dough. You basically just want to incorporate the ingredients and allow the machine to do the majority of the kneading for you.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. It kind of reminds me of an old person's skin at this point. Dry, wrinkly, very soft.


Now here's where you think I may be kooky, but I swear this works. Put about two cups of water in a measuring cup and stick it in the microwave for about three minutes, or until it starts to boil. Then place the dough in a large-ish bowl with some extra virgin olive oil and cover it with a towel. Stick the covered bowl of dough in the microwave with the recently boiled water, shut the door and leave it for at least an hour. The water creates a warm, slightly humid environment for the dough and encourages the yeast to work its magic. I know, weird. But I promise you - it works.

While you allow the dough to rise, prepare your ingredients. Since this was a cheese-less pizza, I didn't have to work about slicing chevre or shredding mozzarella. I decided that we wanted an eggplant-mushroom pizza - good texture, sort of meaty. First, peel the eggplant and slice it into rounds. Lay the sliced rounds of eggplant onto paper towels, sprinkle with salt and leave them there to "sweat" - the salt brings out the bitter agents in the eggplant, resulting in a much more tender, savory flavor.

For seasoning, I added chopped fresh garlic, sliced shallots and fresh minced rosemary.
After about 3o minutes, when the eggplant has had sufficient time to "sweat," slice the eggplant into little sticks, and slice your mushrooms.

Prepare your baking sheet with a little corn meal - this allows the pizza to slide off the pan easily after you cook it. The amount shown here is sufficient for two pans. You really don't need this much on one pan, otherwise it burns in the oven.
After removing the dough from the microwave, I rolled it out, placed it on the baking sheet and then layered my ingredients in the following order - olive oil directly on the dough; some kosher salt; sauce; the rosemary, garlic and shallots; and then the vegetables.

Bake in a preheated oven at about 475 degrees F for about 10-15 minutes, or until toasty on the bottom, golden on the top with bubbling sauce.

Now let me give you a little word of advice - this pizza would have been ROCKIN with some fresh chevre (goat cheese). Unfortunately, as mentioned before, my husband gave up cheese for Lent so we didn't have any of that. But take it from me - it would have been stellar with a little bit of cheese. The rosemary and eggplant would have been the perfect accompaniment.
Hopefully the task of making pizza is no longer daunting. It's actually quite easy. And you get to find something else to do while waiting for the dough to rise, whether it be checking this blog (ahem) or snuggling with your cheese-less husband.
Now, pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy! Bon appetit!

Four Eyes

Glasses.

If you think they're for focusing your vision, you're wrong. Glasses (we're not including engagement rings here) are the one accessory that stays the same every single day (unless you're Beyonce, in which case you can have however many of whatever you want). This means a stylish girl must carefully choose eyeglass frames that make a personal statement about her personality and aesthetic. What do your glasses say? Perhaps the better question is: what do you want your glasses to say?

Here is a little round-up of glasses and the statements they make.

I am practical.














Spirit by Lindberg



I love luxury.









Style 58LV by Prada




I am artistic.










Borgia by Lafont


I listen to Wolf Parade.












Style 1349 by Schnuchel Eyewear



There's nothing I'd rather do than read.








Antonia by Kate Spade



While glasses make a big style statement, don't let us box you in. If you are a Tea Bag Conservative but want to rock some BOZ spectacles, do it girl!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Products that Really Work!

OK ladies, we’ve given you a week to respond to us with your list of tried-and-true beauty products and tricks that really do work – and now we’re here to deliver the goods! If you have a tip or product that you weren't able to submit, go ahead and leave us a comment. We're all about furthering everyone's education.

Parissa Chamomile Body Sugar – francine
"Finally – an at-home waxing kit that not only really works, but cleans up easily! I kid you not – the biggest mess-maker and klutz in the greater United States, I find a way to make even the simplest of systems a catastrophic failure. The great thing about this stuff is that it’s washable – that’s right, washable. Thanks to the sugar base, you can use warm water and a cloth to easily wipe away drops on the floor or gobs of hot wax that has traveled to unfortunate places that should never, ever be waxed."

Deva Curl Hair Care SystemVeronica, who (in our humble opinions) has the most gorgeous red curly hair ever. EVER.

“For curly hair I recommend: Live Curly Live Free for directions on hair care. These principles are taken almost directly from Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey. Lorraine Massey owns a salon in NYC called Devachan and they make a curl care line called Deva Curl. I HIGHLY recommend it.

You can find someone who follows the Deva concept of cutting curly hair, as well as places that sell the Deva curl line of products near you here.

Having my hair cut and using these products has changed my life when it comes to wearing my hair curly.”

Ladies – visit V's Web site and catch a glimpse of her gorgeous curly red hair (and her super cute kid, too). After you’re done coveting her locks, thank her for sharing her secrets and go get some of this stuff for yourself.

mD Formulation Skin Care Line – francine
"According to a Women’s Health survey, the top two skin issues among women polled on their Web site are acne and wrinkles. This line of skin care products by BareEscentuals claims that by using a glycolic compound rather than just glycolic acid, the pH of your skin isn’t disrupted. Rather than irritating side effects, you achieve flawless, glowing skin. Look at the list of ingredients and you notice a delicate balance of chemicals that are actually good for your skin – antioxidants, retinol, salicylic acid, lactic acid, even green tea.

Having personally tried everything from Proactiv to antibiotics prescribed by a dermatologist, I can honestly say that NOTHING has worked like these products. I use the Vit-a-Plus products, which actually work like Retin-A without the accompanying skin irritation (which of course causes more breakouts). I could go on and on, but the bottom line is: this stuff works."


Insolia High Heel Inserts – Christina
"These are not just little cushy inserts. Insolia extends the heel portion of your shoe so your weight shifts and is evenly distributed between the heel and ball of your foot. I was able to wear 4.5" heels on my wedding day for 7 hours with no issue! It is shocking that these can only be purchased online. If you are a high heel wearer you MUST buy these. If you are not a high heel wearer, try these, you may just change your mind."


Mary Kay Satin Hands – Tracy
"My absolute favorite hand moisturizer: Mary Kay Satin Hands Fragrance-Free hand cream. It offers long-term hydration with no greasy feel or annoying scent."

Lasinoh – Tracy
"I know this sounds weird, but my go-to lip gloss is actually a breast cream. One little dab of Lansinoh (made for breastfeeding mothers) supplies natural, super long lasting shine. One little purple tube lasts forever."


Dr. Scholl's Inserts – Meghan
"I am a fan of Dr. Scholl's shoe inserts for heel pain. they are a little more expensive than just the gels but they work if your on your feet all day long!!!!"
Stila Eyeshadow - Kitten (Shade Number 58) -- Leah
I use this shade as a base, or by itself on days when I don't want to wear much make-up. One sweep of it across your lid and another little dot in the corner of your eye really wakes up your face. The best part is that this shade really does look great on everyone, no matter your skin tone.


And, a product that just sucks!

Smooth Away – Jesse
"does not work!"

Monday, March 1, 2010

All-Call: Beauty Secrets

We have all fallen prey to beauty "secrets" that don't really work -gel insoles that still make your feet ache at the end of the day; beauty tools that stretch, poke, pluck, and scrub you raw; the BumpIt (admit it - we were all intrigued by that one!); shampoo that will make your hair look blonder, redder, brunetter, shinier, less shiny, straighter, curlier, etc!; the Shake Weight (well, we hope no one actually fell victim to that nonsense); stickies that supposedly keep the most scanty of clothing items in place (hel-LO, Janet Jackson!).

Let's put an end to wasting our money and save it for quality products that make being gorgeous easier. After all, we want to wear 5" heels and not hurt at the end of the day - can we get an 'Amen!?'
We Muses love the thrill of the hunt and we do it weekly to find the best information out there for you. We're doing the same thing this week for beauty secrets, using the best resource we've got...YOU!

If you have tips about hair products, tools, make-up, fashion accessories or anything else you love to use, we want to hear about it! We'll compile a list so we all know when to spend those hard-earned bucks and when to keep it in the bank. Send your suggestions to freelancemuses [at] gmail [dot] com