Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lavender Earl Grey Iced Tea

Last week, we mentioned that the Muses spent Monday together (!!) noshing on delicious rhubarb tarts from Kim Boyce's absolutely amazing book Good to the Grain. What we failed to mention was that our beautiful friend Lisa took some amazing photos of them. We  may or may not be guilty of styling the tarts - scootching chairs out of the way, strategically placing flowers, etc.

We need to give the credit to Kim Boyce for those tarts BUT we will (not so humbly) take the credit for the succulent Lavender Earl Grey iced tea that wet our whistles. Right now on the East Coast, it is so disgustingly hot and humid but in California it's more like a golden paradise. So if you are out East or in sticky Florida, you should suck this delicious stuff down to try to stay cool. If you live out West, you can just add this tasty drink as the perfect way to top off a beautiful and temperate existence.

You are going to throw a lot of ice into this, so don't worry if it seems to be too strong at first - that's intentional, so that the refreshing iced tea doesn't get watered down. However, if you do have the time to allow the tea to chill in the fridge before serving, just add more hot water. Also, you can adjust the amount of honey to your liking.

If you don't have access to a delightful hippie co-op that sells lavender, you can order it on amazon. Or you can buy Earl Grey Lavender tea from Revolution Tea...Safeway usually carries this.

Lavender Earl Grey Iced Tea

6 tablespoon loose leaf earl grey
1 tablespoon of lavender
8 cups hot water

1/4 - 1/2 cup honey
lots of ice

In a large pitcher, combine earl grey tea, lavender and hot water. Allow the mixture to steep 5-8 minutes, then strain out the tea. While the tea is still hot, stir in the honey, tasting along the way to make sure it meets your standards. 

Next, dump in a bunch o' ice. Remember, most of it will melt but that's why we brewed it so strong. Keep adding ice until it's cold and some ice remains without immediately melting. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Meatless Monday

The whole idea behind Meatless Mondays is to take a small step that makes a big difference. Going meatless once a week reduces your meat consumption - which in turn  promotes global sustainability, reduces your grocery budget, and improves your diet. One person doing all this doesn't make a big difference - but lots of people doing this does. Going meatless was a campaign promoted in America and beyond during World Wars I and II as a way to make sure that everyone had what they needed during hard times. In this time of economic turmoil, it just makes sense to revive the tradition. Besides, isn't retro the way to go? 

The Freelance Muses fully support Meatless Mondays – we think it’s always a good idea (and good manners) to think about things beyond yourself.

With that said, we launch our Meatless Monday post series. Each Monday we’ll feature a new meatless recipe for you to try, and, depending on how ambitious we’re feeling, we’ll also share a statistic about how going meatless once a week helps the environment, your wallet, and your health.

Enough talking.

The East Coast Muse and her dear husband invited a guest over for dinner a few Mondays ago. What better way to spread the word about Meatless Monday than to have their guest partake as well?

On the menu for that evening:
  • Soft tacos made of adobo black beans and/or taco garbanzo beans
  • Grilled corn on the cob
  • Mexican rice
You can't get any easier than these vegetarian soft tacos!

One can black beans
One can garbanzo beans
Adobo seasoning
One taco seasoning pack

Rinse and drain the black beans. Heat the beans in the microwave or on the stovetop. Add Adobo to taste and a teensey bit of olive oil (to make those spices stick). Voila.

No, we’re not kidding. That it’s.

For the garbanzo beans – rinse and drain the garbanzo beans. Follow the directions on the back of the taco seasoning packet, subbing the beans in the directions for the ground beef. Use a bit less water than called for.

Provide dinner guests with a variety of tortillas – corn, flour, whole wheat – and homemade guacamole, salsa, sour cream, shredded cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, olives, cilantro and whatever other garnishes you prefer for your tacos!

Grilled corn on the cob
Remove the outer husks of the corn and trim the silk. Soak the corn under water for 15 minutes (those bad boys love to float to the surface – make sure you wedge them in a pot so they stay under water).
Peel back the layers of the remaining husk and generously butter and salt the corn.
Replace the husk and plop the corn on the grill until cooked through – usually 15-20 minutes.

Mexican rice
The East Coast Muse is a hard working woman, and on a weekday she opts for as easy as easy comes. For weekday Mexican rice, she uses her rice cooker and adds salt, a little bit of adobo, cumin and chili powder. Once the rice is steamed, fluff with a fork and add some room temperature butter.

That’s it! Going meatless is so easy, so healthy, and so fast. Anyone can do it!

For more information about the Meatless Monday campaign, visit http://www.meatlessmonday.com/.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

How nude is too nude?

high heels...we're talking about high heels.

Recently, a beloved reader wrote in to ask about nude heel hues.

So ladies, I keep seeing nude pumps for a dressy combination that I love since they should go with almost everything. But what is the right coloring? There are so many shades - how close should they be to your skin tone? What are your thoughts?

Thanks so much for writing in, Meghan!

It is true that because of the nude heel trend (which we love!) there are a ton of "nude" shades to choose from. There are some with pinkish undertones, grey undertones, some that are straight-up pale, and others that are a little browner. The key to a nude heel is make sure that it doesn't wash you out. Nude heels always fare far better with a slight tan - we're not proposing that you roast yourself in UV coffins or bake yourself at the beach. Perhaps a little self-tanning lotion, or a bronzer? The nude heel just does better with some kind of coloring on your skin. If you are a pale-skinned beauty and self-tanners just make you look orange, we suggest that you consider a neutral heel, versus a nude.

Ok, that was a lot of talking (er, typing). Let's show you some photos to help you figure out what we're explaining.

This Linzy heel by Kelsi Dagger is an example of the quintessential nude pump: close-toed (therefore office appropriate), a bit of a platform (making it sexy enough for a date) and that basic skin-tone color. Easy enough, right? Beware: the ECM, who has Mediterranean olive undertones, could probably pull this off a little better than our German WCM (frequently likened to color of alabaster).

So what should the more fair-skinned WCM look for? How about something like this Bevv pump by Steve Madden.  Notice that this shoe is a little bit darker in color, and the undertones are pink - just like the WCM's undertones (if it's hard for you to tell what the shoe's undertones are, just take a cue from the name of the color - for example, they call the color of this shoe "blush patent." That's your clue). The slight blush of this shoe helps guard against wash-out. 

This Stephanie slingback from Cole Haan is called "beige" and would probably look good on either of the Muses. It is sort of a medium tone so it wouldn't wash either of us out. So if you have pale pale skin or darker skin, this one could rock this one. 

Ok, so now to demystify nude vs. neutral. Think of "neutral" as an adjective to describe any shoe that will pair well with almost anything - it doesn't take away from the outfit. Sort of like how a proper side dish never takes away from the main course, it just adds to it nicely and brings out the main flavor of the main course.

Neutral can look like this lovely Farrel heel from Enzo Angiolini.

or Claudine by Dolce Vita (this one has a little funky personality - nice)...

 or even Guzman from Joan & David (love the texture! This is an ECM fave)

Remember, metallics qualify as a neutral too - particularly if you're getting gussied up for something. Whether gold (like these RSVP Gigi heels), silver, or bronze, the metallic serves the same purpose as a neutral shoe but for those fancier occasions.

Another neutral dressy option would be this Peep Train sandal (disregard the confusing and disturbing name) by Kenneth Cole.

Sweet Meghan, we hope this helps! Happy hunting for nude shoes - this post has surely inspired us.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Things the Muses have loved this week

The Muses had a great start to the week... because we were TOGETHER! We baked cupcakes, drank dry rosé wine, and engaged in much mutual flattery. Also, ECM admitted her fear of rhubarb.  She had never tried it because she was turned off by the idea of baking something unidentifiable (red celery) into pies. With Kim Boyce's help, WCM made her a believer.

french red poppy from parthenope's instagram

Rhubarb Tarts from Kim Boyce's (amazing) book Good to the Grain

Josh Garrels' new (free!) CD Love & War & The Sea In Between

Good Reads

Kor Water Bottles helping us stay hydrated

carting stuff around in Map Totes (of course the ECM has an Austin tote)

Pumpkin Oil Ice Cream & Pepita Brittle

Anticipating the opening of Graffiato in DC

Have a beautiful weekend, pretties.


The Muses

Friday, June 17, 2011

modern etiquette: "maid" of $$$?

The super-savvy personal finance and budget site, Mint.com, posted an article last week entitled, "Not Maid of Money: The Burden of Being a Bridesmaid." We highly recommend this article to all of our readers, particularly if you're in the season of life when you seem to be spending more time at weddings than not. 

Remember, ladies: it's always in style to be considerate of your friends and family, even if it is "your" big day.

Enjoy, and Happy Friday!

PS - The Muses reunite! Our lovely West Coast Muse is spending some time in DC this weekend, and the East Coast Muse couldn't be more excited to have her in the same time zone.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Almost There Day: cucumber-lime gin n' tonic

So the week is only half over and both the Muse-ys are already beat. Anyone else? Is anyone else exhausted at this point? Well, we are almost there and depending on your time zone you might be more there than others. In any case, we wish we were sitting outside drinking. Drinking goodbye to a long Mon-Wed and hello to the weekend we see emerging off in the distance. And especially considering how hot it's been on the East Coast, at least one of us definitely wants to be sipping on something cool and refreshing.  A cucumber-lime gin tonic spritzer would be perfect - a bright hint of cucumber over cool ice. MmmMmm.

Cucumber-Lime Gin N' Tonic

2 oz gin (or 3 depending on how rough the week has been)
4 oz tonic water
.5 oz cucumber simple syrup (below)
2 thin lime slices
1 thin cucumber slice

Combine gin, tonic water, and cucumber simple syrup, stir well and pour over ice. Drop in a couple of lime slices and a cucumber slice in for a hit of extra flavor and a little esthetic pizazz. 

Cucumber Simple Syrup

Simple syrup really is pretty simple...combine equal parts sugar and water in a pan and heat until sugar is dissolved. For cucumber simple syrup, toss a handful of cucumber slices in the water/sugar mix and let it steep for several minutes. 

Yum! Now we're really wishing it was 5 o'clock and we were sitting out having one of these. Ha! As if we even have time to sit back and relax even after work is over. But maybe we could at least pound one back while making dinner, cleaning, packing, etc etc. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Do or Don't: sheer shirt, black bra

The sheer shirt and black bra: to be, or not to be?

The Muses have been discussing this very question amongst themselves the past few days. WCM says there is something very French about the sheer shirt/black bra look- but isn't quite sure how to do it well. The ECM has decided to assist her Francophile WCM and instruct her in the way to go. We DO suggest sporting this look but the key is proper execution.

The trick of pulling off the black bra/sheer shirt is a matter of making it look purposeful, and not like it was an accident resulting from bad lighting in your apartment. Trolling the internet procured a few examples, and of course we had to share with all of you.


One-half of the Olsen duo could potentially have pulled this off had she swapped her black bra for a black cami. However, the effect of the black bra with a high-waisted black skirt in this instance makes it look like she made a juvenile mistake.

When it comes to fashion, we rarely find much for which to criticize Katie Holmes. However this outfit, worn to a gala, doesn't do it. The shirt looks like an afterthought paired with that elegant skirt, and the bra looks like something that would be better-suited for a yoga class, not a black-tie event. The shirt/bra combo could have worked with a light, 3/4 length cardi and cigarette jeans and flats during the day. But for an evening event - don't do it.


The brilliance of this outfit (from Candystore Collective) is the patterned sheer shirt and the dark bra that isn't overtly black (it may even be navy blue, which would have been a great call - it echoes the dark wash of her jeans). You can glimpse the waist of the model's jeans as well, but you can't see her belly button. Total winner, and completely accessible to even the average girl. We don't condone this outfit for work or church, but for a late lunch with the girls after a trip to the farmer's market - do it.

This look (also Candystore Collective) is definitely a little sexier because of the extra sheer back. Note that the entire shirt is not see-through, it is really just the back so it adds a sexy pop without being obscene. The Muses definitely suggest trying this hot look but if you do, remember that the sheer top/black bra should be the hero. If you add a leather mini skirt and 5" heels, you're just going to look like a stripper (definitely a Muse DON'T). It would be perfectly suited for a night out when paired with a pencil skirt and a low wedge. 

Though you can't see it well here, when Karolina Kurkova made a guest appearance on America's Next Top Model, she sported a black tank dress under a long sheer button-down, and tied a slim black belt around the ensemble. Her hair was slicked back in a sweet bun, and the neutral flats set it all off. Had she worn heels, it would have been too much. Same with extravagant earrings or big hair. The result was simple, sophisticated, and sassy. Winning combo, in our humble opinion.

What do you think, lovely ladies? Are you for this trend, or against it?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

2:2:2 AUSTIN

ATX – my relationship with Austin, Texas goes back farther than might seem at first glance. Though I’ve never lived there, and have visited just a handful of times in the past two years, I married into a love for this self-proclaimed weird city in the heart of Texas. My husband lived there for seven years, we still own a home off of South Congress and we continue to maintain relationships with many dear friends who reside there still.

But you’re not here to read about my relationship with Austin – you want to know about 2 places to eat, 2 things to do, and 2 ways to relax in AUSTIN, Texas.


So hard. So, so hard. Austin boasts so many stellar restaurants, that it’s nearly impossible to choose just two. But I trust that if you visit Austin, surely you’ll eat more than twice - in which case you can simply e-mail to ask for more recommendations.

uchi's original location on s. lamar
From the creative mind of James Beard Award-winning Chef Tyson Cole, this modern while at the same time traditionally Japanese sushi restaurant is stunning in its simplicity and elegance. I know - sushi isn't what first comes to mind when you think Austin cuisine. But Uchi isn't to be missed, and now that Chef Cole has opened a sister restaurant, called Uchiko, you have twice the chance of scoring in on a stellar meal. Reservations are a must, however note that at Uchiko it is easier to obtain reservations and they also have a happy hour until 6 p.m. Items to order: the hot rock, the shag roll and the yellowtail sashimi. And if you happen to visit uchiko, try the giant diver's scallops. Unreal

a man & his tex-mex, reunited
While some may knock this Austin staple as a tourist trap, I beg to differ. Two things are a guarantee at Gueros: incredible bitter margaritas, and a jovial atmosphere. The margaritas at Gueros are unique because they aren't too sweet, as if the bartender added too much sour mix. Instead these margs are ever-so-slightly bitter, and with a fine crust of salt around the rim of the glass, the combination is killer. The queso at Gueros is a must-order item (my tip: grab some extra pico de gallo from the salsa bar and dump it right into the queso), and while you really can't go wrong with anything that you order, my dear husband will tell you to nab the chicken al carbon. The burrito is a bit unwieldy and almost too large to really enjoy, so order the Gueros salad with the chicken al carbon on top. You won't be sorry. Most nights also have live music, so be sure to step outside into the beer garden too.


Barton Springs
Barton Springs is an Austin institution. Start with the trail around Town Lake (now called Lady Bird Lake, but always will be Town Lake to locals). The worn, gravelly trails surrounded by water and foliage cause you to forget the city you're in, and offer shade from the hot Austin sun (although you still need to get out there early most of the year to avoid sunstroke). The nearby running stores always stock coolers for thirsty athletes (and their pets), and everyone from the old guy trying to get in shape to star marathoners can be seen out there getting their exercise on (and yes, I really did see Matthew McConaughey running while we were out there in October). Once you're done running or biking, make sure you get to Barton Springs for a dip in the cool-year-round waters. Nearby lockers offer you the ability to change in or out of your swimsuit, and triathletes training for the open water swim take their lunch break at the springs. 

Shop on South Congress!
earrings by a local artist from parts & labour
I do love to shop - and South Congress is where to go for unique treasures that won't be found anywhere else. On my list of favorites: Tesoros Trading Company, for fun gag gifts, rustic housewares and made-in-Mexico goodies; Creatures Boutique for unique garments that fit like a dream but don't bust the budget; Parts & Labour, your one-stop-shop for goods made by local artists; By George for garments that will bust the budget; Stag and/or Service Menswear for the man in your life; and Yard Dog art gallery to view an eclectic collection. Leave an entire day for trolling the shops set off of the sidewalks. If you feel faint before you're done shopping, grab a Belgian Bomber from Jo's to keep you from dropping. 
sipping a beer to keep me happy while shopping for E
beligan bomber & vegan choc muffin

(again, i'm leaving so much out - the live music in Austin is world-reknown, as are obscure activities such as Chicken Shit Bingo. But I was only asked to name two things). 


Hotel San Jose
Book a night at the Hotel San Jose. This old pay-by-the-hour motel turned modern boutique hotel by design genius Liz Lambert boasts private rooms in bungalow-style stucco buildings. The artful landscaping and sparse accommodations encourage a respite from the clutter of everyday life. Enjoy a Michelada at a table in the shade with the eclectic music streaming overhead and fans circulating the arid Texas air. You'll find yourself unwinding involuntarily. 

Away Spa at the W Hotel
The swanky and newly-opened W Hotel has a spa which uses locally-sourced products. I highly recommend booking some type of treatment, be it a facial, a massage or a pedicure. You'll be ushered into a plush women's locker room, where you can slip into a big cozy robe and sip a glass of champagne and flip through a magazine while you wait for your treatment. You'll also be invited to hang around after your treatment, which is a treat in and of itself. The showers have incredible water pressure, and any and every product you could ever need in order to get ready (including disposable toothbrushes and delicious vanilla mint mouthwash in giant apothecary jars - swoon) are there waiting for you to take advantage of them. Give yourself a few hours to take it all in. 

Love and Kisses, 

Your East Coast Muse

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Food Swap Find: the bourbon slush

This weekend the WCM and her lovely, kind, always energetic, and enterprising friend Nina hosted a food swap. As this was a new adventure, the hosts weren't exactly sure what to expect. But it went swimmingly! Everyone brought tons of delicious treats (plus extras to try). The guests all munched on a load of snacks, had a few drinks, mingled, and swapped.

One item that really stood out was the bourbon slush. Most people had never heard of or tried it before. If you find yourself in that group, let us explain...the bourbon slush is a mixture of several citrus juices, tea, sugar, and, of course, bourbon. This mixture is then frozen. When you're ready for a refreshing summer drink, pull the jar out of the freezer, spoon some of the slushy mixture into your glass and serve with some gingerale over the top. Being a frozen drink, it was quite refreshing on a hot day and the hints of citrus made it seem fairly light - and, of course, had some good kick from all the bourbon.

Maybe you weren't available to attend the West Coast's best ever (IMHO) Food Swap but want to get your hands on a bourbon slush. Or maybe you have had two very long weeks and then suddenly looked at the clock and saw it was 7:00 pm on Sunday night and are bewildered and dismayed at where the weekend has gone. Whether you are drinking to savor life or drinking to forget it...you should try the bourbon slush.

Bourbon Slush

2 cups strongly brewed tea
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups bourbon whiskey
6 oz frozen orange juice
12 oz frozen lemonade
6 cups water

Brew your tea and add sugar to dissolve while still hot. Then allow to cool.

Combine all the ingredients (including cooled tea) in a large pitcher and mix well to combine. Freeze for at least 3 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, spoon about 1/4-1/3 cup of slush into a glass, top with your favorite ginger ale.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Grownup paper doll fun with the Zara Spring Summer 2011 Collection

Have you seen the latest Zara Collection?! Oh, how we love it! Bright colors, stylish cuts, fabulous shoes, flirty skirts. It's enough to make a Muse squeal.

Smitten and charmed by Zara's summer line, the Muses spent some time flipping through the online selection and chose their top picks for every occasion. The most fun of all? Stepping back to admire our choices and realizing that though we are one in heart and mind, Zara's versatility allowed each of our styles to shine.

The East Coast Muse

ECM Outfit 1 - Out & About

  the vibrant scarf, the shirt, the wide-legged pants, the wooden heels

ECM Outfit 2 - Work
the dress, the short blazer, the heels

ECM Outfit 3 - Going Out
the sexy little dress, the shoulder coverage for the restaurant, the clutch, the hot heels

The West Coast Muse

WCM Outfit 1 - Out & About
the scarf, the top, the trousers, the ankle boots

WCM Outfit 2 - Work
the top, the mini skirt, the wooden heels

WCM Outfit 3 - Going Out
the buttons-down-the-back top, the leather mini skirt (OH yeah!), the belt, the rockin' heels

Ok so that's what the Muses would wear. What would you choose from the latest Zara line?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Toddler Restaurant Kit

If we’re honest with ourselves, we all looooove us some Martha Stewart. Despite the fact that she causes us to launch into a litany of self-loathing due to her extreme organization and solution for every problem, we still love her and in some small way, aspire to be her.

We caught sight of an idea in Martha’s Organizing Tip of the Day newsletter recently: a baby restaurant kit. We don’t yet have children, but we have plenty of friends with children, and have more than once witnessed an unruly child at a restaurant with bleary-eyed parents, helplessly watching their tot with that deer-in-the-headlights look about them. Why not pack a kit for your child that is restaurant-exclusive? This makes dining out seem like the treat that it is for you for your little one as well, and diverts their attention from flinging silverware and hollering for attention.

Here are some items that we think would be fun for a baby restaurant kit (this could also be a creative baby shower gift!)

  • Utensils to inspire baby to feed him/herself
  • bowl or plate that suction cups itself to the table - brilliant!

Brilliant. Thanks for the idea, Martha.