Monday, June 30, 2008

Sparkle Celebration

Over the next week, there will surely not be a shortage of fireworks and friendly picnic gatherings celebrating the Fourth of July. One of the best things about this explosive weekend is that there are fiery objects for all ages. An exciting gift to bring family and friends this weekend are red, white and blue sparklers to shine in the holiday weekend.

Available at Prism Fireworks and Washington Fireworks these sparklers enable us to come together as a nation to celebrate our Independence. Everyone from children to adults enjoy the sparkle and color of the Fourth of July sparklers, why not light up the week early by ordering your friends their own collection of red, white and blues!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Save Some Gas By Relaxing in the Grass!

With the price of gas skyrocketing this summer, most families are avoiding the traditional cross country road trip. Instead of driving far, wrestling with bugs and taking chances with the weather, why not set up camp in your own back yard or closest national park?

Not everyone particularly enjoys the “natural” aspect of a camping trip, so here are some creative ideas for the adventurer who also seeks a little luxury:

Instead of the conventional sleeping bag, bring along an air mattress and pack a fitted sheet along with a couple of lightweight quilted throws. Backyard campers can decorate with colorful throw pillows and straw floor mats. Outdoor beanbag chairs and collapsible director’s chairs are a chic alternative to the traditional tree stump. For ambience, replace the flashlights with lanterns from Pottery Barn.

One of the best parts of camping is dinner fresh from the flame, but traditional camp cuisine won’t do in your newly lavish digs. Take foil foods to the next level by pre-packing a nice filet of fish, fresh vegetables and your favorite seasoning in homemade aluminum foil packets. By the time your campsite is ready, the food will be marinated to perfection and ready to throw into the pit. For dessert, reinvent s’mores by creating a graham cracker, chocolate and marshmallow pie!

Paper Lanterns-Pottery Barn $19.00

Air Mattress-Costco $36.99

Bean Bag-Bean Bag Blitz $79.95

Café Table-Ballard Design $79.95

Directors $89.99

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Summer Time: Nothing But Ripe!

As I was walking through the market yesterday I came across a scene that made me chuckle. A woman, in search of the perfect melon, had picked up a watermelon from the mound available and began knocking upon the hardened shell. What was she listening for, I asked myself. Did she expect the melon to shout out to her “I’m RIPE!”? I realized that there are many different wives tales that we fall into believing concerning the ripeness of a summer melon. In order to provide a steadfast way to find a delicious fruit and save ourselves from embarrassment in the produce aisle, here are a few possibly unknown facts about picking fruits!

When choosing a watermelon, cantaloupe, or honeydew this summer save the effort of knocking; the only outcome will be a bruised, possibly unripe fruit. Instead, find the “bellybutton” or the end of the melon. Push gently and see if the end is soft. A ripe melon will not be squishy but will give slightly when pressed.

For a pineapple many of us may have been taught to tug on the leaves to see if they are loose enough to fall out. I believe that just proves that the leaves are weak! Instead pay attention to the coloring of your pineapple. If you purchase one in the store that is completely green, chances are you will have trouble ripening it once you get home. That usually means the fruit was picked prematurely. Instead, buy a fruit that has some orange or yellow coloring towards the bottom. At home, turn the pineapple upside down to allow the sugars that have fallen to the bottom of the fruit to travel throughout the entire fruit. You will know your pineapple is ripe when the golden coloring becomes even throughout.

Now that the truth about finding ripe fruit is out in the open, the rest of our summer should be sweet sailing!

Let me know how your picking season is going!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Last Minute Summer Entertaining Tips

I just wanted to let everyone know that I will be on Martha Stewart's Morning Living Show tomorrow morning (Tuesday June 24th) on Sirius Radio channel 112. Listen in for my suggestions for summer entertaining and what everyone should keep around their house for a last minute get-together!

One of the best things about summertime is the laid-back feeling and extended daylight which seem to invite impromptu visits by friends and neighbors. A good host is always prepared for such drop-ins, so I make sure to keep my kitchen always stocked with certain items, just in case. Carr’s Table Water Crackers with Cracked Pepper, wasabi peas and Dried California Apricots are great snacks for serving, all with conveniently long shelf lives. I also love Busseto Poivre Moulu Salami from Zabar’s, another item that will keep nicely between visits. Pair these items with fresh white grapes, Sabra 5-Spice Hummus and Asian Pears from your grocery store for a spread that’s both easy and delicious.

Perhaps more important than food as temperatures soar is having the perfect beverage on hand. My twist on an old-fashioned glass of lemonade is to mix Crystal Lite lemonade powder with seltzer, and garnish with orange and lime slices, as well as a sprig of mint. The same recipe works just as well with Crystal Lite iced tea. Both the lemonade and ice tea look so fresh in my favorite Orskov glasses, which are both durable and stylish.

Light a jasmine scented candle, my favorite is from Dyptyque, and even in the city your guests will be transported to a lush summer garden. For music I suggest Duffy or Nancy Sinatra. With all five senses satisfied your spur of the moment guests will feel right at home.

- Busseto Poivre Moulu Salami (Peppered Salami) - $7.49 for 10oz. at Zabars
-White Grapes - Found at any local grocery store
- Sabra 5-Spice Hummus - Found at any local grocery store
- Bandol Domaines Ott Rose 2006 - $31.95/bottle - Found at most local wine distributors
- Crystal Lite Lemonade and Iced Tea - Found at any local grocery store

Serving Ware:
- Orskov Glasses - Great for all occasions and can be found online or at the General Home Store in East Hampton.

- Centerpieces made of Hostas, Mountain Laurel or my favorite iceberg roses.



The Dog Days of Summer

Now that it is almost consistently warm and sunny outside, it is a great time to enjoy the outdoors – especially with pets! But if you have a dog or a cat (or other animal), the hot weather and boiling sun can raise some concerns. Pets can be very susceptible to the heat, and can suffer from heat stress and sunburn just like us. I often run out of time, or forget the fact that my dog Sammy may also be uncomfortable in the heat as I often am, so receiving gifts from friends for him is a wonderful and very considerate gift.

It is very important that your pet always stays hydrated. Carrying a hard plastic bowl with you everywhere could become a nuisance, but luckily, Backcountry K-9 sells collapsible water bowls that are perfect for on-the-go pets and owners! Check out to choose the water bowl that’s perfect for you and your pet.

And a special bonus for your dog in the hot, humid weather: Frosty Paws makes frozen treats for dogs that can be an extra special snack for them during the summer heat. They can be found in most grocery stores – just check on their website for locations near you –

Help your friends remember the health and comfort of their pets by finding the perfect pet gifts for this beautiful weather! If you’re unsure of how the weather will affect your pet, and want tips on what precautions to take for them, check and look at “pets” under “Home & Family” for a personal pet forecast and all kinds of pet-related resources.

Pictured above is my dog Sammy enjoying the beach; he and I would love to hear your ideas for keeping your pet cool this summer. Please leave a comment!

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Power of Theater

After watching South Pacific and In the Heights sweep this year’s Tony Awards I began to think about theater and the way it both influences and reflects our lives. South Pacific, a musical revival, first produced in the 1950s tells the story of a frustrated couple torn by racial differences amidst the trials of a World War.

In the Heights, one of the most modern musicals currently on Broadway, tells a similar story of a couple being pulled apart by racial conflicts, financial suffering and cultural warfare.

I have recently seen both of these shows, however seeing them side by side at the Tony Awards made me realize that issues prevalent fifty years ago are still issues that we face today. Whether it’s on a small island in the Pacific Ocean or on a street corner in Washington Heights, all humans go through the same struggles. It is the beauty of theater that allows the audience, through art, to connect to one another. It is refreshing to experience the theatre’s ability to put a new face and new spirit to this ageless story of human life.

What are you inspired by? I would love to hear your comments!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Summer Jam!

The month of June is prime time for fresh fruits. Strawberries, apricots, raspberries, cherries, and other fruits are all at their peak during this month as the weather heats up. Since this is the best time to enjoy fresh fruits, it’s also the best time to incorporate them into your kitchen or even a housewarming gift. One of the best ways to do this? Homemade jam, of course.

Though the task of making your own jam or jelly may at first seem daunting, don’t be intimidated. It’s easier than it seems. You can find step by step instructions for making jam and canning it online, but here are some helpful hints:

First, mash the fruit so that you can mix in the sugar and pectin and boil it. Leaving some chunks of fruit helps add texture to the jam. When you mix in the sugar and pectin, make sure you have the right balance between them. This may take some experimenting.

Bring this mixture to a rolling boil (still bubbling when you stir it) and let it boil there for 1 ½ - 2 minutes. At this point, to test the jam, you can take a small amount on a sterling silver spoon (sterling silver is a good conductor of heat so it will help it cool more quickly) and set it on top of crushed ice. As soon as the jam is cool enough to not burn your tongue, try it!

Bon Appétit featured an article a while back about secrets to making homemade jam called “Jam Session: The Simple Secret to Making Homemade Jam.” Check it out: Jam Session: The Simple Secret to Making Homemade Jam.

If you have any hints of your own for homemade jam and other fruit treats, feel free to leave comments!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Holy, Moley Guacamole!

Think one of your friends needs help spicing up their dinner parties? Well here is a perfect gift that can influence them to kick it to the next level!

Guacamole is one dip that varies with each ingredient that you add. Presenting your host with a great recipe and friendly hints on picking the perfect avocado is great for helping them tackle one of the most widely enjoyed summer dips.

Crate and Barrel is selling beautiful and affordable mortar and pestle sets that help create the perfect mixture of ingredients. Once you have your tools, the best guacamole depends upon the ripeness of the avocados. Ripe avocados yield slightly to a gentle squeeze but are still somewhat firm. If you buy a firm avocado, placing it in a paper bag with an apple in room temperature will speed the ripening process.

Mix up your summer parties by gifting the perfect guacamole! Here is a great recipe for your own summer dip:

Great Guacamole Recipe:

2 ripe avocados
½ red onion, minced (about ½ cup)
1-2 serrano chiles, stems and seeds removed, minced
2 T. cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 T. of fresh lime or lemon juice
½ tsp. coarse salt
A dash of freshly grated black pepper
Garnish with red radishes or jicama

1. Cut avocadoes in half and remove the seed. Scoop the avocado from peel and place in mixing bowl.
2. Mash with fork. Add chopped onion, cilantro, lime or lemon, salt and pepper and mash together. Start with adding half of one chili pepper and continue adding according to taste. Take care when handling the peppers!
3. Cover mix with plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent oxidation from the air. Refrigerate until ready.

If you have a recipe that is a personal favorite, please leave me a comment!

Mortar and Pestle Sold at Crate and Barrel
650 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022

Friday, June 13, 2008

Taking a (Bug) Bite out of Malaria

With the arrival of summer comes the arrival of pesky mosquitoes. Here in the States, we’re concerned about mosquitoes because of those itchy bites they like to give us. However, while we are resting mosquito-free in our beds at night, others around the world go to sleep with the worry of contracting malaria. Africa in particular suffers from this malaria endemic. Every day, 3,000 children in Africa die from malaria.

Malaria causes many deaths and illnesses, putting parents out of work, children out of school, and fueling economic crisis for many parts of Africa.

The deaths and illnesses caused by malaria are tragic themselves, but are made even more tragic by the fact that they can be easily prevented by the use of mosquito bed nets. The donation of a bed net costs only $10, yet the nets are effective. Bed nets can cover 2-3 people, and can last up to three years.

It’s easy and inexpensive for us to contribute. To donate a net and learn more about the malaria endemic, visit

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

With a Cherry on Top

The month of June, in addition to holding the first day of summer and being the second most popular wedding month, is the peak season for many fruits and flowers. Cherries in particular reach perfection throughout June and are great freshly picked and for cooking.

Growing almost 75% of the countries tart cherries, Michigan is now finding new ways to make use of their cherry abundance. Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Traverse City, Michigan features “cherry-themed services” throughout the resort. Used for facial crèmes, in foot baths, and as design throughout their building.

Whether you favor Bing cherries, which are of highest demand, Tart cherries that are found to relieve arthritic pains, or cherry juice which is good alone or with a little vodka added, now is the time to get to the market and put your own creative touch on the cherry world!

Here are two of my favorite cherry recipes:

The Chocolate Cherry Martini:

2 ounces chocolate-flavored liqueur
2 ounces cherry wine
2 fluid ounces vodka
Chocolate-covered cherry

1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
2. Add the chocolate, cherry liqueur and vodka to the shaker.
3. Shake very very briskly to mix and chill.
4. Strain into a chilled martini glass that you drizzled the chocolate syrup into.
5. Garnish with the Chocolate covered Cherries.

Macerated Cherries with Vanilla Ice-cream:

1 C. sugar
1 C. water
2 t. vanilla extract
2 t. rum
1 C. cherries, stems on

1. Combine sugar and water thoroughly in a medium-size saucepan and bring to a boil.
2. Remove from heat, add vanilla and rum, and stir.
3. Drop in cherries and let soak overnight.
4. Enjoy with vanilla ice cream the next day.

I’d love to hear your comments and some of your own cherry recipes!

Monday, June 9, 2008

25¢ a Cup

Nothing is more exciting than coming across a group of children sitting behind a lemonade stand. No matter the quality of lemonade, seeing their faces when you place a quarter in their money jar is worth the moment spent stopping for a drink.

When you are struggling with ideas for a friendly housewarming gift, why not reinvent the joys of the childhood lemonade stand? Stores like Crate and Barrel and Williams-Sonoma carry various different styles of the lemon press which can then be combined with a decorative basket or pitcher filled with lemons and sugar to complete your adult lemonade kit. For a recipient who enjoys to garden, you can also add a mint plant that can be grown to add flavor to the lemonade.

Simple, creative and fun, this gift will excite both adults and children that are searching for a refreshing drink for the summer. Who says lemons can’t sweeten up your summer?

Ona Pitcher found at Crate & Barrel: $16.95 - $26.95

Friday, June 6, 2008

Honey Bees & Ice Cream: Not an Unlikely Match

When enjoying delicious summer fruits such as raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries, it’s hard to imagine the long journey they endured before arriving on our plates. Honey, nuts, and many fruits are pollinated by honey bees.

There has been a recent crisis involving mass amounts of honey bees dying unexplainably. Without these honey bees, honey, many fruits, and many nuts will no longer blossom. Not only are our diets being affected, but so is our ecosystem.

Both Haagen-Dazs and Burt’s Bees are working to raise awareness about this problem. Haagen-Dazs is using a special limited edition ice cream, Vanilla Honey Bee. Burt’s Bees has created a public service announcement to inform people about this epidemic.

To help, pick up some Vanilla Honey Bee ice cream or check out Haagen-Dazs’s “Bee Store” at You can learn about honey bee friendly wildflowers that can be planted in your yard and receive information about supporting local, organic farming at

Taking steps to save the bees and our environment has been made easy, and delicious: all you have to do is eat some ice cream!

Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Honey Bee ice cream can be found at any local grocery store.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tastes Like Chicken

Going on a picnic is an amazing way to escape the office and your daily routine to enjoy Mother Nature instead of a blinding computer screen. When planning the food to pack for the adventure my main dish is always home cooked fried chicken.

I always soak the chicken in milk the night before the meal. In the morning the chicken is dipped in the batter: remember, only dip once! Finally, fry the chicken in either oil or lard, whichever you have handy. The chicken comes out with a thin crispy skin that is finger-licking good but not greasy enough that you even have to lick your fingers!

If you find yourself scrambling to put together a last minute picnic and do not have the time to soak and fry the chicken yourself, run over to Popeye’s. As they approach their 35th anniversary, Popeye’s chicken has been commemorated as the “best fried chicken” in Dallas, Atlanta and other cities across the country.

So whether you cook it or buy it, you have two great styles of chicken to make any dinner or picnic delicious!

Monday, June 2, 2008


One of the best qualities of this time of year is the additional hours of daylight that we experience. The late afternoon sun seems to bring out the youthful energy hidden within everyone. The next gift idea allows us to take advantage of the summer spirit and the time available to have fun with our families.

Family game night is an idea that involves taking time out of our hectic schedules and applying our attention to our family and friends. Barnes and Noble sells games for every age level that are both fun and educational. Cranium takes the best aspects of charades, Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit to create an interactive board game for everyone in your party.

Whether you gift traditional games like Monopoly and Scrabble or excite your host with newer games like Apples to Apples, You’ve Been Sentenced, Catch Phrase and Cranium you are spreading the idea of game night with every gift that you give. So clear off the table and roll the dice and start spending time with your family!