Other Musings

Merry Married Christmas!

There is nothing quite like the Christmas season. Each year, I look forward to breaking out the holiday decorations, searching for the perfect tree, 24 hours straight of “A Christmas Story,” family and friends and the general feeling of holiday cheer in the air.

This being my first Christmas as a married woman, it has a whole new meaning for me. Now I have two families to celebrate the holidays with and, since my husband is also Jewish, a whole slew of new traditions! I am looking forward to learning more about my hubby’s traditions and making him a part of my family’s crazy Christmas celebrations. I also can’t wait to start some of our own family traditions! 

Registry Rewards

Figuring out where to register can be as daunting as deciding what to register for. There are so many stores out there and factors to consider – can my guests access the stores easily or order online easily? What kind of rewards are available? What is the range of price points? What style suits you and your hubby?

I decided on Crate and Barrel, Macy’s and Pottery Barn. For me, the most important factors were merchandise, convenience for us and guests, return policies and rewards. Here are my ratings:

Merchandise: Macy’s, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn

Convenience: Macy’s, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn

Return policy: Crate and Barrel, Macy’s, Pottery Barn

Rewards: Macy’s, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn

I liked Crate and Barrel the most because it was so easy to handle returns, the range of merchandise was excellent and they were so easy to work with! Macy’s was good and by far the easiestfor our guests. The rewards program is great but their service is just below satisfactory. There were a lot of mixups with the gifts (wrong china pattern, wrong coffee pot, etc) and not a great attitude from te employees. Pottery Barn was not easy to work with. Half of the gifts I registered for were backordered or discontinued! I only registered for a handful of gifts there too because they were so expensive.

My advice, go with a department store, Crate and Barrel and something outside of the box like Amazon or Target! You can register for more than servingware or kitchen gear that way!


Packing for the Holidays!

Ahhh, the joys of holiday traveling! I am always intrigued by the negative relationship of holiday traveling to holiday cheer. In theory, we should all be bouncing around filled with Christmas joy. Set foot in an airport from December 22 – December 27 and the falseness of this statement will hit you in the face along with the woman in seat 16 F’s suitcase.

With the stress of overcrowded airports, impending family dynamics and gifting, traveling for the holidays is no easy task. I have often found myself staring at my two suitcases – the carry on size and my grossly larger roller which I faithfully refer to as Big Blue – and struggle with my choice of dealing with a serious lack of clothing for my trip or paying the fee for checked baggage. This year, I didn’t even question the decision, Big Blue and I are on our way to Florida for Christmas, but what is the most efficient way to pack my clothes, gifts and have room for my own Christmas loot?

Here are my essentials for a 5 day trip:

  • Two pairs of jeans – wear one, pack one. Try to choose a skinny/straight leg and a flare for some variety. 
  • Leggings and/or black pants. I have a great pair of black pants from Lucky Brand that are much nicer than leggings but just as comfortable, These are my go-to for my travels, they work with anything. J Crew’s Minnie pant is another great options. 
  • 1 “going-out top” – make it fun and flirty, but not anything skimpy so you can get double wear out of it for a nice dinner. Think fun prints, ruffles or embellishments. 
  • 1 classic button up in a fun color (if you go with a basic white, which is also a great option, make sure you pack some accessories that pop)
  • 1 great cardigan – I packed a basic black, mid-thigh length lightweight cardigan. It goes with anything and can dress a basic tank top up for a nice dinner. 
  • 1 wrap dress – any type/color/print wrap dress is your best friend. 99% of the time they are made of a fabric that won’t wrinkle, look great on every shape and can be dressed up or dressed down. 
  • 2 of your favorite tops – I packed a chambray button up from J Crew and a great basic lightweight sweater with lace detailing at the shoulders. 
  • In the winter, a pair of boots. Wear these on the plane. Sure, going through security and showing everyone how stylish your jeans look in your penguin socks can be a smidge daring, but I promise, you’ll get through it and be VERY happy you have the extra space in your suitcase!
  • 1 pair of great flats. I went with leopard print because the outfits I brought were mostly solid colors and the patterns I do have, I can wear with my brown boots. 
  • Toiletries – Hit up CVS or Target’s travel size section and get yourself shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, toothbrush and toothpaste. All other items are nonessential. I keep my toiletry bag stocked at all times so I never forget anything and don’t have to repack it every time I travel. Buy extras when you think of it and keep them under your bathroom sink. 
  • Jewelry – My love for jewelry rivals Elizabeth Taylor’s, but even I have to travel lightly with respect to baubles. Pick 2-3 statement necklaces; 1 pair of statement earrings; a great watch; 1 basic necklace, think gold chain with your initials or a simple silver necklace with a small gemstone; 2 pairs of basic stud earrings, cubic zirconia studs and fun, oversized pearl studs lend themselves to many outfits. 
  • Makeup – Keep it simple! Don’t switch up your routine too much, but don’t pack the 7 eyeshadows you keep in your makeup bag because you saw how to do a smokey eye in a magazine and wanted to try it but know you NEVER will – at least not on THIS vacation. Moisturizer, foundation, bronzer, blush, 2 eyeshadows, mascara and eyeliner. Done and done! Throw your favorite lip gloss or balm in your purse. 
Pack your gifts for others in your suitcase and then you’ll have room for the gifts you (hopefully) get in return!    

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Donning the Apron – Veggie Chili

Now that I am on my way to becoming a real adult (marriage apparently does that to you), I am attempting to work on my culinary skills. An on average ten hour work day combined with two hours of commuting doesn’t leave me with a great deal of time to learn the ways of Emeril, Ina and Paula. However, I think it is fair to challenge myself to try three new recipes a week. During the winter months, I crave any type of soup or chili, so I found this veggie chili recipe on myrecipes.com from Southern Living. The hubby is a true carnivore, so I’ll have to try this with some lean ground turkey next time, but for my first chili ever, this turned out quite appetizing! The most time consuming part was the veggie chopping, but that is what husbands are for, right? 
Check out the recipe below and take my advice, if you don’t have a crockpot yet, get one! They are a busy cook’s best friend!

YIELD: Makes 15 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups) | COOKTIME:8 Hours, 18 Minutes | PREPTIME:25 Minutes | COURSE: Main Dishes, Soups/Stews
2 large carrots, diced (1 cup)
2 celery ribs, diced (1/2 cup)
1 medium-size sweet onion, diced
Vegetable cooking spray
2 (8-oz.) packages sliced fresh mushrooms
1 large zucchini, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 yellow squash, chopped (1 cup)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
3 cups tomato juice
2 (14 1/2-oz.) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
4 (15-oz.) cans pinto, black, great Northern, orkidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn

YIELD: Makes 15 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups) | COOKTIME:8 Hours, 18 Minutes | PREPTIME:25 Minutes | COURSE: Main Dishes, Soups/Stews
2 large carrots, diced (1 cup)
2 celery ribs, diced (1/2 cup)
1 medium-size sweet onion, diced
Vegetable cooking spray
2 (8-oz.) packages sliced fresh mushrooms
1 large zucchini, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 yellow squash, chopped (1 cup)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
3 cups tomato juice
2 (14 1/2-oz.) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
4 (15-oz.) cans pinto, black, great Northern, orkidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn
  1. Sauté first 3ingredients in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray overmedium-high heat 10 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add mushrooms,zucchini, and squash; sauté 3 more minutes. Add chili powder and next 2ingredients, and sauté 5 more minutes.
  2. Stir together tomatosauce and tomato juice in a 6-qt. slow cooker until smooth. Stir in dicedtomatoes, next 2 ingredients, and carrot mixture. Cover and cook on LOW 8hours.

Note: Cool leftovers, and freeze in plasticfreezer containers or zip-top plastic freezer bags for up to 2 months.


Creative Gifting

Along with holiday cheer comes what feels like Santa’s choke-hold on my bank account. Don’t get me wrong, I love nothing more than to find the PERFECT gift for someone I love. However, my finances are still recovering from a wedding a few months ago and with the economy the way it is, money just isn’t what it used to be! This gift-giving season, I’ve had to be a bit more creative than in past years. I don’t want to be selfish, so here are some creative cost-cutting ideas:

  • Those of you who shop months in advance; it’s great if you know exactly what you want to give someone and that the price won’t fluctuate (for instance, any apple product). But, the sales get better the closer you get to Christmas. This year, Christmas falls on a Saturday, giving many retail stores a full week to lure you in with promises of 30%, 40% and yes, I’ve even seen 50% off all purchases. 
  • Do you have a credit card with a points rewards benefit? It isn’t cheap if you use them to buy a FANTASTIC gift! For instance, someone on my Christmas list had a very expensive item that nobody in the family could swing because they’d already done their shopping. Lo and behold, it was on American Express’s shopping site for a discounted point value. Wouldn’t your loved one rather get the gift of their dreams, even if it isn’t purchased with your cold, hard cash?
  • Nordstrom Rack and Marshalls are LIVESAVERS. I got a good portion of my shopping done here and for a fraction of the price. Michael Kors wallet at half price? Yes, please! Kenneth Cole winter jacket for under $100? WINNING. Again, nobody has to know what you paid for it – all that matters is that you can afford to give it to them!
  • Do you have any stray gift cards from returns or purchases earlier in the year that you aren’t using? Now’s the time to break ’em out and put them to use. It is still your money – you just aren’t spending it on yourself! Sharing is caring, folks! 
Now, I don’t want what I’ve said here to be misconstrued. Don’t be cheap! Just be thoughtful and use EVERYTHING you have at your disposal for those who you care about! Happy Shopping!

Sale Alert! Anthropologie!

One of my absolute favorite retail stores, Anthropologie’s merchandise ranges from underwear to blouses to doorknobs, but every item adheres to one piece of criteria: it must be unique. For me, walking into Anthro is like a breath of fresh air. Not only the items, but the way they are styled, always opens my eyes to a new way of looking at fashion. While the selection is always impressive, the price tags can sometimes be staggering. Typically, I beeline it to the sale section, unless I am in some serious need of retail therapy. Good news for me, because today Anthro announced 50% off all of their sale styles for a limited time! I know it’s the holiday season, but I have to believe that sometimes receiving is just as great is as giving!

I’ve posted some of my favorites in the sale section so far. Things are going pretty quickly though, so you better get to purchasing!


District Dining Guide: Rasika

Obama’s dined there; it’s won a plethora of foodie awards and the James Beard Foundation Awards declared it not only the best Indian restaurant in America, but one of the best restaurants in America! Rasika is a one way ticket to India – return indefinite – right smack dab in the middle of Penn Quarter. I took a group of 40 people, 90% of who were Indian, to Rasika after Cirque du Soleil and didn’t hear a single bad word about the food!

Granted, by going with a group we did receive a different menu than an average patron might put together. However, all of the dishes we ate were on the regular menu. I have had Indian food plenty of times before, but never of this quality or flavor. Every single dish we had was better than the next! Now, if you have never had Indian food before, be prepared to experience new flavors and spices, as well as a fair amount of heat to most dishes. The servers at Rasika are knowledgeable on all dishes and happy to help guide diners in the best direction based on their tastes. Don’t be afraid to ask them for advice! Here is the lowdown on what we had on our menu and what I thought of it:

Palak Chaat – One of my favorites! The texture of the spinach, mixed with the fried crunch and sweet taste of the yogurt and date chutney was a completely new taste for me and it did not dissapoint!

Palak Chaat

(Crispy baby spinach / sweet yogurt / tamarind / date chutney)

Sev batata puri – Very light and flavorful. The mango sweetened the dish so it almost tasted like it could pass as part of the dessert menu.
(Crispy biscuits / potatoes / raw mangoes/ gram flour vermicelli / chutneys)

Seekh Kabab – This dish is a distant relative of sausage and was very spicy. The flavor was excellent, particularly accompanied with the mint chutney.
(Minced lamb / garam masala / mint chutney)

Kali Mirch Tikka – Another one of my favorites! I am determined to find a way to make this at home. The chicken was cooked to perfection and had just the right amount of spice.
(Chicken / crushed black pepper / cashewnut / mint chutney)


Chicken Makhani

Chicken makhani – Also known as butter chicken. This dish was by far my favorite. Now, I’ve been told many times that if you are in the company of Indians and order this dish, you are asking to get made fun of as an America. Apparently, this is the most mild Indian dish you can order and Americans always like it the best. I’d be happy to be made fun of for ordering this dish as long as it meant I could eat it! If you visit Rasika, you have to try it!
(Broiled chicken / tomato / fenugreek)

Palak Paneer – This was a very nice side dish, but that’s just it – nice – nothing I’d write home about. Good taste, but I could take it or leave it.
(Spinach / cottage cheese / cumin)

Dal makhani – I didn’t get the chance to try this, but everyone we were with said it was phenomenal. Lentils are usually a staple in any Indian meal, so I’d say go for it, but I can’t recommend it as I didn’t try it myself!
(Lentils / caramelized onion)

Cucumber raita – You more than likely have had something like this before. If you’ve had greek food, the flavor is very similar to Tzaziki sauce. This isn’t something you’d eat on its own; you’ll want to put it on some naan bread or a dish that might be a bit too spicy for your taste buds.
(Cucumber / yogurt relish)

Lemon cashew nut rice – Self explanatory, but oh so good! Make sure to eat either the Chicken Makhani or the Dal Makhani (or any other dish with some flavorful sauce) atop the rice.

Bread basket – Three different types of naan (flatbread) – garlic, sage and plain. Have one of each and either dip in the sauce from one of the dishes you order or the cucumber raita!


gulab jamun, carrot halwa and cardemom ice cream

Gulab Jamun, Carrot Halwa and Cardamom Ice Cream – I have to be honest, at first, I was not sure what was what on my plate! Luckily, a coworker was able to point everything out and explain it to me. The gulab jamun was by far the best of the three servings on my plate and my goodness, was it good! It tasted a bit like a donut but the texture was so much moister. It is a traditional Indian dessert but I’ve never had anything like it! I only had a bite of the carrot halwa because the taste was sweet, but strong. The cardamom ice cream was very mild and lacked a lot of flavor. I was so full, so I wasn’t feeling too motivated to try to find combinations to make dessert taste better, but I’d venture a guess that the cardamom ice cream would cut the sharpness of the carrot halwa just perfectly. 

All in all, by far one of the best restaurants I’ve been to in DC. I have to say, as I work for an Indian company, I’ve had traditional Indian food many, many times during the past year and this is NOT traditional Indian food. However, it is just plain amazing food – phenomenal service and even better food. I can’t wait to go again with friends and you should go as soon as you can!


Can do Mandu!

A beautiful spring Sunday morning in the district…yes, it must be brunching season! I had plans to help my best friend paint her new condo (yay, Nicole!) and we of course needed some pre-Michelangelo fuel. We decided on Mandu, a Korean joint off of 18th St. in Dupont.

It was my first time having fare, but it was fabulous! Mandu featured a Korean brunch special for $12, which Nicole ordered. Amanda and I opted for a traditional Korean dish, Dolsot bibim bap, which features rice, bean sprouts, mushrooms, vegetables, the meat of your choice and a fried egg in a clay pot. We also started with pork dumplings and the standard appetizer plate offered to all guests – seasoned cucumbers, bean sprouts, green beans, potatoes and tofu.

All in all, the food was fabulous and I would highly recommend the cuisine. However, the service left much to be desired. Maybe they do takeout…

I’d give it 5 out of 5 for the food, but a 2 out of 5 for the service – I’ll go with an overall 3 out of 5 forks!


Life is never boring…

Lately, my life has been entirely too busy. I barely have time to brush my teeth before running out the door to make it to work on time. I work too many hours a day; don’t spend enough time with the ones I love and am never able to tackle the laundry pile (don’t even ask about the dry cleaning). Too much to do; too much stress and way too many demands have sent me into a tailspin and feeling like I have no idea who I am anymore!

I have come to the realization that if I don’t make time to actually live my life, then it is going to pass me by before I know it. Life will always be eventful, but it is up to me to make it perfectly eventful!


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