Mother’s Day is right around the corner and it’s such a great opportunity to show your mother how special she is to you. In the spirit of showing love, co-founders Serena Watson and Lindsey Day shared their reflections on Mother’s Day and what it means to them:
My first example of what it is to be “Made” was my mother, Gladys. I grew up watching her work in her beauty salon, “Personal Touch”. A young entrepreneur, she balanced motherhood with running a growing business. And she looked fly while doing it. One of the reasons her example stuck with me was because she always included me in her business. As early as six or seven I was answering phones for her and making appointments. She says that it got so bad that if she answered the phone her clients would ask for me. Early on, my mother taught me responsibility and what it meant to be a professional. I also think that having my mother include me in her business at a young age allowed me to be fearless in that capacity later in life. Because of her, I saw myself as capable and smart early on and that confidence stayed with me throughout my life.
My mother and I have worked together many times since then. I helped her produce hair shows when I was only in middle school and she helped me win a student council election in high school. When she decided she wanted to get into wedding planning, I helped her get clients and when Made Woman Mag began, she helped style our photo shoots. Of course, we have supported each other emotionally as well. I know when things go wrong or when I need to do the “ugly cry,” she is the person who will be there for me. We have more than just a mother-daughter relationship; we are a team. I think it’s that supportive, honest relationship that helps us both achieve our goals and stay so close. And I am truly thankful for the stellar example of professionalism, teamwork, support, and love that she has provided me every day since the day I was born.
When Mother’s Day comes around, I get excited for the opportunity to show my mom how much her support and love means to me. Like any real teammate, I want her know that I couldn’t do it without her. Between the both of us I know there is no obstacle we can’t conquer. Happy Mother’s Day Mom!
The mother-daughter relationship can be a tricky situation. You grow inside your mother’s womb, she nurtures you and teaches you survival skills, resists strangling you during your oh-so-charming teen years, prepares you for everything she possibly can, then she watches you go off to grow into a woman yourself. Your relationship goes through many stages during the years, from physical incubator to protector to mentor. Then one day… maybe over a celebratory glass of champagne, or on an impromptu “girls” trip, it hits you. This woman -- your mother – is not only the reason you’re here on this earth; she is also your friend.
The older I get, the more poignant Mother’s Day becomes. Perhaps as I think more and more about my future family, the role of my own mother becomes more appreciated. I reflect on the fact that she altered her career to be a part of my (and my brother’s) daily life, I remember her making sure I was receiving the best possible education and constantly working to provide stability, affection and love. Beyond her motherly duties, I’ve watched in awe as she survived breast cancer and a life-threatening accident that forced her to learn to walk again -- and handled it with strength and grace. I’ve seen her go on to run marathons, do mission trips, make plans to sky dive (for her 60th birthday this year) and re-launch her career at various points along the way. My mother’s appetite for life, faith and passion are traits that no one around her can ignore.
So this Mother’s Day, I am more thankful than ever. I’m thankful to have a mother who sacrificed so that I could have what she may not have had. I’m thankful that she’s here to nag me, to laugh with me and to provide support like only she can. This Mother’s Day, I want my mother to know how much her presence in my life has shaped me and guided my path. This Mother’s Day, I want to thank Mrs. Wendy Day for being my friend.
Whether you’re hosting a dinner party, making cocktails for girls night or showing off your amateur bartending skills for family, everyone needs a good arsenal of drink recipes. So roll up your sleeves and get your shaker ready, here’s how to make some of our favorite cocktail recipes to spice up your next weekend, date night or party.
1. Sparkling Pink Grapefruit Cocktail
This cocktail is a perfect pick for those who prefer margaritas and citrus cocktails. *raises hand* I love the beautiful pink color of this drink and the refreshing flavors of the fresh squeezed juice and the slight fizz from the club soda. Because of the acidity of the juices, I prefer a sugar rimmed glass, to add an extra hint of sweet while sipping, but margarita purists may prefer a salted rim. Either way, this cocktail is great after a long day, while watching the sunset, or while enjoying a lazy weekend.
2/3 cup tequila
½ cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (from 1 grapefruit)
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from 2 limes)
4 tbs simple syrup*
Sugar or coarse salt (for the rim)
¾ cup club soda, divided
Cut and juice the grapefruit and the limes, then add, with the tequila, to a cocktail shaker. Add the simple syrup (make sure it is chilled before adding it) and some ice and shake to mix. To rim the glass, wet the rim with a lime or water and place into sugar or salt spread on a plate or flat bowl. Turn until coated. Split mixture into glasses and then add club soda and ice as desired. Cheers!
*Mix 1 part sugar with 2 parts water and sugar; heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Chill before using.
2. Adult Butterbeer
If you’re a fan of Harry Potter (which I am), then you’ll appreciate this recipe for the famous buttery, bubbly butterbeer. The original recipe calls for butterscotch syrup, butter and soda, but I have adapted it for a special grown up treat. Similar recipes use mostly cream soda and butterscotch schnapps, but I like a bit more punch, and added some vodka and a splash of ginger ale to diffuse some of the sweetness of the drink. Put together, you have a delectably sweet treat. Harry Potter marathon, anyone?
3 tbs heavy whipping cream
1 part vodka
2 parts and 2 tbs Butterscotch Schnapps
Splash ginger ale, or lemon-lime soda
To make the butterbeer foam, mix 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream with 2 tablespoons butterscotch schnapps and beat until almost to the consistency of whipped cream, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the vodka and butterscotch schnapps to the cream soda and ginger ale in a highball glass. Spoon foam on top. Mix with stirrer to get foam extra frothy. Cheers!
3. Champagne Cosmopolitan
If you’re hosting a fancy soiree or you just want to indulge a little, this champagne cocktail is the perfect bubbly treat. Made with cranberry juice, limes, orange liqueur and champagne, this cocktail gives a kick with a combination of flavors.
1 cup orange liqueur, Cointreau or Grand Marnier
1 cup cranberry juice
½ cup fresh lime juice (about 2-3 limes)
3 tablespoons simple syrup*
It’s time to dust off those champagne flutes; this drink requires a more refined glass. First, mix the Cointreau or Grand Marnier, cranberry juice, lime juice and simple syrup in a pitcher or carafe. Pour the mixture into champagne flutes, about half full. Fill the rest of the flutes with champagne. If desired, garnish with a fresh or frozen cranberry. Now you’re ready to celebrate. Cheers!
*See recipe above
4. Blackberry Mojito
Mojitos are my drink of choice. They are a refreshing combination of sweet and tart with a taste that is distinctly tropical. A good mojito is like a little vacation. I wanted to experiment with complimentary fruit flavors. Blackberry has a sweet, tart flavor that pairs well with the mint and the lime in the drink.
3-4 fresh blackberries
2 sprigs of mint
4 oz. white rum
2-3 tablespoons simple syrup*
Take off the leaves of one of the sprigs of mint and muddle together with the blackberries in a highball glass. (Basically just mush all together with a spoon or fork.) Add 4 oz. (about 2 shots) of white rum and simple syrup to blackberry and mint mixture. If you like your drink a little sweeter, add 3 tablespoons, or if you like it on the tart side, only add 2 tablespoons of the simple syrup. Add half the juice from 1 lime and fill the rest of the glass with club soda. Stir. Garnish with other mint sprig and lime wedge.
*See recipe above
Now it’s time to take a load off. Cheers!
This winter, I officially became a card carrying adventurer when I traveled to Ecuador for the first time. When my boyfriend, Mathias, invited me to tag along to visit close family friends I jumped at the opportunity to experience this unique South American country. The combination of diverse geography, the remains of the Inca Empire and influence of Spanish-Colonialism make this equatorial nation rich in culture and natural beauty.
Our first stop was the quaint, Spanish colonial city of Cuenca. Nestled in a valley surrounded by the Andes mountains, the dominant features of the city's geography are also the inspiration for its name in Spanish: the four rivers of Cuenca (meaning a basin). These rivers are the Tomebamba (named after the Cañari culture), Yanuncay, Tarqui and Machangara. When we arrived, the friendly people of Cuenca made me feel instantly welcomed. Locals patiently listened to my broken Spanish as I navigated the narrow streets, made purchases at the open air markets and ordered vegetariano meals at local restaurants.
Tourists from around the world flock to this cultural center, the country's third-largest city and the capital of the Azuay province. Cafes, clothing shops and art galleries are tucked among the weathered cobblestone streets. The main plaza houses both the old cathedral, built in the same year that the city was founded (1557) and the blue-domed Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, built in 1885. Cholas de Cuenca (women of Cuenca) stroll the streets as they deftly weave Panama hats to sell at the central shopping market, Casa de la Mujer.
Upon landing in Cuenca we were greeted with Pase del Niño Viajero (Passing of the Child), a rich cultural tradition that depicts the birth of Christ amid parades of locals dressed in traditional costumes. This colorful event combines Catholic and indigenous traditions and is a three-month-long activity, beginning the first Sunday after Advent and continuing to Carnival in early March.
Pase del Niño Viajero
After enjoying the art and culture of Cuenca, the next stop was summiting Cotopaxi. Cotopaxi is a majestic, glacier capped mountain rising 19,347 feet above sea level (5,897 meters). We began our adventure by climbing Rumiñahui (a mountain next to Cotopaxi) to adjust to the altitude before the big climb.
View of Cotopaxi from the base of Rumiñahui
Our journey to “The Middle of the World” led us to the equator (for which Ecuador is named), the imaginary line that divides the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. We straddled the equator, toured the equatorial monument and visited some friendly Llamas that roam the monument park grounds. Next, we headed back to Cuenca to visit the pre-Columbian Inca ruins.
Ingapirca, which means “Inca stone wall,” is a well restored site of Inca ruins located near Cuenca. A fragment of Inca road called the Ingañan remains leads past the highlight of Ingapirca, the Temple of the Sun, also known as El Castillo (The Castle). The Inca Empire’s last remaining sun temple stands on a hill 3,200 meters high with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. It’s fun to imagine the temple as it was, lined with gold to reflect the sun in a way designed to create a religious experience.
Finally, we ended our trip with a relaxing visit to El Cajas National Park. Located 45 minutes outside of Cuenca, El Cajas is a beautiful, high altitude park with approximately 270 lakes and ponds, rare species of bird and animal life, and more beautiful plants and flowers than I could count.
The Spanish-colonial charm of Cuenca, the wild beauty of the Andes mountains and the vibrant culture of the Ecuadorian people made the trip to the middle of the world one that I’ll never forget.
It’s been 10 years since you have seen your high school classmates. It seems like another lifetime ago. You may find yourself curious every now and again about ex-boyfriends and the “popular” crowd, but is that enough to motivate you to revisit the high school days? Plus, the five social networks you actively use have made it impossible to lose touch with anyone since 2004. I admit, I am a bit torn about attending my own high school reunion. So I did what any other 28-year-old professional woman would do and made a list:
One of the main arguments I’ve heard for not attending these reunions is that you can already catch up with those you care about (and some you don’t) via Facebook. The pictures, status updates and timelines already clue us in as to whether or not our ex is fat and lonely and if the “it” couple ever got married. And when you are looking on Facebook, it saves you the awkwardness of those face to face encounters (you know you don’t remember the names of half your graduating class).
While social media does allow us to connect and share, the experiences we have connecting in the real world far outweigh that virtual high. While most of the people I do want to be reunited with are my Facebook friends, I still would like to see them in person, give them a hug and meet their spouses. I would like to hear about their travels firsthand rather than just browse a photo album. Plus, Facebook is a great tool for warming up for a reunion. If you are looking to make business connections or are struggling to remember a face, use “the book” to look it up pre-event and save yourself time and potential embarrassment.
We all think of Romy and Michelle pretending to invent Post-Its and we laugh, but the truth is, we can relate. The thing about these reunions is that they can drive us to examine ourselves under a harsh microscope. We can begin to compare ourselves to other people who we feel have accomplished more. It also forces us to be harder on ourselves in terms of getting our butts into gear for starting that business, leaving that job, or writing that book. Not being where you thought you’d be professionally is a lot more depressing when you find out that the guy voted least likely to succeed is making $100k a year.
While it is always tempting to compare ourselves to others, we should definitely refrain. Use this gathering as an opportunity to be proud of what you have done in the 10 years since you donned that cap and gown. I guarantee that when you compare yourself to how you were at 18 you will definitely feel like you have come a long way. This can also be an excellent eye-opening experience. Maybe a conversation will inspire you to move forward. This reunion might be the extra motivation you need, and you may find that your high school buddies are still some of your biggest cheerleaders. Remember, success is defined differently by everyone. You may have all been competing for the same guy, top spot in the class or prom queen, but you all know now that life is about so much more than all that.
You don’t want to drudge up past drama. Let’s admit it: high school is full of as many feuds, fails and awkward moments as it is fun times. There will always be those people you just don’t want to see and those things you just don’t want to remember... like your sophomore yearbook picture.
True, there will always be that time you fell and ate it bad outside of French class (true story) or the girl who made fun of you for what you wore, but are these things worth missing one of life’s milestones? No matter how hard it is to be the bigger person or come back from an absolute embarrassment, it is always worse to not show up at all. Besides, everyone probably forgot about your fall (here’s hoping), and that girl who made your life miserable may want to apologize. Let’s all remember, there have been way more trying times since high school (college, anyone?), and those are great equalizers.
Reunions can be costly. I’ve heard of some that seem like prom (formal dress, exotic venue) 10 years later.
If money is a factor for you, and you truly can’t justify a steep cost (especially if you have to travel to get back to your hometown) then don’t go. However, if you have advance notice and can find some other classmates who are willing to go with you and maybe carpool (think those who rode in and helped pay for the prom limo) then try and make it work. A great way to find out how much this will cost you and offer suggestions for savings would be to track down members of the organizing committee on Facebook and inquire. Ask them if they’ve planned yet and what they are thinking about doing so you can get an idea.
OK, I’m just gonna say it. A really great reason to go to your reunion is to flaunt what you’ve got. I was never the valedictorian or the homecoming queen or a star athlete, but at least I have some great clothes, a great job and a wonderful man to take as my date. I am really looking forward to showing all that off at the reunion. I don’t mean that to be snobby, I really want my high school mates to meet my guy and for everyone to know that if you work your ass off, you can have everything you want. That’s a message I love sharing with everyone. If you have three kids, go to your reunion with their pictures to show off proudly. If you have a blog, go with business cards ready to show off your space. Brag about those things that make you, you. And of course, network galore.
The last reason I have for going back to school is one of pure hope. There is always that one person who has gotten away. They don’t seem to be on Facebook and no one has heard from them. Sure, there is always a chance they won’t show, but if they were truly your friend years ago, you go in hopes that they do.
You don’t have to take my advice on all this. I am considering this as someone who has never been to a reunion before and still keeps in touch with a lot of the people I was friends with back then (case in point, Made Woman Editor-in-Chief, Serena Watson). Do I need a reunion with everyone? No, not necessarily. I could just as easily set up coffee dates and lunches via Facebook or send emails. But if my school is going to go through the trouble, I figure, why not? While we can’t go back and change the past, we can stare it in the face with new found confidence and relive those moments that made us the person we are today. The decision is yours, but whatever it is, make sure you are making it based on who you are today and not who you think you were then. Bring someone you know you will have a good time with and devote your evening to speaking with those who you truly miss or would like to reconnect with.
Whether it’s a girls’ get together, a poolside soiree, or a group of close friends coming over for game night, most of us find ourselves racking our brains for the perfect party appetizers when it’s our turn to host. And while most of us love to impress, we don’t want to spend hours agonizing over food preparation. I’ve come to rely on a few easy snack staples that always seem to please a crowd and allow me to have some fun, too.
Crostini – I love crostini because it is so simple: Just slice up and lightly toast a baguette, then top each piece with almost anything you can imagine. Try any of these combos:
The options can go on and on. Remember this go-to party snack the next time your girlfriends pick your place for wine night.
Cheese board – This is my favorite party platter because it doesn’t require cooking and most people like to sample different cheeses. Pick at least 3 or 4 good cheeses, and go with a variety. The cheese counter at your local grocer may have some suggestions, but typically it’s best to go with a mix of hard (like cheddar or asiago) and soft cheeses (like brie or bleu). Pair with some dried cranberries or apricots and fresh grapes, along with almonds or crackers for some crunch.
“Sausage en croute” – My husband had one simple request at our wedding: Pigs in a blanket. To class it up, the caterer called it “sausage en croute.” Grab a pack of Hillshire Farms Lit’l Smokies and a pack of Pillsbury crescent rolls. Cut the crescent roll in half, roll the sausage into it and bake according to Pillsbury package instructions. Serve with a tasty arrangement of dipping sauces, such as spicy mustard or chipotle ketchup. It may not be the healthiest or fanciest snack ever, but it will certainly win over the crowd!
Frozen Baby Quiche – I am not a huge fan of frozen foods, but it’s nice to have small bites on hand that don’t have to be made from scratch. I know quite a few ladies who throw a package of frozen baby quiche into the oven and serve them to guests, and they get snatched right up. Try a few brands, pick your favorite, and be sure to always have your freezer stocked. Easy!
Roasted chickpeas – Have you ever tried this!? If not, just trust me.
Roasted chickpeas are a unique, easy munchie for a party, and bonus -- they are a relatively healthy option. Toss a can of chickpeas in olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin. Then roast at about 425 degrees (adjust according to how hot your oven runs) until crispy -- usually around 30 minutes. The result? A savory bite -- a bit crispy and a bit creamy -- that packs a flavorful, satisfying punch. People don’t expect this snack, but they usually love it, so go with this if you’re looking for a twist on classic party snacks.
Pulling together food for a party doesn’t have to cut into half your paycheck or cause a day’s worth of stress. Just select a few easy appetizers that will look good, taste great and appeal to your guests. The easier the food, the more fun you will have as a host. Isn’t that the point of a party, anyway?
Brace yourself. I am about to divulge my morning routine. Perhaps when I find my one and only, I’ll spend my first waking moments staring at his handsome face while he sleeps. Until then, here it goes…
6:30am: Alarm goes off.
6:31am: Hit snooze.
6:41am: Hit snooze.
6:51am: Open eyes. Check text messages.
6:52am: Check missed calls and voicemails.
6:53am: Check emails.
6:54am: Check Facebook.
6:55am: Check CNN
7:00am: Morning run.
So, at least I get a morning run in, right? It’s pretty sad that the early moments of my day are spent “plugging in.” Truth be told, the only time I’m not readily connected to the Internet or reachable via text is when I’m sleeping. It’s the same way for many of my friends. No longer can we just turn our computers off and walk away from the mesmerizing Internet. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 90% of adult Americans have a cell phone, and 50% of them use it to browse the Internet. That, combined with the fact that more people are freelancing and becoming entrepreneurial, makes it almost impossible to disconnect. Who knows when they’ll receive an important email, a job offer, or god forbid, an emergency phone call?
Learning to unplug on a daily basis may be too large a task at the moment. But what about taking a periodic vacation? It should be easy to stop working, unplug and lay on the beach with a Mai Tai…right? Not necessarily. Checking email, texts and Facebook becomes such an ingrained habit that even a beautiful, sandy shore can’t distract you. So, for right now, here are a few suggestions on how to unplug during a vacation:
Alert Those Closest to You About Your Vacation and Why It’s Important
This goes for family as well as co-workers. Of course you’ll tell your mom, your best friend and your boss that you’re leaving town. But I’ve learned that dropping hints about said vacation and its importance will encourage them to leave you alone. Emphasize the aspects of your holiday that you’re looking forward to: relaxing, spending quality time with a loved one or exploring. When a couple goes on their honeymoon no one ever calls, texts or emails them. That’s because everyone understands the significance of the moment.
Set Auto-Response on Your Email
I’ve always believed you should never email when you can call. If someone has something important or urgent to discuss with you, they will call. If not, they will email. Setting up an auto-response about your limited availability will keep those eager for a quick response at bay. Auto-response will act like your personal assistant letting clients or co-workers know who to contact in your absence. Everyone else will just be inspired by your vacation.
Travel ‘Tech’ Light
Very rarely does anyone go on vacation without work to do. Figure out exactly what needs to get done during your precious down time and if you really need your iPhone, iPad and iBook. When I have writing to complete on vacation, I leave my computer at home and bring a journal. This helps reduce my urge to search for free Wi-Fi.
OK. You have work to do and there’s no way around it. May I suggest that you schedule time to plug in? Give yourself a time limit. Maybe you’ll work online from 8am to10am. Whatever you choose, once your time is up, it’s up. Shut everything down and go enjoy your day of freedom!
Vacations and holidays are supposed to be set aside for relaxation, adventure and/or family time. We usually allow ourselves a short break in discipline. So, of course it should be easier to break free from our need to be accessible during our time off. With that said, I do believe it’s important that we learn to set boundaries at all times. For the record, last week I found myself without a cell phone for an ENTIRE day. At first, I was uneasy. By the end of the day, I was relieved. Who cares that I’d missed 5 phone calls and a couple of texts. At some point, I’d forgotten about my nagging need to hit refresh on my inbox, and I took the time to be thankful for and enjoy the sun, my freedom, and the company I kept.
We live in an increasingly digital world and depend on the internet for work, at home and at play. You have to sift through a plethora of information and thousands of websites fighting for your attention when you want to find the best vegan restaurant in your neighborhood, or decide which new tablet to buy. Here are the top five most useful websites for navigating life in the information age.
1. Living Social
Every girl needs to indulge every now and then, whether it’s a date night at a fancy restaurant, girls night out at the hippest new bar, or a relaxing spa day. Living social offers daily deals at local restaurants, bars, and spas that make it easy to justify those little splurges during a recession. Members receive discounts of up to 90 percent at neighborhood attractions, as well as discounts on escapes to exotic locales, concerts and family friendly activities. After you buy the deal, you'll get a unique link to share. If three people buy the deal using your link, then your deal is free.
Visit Cnet for tech product reviews, news, price comparisons, free software downloads, daily videos, and pod casts. This is a great way to do your homework before shopping for your next digital camera, plasma TV, or MP3 player. Savvy consumers will consult editorial reviews and comments from real users before spending money on expensive high tech gadgets.
3. How Stuff Works
Explore the world and learn how stuff works without ever leaving the comfort of your own home. This website has several interactive features including games, quizzes and forums covering everything from environmental science to home and gardening advice. Learn how The Galapagos Islands played a role in Darwin's theory of evolution, how the states got their shapes, how to fix a carburetor and how to remove wine stains from your tablecloth at How Stuff Works. This website has a surplus of information to help you answer questions about both the most complex and mundane aspects of life.
I first learned about Mint while preparing my own taxes a couple of years ago. I’m the girl with the huge mommy bag full of receipts, bank slips, check stubs and loose change. I couldn’t tell you my account balance if my life depended on it and I never made time to budget. Mint helps keep me organized by tracking my spending habits, suggesting a budget and reminding me when bills are do. Focusing on financial goals is easier when you can see that you spent $200 dollars on clothes last week.
Art work is a great way to make a house(or apartment) feel like home. I’m getting too old for those posters that adorned my dorm room walls and reprints from Ross are a bit generic. However, original artwork can be expensive. The solution? Ugallery.com, a website that features cool, yet affordable pieces selected by expert curators. Promising young artists don’t have to starve and you can find the perfect painting to hang in the dining room for a great price. This interactive gallery features artist bios and a virtual wall which allows you to see how a piece would match your existing décor. My favorite part is that you can shop by price(some stuff is priced as low as $20) and return anything you don’t love within a week for a refund.
Anyone who knows me even semi-decently knows one thing: I. LOVE. Food. Culinary exploration is one of my favorite parts (and biggest expenses *sigh*) of traveling and experiencing new cultures. Stop number two in my travels across Europe was Ireland. My grandmother--although US-born--was 100% Irish by blood; so as I left Barcelona and headed to Dublin, I was definitely looking forward to learning more about Irish culture. But leaving tapas and Sangria behind, I can’t necessarily say that I was psyched about Irish food. I mean, I like potatoes as much as the next girl (okay, probably more), but how many can a woman be expected to consume over the course of a week?
Luckily, Irish cuisine has much more to offer than I originally surmised. Of course, a bustling city like Dublin offers more than just traditional Irish fare, but I don’t travel to have a burger and fries (…I’m sorry, “chips”) wherever I go. I wanted to get a feel for some of the typical dishes, which—in most places I found—are served with a fresh new twist. I invite you to tag along with me through my day of Dublin cuisine:
Naturally, I couldn’t make it all the way to this country and not try an Irish breakfast. That’s about as sacrilegious as building a pub in an old church! Okay, maybe that’s a bad example for Ireland (see: The Church Bar, Dublin, Ireland):
But I digress. Generally speaking, this traditional dish includes bacon, sausage, fried eggs, black and white pudding, toast, fried tomato and sautéed mushrooms. Chatham Brasserie’s version includes tasty, crispy breakfast potatoes and their choice of a poached egg offered a bit more polish to the traditional dish. And although I did taste the black pudding, I can’t say that I will be going back for seconds (hint: one of the main ingredients is blood). Definitely NOT Bill Cosby approved. But pudding aside, an Irish breakfast is a tasty and filling way to start the day. Wash this one down with an Irish coffee--coffee with whiskey, topped with a thick cream--and I wasn’t feeling too shabby. Off to a decent start!
After such a huge breakfast, I wasn’t that hungry around lunchtime, so I decided to take a local Irishman’s advice and hit up Grogan’s. Described as a good place to “relax in the middle of the day”—read: drink a couple of pints—Grogan’s is a low key, artsy pub where you’ll encounter “relaxers” of all ages. It was a beautiful day, so I enjoyed my pint of Smithwicks Ale and one of their toasted sandwiches on their comfy yet crowded patio.
Situated between the centuries-old George’s Street Arcade and the Powerscourt Antique Gallery, it felt a bit more authentic than, say, the Gourmet Burger Kitchen across the way, advertising their €9.99 “meal deal.” The patio is perfect for people-watching--and eavesdropping on discussions between the locals about important cultural issues like the authenticity of Margaret’s Irish accent on Boardwalk Empire, among other things. While far from gourmet, their toasty sandwich of Irish cheddar cheese, traditional deli ham and tomato was surprisingly tasty, and I found Smithwick’s to be a nice local beer for those who find Guinness to be a bit on the heavy side. If you’re looking for a cool, non-touristy pub in Dublin, this is a great option.
For dinner, I stepped out on a non-Irish limb and was genuinely impressed by the offerings of Roly’s Bistro, a French-Irish fusion restaurant whose café offers quality yet reasonably-priced set dinner menus. I opted for the Thai spiced fishcakes as a starter, the confit of duck as a main and two of their “tapas style” desserts. Far from traditional Irish, the restaurant came highly recommended by several Dubliners I met on my trip. And for good reason. The fishcakes were flaky and seasoned just right, and the duck perfectly cooked and served on a bed of Asian-inspired noodles and veggies. The mini dessert of a Pavlova pillow with fresh strawberries and chocolate mousse with malteasers complemented each other perfectly. The staff was friendly and helpful, and quick with recommendations. Highly recommend!
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by Irish cuisine as a whole, even as I ventured out of Dublin to the west coast of the country. I loved that I could indulge in modern, fusion dishes as well as those with old-world, traditional charm. But as I’m not a vampire, there will be no black blood pudding in my future. Next stop: London!
Ok, I have a dirty little secret. No, it’s not that I’ve read the entire 50 Shades Trilogy. My secret is that I bought 50 Shades of Grey, the first book in the series, and gently turned each page so that I could return the book the next day. I wasn’t convinced that 50 Shades was worth the fuss or deserved to be on my bookshelf. The book originated as Twilight “fan-fiction.” Author, E.L. James took characters and themes from Twilight and spun them into her own erotic BDSM fantasy - or, as many are calling it, “mommy porn.”
Whether you think the notion of fan-fiction is derivative or inventive, it’s pretty popular. Websites like fanfiction.net exist solely so that fans can distribute their versions of their favorite novels (WSJ has a great article on Fan Fiction here). After James’ novel gained a cult following, Universal Pictures and Focus Features won a heavy bidding war for the rights to make the film adaptation, which ended in a rumored 7-figure deal. So what’s the scoop? Is 50 Shades worth all of the hype?
Reading 50 Shades of Grey is like eating Pringles. You say you’ll have just one, but in moments, you’ve finished the whole tube and it’s time to get on the treadmill. 50 Shades is a quick and easy read, but you might want to grab something by James Joyce after, just so you can make sure all your brain cells are still firing.
Putting aside my frustration with Twilight and similar stories of controlling and manipulative partners, I still couldn’t get behind the book enough to give it a recommendation other than: “Everyone else is reading it.” In fact, I was unsure whether or not the book had an editor before being formally published. The following words and phrases appear repeatedly, “Murmur,” “Aargh,” “Inner goddess,” “Jeez,” and – I’ll stop there, I only have 500 words for this review.
Women are drawn to the book for it’s alleged “sexiness.” My friends that are fans continually reference the “Red room,” as if they’ve just discovered their next sexual fantasy. And, ‘news’ outlets reported that rope sales dramatically increased with the release of 50 Shades. This left me wondering; maybe this was a ploy by the rope industry…
Now, I’ll refrain from revealing anything too personal here, but I will say, at first the scenes are intriguing. However, by the third sex scene, I found myself laughing aloud. For the first time in my life, I’d faced sexual fatigue. 50 Shades is in no way a show of subtlety or delayed gratification. It’s 5 pages of story, SEX, 3 pages of story, SEX. After a while, I couldn’t help but say, “Read that already!”
Despite my obvious qualms about the book, and my less obvious worries about what a 7-figure adaptation deal signals about the state of American minds, I’m not saying that 50 Shades isn’t worth a read. Whether I like it or not, this has become a feature of pop-culture, so you might want to read, if only to know what everyone is talking about. Consider this a guilty pleasure and make sure that your literary diet is supplemented with more substantial fare.
And, in case you’re wondering, I did return 50 Shades of Grey to the store. I borrowed 50 Shades Darker and 50 Shades Freed from friends. I may have read the trilogy, but it won’t have a place on my bookcase.