Taking Fashion Week Personally

The conclusion of Paris fashion week earlier this week really means the end of fashion month, as hundreds of fashion shows from New York, to London, to Milan, and finally Paris, are now over.

the front row

the front row

Nearly every single one of these fashion shows is available to look at online, with style.com putting some collections up instantly. If that isn’t enough, models and, in some cases, designers themselves take to instagram to show off backstage antics and to give a closer look at the collection.

I love this unprecedented, and frankly surprising, access to the fashion world (after all, it is an industry that prides itself on exclusivity). But after spending a whole month looking through hundreds of collections, part of me wonders how useful all this instantaneous accessibility is.

I just spent countless hours poring over collections that I will never be able to see in real life. I did it because I enjoy looking at the clothes, but is there anything beyond the enjoyment? It’s not as though I can afford to actually buy one of the new Fendi fur coats, as I suspect the majority of people browsing through the fashion slideshows on style.com can’t.

The world of high fashion has always been aspirational. It’s always been about the fantasy, and the fantasy element definitely plays a role in fashion week. But I don’t think it’s all fantasy, there’s some usefulness, and something very personal there as well. It’s become apparent to me that looking through the flood of fashion week snapshots and instagrams is about sorting through various looks and taking inspiration for your own personal style.

Whether it’s about doing a makeup look used in one of the shows, experimenting with a new color combination (pink paired with red was a big theme of Paris fashion week) or trying a new hairstyle spotted on the runway, it’s about transferring a piece of high fashion to every day life. It’s not about buying an outfit wholesale from the runway, it’s about expanding and cultivating your own personal style. (I think this is the reason street style photography has risen to become just as important as the actual fashion shows.)

For me, I may actually try the pink/red combination! It could be a fun look done with accessories, such as a red bag and a pink scarf. That way it’s not overpowering and might not read so Valentine-y.

Is fashion week important to you? Did any looks or shows catch your eye?

innovation by necessity

This is what I woke up to this morning:


Stunning, right?

By the good graces of my boss, I was able to take the day off of work, and spent the morning snowshoeing up the creek (finding not one, but two places where you can still put a food straight through the ice into some frigid, murky water.. it’s a talent), shoveling my front walk, and raking snow off of my roof. By then it was about 1pm, at which point I went inside, sat down with a book, and promptly passed out for about three hours. Woke up, shoveled the back walk, and decided to call it a day.

Except after an hour or two of tv, it became readily apparent that the caloric expenditures of my snow day were not measuring up to its meager intakes. I was ravenous. But also, not about to truck down to the store.  So it was time to play “what’ve I got in my fridge/pantry?”

For veg, I had half a can of diced tomatoes from last week’s The Souping Dead, a box of baby kale, shallots, & sweet potatoes. And for something to bring them all together, I had assorted pastas, or eggs. I decided to go the pasta route, and, partaking of some of the orphaned vodka left here by my roommate, do a vodka pasta cavatelli with kale, ingredients roughly as follows, as I had no recipe to work from:

olive oil
1 small shallot
red pepper flakes
7oz diced tomatoes (half regular sized can)
some 2% milk (that’s about as accurate as I can get on it)
1 shot vodka
parmesan cheese
cavatelli (corkscrew) pasta
salt & pepper to taste

While I minced the shallot, I took a couple of good lugs of olive oil, then sautéed them with a good pinch of red pepper flakes (I like it spicy, but add to taste, or omit all together).  If you’re a garlic person, you’d maybe mince up some of that and add it in at this point as well, but I’m not, so I didn’t.  When it became fragrant, I added in the tomatoes and the milk. A measuring cup was not to be seen; I’ve had vodka sauce in restaurants, and just sort of added milk until it seemed like the right color. All together, I heated that to the scientific measure of “tongue-burningly-hot,” got the pasta going according to the directions on the box, then grated some parm into the sauce and added the vodka. I upped the heat a little here, to try and reduce the sauce some. Nearing the end of the sauce and pasta part of things, I did up the baby kale in a rough chop, about as much as to fit in my two cupped hands.

When the pasta was done, I drained it well, added it to the sauce, then added the chopped kale. I let that sit cooking a bit more for maybe a minute and a half, and then, voila:


Things I’d do differently next time: The sauce was a little thin, as you can maybe tell from the picture. I think I’d drain the tomatoes first, and maybe use a smidge less milk. It also wound up being a little salty. I made the mistake of treating it like a soup and seasoning during the simmering phase, but that didn’t take into account the parm I was adding in at the end, which defo upped the oomph of the salt quotient, and while it reduced, it intensified even more. I’d also use a little less pasta. The sauce was flavorful enough that each bite was still rich and good, but I think a thicker sauce, with fewer noodles, would have made for a more balanced dish.

All in all though, not bad for being snowed in on a Friday night!

Nostalgia and Late Night TV

Late night television has taken over pop culture news this week, as Jimmy Fallon is in his first week of hosting The Tonight Show, and Seth Meyers prepares to take over Late Night.

Here's Jimmy

Here’s Jimmy

My most vivid memory of late night tv doesn’t have anything to do with my favorite host or guest. What I remember most is begging my dad to let me stay up and watch with him. I was young enough at the time that Johnny Carson was still the host of The Tonight Show, but that didn’t necessarily matter to me. It felt like a treat to stay up way past my normal bedtime and watch what seemed like a terribly grown-up show.

Sometimes my dad would give in and let me watch without a fight. Sometimes I would creep back downstairs and sneak in to watch anyway, my dad looking at me over top of his glasses with a serious “didn’t I just tuck you in” look. But he would never get mad at me for it, he never got mad during The Tonight Show.

Sometimes I would pretend to fall asleep on the couch and watch the whole show with one eye open. Those nights The Tonight Show felt like my own private secret. But more often than not, I would actually fall asleep, lulled by the haze of music and applause from the tv.

This nostalgia factor, the strong memory of watching a grown-up show for the first time as a child, is a driving force of late night television. And Jimmy Fallon seems to have an innate understanding of this. He didn’t use his first monologue to tell the most clever jokes he could think of. Instead, he came out and introduced himself to viewers, and told similar stories about staying up late with his own parents to watch The Tonight Show. It wasn’t the edgiest example of television, but it didn’t need to be. Fallon was showing that he gets it, he’s one of us.

The Tonight Show moving back to New York City is significant not just for media reasons, and Fallon’s new set shows why. Every night, Fallon sits in front of a backdrop of a retro New York cityscape, the Chrysler building immediately identifiable with its iconic silver top. That’s what this version of The Tonight Show is: both a retro city that exists in dreams and memories, and the city as it is now made tangible. And sitting in front of it all is an affable guy offering a smile and laughter to help us navigate along.

If I were still a kid, I’d be excited to curl up on the couch next to my dad and watch this version of The Tonight Show as a treat. As a grown-up, I’m glad that I set my own bedtime now.

Going Shopping: Makeup Edition

Beauty bloggers have been one of the biggest revelations of the internet for me. Before the rise of youtube makeup tutorials, the most detailed tutorial I had witnessed was the episode of Full House where Aunt Becky teaches DJ the art of natural-looking makeup.
Tom Ford Beauty is always a treat to look at.

Tom Ford Beauty is always a treat to look at.

These days, being able to watch makeup tutorials and look at swatch comparisons feels pretty close being in heaven sometimes. For one thing, it’s made online shopping that much easier, as sometimes you can just tell that something will be perfect for you. I also find it calming to watch someone who is clearly experienced at what they do demonstrating makeup techniques, or talking about their favorite products. It all feels very genuine.

However, there are times when testing something in person is necessary. I recently went on a quest for a new foundation and I figured, if I wanted to do it right, I would have to match my shade in person. Shopping can be a hectic experience even at the best of times with crowded stores to overly-enthusiastic sales people. It’s the opposite of the calming makeup tutorial. So, I began my quest with some trepidation.

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How to ‘do you’

It’s the holiday season, which apparently means we’re supposed to run around the stores acting like people possessed, if I’m to believe the non-stop news coverage of Black Friday.  We also had to contend with Cyber Monday this week, as we pulled ourselves out of our post-Thanksgiving depression, induced by obligatory family time and the crushing realization that the year is almost over.  I don’t know about you, but I’m already feeling like an utter failure this season.  My artificial tree is up, but the lights aren’t working, so forget ornaments just yet.  I updated my Amazon Wish List, but it’s only got three things on it now that I don’t even really want.  I’ve started my shopping, but at the rate I’m going I won’t be done until Saint Patrick’s Day.

I don’t have answers to everything, but I do think I’ve cracked the code on ‘how to do you during the holidays.’  Time, money, and energy are a precious commodity, so you have to set boundaries.  Like most people, I am not immune to parental guilt trips, which is why I’ll be spending 7-9 days driving the length of California this Christmas.  Okay, maybe I still have work to do on drawing better boundaries, but I’m finally confident in saying NO to buying gifts and spending money on things that don’t inspire me.

Last night my partner’s step-dad sent us a picture and a link to a turtle tea set that my mother in-law likes or that he wants to buy her (it’s unclear to me which of the two it is).


Kathy Ireland’s Turtle Bay Collection

My immediate reaction was, “Excuse me, I have to call everyone I have ever met.”  Thank you, Cordelia Chase.  My next thought was more practical, how much is this turtle tea set going to set me back?  It turns out that the going rate for this puppy is more than I want to spend.  A younger, more easily influenced Christina, probably would have caved and just bought a teacup and saucer and deeply resented the dent in her checking account.  But the older I get, the more thoughtful I am about how I spend my hard earned money.  At the very least, I need to be excited by what I’m buying as gifts in order for them to have any meaning.  I hope my mother in-law gets her tea set if that’s what she wants, but she won’t be getting it from me.

Over the years I’ve picked out thoughtful things like a leather handbag and wallet when she went into real estate, and Christmas Fiestaware to add to her regular collection of colorful dishes.  This year we’re going the local food and handmade goods route, and I couldn’t be more excited.  I have faith that even if it does take me a little longer to cross everyone off my list, their gifts will be perfect for them and perfectly me.

So, what is on your shopping list and wish list this year?

A Belated Ode to Autumn

In the hottest part of summer all we can do is hope for crisp fall days, trading tank tops for sweaters, and dreaming about everything flavored with pumpkin spice.  The reality is that autumn is an idyllic imagining of a season that is much beloved but too short, if it ever arrives at all for some of us.  Living in southern(ish) California means we suffer from a year-round temperate climate.  This week the forecast calls for seventy degree weather with a slight chance of rain.  For many of my colder climate friends this is ideal shorts weather, but there’s something inherently wrong about celebrating Thanksgiving in cutoffs and flip flops (blame it my northern California upbringing).

While I’ve adjusted what’s in my closet so that my outfits work year long (give or take a scarf and a cardigan), I haven’t adjusted my expectations for the fall season.  I still look forward to comfort foods piping hot from the oven, my down comforter, and those gorgeous autumnal colors.  Last week the trees finally cooperated and it looks like fall is officially here:


This is good news since Thanksgiving means it’s basically winter, which means it’s practically Christmas, and that essentially means it’s 2014 already, OMG LET’S FREAK OUT.  Anyway, I definitely haven’t gotten my fill of the season yet, so here’s my belated ode to autumn.

A List of my Favorite Things:

1. Decorative Gourds:  I buy a pumpkin every year to decorate my table.  Sometimes I’ll buy a few and try to arrange them like I’m Martha Stewart (I’m really not).  One time I let a pumpkin go past ripe and it burned a hole in my table.  Ok, not a hole, but the rotting flesh did stain my table and now I have to cover it up with a pile of placemats.  This season I only bought a small pumpkin and it’s perched next to my scented candles.  The only thing that makes me happier than decorative gourds is this beautiful rant about them by Colin Nissan over at McSweeney’s, aptly titled “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers.”

2.  Apple Hill:  It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Apple Hill, up in the Sierra Foothills in El Dorado County, but it’s always going to live in my memories as a magical place where all my apple flavored dreams come true.  There are pies, turnovers, candied apples, caramel apples, apple juice, apple cider, and so many varieties of delicious farm fresh apples from which to choose.  I do my best to get by with farmers market apples and cider, but this is a northern California fall/winter tradition that I miss and remember fondly.

3.  Pumpkin Spice:  You can get pumpkin spice in just about anything these days, from lattes and chai tea mixes to ice cream and soda.  I only embraced the trend fully last year, but like Ilana Plen, I felt jilted by my love when it left me without warning.  Read her “Open Letter to Pumpkin Flavored Seasonal Treats,” also at McSweeney’s.  (And if you have Peet’s Coffee nearby, I highly recommend the Pumpkin Latte.)

4.  Thanksgiving themed TV shows:  I’m a sucker for a Thanksgiving special.  The holiday brings out the best and worst in people, and who better to make us laugh about it than our favorite characters?  Monica dancing with a turkey on her head will never not be funny.  I also think many Americans can get inspiration from Lorelai’s stance on Thanksgiving as an Olympic sport in eating.  And if I love one good trope, that means I love two combined even more.  How about last year’s New Girl where Jess tried to “parent trap” her divorced parents on Thanksgiving?

Required viewing:
Friends, “The One with All the Thanksgivings”
Gilmore Girls, “A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving”
New Girl, “Parents”

5.  Food:  Last year I hosted Thanksgiving for my family and my in-laws.  It was incredibly stressful, but so rewarding to make eight dishes from scratch in my apartment-sized kitchen.  I say that with zero sarcasm, actually.  If Lorelai gets a gold medal in eating, then I should have gotten the gold for cooking.  One of my favorite things I made was an arugula salad with pomegranate, persimmon, and pears.  I liked this so much, I’m bringing it this year as my contribution to dinner on Thursday.

Arugula Salad with Pear, Persimmon, and Pomegranate


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Arrow Dynamics

I’m not what you might call a “sporty” person.  My parents kept me fairly active as a child by enrolling me in a variety of activities.  I participated in figure skating and gymnastics for periods during my youth. I had an even longer commitment to dance, which I did for ten years (seven of which were competitive). I did swimming lessons throughout my childhood, leading to a position as a lifeguard and swimming instructor during my high school and undergraduate years.

Alas, I’ve become progressively more and more slovenly as an adult. My general attitude towards fitness and physical activity can best be summed up by beautiful tropical fish Ann Perkins from Parks and Recreation: “Jogging is the worst, Chris! I mean, I know it keeps you healthy but God at what cost?” For most of my adult life I haven’t had the kind of active hobbies that people proudly display on their resumes and Facebook profile pages: “Rebecca enjoys surfing, skiing, and long walks on the beach” “Todd likes to fish, golf, rock climb, mountain bike, and hike”  (whoa, slow your roll Todd). By contrast, “Meg enjoys settling down into her couch groove  to inhale brie and drink wine coolers from a hurricane glass while reading, watching TV and movies, or dicking around on the Internet!” What I like to deem my “fancy pants” activities – going to the opera, ballet, and theatre – tend to involve a lot of butt-to-chair action too. I even manage to make visiting museum and art galleries a sedentary past time (I can appreciate that sculpture perfectly well from this bench, thank you very much). In sum, I take the phrase “down time” quite literally.

Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having sedentary hobbies. I think appreciating film, television, books, video games, or any other couch potato-related activity is a valid way to spend some of your time if it brings you happiness! But I felt the need to add some variety to my life, to bring a greater sense of balance to my leisure time so that it wasn’t all sloth-like. I didn’t want my Sims to have more fulfilling and interesting hobbies than I did. I started my efforts towards having non-couch-related hobbies by revisiting one of my favourite activities of my childhood, dance. This time instead of the barre I picked up some heels and got into the ballroom by taking up salsa and bachata dancing. I took it up with one of my best friends, and it’s been a fun way to be a bit more social and active these last couple of years. Salsa has been a casual flirtation, though, compared to the passionate love affair I embarked on last year with a sport that’s been getting a lot of media attention lately (including this weekend’s release of Catching Fire): archery.

Photograph: Michael Betts (Getty Images)

Photograph by Michael Betts (Getty Images)

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The Souping Dead: Dead Weight

So, the most important lesson I learned with this week’s The Souping Dead is to read the fine print. It is now 8pm in the time zone around which all others revolve. My show is presently starting. And my stew is going to be in the oven for another two hours. Le sigh.

But let’s rewind. For this season’s set of soups, I’ve made a lot that I’ve been really happy with, but though the recipes have been diverse, the flavor palate keeps veering into familiar territory. That concern, in conjunction with a recent conversation with a friend about Belgian beers, lead me to Carbonnade a la Flamande, pulled from the Cooks Illustrated website. It’s a beef stew, but unlike my usual gravitation pull, it’s got a beer base instead of wine. But, like so many Ruxin’s that have gone before me, I just couldn’t help but tinker.

Carbonnade a la Flamande is cited as a beer, beef, & onion stew. And as we’ve discussed, I’m so-so on the onions right now. So I halved the amount called for and tossed in some mushrooms in their place. As a serving suggestion, it recommends the stew be portioned over egg noodles or mashed potatoes. And while that’s all well and good, you know what I really like? Potatoes stewing in meat juice for a couple of hours. So out went the notion of mashers, and into the stew pot went a mix of yukon gold and baby reds. To accommodate this extra allotment of thirsty veg, I also included an extra half cup of broth, just to maintain its soupy integrity. Now it’s just a waiting game to see if all that tinkering paid off. In the meantime: zombies.

On that front, in attempting to stay as vague as vague can be, “Dead Weight” had some great moments, but ultimately served no purpose than to all-too-swiftly return us to the status quo. While not entirely surprising, I would have liked to have linger in some of those new dynamics that have been introduced. It was still expertly done, but it felt rushed, and given how very well they’ve paced out the rest of the season, I felt a little bit cheated by the way this played out.

But hey, it did the trick in happily helping me pass the hours waiting for my stew. When I finally dug in, I found it to be well-worth the effort. I’m not sure I successfully took the road less travelled with this one, but it made a great opportunity to correct some sins from a beef stew last year that did not turn out as well as I had hoped. The beef in this one was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the beer gave the broth a caramel rich depth.


Next week, the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, and with it, The Souping Dead. We’re faced with cliffhangers on all fronts. Stay tuned.


The Souping Dead: Live Bait

With a title like that, I guess I should have looked into a cioppino, but instead, I decided to try my hand at chili. Once again, I went for Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter, where I’d long ago flagged her recipe for a vegetarian chili. But after looking at it, it just wasn’t resonating. One of the things I love about soup, however, is that a lot of them aren’t an exact science. You can keep basic ratios the same and swap ingredients in and out and still wind up with something delicious. So I started my plotting, and in the meantime, went about looking something up for later in the week in her other book, It’s All Good. I failed to find the swiss chard recipe I was looking for, but I did stumble on a different chili recipe that was tackling the dish with a bunch of the substitutions I’d been planning! Clearly, it was meant to be: Chicken + White Bean Chili.

The recipe was pretty straight forward.. the two main ingredients are right in the title. Add in the standard couple of cans of tomatoes, red bell pepper, onions & garlic (I halved what was asked on the latter two, since as we’ve established, that’s how I roll), along with the usual suspects from the spice rack. With one exception, that is. I shambled from aisle to aisle, slack-jawed and seeking without finding, like the zombies I enjoy so much. What the hell was sweet pimenton? And where could I find it? The folks working at the store were no help and my confused wandering lead me nowhere. Lucky for me, it only took me ten minutes to remember that I had the internet in my pocket. With an assist from my good pals Siri and Google, it was revealed that sweet pimenton is another name for sweet, smoked, spanish paprika, which, as it turns out, was remarkably easy to find.

And as it turns out, it was worth the effort. The sweet pimenton had a strong (but not overpowering flavor) and combined with the cannellini beans, and the big, juicy chunks of chicken, it resulted in a chili that felt more Spanish than southwestern in origin. I paired it a 2004 Torre Oria Reserva, a nice Spanish tempranillo, and the whole meal really just came together. I topped it off with yogurt and cilantro, and it may well be my favorite soup so far this season.

Screen Shot 2013-11-17 at 9.26.05 PM

As for the show, you know, I don’t want to spoil anything. But let me just say, I’m a person who generally watches a show for the main character. I know all the cool kids on the internet are more into the secondary, tertiary, or even quaternary characters (the more obscure the better, in some circles), but if I can’t get attached to the primary, I never get far enough to meet the rest. Buffy, Jack, Rick.. these are my people. These are the characters that make me tune in every week. So when it became apparent that this episode wasn’t going to highlight my boy Grimes, I was definitely dubious. But once again, they knocked it out of the park. The turnover in The Walking Dead showrunners has always been a point of concern for me, but Scott Gimple may just be The One. Big high fives from this camp.


Community Seafood: Albacore Tuna

It’s been hotter than blazes this week, despite the fact it’s November.  This Wednesday, I was pleasantly surprised to receive the email update from Community Seafood letting us know our fish share would be Albacore Tuna.  I couldn’t wait to try a new product and new preparation, and I was immediately enticed to do a seared tuna since the fish would be sashimi grade.  The Community Seafood newsletters have been hit or miss for me, but I liked the simplicity of the recipe inspired by one from Rodelio Aglibot, and I thought the dish would be perfect for an evening of hot Santa Ana winds.

After picking up the fish, I declared to my partner that I hated all of humanity (it was one of those days at work), so he jokingly asked me if I was ready to brave Whole Foods for the rest of our  ingredients.  I loathe grocery shopping during the best of times, but last night’s post-work dinnertime rush wasn’t so awful, after all.  Prep work at home was quick, and soon I was sitting down to one of the tastiest dinners we’ve made in a long time.

from prep to plate

from prep to plate

Seared Tuna with Japanese Salsa

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