October 30, 2014

It's Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus

Named the best Halloween movie of all time, Hocus Pocus is a classic. The stars (Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, Sarah Jessica Parker), the director (Kenny Ortega), the set, the music....it will definitely put a spell on you. It's just not Halloween without the Sanderson sisters and the clever iconic lines peppered throughout the movie, like one of my favorites....Winifred/Midler: "Don't you see? All Hallow's Eve has turned into a night of frolic where children dress up in costumes and run amuck!". Sarah: "Amuck, amuck, amuck!". Cracks me up every time! Interesting facts: Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays "Sarah" in the movie, found out that her 10th great-grandmother was arrested in Salem in the late 1600s accused of witchcraft. The movie was released in July, 1993not exactly prime time. It was actually considered a flop when it was first released. Hocus Pocus happens to be Bette Midler's favorite movie.

And right alongside Hocus Pocus, is another must-see, Practical Magic. Both films take place in Salem, MA, the birthplace of all things witch (See pictures of Allison, Max, and Dani's houses here.), except that PM was actually filmed on the San Juan Strait on the west coast due to weather and financial reasons. Other interesting facts: When asked why actresses Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman were to play sisters when they obviously looked nothing alike, director Griffin Dunne stated that when he researched historical witches that often times witch siblings typically looked nothing alike. Thus it made sense that the two were cast as sisters. However, when he was casting Griffin did make sure the two actresses who played Sandra's daughters had features similar to each of the two main stars. The entire house was a specially built architectural shell that was torn down after filming. It was built on rented land, and even the blossoms on the trees are fake. According to Sandra Bullock, in the scene where Gillian and Sally get drunk with their aunts and they sling insults, the actresses actually got drunk. They were drinking some very bad tequila that Nicole Kidman brought.

This is another stellar cast and a beautiful musical score by Alan Silvestri. The Owens sisters, Sally (Sandra Bullock), and Gillian, (Nicole Kidman) get a run for their money from Frances (Stockard Channing) and Jet (Dianne Wiest), who make the absolute best aunts. I love the line where Jet replies to Sally when asked what she's up to, "Just making toast is all." and up pops the toast! My girls and I have danced to no end to the song "Lime in the Coconut" during the Midnight Margarita scene. And we all wish we could light candles like Sally by just blowing them out! (You can get an insider's look into the movie here.)

So if a broom happens to fall tomorrow, prepare for company. Or if a broom is not available, a Hoover vacuum will do, too.

Enjoy!

Be Inspired: Fall Colors

Combining two of my favorite things....large scarves (stoles) and rich, warm colors. I've had an affinity for beautiful scarves ever since I worked on Newbury Street. The store I worked in sold these beauties in cashmere, but I have several colors and prints in a variety of materials including cashmere, cashmere/silk blend, wool, pashmina, and cotton. I wear them inside and out over sweaters, jackets, and coats. I'll also pull one around me while I read or watch television. There is a kiosk in the Prudential Center that offers everything I need, so when I find that I need a new color (eggplant and a deep magenta are next on my list), I'll go there. For those of you who can't make the trip, I've found some great deals here. And for those of you who prefer something a bit brighter, you can find additional colors here.

Color Inspiration:
 
SW2724 Black Cherry, Behr 770B-7 Chocolate Sparkle, SW6424 Tansy Green,
BM231 Aged Bronze, Winter-Bouts 57020-450R
 

October 29, 2014

Chili!

A big, hearty bowl of chili will take the chill right out of you. I made my first batch of the season this past weekend, and it really hit the spot. If you want to warm up your insides on a cold, blustery day (and you'd like to add a little spice to your life), then you'll enjoy this dish!
Chili is really so simple to make and you can adapt a few ingredients to your own personal taste. This recipe was actually given to me by a friend, and over the years I have fiddled and fussed until I got just want I wanted.
 
2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 16 oz. can red kidney or pinto beans, drained (I've made it both ways, and now I prefer the pinto beans.)
2 16 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon Tabasco
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lg. onion, chopped
1/2 of a small jar of chili powder (Approximately a half ounce. You want the meat completely covered.)
2 Tablespoons cumin
1 cup of water
A healthy swig of cognac or brandy, or a half bottle of good beer.
 
1. Combine all of the liquid ingredients into a large pot and set aside.
2. Saute the ground beef with the chopped onion in a skillet.
3. When the beef is half done, add the chili powder, garlic, and cumin. The consistency of the beef is up to you. I like to really grind it up, so I use a slotted spoon and mash the beef together with the onion before I add my spices.
4. Stir and heat through.
5. When the beef is done cooking, use a slotted spoon to scoop up the beef and leave the excess fat behind.
6. Add the beef mixture to your pot of liquid ingredients. Add water and stir everything together, then add the cognac or beer. (I like the smokiness the liquor provides.)
 
The key to good chili is to let the flavors simmer and sit. (You can use a slow cooker if you'd like.) It tastes best the next day, but a few hours on the stove top should do it.
 
Enjoy!
 

October 28, 2014

You're Never too Old to Need Your Parents

My parents just landed in Florida. I miss them already. They split their time between Fort Myers and a place on the South Shore near Cape Cod. When they sold my childhood home more than 10 years ago, I was okay with it all. Until I wasn't. One day I just started to sob uncontrollably when I realized that I would never walk through those doors again; as if my childhood had suddenly disappeared. All those Thanksgivings and Christmases and parties and family gatherings. My room and the barn and the yard and the cozy feeling of just being home. Gone. Of course I had my own home and my own children to raise, but things would never be quite the same.

Because I live more than 2 hours away, my visits are always too few. I was able to see them about a half dozen times over the course of five months, but I always felt guilty about not visiting more. I didn't know the last time I saw them in September would be the last time. We had all made plans to meet in Boston so they could tour Kate's school. They have always loved going into the city, so we made a day of ita walk around campus and the neighborhood, and lunch. It was a nice day.

The next visit was supposed to take place just a couple of weeks later. This time they were coming my way. They spent some time really getting to know Peterborough a couple of years ago, so they were looking forward to strolling through town and visiting the stores. But life intervened. My Dad had to fly back to Florida to visit a sick friend, and my mom just wasn't up for the drive by herself. By the time my Dad returned, I was the one with a full schedule.

Although I haven't seen them in a few weeks, just knowing they're not in Massachusetts any longer makes me miss them even more. I have visions of my children visiting their childhood home with their own children in tow. The Thanksgiving table will be filled with family. Sleepovers at Grandma and Grandpa's house would be a mainstay. But, I had always thought that would happen in my parents home, too.

Every Thanksgiving, we would pack the car the day before and stay at least a couple of nights at my parent's house. Three kids, one dog, and all the necessities for living away from home for three or four days would be crammed into every available space. Mom always started cooking the day before, so the house already smelled heavenly the moment we walked through the door. The girls would help prepare the stuffing while Dad took David and me out to grab some pizzas for dinner. As we waited, we would sit and have a drink while we chatted about who was coming for dinner (I have a large extended family), and then Dad would catch me up on family business.

Once we returned with the pizzas, Mom would barely sit down long enough to eat. She was always fussing with the dining table making sure she everything was just right. She was and is the consummate hostess. She knows your favorite food and drink and she will always make you feel at home. Sated and happy, we would head to bedthe kids in my childhood bedroom, David and I in my sister's room. Come morning, we would be woken up by the smell of the turkey roasting in the oven. Mom was up before dawn already in the kitchen. After all of the fanfare, we would be left with leftovers and a quiet house once again. I can remember these images so vividly and I miss them terribly.

Once my parents moved (Mom, and Dad especially, took to living in Florida like a fish to water), things changed. The holiday destinations were now divided between David's large family and my sister and me. And now that all of our children are older and having children of their own, it's usually spent at home. In fact, we just ordered our Thanksgiving turkey this morning.

But it's just not the same. Our family traditions and holidays are all wonderful, but I miss how things used to be, too. We talk on the phone, text, and send photos back and forth, but there will always be a little hole in my heart that opens a little bit wider whenever I cook my Mother's Thanksgiving menu down to the tiniest detail, or when it's just a Tuesday and I know I can't get in my car and make the drive to see them.

I don't think you can ever be too old to need your parents.

Photo: My Dad sitting in front of one of my grandmother's paintings - 1965. Like mother like daughter, there are very few photos of my mother that she would approve.

October 27, 2014

Etsy Find

For the book/jewelry lover in your life. This incredible antique bronze pendant is filled with books! And the price will have you buying several at a time!

Makeover Monday

If you're not familiar with the popular decorating and DIY blog, Centsational Girl, you should be. Kate Riley is a self-described, bargain hunter, design lover, renovator, and incurable DIYer, who offers all kinds of makeover ideas from the simple to the elaborate. This $10 cabinet makeover is just one example of just how crafty and thrifty she can be. Her goal is to show you how to make your home "fabulous for less". See how Kate transformed this Goodwill find into a centsational console.

Makeover Monday will now be a regular feature on the blog. Truth be told, I'm impatient when it comes to showing the steps of how I complete a project. I actually started to do that while I was constructing my Halloween table over the weekend and I just couldn't get into it. I'm a doer and I want it done! When I have to stop to photograph something, I lose my momentum and I'm less creative, so when you finally see the tablescape on Friday, I'll do my best to walk you through it.

In the meantime, I'd like to open this series up to all of you. If you have a makeover project you're wildly proud about, let me feature it! Just email me (beautifulliving@msn.com) and we'll get this series off and running!

You may also enjoy, Breakfast Nook, Get This Room for Less #1 and #2, DIY Weekend #1 and #2.

October 24, 2014

Enjoy Your Weekend!

What do you have planned? This weekend, the girls are together again so we're planning our Salem trip on Saturday. Sunday will be spent (hopefully) relaxing as I've just gotten back from a class and conference in Boston AND finished teaching another class this week. However, the weekend of the 8th is a biggie. It's the 15th Annual Edaville Rail Run and it will be held Saturday, November 8th at 10:00 AM. Run or walk the 5-mile rail run or 2-mile fun run through cranberry bogs and old New England trails. Remember, my girls and I are in charge of the food table so come on over and say hello. (I'm usually under the table pulling out boxes or running around re-filling pots.) But, catch me if you can. All the proceeds go the Dorine Merritt Memorial Fund. See you there!

In the meantime, here are some links you may enjoy...

Style transforms a 750-square-foot apartment.

Best new books to read this fall.

Why so many women are crying at the gym. I'll have more to say about this one soon.

This movie looks hilarious.

Ever try Lumosity? Now's your chance.

Must try New Hampshire restaurants.

Photo: Hyperion Photos

October 23, 2014

Halloween Around the Web

Are you ready? I'm still working on my dining room centerpiece for Amanda's party, but I think I'm good to go. However, if you're still working out decorating, costume, or party ideas, or you're thinking about places to visit, I've found a few you might like. FYI: Run don't walk to your nearest Target. If they haven't sold out already, you'll find an array of skeletons in every size to suit every purpose.

Decorating...
Costume ideas...
Party time...
Things to do...
*You could have an awesome party in this house. What's haunting your house?

October 22, 2014

Carbs Can be a Good Thing

Since I changed my diet, I'm always asked if I've given up carbs. The answer is an unequivocal NO. I used to eat too many carbohydrates, but my body needs carbs. I don't feel well if I don't include them in some form or fashion. A low-carb diet will help you lose more weight and reduce your risk of heart disease, but not all carbs are created equal. Carbohydrates are essential fuel for our bodies (especially when engaging in any physical activity) and our brains (carbs regulate mood). The phrase you've heard again and again...everything in moderation turns out to be mostly true. The trick is to know which carbs are good for you, so if you can remember fiber versus sugar, you're on the right path. (And even some sugars are good for you, too.)

My favorite snack happens to be popcorn. I make a batch at least three times a week. I make cook-it-on-the-stove popcorn with a little canola oil and a pinch of salt. (You could add a touch of chili powder or taco seasoning for more flavor.) This childhood comfort food has stuck with me. Here's the good news: Popcorn is a whole grain. One cup has 6 grams of carbs, one of which is fiber, and has only 31 calories.

Here are some of my other favorites...

Bananas. I eat at least one a day. A medium-size banana contains 3 grams of fiber and a hearty dose of vitamin B6, crucial for more than 100 different functions in the body, including calming the body.

Oatmeal. I prefer to eat this during the winter months and I sprinkle a little cinnamon on top. The particular type of fiber in oats has been linked to improved heart health, weight management, and has helped reduce cholesterol.

Blueberries. I eat fresh when I can and frozen when I can't, and they're a must-have ingredient in my fruit shake recipe. This super fruit offers some fiber and a whole host of vitamins and antioxidants. Eating just one serving a week has been linked with warding off cognitive decline as we age.

To take it a step further...if you're feeling stressed or anxious, try eating carbohydrates. The effect that carbohydrates have is their ability to produce serotonin. (Serotonin gives you a calm and relaxed feeling.) It is also important to include vitamin B6 in your diet as it ensures the production of serotonin. Carbohydrate rich foods like pop corn, oatmeal, and berries, helps fight cortisol (which my body does not make enough of); a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands that when not regulated can lead to auto-immune diseases as well as other health issues.

Carbs: Good for the body and the mind.

You may also enjoy, Rain or Shine.

As with any change in diet, you should always check with your health-care professional first.

Photo: ThomasLife