Posts Tagged ‘Culture and Cuisine Club’

Copy This Look: Fall Sideboard

Friday, October 14th, 2016
Having fun with a fall vignette.

Having fun with a fall vignette.

I don’t like everything to look brand new. I suppose that’s why my favorite TV viewing is British shows set in picturesque villages, castles, and Oxford, England. In these dramas, the decor demonstrates a deep respect for family heirlooms and great-grandmother’s china — even if the latter comes complete with a few flea bites. I love collecting, and the hunt for a special piece is a large part of the fun.


You can find compotes like the depression glass pictured on my sideboard at Amazon. You’ll notice I didn’t match the compotes, which adds to the interest of the vignette. I love moving things around in my home, rediscovering pieces I’ve owned for years.512bsa68hyl-_sl160_

Here is a lovely deep green example that is similar to mine. The lamp pictured is a family heirloom, and works well with the jewel tone palette.

Let’s say your color scheme is a lighter one. My research on Instagram tells me that many women prefer a much lighter color scheme. Instead of buying a piece that you’ll see in all of your friends homes, check out the lamp below. It looks like a piece one might have inherited from a favorite aunt. This is a perfect centerpiece to mimic my sideboard design, but in a lighter palette. As you know, I adore crystal. It reflects light, making a dark corner an ideal spot for placement. I would pair this lamp with a light runner and perhaps some milk glass. My mother collected milk glass, and I’ve included a book that gives wonderful detail if you decide to start a collection or research a piece you may own. Let me know about your fall decorating projects!


Elegant crystal table lamp.

A great book to assist you in collecting milk glass.

A great book to assist you in collecting milk glass.


How to Develop Your Signature Style

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016
My hero! This book is on my Christmas list.

My hero! This book is on my Christmas list.

How does the average person hone a personal style in their wardrobe, home, garden… lifestyle? I have been blogging about many aspects of style since 2009, but I’m not sure I’ve ever attempted to distill my thoughts on the subject into a few simple, achievable steps.

I have become a huge fan of Instagram. My profile, randomactsofstyle, reflects what I share on a daily basis about my life. It is a constantly evolving style feed. And since I now spend an increasing amount of time on Instagram I felt it was time to share with my readers my thoughts on how to use this amazing site as a part of your personal style journey.

You will notice I said part of a style journey. I think there are four distinct areas that can help you explore and develop your personal style.

  1. Read and research. I am currently digging through my accessories in search of a macramé choker I wore in 1977 with an ivory colored peasant blouse. Walking through Nordstrom yesterday, I was struck once again by the retro trends. Fashion repeats itself, and those who create the clothes that we wear do something we can easily do — learn about the history of fashion.

We can do a lot of this research on the Internet, but I have another suggestion. Go to the library armed with a list of designers you want to know more about. The public library is free, and the librarians are immensely helpful. They can show you how to request books that will blow your mind. And for you young moms who have just started on a style journey, schedule your library visit during one of the free programs for children. You can peruse the aisles of inspiration while your children are entertained.

I have borrowed all sorts of books from the library. When I was planning a rose garden I consulted landscape and horticulture books. I have borrowed gorgeous interior decorating books, regional cookbooks, books on architecture. And, of course, I have borrowed books on fashion. This research didn’t break the budget, and if I found a book I couldn’t live without, particularly a coffee table book, I would search it on the Internet to buy it. Decorating side note: For me a room without books is a bare room. I have books in every room of my home. Books add warmth and personality.

  1. Follow profiles you like on Instagram. I have a number of feeds I look at every day. They range from fashion, to food, travel, design, inspiration… and jewelry. What I look for in a blogger is a fresh approach to their subject. Here is a list of suggestions for you to explore.

Style at a Certain Age

Christian Blair Style

Laura Beverlin

Rach Parcell

The blog societies

The Simply Luxurious Life

Perri Rothenberg

Bettina Looney

Anna Dello Russo

Meet at the barre

Greg Sideris

Rachel Mansfield

24 east

evil brent


The rich life in wine country — among many other feeds I will pop in and out of.


One thing I have noticed is that most of these blogs and their subsequent Instagram feeds are written by beautiful young women. I am hoping to plug what I feel is a gap and represent the style journey of a ‘woman of a certain age.’ Stay tuned.

  1. Special events, museums, and fashion shows are another way to expand your knowledge and hone your style. A few that I will never forget are Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ incredible clothes at the Metropolitan Museum in Manhattan, Princess Diana’s traveling exhibit, (and the one that was presented by ‘M’), and most recently the Norma Kamali exhibit at the Tampa Museum of Art. A previous post on the Kamali exhibit is here on the blog.) I have enjoyed seeing the creative posts by the fashion bloggers who have been able to attend the various fashion weeks. Thanks for sharing.
  2. Shop in all different types of stores and ask questions. Flea markets and vintage stores are wonderful places to pick the brain of the owner. (I have found wonderful pieces at flea markets.) Most of these individuals have a passion for the history behind what they are selling and love to share their knowledge. And, you can add one or two accessories that will set your look apart from the masses. I hope you’ll check out my feed on Instagram so we can connect. Let me know how the journey goes.






As Ye Sow…

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
The fruit of my labor.

The fruit of my labor.

Scene: The side yard of my house.

Objective: Trim two gardenia plants that threaten to engulf the house like the thorns in Sleeping Beauty.

Result: A gift.

You’ve heard it all before — in a Florida summer bugs grow to Jurassic size and the plants are on Miracle Grow. I planned on spending no more than thirty minutes on a little outside work and ended up an hour and a half later dragging five garbage cans of trimmings to the curb. And, I was no where near done.

This is just the reality of working full time, and writing in my ‘free’ time. I do my best, no apologies. I’m hoping that Rumplestiltskin shows up, or I win the lottery and can hire an English gardener.

As I chopped away at a twenty-year-old climbing rose I saw my gift — a lovely David Austin rose. Perfect. Thank you.

My gift.

My gift.


Inspiration: Norma Kamali

Monday, September 19th, 2016
Sculpture outside the Tampa Museum of Art.

Sculpture outside the Tampa Museum of Art.

I have an unexpected day-off. In fact, I’m also off tomorrow and this is a rare occurrence. So instead of lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, cherishing the fact that I didn’t have to move if I didn’t want to, I dragged my not-completely-convinced body out of bed.  After coffee and a quick breakfast I got my act together, and headed downtown to catch the Norma Kamali exhibit at the Tampa Museum of Art.


Elegant armor.


I would wear this if it included a Spanx. Love!




Kamali makes red-hot cool.


Made me think of Miss Haversham.


Pippi Longstocking as an ornithologist.

If you are a fabulous-fifty like me you might remember Kamali for her use of parachute material. (I had a pedestrian LeSac, and I loved it.) The black evening gown, made out of this unlikely material, was a blissful confection of modern gothic glam topped with feathers. Her palette of grey, red, and black had me thinking about my own closet — a mix of too many colors and even less synergy. There is an energy to her clothes, elegance without snobbishness, an irreverent reverence for fashion that I never fully appreciated before. If you can get to the exhibit before it closes on September 25, do so. Enjoy the photos.

Enduring the Dog Days of Summer, Rusty Style

Friday, August 26th, 2016
I love the cheese lady!

I love the cheese lady!

Ah, the dog days of summer.

As a child in New Jersey I welcomed the summer heat. It meant days spent in the above ground pool my father would install. The humidity would hit you in the face like a wet washcloth, not unlike the current weather we are experiencing in Tampa. When I wasn’t in the pool I played games with my sisters, or lost myself in the library books I’d borrow. I particularly loved stories of other countries and cultures that took me away from small town life.

I always thought the expression “the dog days of summer” had to do with how our pets behaved during the heat. I was raised in a household where the dogs were considered part of the family. Caesar and Nicole, our mixed breed siblings, would lie down on the cool tile floor. They were not interested in being outside except to do their business. It was only much later that I learned the expression has to do with astronomy. The ancient Greeks believed that “when the Dog Star, Sirius, appeared to rise just before the sun there follows a period of indolence, lethargy, and inactivity.” They believed this was a dangerous time. I am not an astronomer, and I only remember how the dogs would pant and lie around “like lazy lumps” as my mother would fondly say.

We have a new member of the family. His name is Rusty, but I feel Rustin Sinclair is the appropriately classy name for his new life. My son always wanted a dog, and, being a cruel mother, we had cats instead. One day he called me from college and told me he had been looking online and a photo came up of a dog named Rusty. There was something about this dog. He decided to visit the shelter, and as he stood outside the cage where Rusty lay curled back in a far corner their eyes met. My son bent down as Rusty watched him. My son called his name softly, and he picked his head up. Slowly, he got up and walked to the front of the cage. He lay down and slid his paws under the cage door. He chose my son. This abused and neglected animal decided to take a chance on another human.

We don’t know anything about his previous life, and maybe that’s for the best. It breaks my heart to think anyone could have been mean to him. My son is a dedicated owner, and I must admit I have fallen for this energetic pit bull mix. He knows it, of course, and works me like a pro, all in the interest of a cheese slice.

If you are in Tampa for the summer there are lots of indoor delights. Both the Tampa Museum and The Dali museum have wonderful exhibits. The Tampa Theatre is a jewel of a movie palace that shows a wonderfully eclectic range of movies. Or, go to Clearwater Beach and have a fried grouper sandwich at Frenchy’s. Enjoy your summer.



Mixing It Up: Democratizing My Jewelry

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

I love these earrings!

I have always loved jewelry.

I remember as a young teenager sitting with fashion magazines and looking at the gorgeous offerings of famed jewelers like Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Graff, Van Cleef and Arpels, De Beers, etc. I drooled over Bulgari watches, fantasized about Patek Philippe. When I wrote my first novel I included as many of these purveyors of fine jewelry as possible — along with detailed descriptions of the haute couture clothing my characters wore. The fantasy world of my characters fulfilled my love of luxury the best it could. I do not have Miranda’s closet (my character based on Iris Apfel) nor do I live in a waterfront Montauk mansion. My current job as a jewelry stylist enables me to experiment with both fine and fashion jewelry. Fashion jewelry is the fun, fabulous pieces that are on-trend. They don’t break the bank. They can, with a little planning, be seamlessly added into your own collection.

The earrings pictured here are part of the Kendra Scott ‘Mystic Bazaar’ collection. ‘Addie’ comes in many different color combinations. I chose the yellow gold to mix with my fine jewelry, but the rose gold is wonderful. The workmanship is high quality and they are not too heavy. I encourage you to check out the entire line of these gems — no pun intended. Click on the photo above to see many examples from the iconic Kendra Scott line. Have fun!

Dining Review: Rooster and the Till

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016
Decadence in a glass.

Decadence in a glass.

July is a busy month at my place of business, Nordstrom International Plaza. I work a crazy amount of hours and downtime is at a minimum. It was a great idea of my children to send their dad a Father’s Day gift card to one of our favorite restaurants.

The manager of the restaurant (who is also a friend) suggested that we sit at the bar so that we could watch the talented chefs work their magic. I felt like a judge on Top Chef, and we wanted to sample each dish after it was prepared. Ferrell Alvarez, a chef/owner (the other owner, Ty Rodriguez, cooked in front of us) stood between the cooking stations, observing, and checked each plate before it was carried by the servers to the patrons. Such attention to detail is evident in the creativity of the plating, and every garnish and fillip adds to the sublime balance. Many of the flavors are unexpected and this adds to the fun. The quality of the ingredients is beyond fresh, and this is largely what allows the imagination of the chefs to run wild. Rooster and the Till is for those who have a deep appreciation for a brilliant group of foodies who want to take you with them on a journey of taste, texture, and consumable art.

We were given an appetizer by chef Alvarez that was not on the menu; sliced sunchoke, fresh ricotta, roasted pistachios, and a bit of heat from I believe came from a chipotle drizzle. A little palate play never hurt anyone, right? Oh, and I forgot the grapefruit. He had created this dish for a private dinner recently held for a group of local and visiting chefs. We knew we wanted the gnocchi and short ribs… and we don’t share this. A red wine was discussed as we reviewed the excellent selections. After tasting two wines Miles brought us, we chose a Côte du Rhône, Mon Coeur. Miles suggested the chorizo crusted octopus/pickled raisins/carrot emulsion/squid black ink beans, and that arrived before the gnocchi — it was wonderfully unexpected and something we never would have tried. After the sublime gnocchi I had to have the foie gras/sous vide pear/cashew pear butter nutella/huckleberry gastrique, melt in your mouth luxury. The wine paired perfectly with these flavors, preventing a taste bud overload, but I wasn’t done yet.

I have eaten desserts in a glass, and many times they are a mess of layers and flavors that smush together in a disappointing muddle. This dessert was magnificent — mocha custard/”candied brioche”/honey roast pistachio/pistachio gelato/cherry geleé. I finished it all, sharing a couple of bites with my husband who watched me devour it with amusement.

Treat yourself and dine here sooner rather than later. Call for reservations early. And sit at the bar if you can get a seat. Let me know what you eat because the menu changes frequently. And thank you to everyone at Rooster and the Till for a truly memorable meal.


Foie gras





Brown Sugar and Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

IMG_1431We were having guests for the Fourth of July and I was so excited that I would get to bake a dessert! I found this recipe on Pinterest, a great place to go to peruse recipes that other pinners recommend. This recipe was easy and a wonderful finish to a rather heavy meal. The compote was the perfect addition — fresh, seasonal berries have to be taken advantage of when at their peak. And, the tradition of a red, white and blue dessert was met, even if the red and blue were mingled. Enjoy!

Brown Sugar & Cream Cheese Pound Cake


1 8-ounce package cream cheese – softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter – softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar – packed
5 large eggs – room temperature
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan, bundt pan or 2 loaf pans
Add cream cheese, butter and sugars to mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing well about, 1 minute after each egg.
Sift together flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.
Combine buttermilk and vanilla in a small measuring cup and stir.
Alternate adding flour and milk to butter/egg batter – starting and stopping with flour. This will incorporate all the ingredients evenly.
Pour batter into buttered, floured tube or bundt pan.
Bake for approximately 1 hour or up to 1:15 hours. Check if done with a toothpick.
Let cool for 15 minutes then gently remove from pan.


3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups mixed berries (3/4 lb) such as raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries

Melt butter in a skillet over moderate heat. Stir in brown sugar and lemon juice until sugar is dissolved. Add berries and cook, tossing gently (try to keep most of them from breaking up), until berries are warm and juices begin to be released, 3 – 5 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Attribution: A Southern Soul and Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.


Salmon with Crème Fraîche and Asparagus

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

unnamed-2My husband is used to eating well.

While raising our two wonderful children I cooked my way through a personal collection of seventy-five cookbooks, exploring the favorite recipes of diverse cultures. I became a firm believer that in order to truly understand what makes up a sublime plate one must be able to do more than boil water.

Flash-forward to the present—I am always looking for another challenge that involves personal growth. I am currently working as a jewelry stylist for Nordstrom while still writing, presenting to various groups at local libraries, and caring for my thirty orchids. Yes, I’m crazy busy and have less time to cook, which is why it is so nice when my husband discovers a gem of a recipe like this one. He has made it a number of times and has changed a few critical aspects. He has become a confident cook, unafraid to adjust a method that seems less than satisfactory. He has a couple of suggestions: The cooking time in the original recipe is way too short unless you want to eat raw salmon. Also, his method for preparing the potatoes is superior. He bakes the potatoes rather than boiling them. The potatoes are drier in texture, and form a crunchy platform on which to place the asparagus and the salmon. Try both methods and let us know what you think. Enjoy!


4 medium red-skin potatoes
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 bunch jumbo asparagus, tough ends trimmed and sliced on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vermouth or white wine
¼ cup crème fraîche
Paul Prudhomme Veggie Magic
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add potatoes and boil until just tender, 20 minutes. Drain. When cool enough to handle, peel potatoes and flake into bite-size pieces. Set aside to air-dry. (Bake potatoes until cooked, cool, and chop into bite size pieces.)

2. Season salmon with salt. Spray a baking dish lightly with oil. Arrange salmon, skin-side down, in dish and cover with aluminum foil. Roast until flesh flakes when lightly prodded, about 12 minutes. Remove skin.

3. Meanwhile, melt half the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and sauté until bright green, about 2 minutes. Add vermouth and simmer until just tender, about 2 minutes more. Transfer asparagus to a bowl and let cool slightly, 3 minutes. Season with salt and crème fraîche.

4. Set another large sauté pan over medium-high heat and coat with two tablespoons olive oil. Once hot, add chopped potatoes and cook until browned, 2 minutes. Season with Veggie Magic. Flip potatoes, add remaining butter and cook until crisped, 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

Attribution: Eric Ziebold/WSJ

Do You Have #bloggerstyle?

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

Bacon_Aporkalypse_6x9_CMYK-24.25"x2.75" Post Card TemplateI am looking forward to an evening of tasty treats and great conversation as I join fellow foodies at the Riverview public library. In honor or this event I have placed two of my short stories free on Amazon.

Cookbook Club: Digital Dining.

This month’s theme is Food Blogging. Join special guest, Lois Lewandowski, local author and food blogger, who will share how her passion for food and writing about it, jumpstarted her career as a fiction writer. Choose a recipe from your favorite food blog or from the display and prepare a dish; bring it to the meeting to share with the other participants. Please bring your own place setting (cup or bowl, plate and silverware) for each meeting. Funded by the Friends of the Riverview Branch Library. #readlocal #enovaaw