Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October 2011 Birchbox

My October Birchbox was waiting for me when I got home this afternoon, and I must say that I'm pretty pleased with this month's haul. Not only did my box have a nice combination of skincare and makeup products, but all of the products are perfect for this transition from summer to fall.

This month's theme was "Prep & Finish," and according to the card that came with the box, the products inside are supposed "to help you prep and polish skin, body, and hair... [to] help you become your most gorgeous self from start to finish." In my box were samples for the following products:
First glimpse inside the box
  • amika Obliphica Hair Treatment
  • Anastasia Beverly Hills HydraFull Gloss in Bellini
  • Clark's Botanicals Intense Radiance Mask
  • Laura Geller Spackle Tinted Under Makeup Primer in Bronze
  • The Laundress Wool & Cashmere Shampoo (this was my extra this month)
Top products: Laura Geller primer, The Laundress Wool & Cashmere Shampoo
Bottom products: amika Hair Treatment, Clark's mask, Anastasia lip gloss
 I've tried the lip gloss, hair treatment, and mask, and so far I'm really liking all three of them.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Literary Halloween Costumes: Comic Strip Edition

Although the highs in Boston are in the upper 70s and lower 80s this weekend, there has been a definite chill in the air signaling that fall is indeed here. Before the usual Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year's rush, we have to get through Halloween, which means another post (or two or three) of literature-inspired Halloween costume ideas. As always, I'll try to keep it fairly cheap, low-key, and easy.

For this edition, I was inspired by a comment on one of my early literary Halloween costumes posts from MovieMan0283, who mentioned Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes. With this in mind, I realized that not only are comics and graphic novels a form of literature, they are also full of iconic and recognizable characters that would make for fun (and easy) costumes. Without any further ado, here are some ideas (please feel free to add your own in the comments!):
  • Calvin and Hobbes (from the comic strip of the same name) - I love Calvin and Hobbes. Bill Watterson did a wonderful job balancing the heartwarming moments with plenty of mischief and humor, usually caused by Calvin's desire to thwart his babysitter, torment the girl next door (Susie), or find a shortcut to doing schoolwork. For Calvin, black and white sneakers (Keds or Converse would be perfect), black pants, and a red and black striped shirt are all that you need. That said, the costume would be much improved by having Calvin's spiky blond hair. For Hobbes, you would need a tiger costume, but an orange sweat suit with black electrical tape stripes, white cloth on the stomach section, and ears could also work in a pinch, Of course, if you don't have someone willing to be your Hobbes, you could get an unlicensed (but still adorable) stuffed Hobbes to accompany you on your misadventures.
  • Linus van Pelt (from Peanuts) - Of course, all of the Peanuts characters lend themselves to easy costumes, but Linus is one of my favorite characters, so I'm going to feature him. Like Calvin, you would need a red shirt with black stripes. He also wears black shorts and sneakers. However, the most important accessory for the costume is the blue blanket.
  • Sally Brown (from Peanuts) - Okay, since my first costume ideas were for male characters, I figured I better include some female characters too. Sally is the perfect character for the girly girl in all of us. She usually rocks a cute pink dress and white sneakers (you could get away with feminine flats too) that highlights her blond hair. If you would like, get someone to go as Linus and you can call him your "Sweet Babboo" all night.
  • Betty and Veronica (from the Archie comics) - I honestly never understood what both Betty and Veronica saw in the rather pallid Archie. Both girls (the rich vamp and the girl next door) were American archetypes, and I always got the feeling that, once they got away from Riverdale and met other guys, they would realize that Archie wasn't worth the competition. These characters make for easy costumes (as long as you have the right hair color). Besides her trademark dark hair, Veronica needs to dress in trendy, expensive-looking clothing. Betty should wear her blonde hair in a ponytail and wear more down-to-earth clothes (think jeans). Betty was also a cheerleader, so you could go that route.

Crunch Time...

As usually happens when school starts, my life isn't really my own anymore. I've been teaching one class, assisting with another, working my non-college job, and trying to get work done on my dissertation. Unfortunately, I'm not predicting things to get any better in the next few months (in fact, I will probably be even busier than I have been, which is a scary thought). Consequently, I will try to post something every two weeks or so, but I make no promises.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Foodie Fridays: Pan Bagnet

As someone who grew up Catholic in a land-locked state, fish was an inevitable part of Fridays during Lent. While there were some excellent meals, the unremitting cycle of shrimp, catfish, and tuna soon got the better of me, and by the time Easter came around, we were excited if only because Friday meals would be less predictable. I particularly resented the tuna sandwiches, which were heavy on the mayo and seemed to lack any taste beyond the fish's saltiness. While I will still make the occasional tuna sandwich, it is usually the result of desperation rather than any real culinary craving.

With these mayo-heavy tuna bombs in mind, I approached Melissa Clark's pan bagnat recipe with some trepidation. The mayo-less combination of tuna, tomatoes, vinaigrette, and basil sounded yummy, but I was still uncertain. However, with some beautiful heirloom tomatoes from the farmer's market (the last of the season) taunting me, I knew that it was now or never: I had to try this recipe before it was too late and the summer's tomatoes were replaced with hothouse versions that are essentially red tennis balls.

A quick trip to the grocery store allowed me to gather the needed ingredients, and after 30 minutes of chopping, whisking, and flattening, the sandwich was done. And it was amazing! Far from the tuna sandwiches of my youth, this sandwich featured a combination of flavors and textures. Better still, the sandwich kept wonderfully in the fridge and was just as tasty the next day.

Pan Bagnat (Slightly adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark)

Time: 15 minutes plus 20 minutes weighting
  • 1 very small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I used the oil drained from the tuna)
  • 1 8-inch round very crusty country loaf, or small ciabatta, halved
  • 1 medium-sized, ripe tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 can olive oil-packed tuna, drained (see the note above regarding the oil)
  • 6-8 large basil leaves
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly.
  2. If using a country loaf, pull out some of the soft interior crumb to form a cavity. (If using a ciabatta, you won’t need to eliminate anything.)
  3. Spread half the tomato slices out on the bottom of the bread loaf. Top with some vinaigrette, then with the onion slices, tuna, basil leaves, and more tomato. Top this with remaining vinaigrette. Cover with the second bread half and firmly press the sandwich together.
  4. Wrap the sandwich tightly in foil, waxed paper or plastic wrap, then place in a plastic bag. Put the sandwich under a weight such as a cast iron frying pan topped with a filled kettle. 
  5. Weight the sandwich for 7 to 10 minutes, then flip and weight it for another 7 to 10 minutes. 
  6. Unwrap, slice, and serve immediately, or keep it wrapped for up to 8 hours before serving.