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Charting the style of daily life...with the mouth of a sailor.

holidays

The Mother Lode

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If your mom is anything like me, she wants something gorgeous and beachy for Mother’s Day. I’ve rounded up a few coastal-inspired goodies from Saks OFF 5th that would be perfect gifts for the nauti mamas out there. I’m told there are many of us…

Saks OFF 5th is offering an extra 25% off gifts for mom, including wallets & cases, silk scarves, fragrances, straw bags, sleepwear and FIFTH CITY Beauty, up to 60% off handbags and 70% off Effy Fine Jewelry. These offers run May 1st - May 12th. Some exclusions apply.

Shop Saks OFF 5th for your mama, yourself or both here.

A Holiday Wish

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My most sincere apologies to Steve Martin…

If I had one wish that I could wish this holiday season, it would be for all the children to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace. If I had two wishes I could make this holiday season, the first would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing in the spirit of harmony and peace. And the second would be for 30 million dollars a month to be given to me, tax-free in a Swiss bank account. You know, if I had three wishes I could make this holiday season, the first, of course, would be for all the children of the world to get together and sing, the second would be for the 30 million dollars every month to me, and the third would be to have Cindy Crawford’s body, but in the 90’s, like when she was filming that exercise video with Radu. But then I’d pair that bod with the face of Linda Evangelista. And if I had four wishes that I could make this holiday season, the first would be the crap about the kids definitely, the second would be for the 30 million, the third would be for the 90’s supermodel looks, and the fourth would be to have an Hermes Birkin bag made especially for me. Wait a minute, maybe the 90’s supermodel thing should be the first wish, because it could all go boom tomorrow, then what do you got, y'know? No, no, the kids, the kids singing would be great, that would be nice. But wait a minute, who am I kidding? They're not going to be able to get all those kids together. I mean, the logistics of the thing is impossible, more trouble than it's worth! So -- we reorganize! Here we go. First, I want my 90’s supermodel looks. We go with that. Second, the money. No, we go with the money first, then the supermodel thing. And then the kids. Oh wait, oh jeez, I forgot about revenge against all the betches who’ve crossed me! Okay, I need revenge against the betches, they should lose their wifi signal and any decent coffee shop within proximity to their homes forever. That would be my fourth wish. And, of course, my fifth wish would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace.

Thank you everybody and Happy Holidays!

Summer's Last Hurrah

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I don't know why but I'm totally fine with saying goodbye to summer this year. Perhaps it's the sweltering heat, the unbearable swarms of mosquitoes that seem to be particularly vicious this season or the suede handbag I've been waiting to use since May. Fall fashion is a totally acceptable reason for wishing to jump ahead. 

Labor Day weekend was a blur of cocktails with coworkers (I use the term loosely), a fr-amily cookout, a lively soccer tournament under a blazing hot sun and forest bathing + a few helpings of apple pie. By Sunday's end, we Foxes were exhausted and wanted a light, refreshing dinner, followed by a couple of episodes of our current fave show, The Curse of Oak Island (all four of us are obsessed). 

As luck would have it, while scrolling through Instagram Sunday morning, I'd flagged the recipe for a creamy yellow gazpacho, posted by author Elin Hilderbrand (I started following her this summer after reading one of her Nantucket-based books for the first time). On our way back from visiting three Acres Land Trust sites, we stopped for the supplies and I quickly got to work blending the chilled soup. The recipe Hilderbrand provided was a little loosey-goosey but it provided a great foundation. While I was able to use a few yellow toms, I had to rely on red camparis for the bulk of it. I also added a bit more white wine vinegar and omitted the onion, because onions are hideous and vile weeds, but I followed the rest of her instructions to a T. Next time, I might do a little more augmenting, such as leaving some chunks instead of totally pureeing the mix, adding some fresh herbs, and so on and so forth.. Below are Hilderbrand's exact instructions:

Sunday #LDW starts with my best recipe: Creamy yellow tomato gazpacho, otherwise known as the golden elixir. You make it the way you make any other gazpacho: throw yellow tomatoes (4-5 regular tomatoes, seeded) plus one chopped yellow pepper and half of a seedless cucumber into a food processor and purée until smooth. Now, where my gazpacho differs is I then add one chopped onion and two cloves of garlic that have been sautéed to golden in 3T olive oil and 1T sugar. Add softened carmelized onion mixture to processor along with 3 T white wine vinegar, the juice of one orange, 3/4 c heavy cream and salt and pepper. I use this divine “pepper perfection” by coastal goods. Garnish with ripe avocado chunks. It’s SO DELICIOUS if I do say so myself.
— Elin HIlderbrand on Instagram

It was SO DELICIOUS, just as she exclaimed in her caption, and I will totally be adding this to our warm weather repertoire. Ooh! A little dollop of sour cream (poor girl's créme fraîche) might be nice for garnish, along with cubed avocado and chopped tomatoes. Next time... 

Slow Down

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This Fall threw me for a loop.

I made multiple trips to Massachusetts to help manage a family health issue. These trips were stressful in some ways but in others, quite pleasant. I made sure to find at least one reason to smile each day I was there. From multiple visits to my favorite cafe to taking hundreds of pictures of the beach, I just love being on the Cape, no matter the reason, no matter the season.

I came home for a few days between Massachusetts trips to take part in Middle Waves Music Festival and it was the exact right decision. The fun and excitement (and long hours on my feet) made for a perfect distraction. 

Once my Massachusetts trips were done, I had my own health issue that forced me into the hospital for a handful of days. I'm doing just fine and recovering well from a trio of minor surgeries. I lost a week of work but no matter... I left the hospital with a new perspective, one that I hope will guide me toward a more peaceful future. 

I want less. Less physical stuff, less body mass, less on my calendar.

While I'm a consumer and love beauty products, clothing and accessories, and feathering our family nest, I'm going to buy less, but up the quality with things that will last. My plan is to only buy pieces I truly love and which fill a specific need (or worthy want). I'm also going to be getting rid of a ton of things I've been holding on to for far too long. It's time to purge...

I need to move my body more, plain and simple. While I'd love to shed a few pounds, my goal is to be more healthy, to get my muscles moving, and my brain. I've signed up for a month of semi-private Pilates classes to help me jump start. 

I love hanging with my friends and I don't want less of them - but I do need to be more mindful about how I spend my time. I've been learning to say no to professional opportunities but I'm going to get more aggressive in this area. 

I want more. More time with my little family, more physical activity (that will help with the whole less body mass thing), more cheese (that might just negate the physical activity), more experiences, more laughter (and I already get a lot of that, but I want even more).

As I head into the holidays, I plan to celebrate the hell out of the season by embracing these goals. More family, more movement, more laughter, more cheese...

Set Sail

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I'm ready for a new year. I have big plans and dreams and 2017 is going to be about achieving some of them (I'm playing the long game with the rest). So, 2016 wasn't all bad and I selected my best nine Instagrams from Navigate with Style and FoxSea Skin to reflect back on some of the better moments of the year. Plenty more lovely moments were shared on my personal Instagram account and plenty more were not shared at all (it could be said those were the most special, perhaps).

I'm not making resolutions this year, per se. I don't have anything against them but I can't even remember what last year's resolution was so I either achieved it without much effort or fanfare or it went by the wayside pretty quickly. I have a mighty robust to-do list so I guess that counts. Here's to the end of 2016 (ciao, bitch) and the beginning of a fresh, new year!

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Unicorns, time spent on Cape Cod and Nantucket with my fellas, the most adorable cruise ship ever and the addition of our little Boston Terrier, Buoy Darling, made 2016 pretty sweet. 

FoxSea Skin

I launched FoxSea at the tail end of 2015, so 2016 was all about growing and learning, refining some processes, trying new things. I have some grand plans for 2017 and beyond so cheers to a bit more polish for my little FoxSea in the coming months. 

Holiday Weekend in the Windy City

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It was cold. Damn cold. Like, really f^ck!ng cold. But, we hopped a train to Chicago to add new memories to old ones. Growing up, each year our mother would take my sister and me to Chicago, in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The tradition has fallen by the wayside but when we learned the famed Cape Cod Room was closing for good on December 31st, we knew we had to make the trek for one final meal. The Drake was, and still is, our HQ when visiting. We had quite an experience at dinner and relished the lovely, legendary recipes of The Cape Cod Room, enjoyed high tea the next day in The Palm Court (my fave!) and did a little Christmas shopping. My boys and husband came along for the ride so of course we took a detour to the Lego store (where my mother made a new friend), picked up refined sugar and carbs at Glazed and Confused and consumed some deep dish pizza at Gino's (my mother insists on Gino's but we Foxes are Lou Malnati's devotees). Bonus: I introduced my mother to SnapChat and got as close to taking a selfie with Queen Bey as I'll ever get. 

Down the Hatch

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My favorite cocktail has always been the classic Gin & Tonic, which my husband renamed the Jen & Tonic. But while gin and I love each other when the night starts out, by the next morning, we're bitter enemies. So, I've recently gone back to one of my fave drinks from my very early twenties. Actually, late teens. Alright, alright... teens. The Cape Cod (or Cape Codder) is simple, crisp and refreshing and the bright color makes it festive year round.

Here's my perfect Cape Cod:

Pour 3 ounces cranberry juice and 2 ounces vodka over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a juicy wedge of lime (or two). 

For a bubbly twist, make it a Rose Kennedy by adding Club Soda (my favorite non-alcoholic bevvy):

Pour equal parts vodka and club soda over ice into a rocks glass, leaving room for a splash of cranberry juice. Garnish with a wedge of lime.

My drink of choice at my husband's company holiday party. 

Pearl earrings and twin-set optional. Cheers!

Thanksgiving mise en place

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Thanksgiving is often cited as the favorite of the winter holidays, perhaps due to the lack of stress over gifts. However, that doesn’t mean Turkey Day is without its stressors.

Are you the lucky host or hostess of this year’s Thanksgiving Day celebration? Cooking a large bird is no easy feat, and timing all the sides around it can be quite tricky. Add in hungry kids and adults and the intensity grows while everyone is waiting to sit down at the table.

Thank the stars for wine (you remembered the wine, right?).

Take a tip from the best chefs and cooks, and adopt the philosophy of mise-en-place, a French culinary phrase which translates to “put in place” or “everything in its place.” Practicing mise-en-place means setting up and organizing ingredients and tools before the cooking gets underway. With thoughtful preparations, you can ensure your Thanksgiving meal goes off without a hitch, at least when it comes to the fare.

First things first

Decide on the menu you’ll serve, and determine how many guests you’ll be feeding. Be sure to check with guests about any food allergies well in advance.

Read through tried and true recipes or research new ones, giving yourself plenty of time to test tricky recipes, just in case. For example, instead of standing over a boiling pot or sizzling skillet while you could be tending to other dishes, try making your mashed potatoes or homemade cranberry sauce using one of the popular crock pot recipes. Trying any new methods in advance will allow you to make corrections prior to crunch time.

Create your shopping list, organizing first by needed ingredients for each dish, then rewriting the list based on the layout of your favorite grocery store for streamlined, stress-free shopping.

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, clean out your refrigerator to make room for the holiday groceries as well as prepared dishes. While this is never a fun task, you’ll be happy to have the free space in the heat of the moment.

Also, plan to start Thanksgiving Day with an empty dishwasher so that as you dirty dishes and utensils during the cooking process, they can be loaded right into the appliance, instead of piling up in the sink. Then, just before you sit down to eat, if the dishwasher is already full, start it so after the meal, it can be emptied and reloaded with the now dirty plates. While you may run the dishwasher multiple times throughout the festivities, you won’t encounter an Everest-like mountain of dishes in your kitchen at the end of the day.

Sharpen your knives, polish your silver and make sure table linens are clean and pressed. Ensure you have a healthy amount of ice, not just for beverages but also for preparing to-go bags and boxes of leftovers at the end of the day. Storage baggies and plastic containers you don’t care about being returned for said leftovers is key, unless you don’t want to give out leftovers. After all your hard work, you might just want to keep those delicious leftovers for yourself.

The work begins

Work ahead and complete as much as possible in advance of the big day. Advance preparation will cut down on so much stress, you’ll actually be able to enjoy the day, too! Determine what you’ll need for the preparation and serving of each item of food — such as small appliances, slotted spoons, tongs, carving knives, roasting pan and rack, thermometer, baster, fat separator, gravy boat — so you’re not left scrambling to find the items you don’t use regularly.

Start setting the table a day or two before, which will allow time to check inventory of serving dishes, place settings, water and wine glasses, pitchers and utensils. Set out all the other elements such as centerpieces, candles, place cards and the like so you can focus simply on cooking day of. If you need help remembering what goes where, visit EmilyPost.com for guidance. Stick notes to each serving piece to designate which vessel will be used for each menu element so as each of them are ready to be transferred, helpers (if you have any) will know where they go without having to take you off task.

Strategy for the day itself

Plan to use the mise-en-place method to set up a self-serve beverage station and/or bar, depending on the crowd, so it’s easy for guests to make their own drinks without interrupting the kitchen operations. Make cocktail napkins, glasses and goblets, an ice bucket with tongs and stirrers handy. Stock the bar with standard liquors (gin, vodka, rum, etc.) as well as a few mixers, such as club soda, tonic and juices, that can easily be used for non-alcoholic drinks as well. Open bottles of both red and white wine, with reserves and a corkscrew nearby. Slice lemons, limes and arrange other fun garnishes, such as skewered cranberries or a dish of cherries, so guests can customize their drinks.

The day or night before, (re)familiarize yourself with all planned recipes and then prep as many of the ingredients as possible. Vegetables can be washed, peeled and cut, garlic can be peeled and chopped or minced, then measured and properly stored. Measure dry ingredients such as spices, herbs and breadcrumbs, storing them in labeled, lidded containers, plastic baggies or prep bowls covered with cling wrap. Prepare and then store broths, salad dressings and sauces. If you plan to set out appetizers for guests to tide them over before the main event, prepare the platters, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight. Baked goods such as cookies, pumpkin rolls, pies, fresh breads or muffins are easily completed in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, allowing you to simply warm them in the oven before serving, if necessary or desired. With all this prep work, and the dirty measuring cups and spoons, cutlery, etc., out of the way before the day even begins, there’ll be nothing left for you to do but cook! Practicing mise-en-place will severely cut down on the typical disarray of Thanksgiving Day.

An extra step that will save precious time and turmoil is to write down a cooking timeline for the entire menu. Each individual dish will generally have its own cook time, so by planning ahead you’ll know when to start on each element. This goal is more simply achieved by working backwards from the estimated start time of the meal so that everything will be complete around the same time, ensuring each element is hot as it’s being served. Post your timeline in a central location so that all kitchen helpers have access to the plan.

Before the cooking begins, set up stations or areas for each dish. Stock the area with the pots or pans needed as well as the appropriate utensils, cutting boards, trivets, oven mitts and so on. Post the recipe on the wall or cabinet above the workspace for easy reference as well as its pre-planned, desired start time. Then, set out each individual, pre-measured, pre-chopped ingredient, in the order in which they’ll be used, and let the games begin!

***

A version of this story first appeared in the Journal-Gazette on November 20th, 2016.

Distinguishing Mark

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Holiday dressing can be tricky, for sure. The pressure to be festive and glamorous mounts with every new party added to the busy December calendar.

But let's make this yearly wardrobe challenge a bit easier, once and for all: If you have one kickass dress, in a solid color, make that your uniform then kick it up with over the top jewelry; specifically earrings or necklaces, since rings and bangles won't be as visible as a glittering strand around your neck or dramatic drops dangling from your ears.

This season, Simply Vera Wang for Kohl's is killing it when it comes to holiday sparkle. Bonus: the price point means you can buy a couple of options to keep on hand. By switching out not only jewelry but hosiery, clutch and shoes, your holiday uniform will look completely different for every outing. 

Shop Simply Vera Wang for Kohl's - currently on sale! #boom