Friday, February 25, 2011

And The Winner Is....

I can hardly contain my excitement!  As well all know (or should know), Sunday is Oscar night.  This is one of my favorite nights of the year!  I don't want to hear about the fact that it's political, fixed, or unfair - even if that is true I don't care about that right now.  I love the pomp and circumstance, the awkward acceptance speeches and the occasional one that makes you really feel happy for the winner.  I love the awkward scripts, the best of the best actors who panic when the teleprompter fails, and the (far too occasional) fantastic host.  And I love the fashion - duh.  :)

And though I won't be watching this year (as far as I know, they don't really show it over here, at least not on any of the channels I get.  BOO!), I'll be devouring the videos and red-carpet shots the next morning.  

If I ever live State-side again I will - without doubt - throw an Oscar Soiree.  And if I ever live close to my dear, hilarious, also-Oscar-obsessed friend Sarah (who just started a fabulous blog, which you must read), I know we'd throw an Oscar party to rival the Governor's Ball.  Right, Sarah?

And if you're going to throw an Oscar Soiree, dahling, you must dress the part.  There's no point in throwing an oscar party if you're not going to win best costume.  I personally think I'd go all out, but in case that's not your thang, here are two looks (one red-carpet ready, one after-party chic) to inspire you to look like a winner on the big night!  And whatever you choose to wear, make sure there's a little sparkle, otherwise it's just plain wrong.  A sin, even.

And now for the party looks:



Thursday, February 24, 2011

On Repeat

(How beautiful is she in this photo?)

...which one of my favorite bloggers says is like a "punch in the soul".  I'd say that's about right.


If you haven't heard the album yet I highly recommend that you do.

That is all!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Discovering Jane

Hi, my name is Grace and I'm an Austen addict.  It's true.  I think it's genetic because my mother and my sister are both self-proclaimed addicts, too.  My father and husband are, thankfully, very patient men and put up with the three of us constantly watching and talking about Austen novels and their subsequent TV and film adaptations.  And we know we're not alone, too!

My love affair with all things Austen started when I was 15, when the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice hit the small screen (a program which, no offense, you'd have to be living under a rock not to have heard of).

They ran one episode a week for something like six weeks and I was hooked from the first 30 seconds.  It is so perfectly cast, set, designed and scripted - there's not a thing I'd change.  It stars the now very celebrated Colin Firth - a perfect Mr. Darcy (aka my boyfriend. :)  That was my first foray into Austen, but I promptly devoured the book which proved even more wonderful, although it must be said that the BBC production doesn't let down the book at all.  The recent film version, however, is another matter entirely, but I digress.  After P&P, I fell in love with Emma (back when I thought Gwyneth Paltrow was actually English because the first few films I remember seeing her in - Sliding Doors, Emma, Shakespeare In Love - she sported a very posh English accent, indeed).  Then there was Sense and Sensibility, and my love of Austen was officially official.  :)

What is it about Austen (and her contemporaries) that have us all so enamoured?  On a day-to-day basis, our lives are nothing like the lives of the Bennetts or the Woodhouses or the Dashwood's.  Most of us don't have maids following us around, getting us dressed and fixing our hair.  Or cooks or butlers or, in the cases of the very well-to-do, an entire staff of men and women there to answer our beck and call (although that does sound rather nice, now that I think about it!).  Our lives now are very different now.  It's not uncommon for someone to marry above or beneath themselves, nor is now frowned on as it was in days of old.  I mean who would thought that the heir to the British throne would marry, well, a middle class commoner?  :)

I think part of what makes Austen so popular and relevant today is that her characters are so recognizable - I'm sure you must know someone show is an eternal romantic like Jane, embarrassingly ridiculousness like Lydia, completely oblivious (and snobby) like Emma or proud like Lizzie?  I certainly do (and no, I will not name names!).  I even find myself in her pages. :)  Like her characters, I think we still feel the social pressures of class and wealth.  Whether we like it or not, money is still as vital as it was back then.  There are still elegant urban-ites and simple country folk.  As with her characters, we may feel smothered by our parents and their plans for us which conflict so fundamentally with what we want for ourselves.  I know there have been times in my life when I've felt trapped by a situation and want nothing more than to be free of it (and even some of the people in it).

But it's her approach to affairs of the heart that have the greatest draw for me.  There's an innocence in how she she writes of love, but that does not at all mean that she lacks depth or passion or true romance.  Like her heroines, I know I'm still ruled by my heart.  Maybe most of us are - we still want to marry for love, although it is true that not everyone does.  We still feel all the frustrations of loving someone you can't have, of a love that can never be realized, of being loved by someone you don't love in return, or of  having your heart broken and then, when all seems lost, finding someone to fix it - perhaps someone you would have never imagined could.  Like her characters, we still get a thrill from stolen glances and undeclared love, or the suspense of a slow blossoming love, often undiscovered or unacknowledged by both people involved.  Then, finally, when it is discovered, the internal dialog of "does he love me? / does she know I love her?" - a sweet suspense, one her characters experience and we do too, as we read.

When her character's hearts are broken it's almost tangible, because haven't we all been there?  (If you haven't I don't even want to hear about it!)  And when they get their happy ending (which, lets face it, almost always happens), you live that joy, too.  Who doesn't love a book that can make you experience a whole range of emotions in a few hundred pages, one that allows you to live all different kinds of love, sorrow, frustration and happiness without ever leaving your couch.

Ok, I'm going to stop my rambling before this turns into a novel!  If you haven't picked up one of her books, please do.  She writes with passion, heart and great humour - what is not to love?  It might sound cliche but Pride and Prejudice is my favorite, although Emma and Sense and Sensibility are also wonderful.   Boys, if you're still reading at this point, which I'm sure you're not, give Austen a try.  Even if you hate it, the lady in your life will be seriously impressed!

If you prefer to visually ease yourself into Austen, here's what I recommend:

The only version of Pride and Prejudice worth watching, in my book, is the BBC production with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle as the two leads (see photo above).  There isn't one weak character in the production and the script is very true to the book.  It has been argued that their depiction of the Bennett's home and life is too rich for what the book suggests, but to me that's a minor flaw I can live with.  Mrs. Bennett is outrageously spectacular, as is Mr. Collins.  It's a series definitely worth buying, even if you haven't seen it yet.

This recent film adaptation with Keira Knightly was disappointing on so many levels.

That Mr. Darcy was without depth, passion and was completely boring.  Do not let this be your first experience of P&P!  I will say, however, that it is a feast for the eyes - absolutely beautifully shot and the score - almost exclusively piano played by Jean Yves Thibaudet - is gorgeous. But everything else - disappointing.

Then there's Emma - three good versions to choose from.  I can only vouch for these two:

But my cousin-to-be tells me that this one is better than both of those, and I'm about to watch it too:
Can you believe that that's Kate Beckinsale?!
Then there's Sense and Sensibility.  I have seen this and I love it.

I also saw this and wasn't entirely impressed:

I enjoyed this version of Mansfield Park, but admit it's the only version I've seen:

(There is also a production with Billie Piper but even from the cover, I think I'd instantly not like it because of her.  I know that sounds terrible but it's true.  If you've seen it and think I'm totally wrong, do tell).

I loved this version of Persuasion (I can count on two fingers how many blond men (guys? boys? males?) I've fancied in my life but this blond Cpt. Wentworth is absolutely dreamy):

I also quite enjoyed this interpretation on Jane Austen's life (although Anne Hathaway's spotty accent is a bit distracting).  They say it's based on fact, which makes it even better and lets the imagination run wild.  It's beautifully shot so worth a look for that alone.  And did I mention James McEvoy??

I've never seen any cinematic interpretation of Northanger Abbey so if you can recommend one please do.

Here are some other non-Austen, period-drama goodies (I've shown the film/series versions below but most of them are books, as well):

Downton Abbey - currently hooked on and staying up far too late to watch!

North and South


Jane Eyre - although I can't wait to see the new film version coming out soon.  Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester.... :swoon:

Gosford Park

Upstairs Downstairs

Are you with me?  Do you love Austen or period stories/films?  Which is your favorite?  What have you seen that I haven't and must?  Do tell me all in the comments!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Foodie Friday - oh wait...'s STILL Thursday. 

Ahhh, now I feel better.  I figured on a day when we're almost at Friday but not quite, we all deserve a virtual cupcake.  And if I had one, by golly, I'd eat it too.  What I am eating, instead, are these:

Holy deliciousness...they are the yummiest crisps (chips) EVER.  They're my crack.  I really shouldn't buy them at all because they only come in a big bag and it's extremely difficult to only have a handful.  In fact, it's almost impossible.  You in the States might be extremely unfortunate lucky because I'm pretty sure that you can't be tempted by these every time you're in the snack aisle of your supermarket can't get them Stateside, but if you're in Ireland, I highly recommend you go get some.  Now.

Ok, now that I've gotten that out of the way.  Today has been one of those days where it's 3:00PM and I'm not sure where the day went.  I'm pretty sure I did something this morning...oh yes, I ran around after my daughter, fed her twice, showered during her nap.  I did actually get some work done earlier, too.  Do any of you other Moms out there feel like you've had a packed day but find it hard to tell your other half exactly what you got accomplished?  Please say yes.

This afternoon (if C ever falls asleep) I'm going to knock some more work out of the way and get started on tonight's soup.  It's tortellini soup night (or, as my college roommate used to call it, the "turkey soupies" - except tonight it's with chicken not turkey).  I have Pilates at 7:00pm, right smack in the middle of C's bedtime/our dinner time, so an already thrown together soup is the way to go.  I make this soup from memory, but here's a similar, more basic recipe all measured out for you:

Spinach Tortellini Soup
recipe image
Submitted By: Nicole
Photo By: Cookies
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Ready In: 20 Minutes
Servings: 4

"This quick and easy soup is made by combining packaged tortellini and frozen spinach in chicken broth seasoned with dried basil and garlic powder."
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped
2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (9 ounce) package cheese tortellini
1/4 tablespoon dried basil
1/4 tablespoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1.In a large pot over high heat, combine the spinach and chicken broth. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat to low. Stir in tortellini, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the tortellini is cooked to desired tenderness. Season with basil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

It's been a few years since I've made this, but from memory, here's how I adjust the recipe to make it my version:

  • I usually start with making my own broth from the bones of a whole chicken we've had the night before or I would make it using fresh (uncooked) chicken thighs and legs.  Then I'd take whatever meat I can off the thighs/legs and add it to the pot, along with all those other ingredients.  Don't forget to skim the fat/foam from the top of the broth and add some bouillon/stock cubes if you want a stronger flavour.
  • I cook the spinach separately (either from fresh or frozen) and strain it REALLY well because I'm not a big fan of the taste of spinach-y water.  Ew.  Ok, where was I?  Oh yes...
  • Do not - I repeat, do NOT add the tortellini until you're practically ready to eat the soup.  It only takes about 3 minutes to cook and there's nothing more disgusting than soggy tortellini....except for maybe spinach-y water.  So if you're making a big pot in order to have left overs, you might want to remove a little of the soup stock to a separate (small) pot, cook your tortellini in it, and then add it to your bowl with the rest of the soup.  
  • I'm pretty sure I added a little onion and instead of dried basil and garlic powder, I use fresh for both (as much as you like).
  • Once it's in my bowl, I usually top it with a little parmesan-reggiano, too.  

It might be dangerous to post this recipe before I've tried it again, but I promise I'll amend the recipe after I eat it to let you know if it needs any more adjustments!  As of now, though, the chicken stock smells amazing!  Maybe I'll post a perfect-roast-chicken recipe later, too....

Ok - the after results - it was really good, actually.  I can never quite get the water to chicken ratio quite right so I added some bouillon cubes to give me a bit more flavour and that was really all I needed to do. As I was just using the bones (or carcass, which is such a gross word and should never be used in the same sentence as food or dinner!), I added a chicken breast which I just thew in the pot whole and then shredded when it was all cooked.  And that's about it - the bottom line is that it's good when you like the taste, so adjust or add whatever you want to make it just right for you!

Anyways, that's our dinner tonight - the perfect remedy for a rainy, chilly February evening.  We might watch Winter's Bone, too - have you seen that yet?  I'm trying to squeeze in all the Oscar noms before the big night which I'm pretty sure I cannot watch - and that gets me so annoyed that I just might have to eat another handful of those crisps or cupcake.

Have a great Friday-eve!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Yesterday you saw how C has started dragging my bag around the house.

Today she has insisted on wearing my button down shirt all day long - I think it's because it's blue like the one her Daddy wore to work this morning (which she dragged around until he had to iron and wear it), but I'll try to convince myself that she really just wants to look more like her Mama.  I love having a mini-me! :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Heart

Happy Valentines Day!  'Tis the holiday you love to hate or hate to love.  Or love to love.  Whatever, you get my drift.  I *kinda* think that Valentines Day is the un-married's holiday, does that make me sound like an old married bore?  Hmm...I think it might.  It's not that myself (or my married friends) don't celebrate it, it just doesn't seem to be as big a deal as it was when I was single, dating or even engaged.  Maybe it's because we don't feel we need a day to validate our love on Feb 14 (bah, humbug) or maybe it's because we try celebrate it every day (aww...le puke sigh).  Whatever the reason, we don't really celebrate it as extravagantly as we used to.  The last few Valentines Days we have spent at home, with a nice dinner with some candles, good music, wine and (of course) a decadent dessert (what's Valentines Day without Chocolate, after all?)  Boring?  Not at all.

What never changes on Valentines day, however, is the fact that I thank my lucky stars for the amazing man that I am blessed to call my husband.  I never thought I'd find someone who gets me like he does, who's patient with me, is kind and selfless.  A man who loves me unconditionally for who I am, and who gave me the greatest gift I could have ever imagined - our little girl.  That's what I'm celebrating this Valentines Day and the best part is I know that we don't need flowers, bling, or an big night on the town to do that.

That being said, grand romantic gestures to spoil your loved one rotten are wonderful (last year, P spoiled me with a little blue box tied with a white ribbon...  :swoon:).  So please don't misunderstand what I'm saying - and maybe to do that you have to disregard everything I've written above!  It's been an introspective few weeks for the hubby and I, and what I've realised, once again, is that we can do without everything else as long as we have each other, our little girl, and the love and support of our families.  And that's what it comes down to for me.

However, if you need further proof that I'm not a Valentines Day hater, here are some little (and big) delights if you want to tell the world you're in love this Valentines Day:



Totally delicious chocolates from Butlers
Get her this:
And this....
And she's yours, I promise!  Although I can't promise that she won't fall in love with Mr. Darcy.

And let's not forget the men in our lives:
AHHAHAH - just kidding.  Kind of.  My hubby might actually like this.

Beer of the month club.  In Ireland/UK or USA
You know the way to a man's heart...
Wishing you a Valentines Day filled with lots and lots of love!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Busy Bee

I've been a little busy, hence the lack of blog posts.  Today will be very busy, but I thought I'd leave you with some (not such brilliant quality iPhone) photos of our walk in the Iveagh Gardens last weekend - I can only imagine how beautiful they must be in the spring and summer!  We let our little one walk and she did the entire hour that we were there - she did not want any help from her parents at all.  And when she saw a "dadth" (dog), she was off like a shot...we might have a problem on our hands once she starts writing her own letters to Santa!

Here are some moments from our day out:

I'd love a post box like this.  Makes me wonder of all the stories in the letters that passed through that box...

The great Irish tenor, John McCormack

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Birthday Surprise..better late than never!

Well, as some of you know my darling Hubby threw me an amazing surprise party last month!  He coordinated everything without letting even a hint of it slip - I couldn't believe he pulled it off - not because I doubted that he could organise it but because I think (thought) I knew him well enough to figure out if he had something big up his sleeve.  He told me!

It was a great night and I thought I'd share some photos with you - better late than never, right?

Clearly, I was surprised:

For a while....

{Now we know where C gets that face from.  She'll even do it on command if you say "do the shocked face!"}

I digress...back to the party.  The attendee's reaction to my reaction:

The party planner, proud that he pulled it off!!

Myself, Dad, and my sister R

With my sister R, brother JJ and his gf K

A rose between two (brotherly) thorns

With my in-laws

Family!  But where's my hubby?!

It was a great night.  Thanks P, and all my family and friends for making it wonderful!!