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20

Jan

Hi! Are You Looking For Me?

Well, I’ve moved! Better in French has moseyed on over to BetterInFrench.com

Until I can figure out how to have my virtual cake and eat it too, by somehow meshing my Tumblr site with my new-and-improved site, you’ll have to check out all new posts by visiting me there.

Tell me how you like the new digs!

See you soon.

XOXO Miranda

01

Dec

Manolo Blahnik AKA The Mothership

During my recent trip to Las Vegas, we took a window shopping stroll through the Wynn, where my in-laws were staying. I was calm, cool, and collected until I saw this, and stopped dead in my flat, equestrian-chic boots:

Spellbound, I dropped Paul’s hand, and floated toward the open doors of this store, my eyes and mouth wide open. I may have stopped breathing.

"It’s, it’s…" I silently opened and closed my jaw, willing the words to form in my throat and come out. They didn’t. I lovingly fingered the stately black plaque on the wall, and peered around the corner.

The salesman looked at me, and smiled. I tripped into the store, breathless, and out came each and every word I had been trying to produce for the last minute. All at once:

"Ohmygosh! It’s—you’re—they’re! Manolo Blahniks! They’re so beaaauuuutifuuuul! Look! Oh, feathers! Ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh! Could I, um, take a picture? Please!"

Too amused by my reverence to be concerned about the accompanying threat of hyperventilation, he kindly let me snap away to my heart’s content.

I was particularly fixated on these feathered beauties:

As I lingered over them lovingly, cooing, my brother-in-law Justin strolled in.

"Justin!" I gasped. "Look!"

Justin is an acclaimed jewelry designer in New York, and isn’t quite as bowled over by encounters of the exquisitely feathered kind as I am—such things are de rigueur in his beautifully decorated world, but he’s sweet enough to humor me.

"Wouldn’t they tickle your toes?" he asked.

I turned to face him.

"Honey—I haven’t felt my toes in years.”

25

Nov

Whatever’s Clever: Easy Peasy Pie

I am thankful for all sorts of things on this Thanksgiving eve, including this insanely easy berry pie I adapted from two existing recipes.

The fantastic thing about it is not only that it’s yummy, and relatively healthy—as far as pies go, anyway—but that it’s so easy to make, and completely adaptable.

I happened to have 1 bag of mixed frozen berries in my freezer, and a lone apple when I first attempted this, so that’s what the below recipe reflects. But, you can use any combination of berry/apple, or just apple/just berry you desire. That’s why I’ve dubbed it “Whatever’s Clever Pie”.

Also, if you want a fuller, chubbier pie, just up the amount of fruit, and scale the other filling ingredients accordingly. Feel free to make tweaks as you see fit—the ingredients are so simple, it’s virtually impossible to screw up!

I’ll be making it tomorrow for Thanksgiving, and know it’s going to give the traditional pumpkin version a run for its money. If you are still on the lookout for an easy holiday pie, try this one—you’ll love it. And perhaps more importantly, so will everyone else.

Whatever’s Clever Pie w/ Streusel Topping

Pie Filling:

1 bag of mixed frozen berries  (if strawberries are included, I would recommend

that you slice them into thirds before adding them into the mix)

1 Apple, thinly sliced

2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch—or more if you want a thicker, less juicy, cobbler-like pie (flour can be used in place of cornstarch)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 —1/2 cup brown sugar

Pie Crust:

One 9-inch piecrust (I used a frozen whole wheat version from Whole Foods)

Streusel Topping:

3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pats

1/4 cup whole wheat all purpose flour

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 – 2 packages of instant blueberry oatmeal, uncooked

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix your dry ingredients for the pie filling in a bowl

Then, add in the mixed berries and apple

Sprinkle the lemon juice into the bowl

Now, toss the filling with your hands, mixing gently (no squeezing—that comes later!). Make sure that every piece of fruit is properly covered with the mixture

Finally, pour the contents of the bowl into your piecrust of choice, and set aside

Now, onto the Streusel topping:

Again, mix the dry ingredients together in a (clean/dry) bowl

Drop in the butter pats, and start squeezing and mixing with your fingers. You are working the dry oatmeal, flour, and brown sugar together with the butter, so that the butter will be dispersed completely, and bind the ingredients together—we don’t want clumps of butter, or dry and lonely bits of oats/flour

Keep at it—the consistency you are aiming for is similar to raw cookie dough

If you find the mixture is too wet, add a bit more flour, conversely, if it’s too dry, add a bit more butter

Once this is achieved, drop bits of the streusel topping onto the waiting pie, until you’ve used up all of the streusel

Get ready to pop the pie into the oven

The pie is done when the streusel topping has become lightly toasted, the pie filling is bubbling, and the fruit is cooked and soft, approximately 45 minutes. It will look like this:

Let the pie cool for a bit—so you don’t burn your mouth like I did—and enjoy!

23

Nov

A Sunday in iPhone Photos

Paul and I took advantage of the sunny fall Sunday, loaded our pups Bailey and Lola into the car, and headed for Huntington Beach Central Park.

We stopped first for NY Style bagels at Bagelmania in Huntington Beach—now my destination for perfect bagels in an adorable setting, with colorful old school sodas, and the best service—and then parked at the Park Bench Cafe adjacent to the park. Because HB Central Park is such a popular spot for dogs and the people who love them, the Park Bench Cafe offers both a human and canine menu, which can be enjoyed al fresco at one of their many picnic tables. We spent two hours walking through the park, where we met ducks, a baby Beagle named Zoe, and discovered that Southern California really does have seasons.

And although we were still full from breakfast, we picked up dessert for our tired puppies on the way out.

20

Nov

Red Shoe Diaries

I spent last week/end in Las Vegas, celebrating my in-laws’ 35th wedding anniversary. We had a lovely time, adored our hotels (reviews and photos coming, soon) and even managed to catch a show: Cirque du Soleil’s Le Reve, which was phenomenal. My MIL and I sat next to each other so we could have someone to squeal to, but were both so breathtaken, I could only blindly bat her arm a few times, eyes jumping around the stage. I may have managed a squeak or two, but really can’t be sure. I also may have bruised her with those aimless hand swats, but am double crossing my fingers that this isn’t the case—I have beyond lucked out in the in-law department.

Since it was fabulous Las Vegas and all, we gussied ourselves up, and I debuted my new vintage (oxymoron, I know) dangly costume diamond earrings. I matched them with a blue dress from F21—you’d never guess—and perfect red pumps from Miss Sixty. The perfection of my shoe selection became even more apparent during the show; there is a magical number during which a dozen water acrobats perform a peppy dance number fully submerged, save for their red heels flashing in the air.

My shoes have been dying to do the same ever since, and although I fear they’ll never reach such heights of stardom and glamour, the least I can do is post a photo of them. The images are a bit blurry, I realize, but a promise is a promise.

Miranda Marie Valentine

19

Nov

Use It Or Lose It

You’ve heard that phrase, right? Use it or lose it? It’s true, you know. Don’t worry if you don’t believe me; it just means that you’re under the age of 25. And at the wizened—er, wise—age of 27, I can tell you with conviction that you’ll soon understand exactly what it means.

This photo below, for example. I made this sandwich three weeks ago, tops. It’s a vegetarian version of a BLT, using grilled BBQ tempeh in place of the bacon, spinach instead of lettuce, plus cheese.

I was going to do a blog post about it, extol the virtues of my grill pan, and try to make your most likely meat-loving mouth water at the sight of tofu. And of course, give you instructions for how to recreate the yummy.

That’s when I made the fatal error. Instead of writing down the sandwich instructions—I mean, seriously, it’s a faux BLT, how hard can it be to remember? —I snapped the photos, and saved them to my computer for a rainy blog day.

And so, here we are. And no matter how hard I squint at my screen, bite my tongue, and make my totally unattractive “what the…?” face, I can’t retrieve the memory of what cheese I used. I can see from the photo that it’s melty like Cheddar or Swiss, but…I’m running through our past few Whole Food trips in my mind, and I can’t say for sure.

Any guesses? If so, for heaven’s sake email them to me, don’t tell me in person. I’m clearly in need of a paper trail.

18

Nov

Here it is, my Holy Grail: personification via footwear.
Some people aspire to be captured forever by way of bronze—their raised, tarnished fists nobly providing a perch for pigeons and the occasional squirrel, in city parks ‘round the world.
Others prefer to have entire buildings erected in their name, brick and mortar with shiny black tiles quipping “so and so. so and so. so and so” every time heels click down their very own halls.
Me? I just want to be the heels. Not any old heels, mind you. Those heels, up there, in the picture.
They are dangerously high, purple suede heels with a red sole, just like God and Christian Louboutin intended. They are breathtakingly, perfectly me: slightly impractical, colorful, and not meant for long distance walking and/or running.
Perhaps when I kick the proverbial bucket, Mr. Louboutin’s team will be kind enough to issue a shoe just like this one, in my name.
I like suede better than bronze, anyday.

Here it is, my Holy Grail: personification via footwear.

Some people aspire to be captured forever by way of bronze—their raised, tarnished fists nobly providing a perch for pigeons and the occasional squirrel, in city parks ‘round the world.

Others prefer to have entire buildings erected in their name, brick and mortar with shiny black tiles quipping “so and so. so and so. so and so” every time heels click down their very own halls.

Me? I just want to be the heels. Not any old heels, mind you. Those heels, up there, in the picture.

They are dangerously high, purple suede heels with a red sole, just like God and Christian Louboutin intended. They are breathtakingly, perfectly me: slightly impractical, colorful, and not meant for long distance walking and/or running.

Perhaps when I kick the proverbial bucket, Mr. Louboutin’s team will be kind enough to issue a shoe just like this one, in my name.

I like suede better than bronze, anyday.

16

Nov

35 plays

My dear friend Bradley Keys, hip hop artist extraordinaire, is kind enough to put together playlists for his lucky friends, of the best and brightest new music getting proper play on the music blogs of the moment.

He knows how much I love that T.I. song “Whatever You Like” so imagine my delight when a cover by the honey-voiced Anya Marina was listed.

It. Is. Amazing. And, when sung all fabulous French lounge-y (read: the lyrics are sung much too slow to be ignored), it sounds a bit raunchy, I’ll admit. But, I love her version even better than the original.

(An aside: My love for hip hop, and often, like, seriously hard core rap songs has baffled my friends for years. It’s the beat, I explain, it’s the music. Coming from someone who counts Mozart among her favorite musicians, it’s puzzling, for sure).

A Project All About Shoes? Sign Me Up.

So, I finally got around to setting up a Flickr account, because all the kids are doing it, and my husband Paul has sworn it will improve my quality of life by, oh, 3%. At least.

Last night I uploaded a few blog photos, and lo and behold: upon waking, I had very sweet Flickr comments waiting on my screen.

While people saying nice things about you never, ever, ever gets old, I was most intrigued by an offer to upload the Jeffery Campbell shoe shot I posted here awhile back, to this website: FootEarth.com, where they are…well, they say it best on one of the spiffiest sites I’ve ever seen, so I’ll let them do the honors:

12

Nov

Thankfully, there are some sweets that are so lovely, in all of their sugar-spun, coconut-like-confetti glory, that you can be more than satisfied by simply gazing at them.
To take a bite would interrupt the perfection, wouldn’t it? That’s what I told myself the other morning anyhow, after spotting this gorgeous dream cake, and realizing that even my body couldn’t handle such a sugar shock before 9am.

Thankfully, there are some sweets that are so lovely, in all of their sugar-spun, coconut-like-confetti glory, that you can be more than satisfied by simply gazing at them.

To take a bite would interrupt the perfection, wouldn’t it? That’s what I told myself the other morning anyhow, after spotting this gorgeous dream cake, and realizing that even my body couldn’t handle such a sugar shock before 9am.

11

Nov

Isn’t this image stunning? It was taken by my fashion photography idol Bill Cunningham of NY Times “On the Street” fame.
Although this photograph was used in a compilation about the daring, we-mean-serious-business boot trend in sweet Paris at the moment (there have been murmurs stateside, too) what I found so arresting was the trench coat.
Clarification: not the trench coat, but how it’s being worn. Because there is no doubt that this chic, smiling for Bill, Parisienne is wearing that trench—it isn’t wearing her, not even by an inch.
And of course, one can’t help but appreciate the fact that this lovely, tailored piece—whose predecessors were created merely to keep raindrops at bay—is so stunning, it requires its own protection.

Isn’t this image stunning? It was taken by my fashion photography idol Bill Cunningham of NY Times “On the Street” fame.

Although this photograph was used in a compilation about the daring, we-mean-serious-business boot trend in sweet Paris at the moment (there have been murmurs stateside, too) what I found so arresting was the trench coat.

Clarification: not the trench coat, but how it’s being worn. Because there is no doubt that this chic, smiling for Bill, Parisienne is wearing that trench—it isn’t wearing her, not even by an inch.

And of course, one can’t help but appreciate the fact that this lovely, tailored piece—whose predecessors were created merely to keep raindrops at bay—is so stunning, it requires its own protection.

08

Nov

Hair Miracle? Here's Hoping.

Have I told you the tale about my poor, fried mane? How after going blonde this summer, for the first time ever (blondes might just have more fun, after all) I ponied up the big bucks to have a keratin treatment, also known as the Brazilian Blowout, and soothe my poor, processed hair follicles?

Well.

The Brazilian Blowout essentially toutes itself as the America of hair products; give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses of hair, longing to be free from damage and frizz, and lack of shine, it coos. My stylist told me that after the treatment, I wouldn’t have to blow dry my hair, ever again—or, until the treatment wore off anyway, which was an average of three months. As someone who has unruly half-straight, half-wavy hair, blow drying has been my only savior. Sea salt sprays, suggestions of “oh, just twist and rub a little product at the ends—so easy!” and other “tricks” have left my hair matted, frizzy, and far, far from anything remotely sleek.

So, after hearing my stylist gush, and googling Brazilian Blowouts (Nicole Richie is a fan), I decided to go for it, and plunk down far too much money than is wise for my dream hair.

Well.

While rinsing out the treatment, my usually chatty stylist became very, very quiet.

"What is it?" I asked.

"Just a second—I’ll be right back. I need to check something." A phrase you never, ever want to hear your doctor, dentist, or stylist utter.

Long story short: soon three stylists, including the salon’s owner, were crowded around my now towel dried head, frowning. This has never happened before, they exclaimed. They called the Brazilian Blowout manufacturer, and they had never heard of this happening, either. Lucky me.

What happened was this: either the product or the extra hot flat iron used to seal the product in proved to be too much for my over-processed hair, and it was fried. And by fried I mean absolutely, positively ruined. Large patches of hair were curled into sad nests of frizzy doll hair. It was obscene. Apologizing profusely, they sent me home with a gentle flat iron and a bag of products they hoped would help to mask the damage, and didn’t charge me for the treatment. Obviously.

There was nothing to do but wear my hair up, and I have become incredibly creative with bobby pins over these past six months.

Since my hair can’t handle regular color, I have been using temporary at-home color, and crossing my fingers. The results have left much to be desired; flat, boring color that fades super fast.

I decided to take to the internet in search of a solution, and stumbled upon these glazes by John Freida. Oodles of magazines sing their praises, and so I think I’ll give them a shot. I’ll keep you posted on the results.

Keep your fingers crossed for me, will you? And maybe a toe or two, too.

XO Miranda

07

Nov

600 Thread Count Sheets On Sale? Yes, Please.

So, I have become minorly obsessed with Nate Berkus, since seeing an interior design spread he did in Glamour magazine, using items for his own line. It was, in a word: perfection.

The only place to get your hands on his wares is HSN.com, which was easy enough. The only thing I was miffed by was the shipping charges; each pillow I ordered cost an additional $5-8 in shipping and handling, as did the sheets. Oh, the sheets. The amazing sheets.

I ordered these 600 thread count puppies, not realizing how much they would change my life. Do you know how important it is that your bed be a haven? A wonderful, silky smooth haven of yumminess?

Well, you will once you cover your bed in these. There’s no turning back. And, at around $65 (including the sheets AND the pillowcases, which I was very pleased about), Mr. Interior Design Adonis has made it possible.

06

Nov

Oh, great. See this? This is the nutritional content of the only thing that I have been mildly interested in consuming these past few days while marooned on my couch, sneezing and coughing incessantly.
To my credit, I have been adding in a daily vitamin boost, an immunity boost, and a super 3G boost (it sounded fancy), but still—108 g of sugar? Almost 800 calories? Did I mention that I had two of these yesterday?
Leave it to me to pick the least healthy item at Jamba Juice. It’s just like my uncanny ability to always be drawn to the most expensive item in a magazine spread. I’m like a bloodhound for things that are bad for your thighs and wallet.

Oh, great. See this? This is the nutritional content of the only thing that I have been mildly interested in consuming these past few days while marooned on my couch, sneezing and coughing incessantly.

To my credit, I have been adding in a daily vitamin boost, an immunity boost, and a super 3G boost (it sounded fancy), but still—108 g of sugar? Almost 800 calories? Did I mention that I had two of these yesterday?

Leave it to me to pick the least healthy item at Jamba Juice. It’s just like my uncanny ability to always be drawn to the most expensive item in a magazine spread. I’m like a bloodhound for things that are bad for your thighs and wallet.

Guess how much each of these adorable hot pink cold-weather items cost? Come on, guess.

Give up? $40. $40! Do you see how adorable that peacoat is? That hat? That fuzzy faux fur bomber hat is going to get me through my annual holiday trip home to Maine this year, sans the cold I usually accumulate along with all of those presents.

Now, can you guess who is bringing us all of this inexpensive design goodness? I wouldn’t have believed it, if I hadn’t seen it myself: Walmart and LL Bean, respectively.