Entries from March 28th, 2011

March 28, 2011

a home office that works: create a stress-free workspace

Today and tomorrow, the Bureau of Labor Statistics can count me among the 20 million Americans who work from home a couple of days a week. I’m fighting an important Friday deadline and need to focus on the project at hand. Luckily, my apartment has a built-in office space tucked away in a corner so I can leave my work in one space and not be lured back into it once I’ve shut my laptop and packed away my papers.

A few months ago, I gave my office area a small makeover thanks to daily inspiration from one of my favorite bloggers. While it’s nowhere near complete, I’ve found that it’s come in handy for days like today and tomorrow when I just need a serene, uncluttered (in the beginning at least) space to get into the zone and just work. If you’re looking to bring a stress-less vibe to your home office, these tips (some adapted from an article I wrote three years ago) can help create an inviting, calming office that encourages you to get your work done — without losing your mind!

cupcakes and cashmere emily schuman home office

{Emily's workspace remains an inspiration for my own home office — even though I have about half the desk space. Photo By Emily Schuman/Courtesy Cupcakes and Cashmere}

1. See the light.

Studies show that sunlight has a calming, clarifying effect on mood and concentration. People who work in daylight experience an increase in general well-being and productivity, according to a report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a facility of the U.S Department of Energy in Golden, Colorado. The evidence is so compelling that many European companies require all employees’ work stations be within 27 feet of a window. My home workstation is adjacent to my bedroom window, which I sometimes crack open to let in a little bit of crisp, cool air.

2. Pare down.

The office is home to massive energy and space thieves: printers, scanners, computers and shredders. Since starting my new job and moving into my new apartment, I’ve pared down my electronics in one way (no more desktop computer and printer!) while adding to my gadget collection in another way (damn smartphone). I appreciate the extra space I gained by getting rid of my home print/scan/copy machine.

3. Sit pretty.

One of the best investments you can make in your home office is a great desk chair. If buying new, choose ergonomic furniture, which provides better support and encourages better posture. If a brand new office chair isn’t in the budget, furnish your office with quality secondhand goods. Reupholster your finds in pretty colors and fabrics to add a little cheer to your home office. While I haven’t made this investment yet — we’re talking at least $200 for a nice, new office chair — I better start saving now because my complimentary chiropractic sessions from the teacher man’s soon-to-be-doctor friend are going to end once said soon-to-be-doctor moves to a different state in the coming weeks. Too bad I can’t use my flex spending dollars on an ergonomic chair!

How do you bring a sense of peace and calm to your home office? Give me some more tips in the comments section!

March 14, 2011

crazy about coral: spring nail polish colors

I’ve been doing a good job staying on top of beauty resolution number three these past few months. While I was in New York last month, Caro and I got coral manicures (as seen in this previous brunch post), and I’ve been hooked on the happy color since then. Unfortunately, at the New York salon, the bottle of coral OPI nail polish I chose didn’t have the sticker with the name on it. With a little sleuthing, though, I’ve found what I am 99.9 percent sure is the pretty coral color I had on my nails just a few weeks ago.

With spring just around the corner, what better way to brighten up your day (besides daylight savings time!) than with super-slick nails in a festive, citrus color? Here are two of my favorite coral colors from some of my favorite nail polish brands.

OPI conga-line coral south beach collection

{This is the color I had on my nails in New York! It's a shimmery coral from OPI's South Beach Collection called Conga-line Coral. Photo By Masha2020/Courtesy Flickr}

coral nail polish essie clambake

{I am loving this coral nail polish from Essie called Clambake. Who gets to name nail polish colors? I want that job! So fun. Photo By karigee/Courtesy Flickr}

What other shades of coral do you like for spring? Leave me some tips in the comments section.


March 11, 2011

eating my way through nyc | crumbs bake shop | upper west side

“Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate.”                — Jerry Seinfeld

After hearing my friend Eric gush about the magic of black and white cookies after a trip to the city, I knew I had to mark these oh-so-New York treats off my to-eat list.

After a long night out on the town and a too-early morning, my BGF Caro and I were strolling about her neighborhood with my other two buddies Jen and George from D.C. when we stumbled upon Crumbs Bake Shop. Crumbs is known for its colossal cupcakes fit for a king (or maybe three really hungry girls). As beautiful as the cupcake display was, when I spotted the black and white cookies, I knew I had to try one.

crumbs mini black and white cookies

{I wish I would have gotten a pound of cookies to take home — but maybe it's a good idea I didn't.}

The black and white cookies were probably the smallest dessert item available and more acceptable to eat while walking down the street at 10 a.m. compared to the colossal cupcake. :) Nevermind the fact that the appeal of a black and white cookie is that they are actually tiny, smashed cakes with a layer of decadent vanilla and chocolate icing. The “cookie” had an airy, cake-like consistency — almost similar to a fluffy pancake — topped with a sweet layer of vanilla and chocolate icing. I couldn’t stop raving about it as we walked down the snowy sidewalk that cold morning.

Even though I didn’t throw down $22 for a pound of black and white cookies to go, I may be able to satisfy my New York cookie cravings with Dean & Deluca’s take on black and white cookies — and if I get really ambitious, I may enlist the teacher man in helping me and Martha in the kitchen as I try to recreate this oh-so-New York dessert experience.

Are there any independent bakeries in the Midwest that offer New York-style — or their own take on New York-style — black and white cookies? I’d love to know about them. What other regional desserts should I try? Tell me about them in the comments section.

March 10, 2011

eating my way through nyc | cupcake taste test | baked by melissa | soho

Bigger isn’t always better — even when it comes to cupcakes.

The cupcake’s appeal lies in its adorable, petite packaging — it’s a tiny cake with a pretty wrapper and a dollop of bright frosting on top. How could you get any sweeter? Some fine woman named Melissa knows the answer to that question.

baked by melissa cupcake menu

{Baked by Melissa offers a variety of traditional and inventive cupcake flavors — in mini-cupcake form. Photo By missmeng/Courtesy Flickr}

Baked by Melissa specializes in baking charming mini-cupcakes with inventive flavors. The tiny, stuffed cupcakes come in a cute little box from a cute little sliver of a storefront in Soho — think hot dog stand minus all the stinky onions and bland colors. Baked by Melissa is all about sugary sweet smells and a rainbow of colorful cupcakes waiting to be popped into your mouth.

baked by melissa cupcake stand

{I love the idea of a walk-up cupcakery filled with tiny treats. Photo Courtesy Yelp}

Caro and I stopped by Baked by Melissa after a long day of shopping in Soho. We opted for a dozen mini-cupcakes in a variety of flavors. Together we sampled mint chocolate chip, peanut butter cup, cookie dough, peanut butter and jelly, red velvet, chocolate chip pancake, cookies & cream, s’mores and cinnamon cupcakes. My favorites of the delicate dozen were the peanut butter and jelly (classic combination in a nice cakey texture!) and the mint chocolate chip (nice touch with the tiny chocolate chips on top!). It’s amazing how much intense flavor Melissa packs into her bite-sized cupcakes — they were moist (these tiny cupcakes are so easy to overcook), stuffed with just the right amount of tasty filling and topped with a well-edited serving of creamy, flavorful frosting.

baked by melissa mini cupcakes

{Here's one way to not feel bad about eating six cupcakes — eat six mini cupcakes!}

When’s the last time you made mini cupcakes? What flavors would you want to see in a tiny cupcake creation? Leave me a comment in the comments section!

March 9, 2011

eating my way through nyc | boqueria | soho

I’ve always been a snacker. I love getting little tastes of all sorts of different foods (sometimes from other people’s plates, which the teacher man frowns upon) whenever I can. The perfect solution to my snack habit? Tapas!

On my first night in New York City with my BGF Carolyn, we rounded up a group of friends (including my food editor girlfriend Tabitha) and headed to Boqueria in Soho to share Spanish-style tapas and wine. The restaurant was cozy yet trendy and filled with beautiful people eating beautiful food.

Our group of six ordered off the tapas and artisan cheese/meats menus to fill our table with a variety of sweet and savory dishes. I was a little too busy chowing the food to take note of everything I ate off the meat and cheese board (hey, we all ordered something for the table, and I just trusted that Boqueria wouldn’t let me down), but surely some sweet person with a better memory than mine will be able to help me define everything in the following picture (help, Tabitha!).

cheese and meat board

{Our spread of ham and mushroom croquettes (upper left), Serrano ham (upper right) with grilled breads and artisan cheeses was divine.}

boqueria cojonudo fried quail eggs and chorizo on toast

{I shared my order of cojonudo — fried quail eggs and chorizo on toast — with Tabitha because my BGF Caro doesn't eat meat (more for me!).}

Boqueria Buñuelos de Bacalao salt cod fritters

{The Buñuelos de Bacalao — salt cod fritters — had a nice flaky crust and melt-in-your-mouth middle.}

Boqueria Gambas al Ajillo shrimp garlic and Guindilla pepper in olive oil

{I've made these Gambas al Ajillo — shrimp, garlic and Guindilla pepper in olive oil — at home before in my Spanish cazuelas, but they're just too good to not go ahead and order from the tapas bar!}

We washed our tapas down with tasty red and rosé wines. Though we skipped out on a formal “dessert,” Tabitha and I saved a little room for Dátiles con Beicon — dates stuffed with almonds and Valdeón, wrapped in bacon. For some reason, the dates didn’t stay around long enough for a picture…

What’s your favorite local tapas spot? Kansas City readers — where should a self-proclaimed snackaholic like me go for tapas in this town? Tell me your suggestions in the comments section.

March 8, 2011

eating my way through nyc | philip marie | west village

You’ve never really experienced brunch until you’ve been to a New York City all-you-can drink brunch that is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

On my second day in the city, my BGF Caro and I trekked south to the West Village to rehydrate our bodies with unlimited coffee, tea, soda, bloody marys and mimosas after a late night out on the town. Our destination? Philip Marie, a hip spot in the West Village that serves New American cuisine.

kimberlyloc drinking bottomless coffee at philip marie in new york city

{Enjoying my bottomless coffee and showing off my fresh coral manicure at Philip Marie in the West Village}

While the idea of a swanky little spot in the Village is appealing enough, Caro and I deliberately searched out prix fixe brunch spots that offered bottomless brunch cocktails. For just $25, we got our pick of any scrumptious meal on the brunch menu plus drinks. Without divulging too much information, I think I can confidently state that Philip Marie did not make much money off of me that day. :) It was a fantastic deal for us hungry girls — especially considering I ordered the most-expensive item on the menu, the New Langoustine Burrito.

new langoustine burrito philip marie new york city

{My burrito was filled with langoustine tails. Langoustines are tiny little lobsters — so good!}

Are there similar all-you-can-drink brunch spots in your neck of the woods? What has been your best meal and experience? Tell me about them in the comments section.

March 7, 2011

eating my way through nyc | alice’s tea cup | upper west side

Each time friends and family ask how my trip to New York was, I say the same thing. “It was amazing. Carolyn and I ate, drank and shopped our way through the city.” As repetitive as it gets, it’s basically all we did all weekend — with just a little bit of room for sleep — and accurately describes our four fun-filled days together.

For breakfast one morning, Caro and I walked a few blocks away from her apartment to Alice’s Tea Cup, which is a little wonderland of baked goods and whimsical teas. It’s super-tiny, but completely adorable; the walls are colorful and the shop is filled with pinches of Alice in Wonderland-inspired decor and quotes.

alice's tea cup upper west side new york city

{Who wouldn't want to have breakfast in wonderland? Photo By oemebamo/Courtesy Flickr}

The goodie display was packed with all sorts of tasty scones and custom cakes. I’ve only had scones a couple times in my life — from some unmemorable chain breakfast spot or something — but the scones from Alice’s Tea Cup re-piqued my interest in this under-appreciated breakfast pastry.

blueberry lemon scones from alice's tea cup in new york city

{Blueberry lemon scones are $3, but are big enough to share with another person. I just gave Caro a bite. :) }

I loved the texture (and flavor!) of Alice’s blueberry lemon scones. They had a crisp, buttery crust yet were soft and fluffy inside. You have the option to add a little jam and whipped butter to your scones; they’re fine on their own (or with tea), but I slicked on a little jam to moisten the scone to complete perfection.

Have you ever been to Alice’s Tea Cup? How was your experience? Do you have a good scone recipe for me to try? Tell me about it in the comments section.

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