The Sing-Off (TV Thursdays)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Back in high school, a former student came with his A Cappella group from Yale to perform.  That was my first introduction to the quintessential college A Capella experience.  Since then, I have always loved the genre.  Once I got to college, my friends and I made sure to attend every Chorduroys (all-male) and Cadence (all-female) concerts.  I don't know what it was about the performances; and as someone who isn't, and never really was into music I got a chill during a really great A Capella song.  Plus, the groups always made it fun by adding lots of humor into their songs.

When a few years ago the first season of The Sing-Off aired, since it aired over the holidays when all other of "my shows" are on hiatus, I tuned in and really enjoyed all the performances.  Three weeks ago the fourth season started and I am a huge fan of this season.  First of all, they replaced Nicole Scherzinger (a Pussycat Doll) with Jewel - a big upgrade, secondly they added more teams and lastly they changed the format a bit to include a "sing-off" for the two bottom teams to determine which one gets eliminated.  The earlier seasons featured a lot of existing college groups which is great, but the groups always had some weak spots.  A few people who couldn't really sing or dance or something.  This season has more or already established groups or groups of professional singers (ie Theme park show-performers) who come together to make a much more polished team.

I'm usually not one for reality television, but this show avoids focusing and creating drama for no reason.  It seems like all the teams genuinely get along and the judges are the ones who actually get to decide who stays and who leaves avoiding the need for alliances or enemies or stupidity.  Also, the judges, especially Ben Folds, really know what they are talking about.  As an added bonus the outfits the performers wear are AMAZING!

Throughout the season, my favorite group by far has been Home Free. As I write this I'm watching to see who will win.  Spoiler alert below:

The Sing-Off crew
And the winner is.... Home Free!!  They were Shariously great the entire season and are the only team that never went to a sing-off duel for a chance to be eliminated.  I knew they would win.  Good Job!

NY Fridays (Food Tour)

Friday, December 20, 2013

I am so lucky to have great friends and family who were so excited for my marriage and made the celebration of my then upcoming wedding so special.  Since our wedding was in October, I knew it would be tough to get everyone together for pre-wedding festivities (Bridal Shower, Bachelorette Party etc.) which would take place in the summer, due to vacations and the abundance of summer activities. Since a few of my close friends are unavailable for the weekend of my bachelorette party, they planned an amazing day out in Manhattan to make up for it!

The day started in Soho with a "Downtown Chocolate, Dessert and Wine Tour" with City Food Tours.  It was a really nice walk with some knowledgeable, friendly and funny tour guides. Between the stops the guides were full of neighborhood history. There was also another Bachelorette Party group on the tour with us.  The below is a summary of the spots we hit up on the tour:
Food tour spots (Photo Credit: A. Katz)
  • Kee's Chocolate - where we got a chocolate truffle
  • Xocolatti - where we sampled some unusual chocolates with chili 
  • Le Palaid des Thes - at this tea shop, we heard about the history of tea, had plenty of samples in the store and came out with some tea samples to take home
  • Papabubble - this Australian candy shop makes all their own unique candies right in the shop - of course, again lots of samples
  • Oro Bakery - at this French bakery we got one of the best brownies I ever had.
  • Di Palo Fine Foods - At this stop the guides picked up some delicious cheese from this Italian cheese and meet shop for us to eat with wine at our final stop.
  • Puro Wine - a Chilean wine store where we enjoyed plenty cheese, bread and wine
After the wine tour we all went to get manicures for some spa relaxation at Spa Belles.  I guess the other girls were feeling blue, the color that is, but my nails are in hot pink in the picture on the left.

With nails and the weather  dried up, we took a stroll over to the Lower East side and had a delicious dinner at Stanton Social (a favorite of our group for special occasions).

It was a Shariously great day and I can't thank all the lovely ladies who organized it enough!

A conversation at the holiday crafts fair

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Last weekend there was a Holiday Crafts Fair in town and this  is a conversation I had:

Guy selling Hoboken historical crafts (pointing to my sparkly blue nails): That's nice nail polish you have.
Me: Thanks. It's for Hanukkah. 
Guy: That's an interesting name. Why is it called that?
Me: Huh?
Guy: You said the name of the nail color is "It's Veronica"
Me: Oh. No. They are blue. For Hanukkah.

aruba blue - blues By Essie

Shariously sorry I don't have a picture of my blue nails, just the color (above). They are now changed up for holiday season in Essie's Bordeaux with Beyond Cozy accent nail (below).

bordeaux - reds By Essiebeyond cozy - metallics By Essie

Butternut Squash Apple Soup (Recipe Monday)

Monday, December 2, 2013

One of my favorite fall dishes is butternut squash soup.  The first time I ever had this soup was when my friend had a cooking demonstration bridal shower.  Her recipe was butternut squash soup and was mostly similar to this recipe which is a combination of hers, one from Woman's Day and some of my own modifications. I've eliminated the heavy cream for a lower fat recipe and also increased the ratio of cider to broth to make the soup both sweeter and thicker. This is a great appetizer for Thanksgiving.

3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 gala apples, peeled, cored, chopped
3 lbs (8 cups) butternut squash, peeled and cubed
24 oz (3 c.) broth (chicken or vegetable)
12 oz (1 1/2 c.) apple cider
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Making Butternut Squash Apple Soup
  1. Melt butter in 5-quart pot over medium heat.  Stir in onions and apples. Saute about 5 minutes.
  2. Add butternut squash cubes, broth, cider, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.
  3. Using an immersion blender puree the soup.  If you don't have an immersion blender you can use a blender in batches. 
A Shariously comforting fall soup!