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spiked milkshakes for memorial day

May 28, 2012

bobby flay’s vanilla bean bourbon milkshake

A photo of Bobby Flay’s Vanilla Bean Bourbon Milkshake for Memorial Day.

Here in Connecticut, it is a beautiful weekend, in spite of the weather reports leading up to this glorious Memorial Day. I planned on planting myself in front of the computer all weekend because of the stormy predictions…instead, I don’t want to come in from my backyard!

I did manage to come into the house long enough to make a wonderful Memorial Day treat to celebrate our good fortune with the weather! A spiked milkshake! A vanilla bean bourbon milkshake! Yup…the one Bobby Flay serves at Bobby’s Burger Palace. The same one I fell in love with when my daughter took me to his restaurant on her campus in Philly for the first time.


The bourbon I used to make Bobby Flay’s Vanilla Bean Bourbon Milkshake.

I am not going to take much time to post since I have a date ;) with that comfy empty chair sitting on the grass in my backyard , BUT I am just stopping long enough to give you the recipe for Bobby’s shake in case you too would like to add it to your Memorial Day menu!

A photo of the delicious Vanilla Bean Bourbon Milkshake I made for Memorial Day from Bobby Flay’s recipe.

It may not be a complicated recipe, but like everything Bobby Flay tastes incredibly delicious! There are plenty of other shake recipes in Bobby Flay’s Burger, Fries & Shakes book if you want to pick up a copy.

Bobby Flay’s Vanilla Bean Bourbon Milkshake

yield: one 16-ounce milkshake or two 8-ounce milkshakes


  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 fresh vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (reserve pod for another use)
  • 11 ounces premium

    vanilla ice cream (about 1 3/4 packed cups)

  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) bourbon

To make:

Combine the milk, bourbon, and vanilla bean seeds in the blender and blend until combined, about 5 seconds. Add the ice cream and blend until smooth, about 10 seconds.

For those of you that may not like or want bourbon, it is equally as yummy without it.

Enjoy your Memorial Day and Bobby Flay’s Vanilla Bean Bourbon Milkshake! Back to my chair…



fleet week nyc and other excitement

May 25, 2012

field trip friday

I am one lucky girl!  I toured Food Network!  There aren’t many things that would get me as excited.  Not since meeting Khaled Hosseini, has my heart beat so fast.  Even more exciting was that a friend and I were given a personal tour by a high school classmate who I would have enjoyed spending time with no matter where I was….the combination of the two sent my happiness through the roof :)  Adding to the excitement of the day…it was Fleet Week!  Fleet Week is a United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, and United States Coast Guard tradition – active military ships recently deployed in overseas operations dock in a variety of major cities for one week.  On the walk to Food Network, we were able to witness the Parade of Ships that signaled the start of Fleet Week NYC 2012.  Check it out:

A picture taken while walking along the Hudson River on the way to Chelsea, we got a great view, even with the overcast day, of the Parade of Ships marking the start of Fleet Week – a tradition in New York City since the early 1980’s.

Another photo of the NYC Parade of Ships for Fleet Week 2012.

Watching the Parade of Ships signaling the start of Fleet Week creates such a patriotic spirit!

Three of the 6,000 men in uniform descending on NYC for Fleet Week. Does this remind you of a particular Sex and the City Episode :) ?

(See pleasureinsimplethings facebook page for more Fleet Week photos – click the facebook icon on the homepage)

How cool!  Now, off to Food Network!


A photo of a view of the Food Network set from ‘behind the scenes.’

I got the chance to not only see the inner workings of the network, but so much more.  My former classmate is a senior executive and his insight into, not only the Food Network (and some cool history about the buildings in Chelsea), but the industry and the future of media, was totally fascinating. The technical aspect of the station is overwhelming, the physical space is visually interesting, and the people that work at the network were all so fun to talk to…all happy to explain their roles and answer questions posed by a ‘groupie.’  I think that is probably what I am…a Food Network ‘groupie’ (some may say ‘junkie’)…or maybe they just call me crazy?

The Food Network kitchens sign really got me breathing heavy :)

A photo of the Food Network kitchens.


A photo of the Food Network set. Standing on this set, where so many I have admired have stood before, was definitely a highlight for me!

On the visit to Food Network, Melissa d’Arabian was filming a promo for Ten Dollar Dinners.

The Food Network is located above Chelsea Market, an enclosed urban food court and shopping mall located in the Chelsea neighborhood of the borough of Manhattan in New York City.

The Chelsea Market has so much history surrounding it – dating back to the 1890’s and the National Biscuit Company complex.

A photo of the salad I had for lunch in a little organic restaurant located in Chelsea Market.

After the walk TO Food Network from Grand Central Station and witnessing the ship parade, I never expected the walk BACK to be as interesting, but I was wrong – my Food Network friend suggested we check out The High Line as we were leaving the Network building and it ended up be a really cool walk back as well.  It was reminiscent of visiting a botanical garden.

The High Line is basically the recycling of the former elevated New York Central Railroad into an urban park. It was redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway.  It runs from three blocks below West 14th Street in the Meatpacking District, up to 30th Street, through the neighborhood of Chelsea to the West Side Yard, near the Javits Convention Center.

A photo taken on The High Line walk…notice the old train track in the lower left corner.

This was a tough post to edit.  I had so much I wanted to include.  Fleet Week, Food Network Tour, and  The High Line…what a fun day!


cold cous cous salad recipe

May 20, 2012

a recipe for 2012

It is hard to imagine eating some of the “Betty Crocker” type meals I ate as a kid. Creations like casseroles made out of canned soup, jello salads, and shake and bake chicken were common meals, but I would never think of making them today. I own a copy of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook (circa 1963) with the red and white check cover. I love looking at some of the photos of the tablesettings and picnics from the 60’s…wow! How things have changed! Just as interesting as the food and tablesetting decor, are the outfits people wore to backyard events…according to the photos, dresses and pearls were the dress code for women attending picnics in the 1960’s!

Picture of cold cous cous salad for 2012.

When I was young, my mom would bring potato or macaroni salad to the picnics we attended. Or, a jello salad made in a Tupperware mold. I have never brought any of these salads to a picnic. When I first started bringing food items to picnics, potato salad was updated with a cold wild rice salad, macaroni salad became tortellini salad, and jello salad became fruit salad – maybe with an added yogurt dressing.

The dressing is made with fresh lemon juice, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil.

As the decades changed, so did my cookbooks….I went from the old Better Homes and Gardens to Julia Child to Martha Stewart to Bobby Flay. Today, cooking trends happen so much faster and there are networks full of cooking shows instead of the one or two that were shown in my mother’s time. Cookbooks are no longer a necessity since countless recipes are so easily accessible by way of the internet. Instead of a cookbook, I am usually carrying my iPad around the kitchen to look up new recipes or to research other cooking information.

A more recent salad update happened after attending a friend’s party…she was

serving a tortellini salad made from a recipe I had shared with her years earlier… it seemed so out of date…I realized the tortellini salad had seen its day. Do you need a salad intervention? If you are still making the same old salad, why not try something new? Here’s one of my current favorites…

Move over tortellini…

Cold Cous Cous Salad

Cook 2 cups cous cous as directed and rinse with cold water.

Add to cous cous:

  • 1 cup corn (I use frozen…no need to thaw)
  • 1 cup peas (same here)
  • 1 1/3 cup craisins
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach (I make the salad ahead and add this when ready to use so it won’t become too wilted)
  • 5 scallions, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded carrots


  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cloves minced garlic

Mix all ingredients and keep cold.


ice cream nostalgia

May 17, 2012

field trip friday

ice cream nostalgia

Yes, I do love ice-cream.  And while so many others post photos of crocuses to show the change of season, I gauge its coming by when Dairy Queen opens its windows.  In the same way, while others look forward to a green bagel or green beer to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day every year, I can’t wait to have the celebratory Shamrock Shake.  Summer for me is marked by the moment I step foot into our local Baskin and Robbins each year.  The young boy I know that works there starts preparing the scoop of bubblegum in a cup before I even attempt to place my order.

When I look back on why I enjoy these ice-cream moments, I realize it is not as much the taste of the ice-cream, as the memories of these three places.  Dairy Queen was a place I would walk to with my grandmother as a very young girl.  My grandmother didn’t drive and we would walk to the Dairy Queen on the main road a few blocks away – all the while she would hold my hand in a death grip.  The Shamrock Shake came later….I worked at a McDonald’s when I was 16 and was so proficient at the register I was proud to attain the coveted ‘highest cashier of the hour’ award.  This meant you had the most sales of any cashier for a specific hour.  In essence, it meant that you were able to work the register and pack the food faster than anyone else.  (I won’t say how long ago that was, but prices from that time are etched into my brain, and I know the hamburgers were 30 cents back then)  It was at this job that I was introduced to the Shamrock Shake, and even if it didn’t taste all the wonderful, it held the significance of being part of my whole employment experience…… Baskin & Robbins bubblegum ice-cream was my treat when I was a kid for completing the 15 mile bike ride from my home to the closest Baskin & Robbins store.  We did not have a Baskin & Robbins in our town, so I would make the ride to the town my grandmother lived in to purchase the limited edition bubblegum flavor.  It was only sold for a short time in the summer, so in my mind, it quickly became associated with summer.

The nostalgia, not the taste, is what really drives these ice cream purchases.  Truth be known, I am actually very much an ice-cream snob.  Other than the few nostalgically motivated choices I mentioned, my ice-cream selections are pretty much exclusive to the natural variety.  My favorite being handmade and served from a little shop located in a small neighborhood by the shore.  The best flavor?  Lavender & fig.  Hard to believe the same person that would eat a Shamrock shake could truly appreciate the subtlety of lavender and fig, but it is certainly the case.

Walnut Beach Creamery’s ‘sandi annie’ ice-cream – blue vanilla, graham cracker sand, and chocolate covered pretzel goldfish

The International Ice Cream Association has vanilla, chocolate, and butter pecan as the top three ice-cream flavors – with vanilla way out in front.  This would not be true in the little shoreline community where Walnut Beach Creamery operates.  The current bestseller is cupcake.  What is your favorite ice cream flavor to celebrate the season?



oozing with inspiration

May 14, 2012

terrain’s opening

Terrain's Connecticut opening

Since I have been anticipating the opening of Terrain in Connecticut for quite some time, I was thrilled to find out the official opening was scheduled for Mother’s Day weekend.  I decided that would be a perfect treat on Mother’s Day morning –  to visit the new store.  Owned by Urban Outfitters, Terrain is a home and garden store, that up until this weekend, only existed in Glen Mills, PA.  The store has that same hip vibe as Anthropologie (also owned by Urban Outfitters), but with a gardening aesthetic.  An old car dealership in Westport, CT was transformed into a 16,000 square foot retail space, a restaurant with an outdoor patio, a coffee bar, and an outdoor nursery…Terrain.

Relief prints by Connecticut artist Bryan Nash Gill

It was hard to resist not calling in sick to work on Friday to attend the opening day of the store.  I had been driving by occasionally during the construction process and was very excited to finally see the store completed.  I could not wait to look around inside.  Finally, I was able to check it out and I soon found out that I would not be disappointed.

Free sessions in container planting – this one was with herbs.

The store is oozing with inspiration.  I especially love the beautiful hand blown glass terrariums by Vermont artisan Simon Pearce.  They can be planted by one of the Terrain staff, tailor-made to the purchasers tastes… when I was there on Sunday, many were being created to bring home to a mom on her special day.  I vowed to put a Terrain terrarium on my birthday wish list so I could someday put one on my desk at work.  There would be no reason not to smile every morning with a work of art like that in your workspace.

The frame of a 1920’s green house is used in the decor.

The knowledge of the barista at the coffee bar was extremely impressive and I am sure the 7:30 am opening time will make it a popular spot for locals to make a quick stop before heading off to work.  I didn’t take the time to sample the menu, but the café boasts a Food & Wine “Best New Chef” of 2011 on staff and provided both a visually interesting indoor seating area as well as seating on an outdoor patio.

Terrain’s website is:



pez…no question about it

May 11, 2012

field trip friday

nurse pez

PEZ…an iconic candy from my childhood, I haven’t thought about it in years.  I don’t really notice it in stores anymore…maybe that’s just because I’m not looking for it.  The PEZ factory has been located in Connecticut since the 1970’s, but only recently has it been open to the public.  I had to check it out.  PEZ  was a staple in my candy repertoire back in the day… right up there with turkish taffy, button candy, and the huge round individually wrapped sweet tart.  PEZ was always more about the dispenser than the actual candy…for me, anyway.  I checked out the website recently to look up the visitor center hours and discovered that the dispensers are listed by the year introduced…so, if you remember your favorite, you can look up the year it was introduced …great way to feel your age!

The visitors center houses more PEZ dispensers than you can possibly imagine.  Yes, they still produce PEZ and in many more flavors than years ago.  The visitors’ center is not very big, but worth the trip down memory lane.  I was happy to find out that the tour included a PEZ tasting, but somehow the candy just didn’t taste the way I remembered it.

I was very disappointed that I was not able to see the PEZ themed chopper built by Orange County  Choppers on my visit.  The chopper is a regular exhibit at the center, but it was on loan to a candy convention the day I was visiting.  It was built in 2006 when PEZ introduced the first living people on a PEZ dispenser – the Teutel Family…Paul Sr., Paul Jr. & Mikey!

I guess another generation of PEZ lovers is being created, but their first dispenser will most likely be one of the super heroes from The Avengers, and not Popeye or Tweety Bird.

“If I could only have one food for the rest of my life?  That’s easy-Pez.  Cherry-flavored Pez.  No question about it.”

-Vern in the movie Stand by Me.  Dir. Rob Reiner.  Columbia Pictures, 1986.

To find PEZ dispensers listed by year released:  go to   Click on ‘collector’s corner’, then ‘dispenser archive by year.’   P.S.  Happy Nurses Week


happiness in white

May 9, 2012

joy in spring flowers

my garden lillies of the valley

I love white.  Checking out my gardens at this time of year brings me both happiness and sadness….happiness for the white, and, sadness for the white.  I so adore all varieties of white flowers, but seeing them in bloom in my garden reminds me that my original plan to have all my gardens exclusively in white (a virgin garden), did not come to fruition.  It just got so difficult to find white varieties that I eventually gave in to purchasing varieties in other colors.  I still do my best to find all the white I can.  And, when I get my annuals, I pick mostly white…the last few years I have been loving euporbia (diamond frost…the poinsettia relative) in my containers.  I still mourn my white forsythia…one of my favorite ‘whites’, but apparently it just did not like my yard….

Deutzia gracilis      Nikko

Dicentra spectabilis Alba      Bleeding Heart


Syringa vulgaris      White Lilac


Galium odorata      Sweet woodruff


Convallaria majalis      Lily-of-the-Valley

So for now, everything is blooming white and all is right in the garden.  :)



beachy pencil gift idea

May 6, 2012

mother’s day diy

I still enjoy a beautiful paper product and pretty writing utensils.  I am sure this is also true for many women from older generations…our moms and grandmothers, can also appreciate these ‘old school’ items.  Maybe pencils are a little nostalgic in this day and age, but I still think they make a nice gift; even if providing nothing else but a memory of a bygone era!

For this gift, I had white pencils imprinted and packaged them in a plastic tube for a practical and inexpensive gift idea.  I used a beach theme and the imprints I ordered for the pencils related to my theme:

  • life is a beach
  • sand & sea
  • message in a bottle
  • sand under my feet
  • sand dollars and seahorses
  • gonna need a bigger boat (no, I didn’t really use this one)

In keeping with the beach theme, you could also use the name or names of your favorite beaches, names of songs related to the beach, or song lyrics (think Beach Boys), surfer lingo (hang ten, surf’s up), quotes, your mom’s favorite sayings (“it’s gonna freeze like that”, “kids day is every day”), etc.  …you get the idea.  The pencils I ordered had a maximum of 30 characters, so I planned accordingly.  Maybe you already have some cool ideas for a Father’s Day set?

Ordering information for imprinted pencils is included at the end of this post.


I personalized a gift tag by putting a photo on one side and a favorite saying on the other. Then, I simply punched a hole in the corner to tie onto the gift.


Here is the finished gift…I tied on a piece of ribbon and raffia and attached the gift tag and a small sand dollar.

Ordering notes:  I purchased the pencils at  White pencils are item 800247 and a set of 12 is $9.99 (they were on sale for $5.98 when I purchased them).  The same imprint is required on all twelve pencils, so you will need to order more sets if you want assorted sayings or quotes. If you are making more than one set, 24 pencils can be ordered for $14.99 on the same website as item 810260.  Remember though, only one imprint per set.  The plastic tubes came from  They are called ‘clear plastic tubes with caps’. (I have also used them for candy or straws.)  They are priced at $1.60 each.  Eight pencils fit nicely into a tube.  Decide how many gift sets you want to make in advance so you can plan on the number of tubes and pencils and how many different imprints you will choose.  I have already planned out some Christmas gift pencils that I will package without the tubes…more on that when I start my holiday projects.  The gift tags I had personalized with my own beach photo (my favorite beach cottage…old black and whites of family beach trips work well also) and a favorite quote on the back.   This is really easy to do online using  Choose ‘stationery’ at the top of the site and then ‘personalized gift tags’.  You can order 25 for $15. and incorporate your favorite photo.  Put your imagination to work!  Contact me if you have any questions or need ideas for a particular theme.  Have fun with it!   




chef irvine in the house

May 4, 2012

field trip friday

I am slightly obsessed…okay maybe a little more than slightly… with shows on the Food Network.  That being said, you can only imagine how excited I was when I found out that Restaurant Impossible had chosen a restaurant IN CONNECTICUT to feature on the show!  If you haven’t seen the show, the premise is that a failing restaurant is transformed in two days with $10,000 and a lot of ingenuity.  Chef Robert Irvine stars in the show, revamping every facet – including the concept, décor (utilizing a design team), and menu to makeover the chosen restaurant.  Two days sounds like a quick turnaround to totally makeover a restaurant…and, it certainly is, but actually witnessing the process up close and personal rather than watching it on television makes the whole process even more amazing.

Stella’s updated look…with a lemon motif.


I drove by and checked out the activity during the two days the workmen toiled in the makeshift tents set up in the parking lot of Stella’s (the restaurant they transformed).  Everything seemed pretty low key…granted, the workmen were VERY busy, but there were no other people, like me,  that wanted to check on the progress…at least not while I was there.  A friend that lives near the restaurant said he saw Chef Irvine in the nearby Dunkin Donuts hanging out and being very personable, but unfortunately I didn’t happen to be buying coffee at the appropriate time to be able to witness his demeanor.

One of the tasty appetizers I enjoyed at Stella’s.

Anyway, it definitely was an impressive restaurant overhaul….not just in respect to the aesthetics of the place, but also updating the menu.  Chef Irvine tweaked the menu selections and gave suggestions on food presentation.   I think the part that impressed me most, when I actually sat down to dinner, was the energy from the employees….they certainly had to be exhausted and emotionally drained after the intense two days they had been through, but everyone was so friendly, and…the best word to describe them … energized.


It will be fun to watch the design team create this room divider when the episode airs in July.

The restaurant just needed a little attention to rediscover itself.  (Don’t we all!)  Who doesn’t like a good makeover?  A tired, dated restaurant benefited from an updated look and some new energy…breathing life into an old favorite.   I have to think the experience made the entire crew closer to each other and their community.  I will definitely be visiting the “new” Stella’s again.  Hopefully, this new-found energy continues beyond opening weekend.    The episode doesn’t air until July, but the photos here provide you with a sneak peek of the facelift.

Michael Savoie’s family has been in the restaurant business since 1919. He has owned and operated Stella’s since 1998.

The ‘energized’ Stella’s crew posing with Chef Irvine.


My favorite? Popeye Pizza made with fresh tomato, spinach, ricotta cheese & fresh garlic.



fifty shades of…oh, my goodness!

May 3, 2012

meeting erika leonard  (aka e. l. james),  author of fifty shades of grey

Fifty Shades of Grey author appearance in Connecticut


I walked into a ballroom with seating for over 1,000 – a black feather boa had been placed on each chair…that certainly sets a mood.  Appetizers were passed and a line, too long to wait in, was formed at the cash bar.  Where am I?

Tonight I spent the evening with 1,400 women listening to a conversation with Fifty Shades of Grey author E. L. James – the author responsible for number one, number two, and number three of the bestselling books in the country.  A woman named by Time magazine as one of the most influential people in the world (really?!  Come on!)  You wouldn’t expect to find a black feather boa as a favor on your chair if you were coming to listen to an author with those credentials, would you?  Or, expect that the biggest crowd response of the night was after a fan commented to the author “could you please package your Christmas trilogy with silver balls?”

Photo of Fifty Shades of Grey author Ms. James on the left and Ms. Coady, owner of R.J. Julia’s Booksellers, on the right.

Looking like any one of the many ‘housewives’ that graced the audience, the author participated in a casual conversation with Roxanne Coady, owner of  R.J.  Julias, a local bookstore in Madison, CT, that sponsored the evening’s event.  It represented the third stop of the British author’s national book tour for the crazily successful Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed .  The fiction trilogy details the love affair (sometimes sadomasochistic) between wealthy billionaire Christian Grey and the virginal Anastasia Steele.

Ms. Coady started the discussion by saying she disagreed with comments in the media that suggested the book Fifty Shades of Grey was a step back for women.  She explained that Anastasia takes responsibility for her own sexuality (after all she doesn’t sign the sexual contract Christian proposed) and is depicted as having ‘all the power.’  The crowd roared in response…giving the room an atmosphere that resembled that of a pep rally, not an author discussion.

The ages of the fans ranged from college age to eighty-five! This is a mom and daughter that shared the front row with me.

Seeming totally comfortable with the crowd and dropping an occasional ‘f bomb’ in her British accent, Ms. James spoke to her fans as they hung on every word, describing her book as “a real’s a great holiday.”  Inspired by the Twilight series books, Ms. James created her own personal fantasy in a series of three steamy novels of erotica dubbed throughout the media as “mommy porn.”

One woman in the audience bursts out “I just want to tell you that you are a genius.”  Geez.  According to the critics, the book is not even well written.

Ms. Coady referred to the books as a “gateway drug” – inspiring people that never read to pick up the books and read.  With the type of media attention this cultural phenomenon has garnered, who wouldn’t be curious?

The movie rights already sold, Ms. James would not reveal her thoughts on which actor she had in mind for the lead role of Christian, saying it was way too early in the process to divulge any details.

As far as her thoughts on the media criticisms about how the book has affected views on feminism?  The author simply said the critics were “giving it far more significance than it deserves.”

When fans questioned why the lead female character in the book was only 21 and not closer in age to the author, Ms. James responded “I think virgins are far more interesting” …then went on to blush when she was asked about women’s orgasms, responding only with “I guess I am really lucky” and left it at that.  The mother of two teenage sons (who she claims have not read the book), commented on loving email banter and said “I am a terrible flirt and I really enjoyed doing the email conversations in the book.”

Ms. Coady closed the evening’s discussion by announcing to Ms. James “You have liberated so many women for thinking they don’t matter.”

The author was in tears, genuinely appreciating the standing ovation she received.

After the discussion part of the evening concluded, Ms. James remained very personable and accommodating to all her fans as she signed books.  The line of people waiting to have books signed snaked all over the building… but, fans could keep occupied by purchasing a bottle of Beringer while waiting (Christian’s drink of choice).

The long line of fans waiting to have their books signed.

I went into the event wanting to dislike Ms. James, but realized that my beef is not really with her, but rather the media.  The author is innocent enough.  I do still think I will be disheartened come October when college girls are sporting their Anastasia Steele costumes, complete with bondage paraphernalia, at campus Halloween parties.  It does still bother me that young tweeters are discussing the story and photos of the ‘rules’ page from the book are showing up on Instagram.  And, I can’t say meeting Ms. James carries the same significance as meeting Khaled Hosseini or Wally Lamb, or even Bobby Flay, but, if Fifty Shades of Grey can bring the happiness I witnessed tonight to women all across the country…kudos to you Ms. James.

Photo of author E. L. James signing my copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.