Abigail Cahill O'Brien

Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

Gone Eatin’ Dumplings

In Flotsam, Food on October 22, 2009 at 12:00 pm


A short jaunt to Shanghai means posts may be scarce this and next week, depending on how internet access pans out. In the meantime, read all about xiao long bao (Shanghai dumplings) here, and I’ll be back next Friday Oct. 30th with new posts on butternut squash soup, salt pigs, capes, chicken pot pie, elbow gloves, overnight oatmeal, molasses cookies, zucchini masquerading as pasta, breakfast trays and oh yeah there’s decor on the way too.

What would YOU like to read about?


When “Horsey” is a Good Thing: Equestrian Leggings

In Fashion on October 22, 2009 at 11:11 am


What’s not to love about Betty draper’s riding finery? I’m rocking a version of this look more and more now that we’re in the ‘burbs. Typically it goes: Frye riding boots + leggings + long thin tank + long cardigan + horsey brown cinched belt+ messy bun. Not ground-breaking fashion, but it beats yoga pants.

Colder weather means regular leggings won’t do the trick for long. Read on for the perfect riding pants . . .

Butter Crocks and Bells

In Food on October 20, 2009 at 10:59 am

Individual 2 1/2" tall butter crocks from Sur La Table ($12.96). Not a water-sealed bell, but pretty darn cute.

There is something about covered butter dishes that screams institutional to me. So I eschew them in favor of an uncovered stick on an appetizer plate that wanders aimlessly from shelf to shelf in the fridge, picking up crumbs along the way and perpetually in danger of toppling. This is not working. Since I love soft, spreadable butter, it’s time to go the butter crock or bell route.

Here’s how a butter bell works:


The unique design keeps butter at the perfect “spreading” consistency by reflecting outside heat while insulating and cooling the butter. Flavor and freshness is protected by an airtight seal of water at the base of the crock.

Proper maintenance: Water should be changed out every three days. Replace existing water in the base with fresh, cold water. The crock should be stored away from heat or sunlight.

How do you store your butter?

Read on for my favorite crocks and bells . . .


In Fashion on October 15, 2009 at 3:48 pm


Around this time every year I kick myself for not having a peacoat, and this photo of Jane Birkin breezing into Heathrow airport says it all (note the wicker basket – this predates her namesake bag).  But let’s face it, buying a peacoat isn’t all that exciting.  Red heels and feather hats give a rush.  The time-tested peacoat?  Not so much.  If I’d done it years ago I’d have one to pull out when the weather turns nippy.  My criteria are as follows:  preferably navy blue though black will do, hip length or slightly longer, slim cut (the boxy cut flatters only the boyishly slight and/or tall), and cannot be Juicy Couture due to their exceedingly cloying ad campaigns.  Read on for some that fit the bill.

More Peacoats . . .

What the McQueen?

In Fashion on October 13, 2009 at 6:18 pm


Admittedly, I’ve had my head in the suburban clouds lately, baking popovers and researching light-sensitive Christmas window candles.  But how did I miss Alexander McQueen’s Spring 2010 shoes last Monday? 

Look at these things! The model’s ankles sprouted glittery sea monsters. I love that he made them and doubt anyone who doesn’t walk for a living could wear them for more than 30 seconds. For one thing, they’re 10 inches tall. While it’s tempting to believe his whole goal was to foil Steve Madden’s rampant copies, pushing the increasingly staid fashion establishment in a new direction is closer to McQueen’s core.

The Cut has the scuttlebutt, video, and a gallery of accessory/hair stills.  The sea anemone hair is not to be missed.

The whole show streamed live online and is worth a gander.

Bake the Popover You’re Waiting For

In Food on October 12, 2009 at 2:59 pm


The best thing about Neiman Marcus in the ’80s wasn’t the proliferation of shoulder pads.  It was eating a piping hot popover with strawberry butter in the cafe – and I’ve been chasing that pastry memory ever since. The fancy restaurant in my college town served a decent one, but at the time I didn’t have a tuppence for fancy restaurants. There is the NYC cafe built around the air/dough contradictions, but it’s so far uptown I never made it. And there’s the restaurant in my hometown that hands them out like dinner rolls, except they’re  often slightly burnt. Okay, maybe “chasing” is too energetic a term.  Sitting around waiting for a crispy, chewy, steamy, golden popover to fall in my lap wasn’t getting me far. This weekend, I stopped waiting and got baking. Read on for popover, jam recipes . . .

Distressed Blue

In Feathering the Nest on October 9, 2009 at 9:02 am

If we ever convert the space above the garage into a home gym, I would like the walls to look like this, please. Guarantee I’d stay on the elliptical longer.

Sunday Dinner: Roast Chicken

In Food on October 8, 2009 at 5:16 pm


Last week’s Sunday Dinner featured my favorite roast chicken recipe, the rogue bird known to turn dinner parties into dance parties and a foe to every smoke detector.  Our guest demographic has changed dramatically this year.  Rather than filling an apartment with my single girlfriends, we’re filling a house with family.  The beauty of a roast chicken is that it makes anyone feel right at home.  Except the vegetarians, which is why you have to nail the sides and dessert, too. Read on for recipes . . .

Off to See the Wizard

In Fashion on October 6, 2009 at 9:19 pm
$30 Roberta Chiarella earrings from HSN

$30 Roberta Chiarella earrings from HSN

Despite Naomi Wolf’s claim that We All (women) want to be Angelina Jolie because she reconciles a string of typically polarizing qualities – Good Mom/Home Wrecker, UN Embassador/Sex Symbol, Rich/Happy – I’d never quite coveted her life or style. Six kids and counting? Exhausting. Tattoos? Terrified of needles. All that black jersey? Yawn.

Until she wore those jaw-dropping emerald danglers to the Oscars. The image of her luscious teardrops has rattled around my brain’s style attic for quite a while now. And today, I stumbled across this pair in Lucky. More emerald earrings . . .

Isn’t She Lovely?

In Flotsam on October 6, 2009 at 11:40 am


Here she is, my Gary Fisher Simple City 3W, fully kitted out.

A local bike shop brought in the Simple City for an in-person comparison to the Trek Allant, which was the closest alternative in stock. The Allant is appealing at $540, but for $60 more the Simple City offers a whole lot of design bang for your buck: subtler decals, double-legged kick stand, and my personal favorite, internally routed cables for a sleeker look. More . . .