Posted on July 30th, 2017
Earlier this week, we found out my godfather was coming to the city for the weekend. A group text popped up with relevant parties to set up a Friday night dinner, with reservations at a rustic spot nearby. “Great!” my mom answered. “Dessert at our place after!”
Two minutes later, she came to find me. “So… what are you making for dessert tomorrow night?” she asked. If you want to know what it’s like to have a personal pastry chef, she can fill you in. I needed something that could be made ahead of time, something with a refreshing component to balance a potentially heavy dinner, and something I could make in an apartment kitchen with very little counter space.
So, lemon blueberry cake with blueberry filling and lemon buttercream frosting, naturally.
I baked the layers (only two since there were just seven of us) the night before, and then let them cool completely before filling/frosting/assembling. This was particularly important because I worried the filling would make the cake soggy and a warm cake would melt the buttercream. When I finally did ice the cake the next morning, I ate so much frosting that I got a stomachache, which I can admit is neither the first nor last time that has happened.
Decorating is not my forte, but I’m fortunate that the rustic-unfinished look is in right now, which I can almost manage. To accentuate the fresh flavors, I used a ring of blueberries and dehydrated some lemon slices for aesthetic effect. The final effect and, more importantly, the final flavor were a huge hit!
Lemon Blueberry Cake
For the cake:
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon vanilla
Zest + juice from 2 medium lemons
2 cups of flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup of milk
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup of Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
3 cups blueberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease two 9 inch cake tins. Whip four egg whites into light meringue using stand mixer or electric beaters, and set aside. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in egg yolks, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
In a separate bowl, mix Greek yogurt, milk, and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder, and salt to butter/sugar mixture slowly, alternating with milk/yogurt mixture. Gently fold in egg whites before stirring in blueberries. Pour into prepared tins and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the middles are set and a toothpick comes out clean.
For the blueberry filling:
1 cup blueberries
~1/4 cup blueberry jam
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
Teaspoon of lemon juice
Macerate blueberries with cinnamon and lemon juice. Stir in jam to desired consistency.
For the lemon buttercream frosting:
1 cup of butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
Zest + juice from one lemon
Beat butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar, milk, and lemon until frosting has reached desired consistency. Feel free to add more lemon for a punchier flavor!
Invert cake round for bottom tier, and spread blueberry filling on the side facing up. Spread a layer of buttercream frosting on the other cake round on the side that will abut the blueberry filling– like you’re making a giant sandwich. Carefully flip frosting side to meet blueberry filling side. Add frosting to the top and sides as desired. Embellish with berries and lemons.
A little involved, but oh so worth it.
Posted on July 21st, 2017
It’s summer, it’s Friday, and there is a lot of goodness in the world.
Tearjerking… Zion, the world’s first person to undergo a double hand transplant, is thriving. He also seems like the world’s sweetest 9 year old boy– not a demographic otherwise known for thoughtful kindness in my extensive babysitting and lifeguarding experience 😉
Laughing… The Olive Garden in Times Square remains somewhat of a marvel to me. Apparently I’m not the only one who is intrigued, since a simple question has kicked off a discussion with more than 12,000 comments. I do relate to being suburb-sick sometimes, but I usually solved that by going to the actual suburbs and not by surrounding myself with hundreds of tourists to pay too much for breadsticks.
Ordering… Rose Jelly. Peanut butter is trading up.
Cheering… One of the perks of moving back to a place with a National League team is my most precious, beloved Cardinals will be coming to town at least once per year. Ian and I planned a birthday outing for my dad and we all went to Queens decked in red on Wednesday to root for OUR home team. To no avail, unfortunately!
Shopping… The Nordstrom Anniversary sale! Early Access is over, the Public Event started at midnight, and in a few hours, the employees will be let loose and allowed to transfer their Wish Lists to their carts. As is the case each year many of my favorite items have already sold out, but there are plenty of gems left.
Posted on July 18th, 2017
Big news out of Congress, and I’m definitely not talking about anything that will actually impact the lives of millions of Americans. Paul Ryan has moved to modernize Congressional dress code, allowing for such newfangled concepts as open toed shoes and sleeveless ensembles in the Speaker’s Lobby. This is somewhat controversial, as some insist that a certain level of professional decorum must be upheld, while others argue the regulations are sexist. Nevertheless, it may be a myth that Washington DC is built on an actual swamp, but the mugginess of summer in the District is not to be underestimated, so I’m sure these would be welcome changes for politically involved women sweating through their pantsuits.
I’m not sure how many Congresswomen read A Cultured Pearl (I’m estimating somewhere between -5 and 0), but nevertheless, this post is for all of those women on the Hill– elected officials, staffers, and journalists alike– embracing new fashion freedoms. I’m under no pretense that Congressional attire will dissolve to off the realm of the casual, and most of these options can still skew quite conservative when layering a blouse and classic pumps.
Personally, I would be automatically inclined to cast a vote for anyone who looks fierce in that black jumpsuit. With pretty much any of these, it’s a “just add pearls and pumps” styling situation. When it comes to exploring footwear, comfort is paramount. Filibuster-friendly open-toe options include bow-toe pumps, peep toe wedges, or a low-heeled sandal in leather or suede.
For further inspiration on stylish yet conservative office attire, I recommend Mary Orton of Memorandum (pictured above) and whatever Claire Underwood wears on House of Cards.
Shed your shawls, cast aside your cardigans, bid your blazers adieu. The ladies of Congress are stepping out.
Posted on July 17th, 2017
The sheer number of attractions in and around New York City is, naturally, staggering. Even between decades of New York visits and a year of living here, there are still so many I haven’t visited. I have loved the gardens I’ve visited around the world (personal favorite: Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia), but had never trekked up to the Bronx to see the New York Botanical Garden. It is absolutely accessible via public transportation (Metro North or Subway), but it takes a while. Since we have a car in the city, it seemed like a good time to drive up. My best friend from Penn, Kimberly, was in town this weekend, and joined for the journey.
I was particularly drawn to visiting this summer to see their Chihuly exhibition. The Chihuly Museum was one of my two favorite Seattle attractions, and I had loved seeing the Chihuly installations at the Missouri Botanical Garden, as well. The juxtaposition of the natural elements with the colorful glass pieces allowed both to shine without competing.
Who needs to go to Nantucket? We have heaps of hydrangeas right here! Since it was a summer Saturday afternoon it was fairly crowded, but there is tons of room to spread out so it really did not impact our experience. NYBG does a great job bringing food trucks in and offering several outdoor dining options throughout, so you could really plan a nice leisurely day. My only regret on our visit is that we were not able to spend more time exploring the gardens– but a good excuse for our next adventure.
Posted on July 14th, 2017
Tragically, it’s mid July already. I always feel like the summer spins by way too quickly after July 4. Last Sunday morning my mom and I had just wrapped up a 7 mile run + gossip session in Central Park on a sunny morning and I had the overwhelming desire to pause time or at least bottle up the feeling for a rainy November day.
Lounging… My parents live in a high rise building in Tribeca that has a great outdoor sundeck next to the (tragically indoor) pool. Growing up sitting next to the pool and chatting with friends, reading a book, needlepointing, or just eating chicken fingers was my main summer activity. Looking around and seeing skyscrapers is definitely different from overlooking tennis courts and the wafting smell of NYC trash is definitely different than that of freshly cut fairways, but it scratches the itch and helps with my Vitamin D intake.
Reading… I am not sure how I escaped an elite liberal education without it, but I had never read The Handmaid’s Tale, something I particularly felt I needed to rectify given its topical content. I found it incredibly well written and compelling, and finished it within 36 hours. For my primary reading location, see photo above.
Romping… After years of abject failure, I may have finally found a romper (under $100!) in which I feel comfortable romping. I’m the super fun kind of person who orders things online and then usually needs to try them on about 7 times before I make the final keep vs. return decision, so it’s still too early to tell, but this seems promising promising.
Puzzling… I’m not generally much for celebrity gossip, but I’m fairly entertained by the namegame confusion of Beyonce and Jay-Z’s twins. Does Rumi have only one name? Does Sir Carter Carter have two last names? Is his name just Sir Carter? Also, is Beyonce trying to tell us that plastic flowers are making a comeback?
Weekending… My best friend from Penn is coming up from Maryland this weekend! I haven’t seen her since November, and I’m excited for a good old fashioned catch up.
Posted on July 13th, 2017
Today is a big day in the world of bloggers, fashion lovers, and American retail. Truly Christmas in July– the start of the annual Anniversary Sale at Nordstrom! But while other bloggers are plastering their pages and social media platforms with their sale picks (which, given the thousands and thousands of items, is truly appreciated!), I’m coming at this from a different angle. In fact, Nordstrom employees are not even allowed to shop the sale until the end of the day next Friday. We make sure you guys get the good stuff first!
Hello from the other side of major retail mania. In case you’ve ever wondered, I am providing a glimpse into what it is like to be on the corporate side of a store’s craziest time of year. Retail is highly seasonal, so these key peaks can make or break the year.
Yes, I need a manicure, and yes, I bite my lip when I work.
Since we’re staying in Manhattan for a few weeks, I don’t have my usual set up of monitors and equipment, but my laptop is getting the job done. I am working anywhere and everywhere that has a strong enough wifi signal for my VPN connection. Within marketing, my role is not quite as in the weeds as some and has more of a tops-down vantage point. I am not the one, for example, determining our target cost per click on a specific shoes initiative, but am more likely the one to monitor how one tactic is performing as compared to another, and to recommend we change our overarching investment strategies accordingly.
But if it’s Anniversary, you can be sure we’re…
Monitoring key performance indicators. Of course we are always keeping a pulse on our performance, both within marketing and beyond, but on days like today we keep hourly tabs on how we’re tracking as compared to forecasted trends and last year’s numbers. This enables us to be agile and optimize nimbly.
Working at all hours. Night shifts, weekend shifts, you name it. Content is being shared with customers 24/7, so we’re there every step of the way. For example, I know that I will be working on a specific initiative from 5-7pm every day of the sale, weekends included.
Coming together. To tell the full story, we need to understand the themes coming out of merchandising, supply chain, brick & mortar stores, and beyond. Marketing wouldn’t want to send an email featuring a dress that’s only left in size 8, and on the flip side, if the merchants have a particular item they want help selling, marketing needs to know that, too.
Listening! To customers on social media, to bloggers, to anyone who contacts the customer care center. In order to best serve customers in services, product, and messaging, we need to understand what is and is not working for them.
Putting customers first. After all, it is the Nordstrom way. This sale is a huge part of what defines our brand, and we want to make sure it reflects our values from all aspects.
What do you think of this year’s sale? Let me know if you have any questions! …or need product recommendations. I have lots.
Posted on July 7th, 2017
With the wonky Tuesday holiday I woke up unsure what day it was nearly every day this week… but not today! Work has been extra crazy with the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale right around the corner (my credit card is ready), but we’re gearing up for a sunny city weekend and looking forward to it.
Speaking of time in the city, we had a very New York July 4th. After a fun long run in the morning with my mom along Battery Park and up the Hudson, my parents, Ian, and I piled into a car and headed to…. Coney Island! None of us had ever been, but we’d certainly watched the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on ESPN enough times to know we were in for a wild scene. It certainly did not disappoint. We were close enough to witness firsthand Joey Chestnut’s 10th victory and new world record of 72 hot dogs consumed in 10 minutes, but not so close that we could see the veins bulging on his forehead like you can on TV. A perfect balance. We watched fireworks over the East River standing on the FDR with several million of our neighbors. VERY different from any July 4th I’ve experienced in the past, but equally American in its own way!
On Broadway… We saw Kevin Kline in Noel Coward’s Present Laughter just before it closed last week. He was extraordinary in an incredibly demanding role– I was exhausted just watching him! Fun fact: we went to the same elementary school, so we have loads in common. When it comes to lighthearted evenings in the theater, classic farce cannot be beat.
On the road… If you have upcoming travel plans that include accepting the hospitality of others, brush up on your etiquette of the 10 Rules Every Houseguest Should Follow This Summer. Definitely don’t forget #10!
In the kitchen… Okay, not really. Since we’re staying with my parents for a few weeks in the city, I haven’t wanted to impede on their kitchen space too much and have been relying on takeout more than usual. I have been going HARD at the Whole Foods prepared foods bar recently. I love nothing more in the summer than eating a massive bowl of vegetables prepared in interesting ways. Given the large amount of water weight in veggies and the pay-per-ounce structure, my wallet does not agree.
On TV… I was so entertained by this piece on how the networks are rooking Nielsen’s ratings system. I can’t say I admire the practice– it definitely leaves a bad taste in my mouth– but I do give them an A+ for creativity.
In the studio… Moving to New York couldn’t stop me from my usual Bar Method routine, but I was a little nervous about starting at a new location. After two weeks of classes in Soho I’m settling in and learning more about the studio’s vibe and how it differs from the others where I have taken, and I think I’m starting to get the hang of things. It is interesting the extent to which Bar Method classes are so alike across the country, yet each retain their own personality. I’m trying a class in the Brooklyn studio this weekend just for kicks, too!
Posted on July 5th, 2017
It’s been almost two years since I last stayed at the Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown (and almost two years since I last blogged about it!), but it remains one of my five favorite places to stay. Ian and I were dithering around about whether to stay in the city for the weekend or skip town, but when we saw one lone room pop up at the Otesaga thanks to a cancellation, we knew it was kismet, and we booked. I’m so glad we did!
It’s not easy to keep a 108 year hotel looking fresh, but the Otesaga works at it and succeeds while still staying true to their original aesthetic. Each time I come, something has been tastefully updated. One of the Otesaga’s key assets is its location on Otsego Lake (yes, the spellings are confusing). Whether you’re sitting in white rockers on the veranda sipping morning coffee, sitting at the new outdoor firepit enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail, or eating at either of the lakeside restaurants, you’re appreciative of being in such a gorgeous spot. The location could not be more relaxing, but it’s right in the heart of Cooperstown and an easy walk to the village’s amenities.
Insider’s tip: the Otesaga has a killer breakfast buffet, they make all their own pastries, and their donuts are dreamy. The food in general is one of the highlights, which truthfully isn’t always the case at similar hotels. Even as we explore the area beyond the resort, we rarely eat anywhere else on our Cooperstown visits.
I can only hope I age as gracefully as the Otesaga. Now that I’m living in the same state, I’m even more confident I’ll be back!
Posted on July 4th, 2017
Happy Fourth of July!
I definitely owe you a more thorough update, but the transition to New York has been wonderful so far! One thing I definitely missed about living on the East Coast was how close everything is. There are so many places within an easy four hour drive, and with the city completely emptying out for the holiday weekend, Ian and I decided last minute to take a little getaway, too. Unfortunately, I had to work late on Friday and on Monday, too, but we settled on one night in Cooperstown and had the best time.
Cooperstown is situated right on a lake, hosts an incredible summer opera festival, and was home to prolific 19th century author James Fenimore Cooper, but it is best known for being the (mythical) birthplace of baseball and for the Baseball Hall of Fame. When I first visited in 2001, I expected a garish and highly touristy center overrun by baseball fanatics, but have been so delighted on each of my visits by how charming and classic Americana Cooperstown is. Ian had never been to Cooperstown, and what kind of Cardinals fan would he be if we hadn’t rectified that as quickly as possible?
Of course, the Hall of Fame museum itself is quite well done, but just being upstate in a darling town, particularly before Independence Day, enhanced the patriotic charm. The centuries-old homes were decked out in their red, white, and blue best, and the hydrangeas were in full bloom. I tried to coordinate with equally patriotic colors– not hard to do since I gravitate towards such a color scheme anyway.
Other than a dousing rain on Saturday evening, the weather was better than forecasted, so we really had the chance to enjoy the town and the Otesaga (more on that tomorrow). Even our holiday weekend drive time was quite manageable– all in all, a successful venture! Maybe I’ll consider being spontaneous and adventurous more often…
Ha. No I won’t.
Posted on June 16th, 2017
I love the notion of abbreviated “Summer Fridays.” Meanwhile, I had a meeting until 5:15pm this evening…
Celebrating… two years with Nordstrom with a dorky tourist photo! I joined Nordstrom marketing on June 16, 2015, and have felt more gratified and supported in my career development here than I could have imagined. It’s safe to day I drank the kool-aid! (Speaking of Nordstrom… getting excited for Anniversary!)
Drinking… rosé. I have alcohol relatively infrequently, but have had several glasses or rosé this season that have left me craving more. I admit it: the organic marketing of instagrammers everywhere is clearly working on me.
Reading… The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity. My team at work has started a book club. I really enjoy reading professional development books but I 100% recognize that I’m not great at prioritizing them if I’m not guided through it. This book is particularly helpful in prioritization of work. As is the case in many workplace environments, I feel like I am asked to do way more than I am realistically able to do, but being empowered to decide how best to drive impact is so important.
Reminiscing… about our magical weekend in Banff as I read Lesley’s post on her recent solo Canadian trip. Even before we went, I knew I would want to return without snow on the ground, and this definitely confirms that. If you’re not already following her, by the way, you should– although be warned, it will incite wanderlust!
Singing… showtunes. Between watching the Tonys last weekend and moving to New York, the musical theatre capital of the world, my love for musicals is flaring up this week. I can’t decide what show I want to see first, although I would really love to see Sara Bareilles before she leaves Waitress.
I’m gearing up for our last weekend in Seattle, armed and ready with a to do list a mile long!