Athena Magazine

Fashion, lifestyle, passions

Giving away baked goods October 11, 2008

Filed under: Domestic Goddess,Food is Good — rebmas03 @ 4:49 am
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By Julia Pantoga

I know you think it is early, but there are things you can do now to make your life easier in December…

I always give baked goods as gifts. The hardest (and usually most expensive) part of giving away baking goods is packaging them. You can come up with something more festive than baggies.

Suppose you know that you are going to give away cookies.  Start thinking now about how you are going to present those precious treasures. You need containers that are big enough to hold at least one dozen cookies, but not so big that you have to bake a double batch for each gift.  Containers will probably be cheaper if you stay away from holiday merchandise. To wit:  one year I was at the hardware store and ammunition boxes were on sale for some crazy-low price, like 50 cents each. I bought ten of them and fake pebble spray-paint, laid them out on my garage floor, painted them, then filled each with bags of cookies. I hope that these ammunition boxes were useful to my friends and family after the cookies are eaten—for storing sand paper, for example.

Some things that you will give away (like spiced nuts or homemade candy) need smaller containers. My favorite small container is a coffee mug. I begin shopping in October for inexpensive coffee mugs (my local Goodwill sells brand new coffee mugs for $1 each. Department stores donate them when they don’t sell at $6-10 each.)

You will find small gift bags in the candy-making section of a craft store. I must warn you though that going into a craft store is risky business—financially, at least. These stores have so many adorable gift containers that you may forget that one of the reasons you are giving away baked goods is to save money on holiday gifts and spend way more than you ever thought you would on containers.

Another tip for buying containers is to shop for them all year around. I often find great plain red, silver and gold containers on sale right after Valentine’s Day.

Finally, you will need is ribbon. I find that if I combine a red or green ribbon with a gold or silver ribbon, I can tie a simple bow and the result is quite elegant. If you are trying to save money, buy your ribbon at the craft store and don’t tempt yourself to do more spending in the fabric store.

Here’s how it all works together:
1.    Throw a handful of nuts (or homemade candy) into a small plastic bag
2.    Secure the bag with two ribbons that you hold together
3.    Put one little bag in each coffee mug.

I make a dozen of these early in December and keep a paper grocery bag of them in the back seat of my car, so I always have little gifts ready for people who help me all the time, like the clerk at the post office.

Another category of baked goods to give away are those that need to be baked in pans. A great discovery I made last year was the Paper Gift Bakers from The Baker’s Catalogue. These, combined with the medium size Clear Gift Bags that they sell also, have made my gift-giving-life a lot easier. I bake my gift cakes right in the pan.  Once frosted, I pop them in the gift bags. I secure the bags with a silver twist tie, then stick a bow on top of the package. Voila! A beautiful gift!

I make six gift cakes at a time and store them in the freezer once they are completely wrapped. One of the tricks to baking with disposable pans is to place all the pans on a pre-heated cookie sheet before you bake them. That way, there is only one thing to put into the hot oven and one thing to take to the porch to cool.

Usually, I don’t start baking for the holidays until mid-November (although this year I did some early to get photographs for you). October is really best spent starting to accumulate packaging materials.  In early November I’ll give you the recipes for foods that I like best for giving as gifts.


The Extravagant Gesture October 10, 2008

Filed under: Fashionista Files,Now Looky Here — rebmas03 @ 2:19 am
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The shoe, but imagine it in a pearly sky blue.

The shoe, but imagine it in a pearly sky blue.

My friend Dawn is a woman of extravagant gestures. She makes a decent living as a graphic designer and has made some good real estate investments, but she’s not rolling in it, per se. Yet she never buys cheap. Once or twice a year, she will set out to do her clothes shopping, and it’s never an inexpensive expedition. I have to admire her for this, because we probably spend the same amount of money on shopping each year, but my closet is crammed with all sorts of impulsive purchases. Hers is filled only with items she adores passionately, and there’s a high tariff for the right to hang in her closet. Let’s just say she knows true love when she sees it. Meanwhile, I’m thinking every toad could be a prince.

Dawn does her research thoroughly and she often knows exactly what it is that she’s looking for long before she ever sets foot in a store. Well, she had set her sites on the shoe shown above and nothing was going to stop her.

If you are ever going to stride into Prada’s flagship Soho store, you want to do it with Dawn. She has the diva presence down pat, being 100% Trinidian princess, and in no time she had three store employees entranced and running through the boutique trying to find those shoes. She had the ad—the problem was they didn’t have the shoe yet. They tried to persuade her that there were other shoes that were just as good, but no other shoe would do. I picked up a floor model, turned it over, and gasped: $1000. Although I’ve certainly run up that sort of receipt, I could not even begin to imagine spending it on one pair of shoes.

As it turned out they had one pair, a sample that was on the floor mannaquin. Well, it may not happen at H&M, but you can bet your bootie that when you are plopping down a grand, those shoes were off the mannequin in no time flat. Problem: They were samples, not made to be worn, and the heel architecture was wobbly. Dawn was distraught in a very funny and charming way—she’s the sort of person who can say the most outrageous things and get away with it.

Suddenly, the manager appeared with a pair in the most gorgeous sky blue. “And when exactly were you planning to bring those out?” Dawn demanded. He sheepishly said that they were sitting on a high shelf, as a display. To all of our relief, they were perfect. Sale made. Now, I know why I never got a sales person to so much as raise an eyebrow at me in Prada. I could never stomach paying the price of admission, but for Dawn the joy that these shoes would give her was priceless (she was already imagining the openings and galas that they would attend together)

And I can tell you that if you want every clerk in every pricey boutique in Soho grovelling at your feet, just try walking around with a super-sized Prada shopping bag. For me, THAT was priceless.


Where’s Alber? October 9, 2008

Filed under: Fashionista Files — rebmas03 @ 2:55 am
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All through Paris fashion week, I kept having a nagging feeling that something was missing. On the last day, I realized what it was … my all-time favorite designer Alber Elbaz of House of Lanvin. I designed my barrel coat project at FIT based on Alber’s 2007 collection, and he hasn’t let me down in 2009. See his great work here.

Good to Go-Go! October 8, 2008

By Louise Sleigh

Go-Go boots are a low-heeled style of women’s fashion boot worn since the mid-sixties when fashion silhouettes focused on accentuating the leg. The term “go-go” is from the slang term “go”, meaning something that was “all the rage”; the term “go-go dancer” that first appeared in print in 1965.

Go-go boots are either calf-, knee- or above knee-high boots with a low or flat heel. The style is a very simple shape with a chiselled, rounded or pointed toe. The boot was usually fastened onto the foot by a side or back zipper, although by the Seventies it was not uncommon to find lace-up versions which accommodated a wider variety of calf sizes. Heel height ranges from flat to low 3” shaped, with the occasional two-inch Cuban heel.

Materials were either synthetic or natural.  The oldest designs were made from plastic or vinyl in various colours, the most popular being white. Before the introduction of go-go boots,  women’s boots were generally worn during bad weather, for rugged activities or for horse riding.  André Courréges is often cited as the originator of the fashion go-go boot which was made of white plastic with a clear cut-out slot near the top and was featured as part of the “Moon Girl” look featured in his Fall 1964 collection.

Manufacturers began mass-producing runway knock-offs in contemporary colours and materials. These knock-offs were extremely popular with teenagers, who could be seen wearing go-go boots on both the street and on television dance shows. They were often seen worn by “Dolly Birds” in England during the 1960s.  Other famous names associated with go-go boots are Nancy Sinatra, Jane Fonda (Barbarella) and designers such as Mary Quant and Yves Saint Laurent who designed their own versions.

By the Seventies, go-go boots were referred to simply as boots, as fashion trends progressed and maxi skirts and trousers became more popular with only the feet visible. Emphasis shifted to the height of the heel and then along came platforms.

Modern-day Version

There are many versions of go-go boots that are still worn today, although ‘go-go’ boot is often used to describe any stile of knee-high boot, regardless of heel height. NFL Cheerleaders, including the Dallas Cowboy’s Cheerleaders and the Oakland Raiderettes often wear go-go boots as part of their uniform; high-heeled versions of go-go boots are still worn by exotic go-go dancers today.

This article excerpted from the Catwalk Creative blog. To get a fabulous pair of gorgeous go-gos from Louise, click here.


Exciting Domestic Goddess Post Script October 7, 2008

Filed under: Domestic Goddess — rebmas03 @ 1:03 am
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I opened my Cook’s Illustrated magazine today (Nov./Dec. 2008 issue), and the center story is about CHOPPING!  We’re all happy to know that CI and I both give the same advice.—Julia Pantoga


Cowboy Chic: Hermes saddles up October 6, 2008

Filed under: Fashionista Files — rebmas03 @ 2:40 am
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I’m so glad the Paris shows didn’t let me down, in a season of mostly lacklustre Spring shows. So forgive me if I keep finding yet another designer this week to rhapsodize about. It’s been a long, dry spell as I patiently wait for inspiration, but Paris has not disappointed. Now I’m onto the house of Hermes, where only Jean Paul Gaultier could have the brilliant tongue-in-chic to combine western and couture with such aplomb, pluck and skill. I wish I had a big, fat wallet and a dusty south-of-the border ranch. See more here.


Couture Club: Giambattista Valli Goes Retro October 5, 2008

The press is always so inordinately hard on designers who are too retro-referential, but I’ve frankly never understood why it’s so necessary to be modern. I love retro, and with the runways looking so silhouette-less, a striking retro-glam frock is a sight for sore eyes. Giambattista Valli’s recent show in Paris is a very pretty-in-guipure rendition of the New Look halcyon days of the ’50s. The fellow just drips couture and artfully blends both lean and voluminous lines. I plan to copy every look to my look book and am already making sketches in my head of Valli-inspired jackets. Get your glam on here.


More Cooking 101: Chopping October 4, 2008

Filed under: Domestic Goddess,Food is Good — rebmas03 @ 5:47 am
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By Julia Pantoga

Chopping rocks
Chopping is the cute 4-year-old of cooking. We could hardly tolerate 4-year-olds, if they weren’t so darned cute. I’d probably rarely cook, if it weren’t for chopping.
Remember all the mind tricks I encouraged you to use for housework? You won’t be surprised that I recommend some also for cooking.  The first trick I want you to play on yourself is to do all of your prep work and clean-up long before you will be cooking.  By the time you cook, you won’t remember errant spinach that stuck to the side of the refrigerator—that will be a distant memory of something you cleaned up long ago.

Principles of Chopping (right-handed instructions)

Let the tool do the work.  Human beings have been cooking since the dawn of time and, ever since they have been making tools, they have been making cooking tools.  It is very, very unlikely that you will try to do something in the kitchen (except open certain jars) for which there is not a tool that will do the work for you. If you are ever having physical difficulty doing something in the kitchen, you are likely using the wrong tool, or the tool you are using is not good (by the way, you all know that dull knives are much more dangerous than sharp knives, don’t you?).

Cutting tools

Cutting tools

Use the right tool for the job. Over the years, I have accumulated a lot of chopping tools, but my favorite, hands down, is a knife. As much as I love my knife, I must admit that sometimes other tools are better suited for the job at hand (for example, a food processor for chopping raisins).
Minimize the number of tools you use. Remember, each tool that you use is going to have to be washed.
Use several cutting surfaces. The purchase of a packet of four cutting mats was one of my best kitchen purchases. Having several cutting surfaces means that I don’t have to stop to wash my cutting board because it reeks of onions; I can throw it in the sink, grab a clean one and continue chopping and wash the five I’ve used all at once.

Chopping with a Knife

First of all, minimize your movements. Every time you lift the knife up completely from the cutting board, you are moving the knife. It’s safer and requires less energy to move the knife as little as possible. Whenever I can, I “rock the knife” (this has the added benefit of making you look like a real pro in the kitchen).  That is, I keep the tip of the knife on the cutting surface, push the vegetable through the knife blade with my left hand, then “rock the knife” up and down with my right hand to chop.

Rock the knife

Rock the knife

Flat surfaces on the cutting area make whatever you are cutting more stable.  Before I chop something, if it doesn’t have a flat side already, I make one. When things that you are chopping are rolling around, they are at their most dangerous; this is when it is the most likely that you will have vegetables and knives flying around.

Cutting carrot in half

Cutting carrot in half

So, here’s how I’d dice a carrot:
First, I’d cut the carrot carefully in half.  If it were a big carrot, I’d lay the flat sides down and cut the carrot halves into thinner strips.

Then I’d lay the carrot strips flat side down on my cutting surface and use the “rock the knife “ technique to dice.

Stay tuned for more chopping and cooking tips;. The holiday season is fast approaching (can you believe it?), so we need to move towards getting ready for that next week.


I love Paris in the springtime October 3, 2008



Sonia Rykiel

Sonia Rykiel

Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood

I keep holding my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop on Spring ’09 fashion, waiting for something so fabulous, so wondrous, so knock-out-of-this-world, for just anything to happen, and the Paris shows have, almost, come to the rescue. It’s been, unfortunatly, more of the blah, blah, blah in many ways for this season. But there are a few shining stars. Of note, Balmain’s rock-chic jackets and couture-curve shoulders, Sonia Rykiel’s rose-strewn 40th, and Vivenne Westwood’s madcap, wild-child ways. Check them out.


Now That’s Wicked October 2, 2008

If Athena were all grown up into a real web site, she would want to be just like Updated daily with chief editor Liz Nonnemacher of Chicago at the helm, the site tagline is “Independent Shopping for the Wickedly Fashionable.” Liz is an indie fashion expert, and her mission in life is to get women out of the mall and into the wildly fashionable world of independent designers. As Liz says: “I knew that there had to be others out there like myself who were tired of seeing the same big-box stores in every town in the U.S. We help women whiz through a world of fashion that they never knew existed.” Now that’s wicked.