Athena Magazine

Fashion, lifestyle, passions

Yellow is More Fashionable Than Ever April 18, 2009

Filed under: Fashionista Files — rebmas03 @ 1:49 am
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Excerpted from iFashion Network

Yellow is more Fashionable than ever
By Catherine Shen

Apr 14

Black is considered to be one of those colors that looks good on just about anyone. One would never think you could go wrong with a basic color like the trusty dark hue. But since spring has arrived, the color black should be settled behind the closet and a new color should be making a splash amongst your wardrobe: Yellow.

Now, yellow is considered to be one of those colors that people usually don’t imagine themselves pulling off. But surprisingly, most of us don’t realize we can really pull off any color, we just have to find the right shade that compliments with our skin and hair color.

Courtesy of LA times

Courtesy of LA times

Courtesy of LA times

Courtesy of LA times

The color wheel is endless. Yellow isn’t limited to what’s in your kindergarten crayon box. There are shades in so many different lights you are bound to find the perfect fit. You just need to experiment, broaden that horizon. But if you’re still timid, that’s okay too. Start off small with a scarf or a piece of jewelry. Baby steps is key to a beginning of boldness. Just don’t forget, when playing around with a color as cheery as yellow, pair it off with another color that tones it down a notch, like your trusty sidekick black, or earthy colors like brown or gray.

Spring into the future with a positive light, don’t let yellow daunt your bright spirit!


Courtesy of LA times


Courtesy of LA times


The little blue blazer: From tag sale to wow March 31, 2009

glamourai_blazerx-1I’ve heard about the trick of shopping in the boys department, but this gal has taken thriftness and resourcefulness to a whole new level. Her  jacket looks designer, but in truth she snapped it up at a garage sale, and sewed on some new buttons. Athena approves! See more of The Glamorai’s stylish tips and projects.


The headboard solution March 26, 2009

Filed under: Athena at Home,Budget Athena — rebmas03 @ 3:11 am
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briannaBeds are expensive, there’s no doubt. When I was out shopping for furniture recently on Route 110 in Long Island, I discovered a neat little trick. You don’t haveheadboard1 to buy the whole bed—you can just buy the headboard, for a fraction of the price. It’s a little best-kept furniture store secret. Plus, you don’t have to deal with a bulky bed frame or footboard. We put a bench at the foot of ours and it’s a built-in stair case for Chipper. At Pottery Barn, they dispense with the formalities and just sell the headboards flat out. Lots of them. This is the one that I want—only $300.


Horse hair? Horsefeathers! February 18, 2009

1856crnl1Every so often I’ll come across a pattern that lists horse hair as a requirement and, trust me, you won’t find it at your chain sewing store, nor any clerk who knows what it is.  Well, I learned tonight in my haute couture sewing techniques class just what I need it for. You know those Scarlett O’Hara gowns, where the hems seems to have a life of their own. Horse hair! These days, anytime you want to stiffen up an edge—a hem, a beaded bandeau top, etc—horse hair (the modern version is a nylon mesh strip) is your answer. It’s also used often as a couture embellishment. Mystery solved. And here’s the other piece of the puzzle. Where do you get it? In NYC’s garment district, at my most favorite place, Steinlauf and Stoller! For colored horse hair, a rare commodity, indeed, try JG Enterprises, a millinery supply shop, located on 38th Street. (Check back soon for email and phone).

For a nice tutorial on applying horse hair, read this.

For some horse hair history, read here.


Holiday Prep: Two Recipes for Great Baking Gifts November 25, 2008

wrapped-gift-cakesBy Julia Pantoga

In my column, Giving Away Baked Goods, I promised to give you the recipes for some of my favorite baking gifts. Here, you’ll find two recipes and instructions for making them. See the Domestic Goddess column Giving Away Baked Goods for information about wrapping and ordering.

In my mind, here’s what makes a food fit for giving away:
•    It packs/wraps easily.
•    It can go without refrigeration for several hours.
•    It can be made and wrapped in advance and be stored in the freezer.
•    There is at least one thing “special” about the recipe that makes it unlikely that your recipients would make it on their own—which makes it a treat.

Recipe #1: Ginger Bread with Lemon Icing
This recipe makes enough for six gift loaf pans. Paper pans with wax coating do not need to be prepared.


Lemon Brandy
Zest from 2 Lemons
4 ounces Brandy

Steep the lemon zest in brandy for at least one day. You can replenish the brandy twice using the same lemon zest.

Ginger Bread
1 pound butter (2 sticks, I use salted)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup molasses
4 eggs
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 GENEROUS tablespoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground allspice
4 teaspoons lemon brandy (substitute vanilla at your own risk, do not use lemon extract as a substitute)
1 cup buttermilk

1.     Bring the eggs to room temperature (you can do this quickly, by putting them in a bowl of hot tap water).
2.    Preheat the oven to 350°.
3.    Cream butter and brown sugar.
4.    Add molasses and beat again.
5.    Beat in eggs.
6.    Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice).
7.    Add dry ingredients to mixture.
8.    Add lemon brandy and buttermilk and mix thoroughly.
9.    Arrange six gift loaf pans on baking sheet.
10.    Pour batter evenly into the six pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a straw inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean.
11.    Cool thoroughly before icing.

Lemon Icing
1 stick butter
Zest of one lemon
Two teaspoons lemon brandy
Two tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups powdered sugar
1.    Cream butter.
2.    Add lemon zest, lemon brandy and lemon juice and beat until fluffy.

Pre-icing the cakes.

Pre-icing the cakes.

3.    Add powdered sugar ½ cup at a time (Watch out. Powdered sugar tends to fly and make a big mess!)
4.    Pre-ice the cakes with 1 tablespoon of icing each. This will eliminate the possibility of crumbs in your lovely final cakes.
5.    After the pre-icing has hardened, ice the cakes with the remaining icing.
6.    Allow icing to harden before wrapping cakes.


Recipe #2: Fried Walnuts
This recipe falls into the category of recipes that will fool you by having few ingredients. First of all, any time you fry something, it is a mess. Before you start making these:
•    Put on an apron or old shirt on which you don’t mind spattering grease.
•    Clear a large surface for laying the walnuts out (I use my kitchen table)
The reason I make these every year is because they are GREAT. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love them. They also pack really well and one batch makes seven gift bags.

Fry walnuts

Fry walnuts

8 cups water
4 cups walnuts
½ cup sugar
Cooking oil
Sea salt

Drain walnuts.

Drain walnuts.

1.    Bring water to a boil.
2.    Add walnuts to the water and boil for 1 minute.
3.    Drain boiled walnuts and rinse with hot water.
4.    While the walnuts are hot, return them to the pot you used for boiling and mix well with sugar.
5.    Heat 1 inch of cooking oil to 160°.
6.    Fry the walnuts in two single layer batches for 4 minutes (Put lid or spatter guard on the pan to prevent more of a mess).
7.    While the walnuts are frying, lay wax paper on your clear surface.
8.    Scoop walnuts out of the oil with slotted spoon and drain well in a sieve (one year I didn’t drain the walnuts very well and they were so greasy that they were nasty.) [draining walnuts photo here]

Salt walnuts.

Salt walnuts.

9.    Spread fried walnuts in one layer on wax paper.
10.    Sprinkle warm walnuts with salt (don’t over salt). [salting walnuts photo here]
11.    Allow walnuts to cool thoroughly before wrapping.

Stay tuned for more recipes, tips on holiday decorating and parts two and three of my essays about making holiday cookies. See previous Domestic Goddess columns for more holiday tips.


Holiday Entertaining Made Easy November 11, 2008

entertainingBy Julia Pantoga

This is a sociable time of year. For some of us, entertaining is fun—a chance to show off our lovely homes, our cooking and our planning skills to friends; a chance to work on the puzzle of how to fit 15 people into a home that feels crowded with 3 people in it; and a chance to drag out party games and toys that have gone unplayed since last winter.

For others, entertaining is a stressful required chore of the holiday season—this year, it is your turn to host the family (including all the nieces and nephews and their children) for Christmas Eve. You don’t keep your house visitor-ready (i.e. clean and neat with valuables put away), you don’t feel comfortable around a lot of people, and cooking doesn’t come naturally to you. Whether you love to entertain or not, here are some tips to make it less stressful:

Entertaining is for you to enjoy
As you are preparing to entertain, remember always that entertaining is meant to be enjoyable for you. Don’t serve food you don’t like. Don’t invite people into your home you don’t like. Close off rooms of your house that you don’t want people in. If cooking doesn’t come naturally to you, or you don’t enjoy it, buy food from a restaurant or a caterer. If you really feel uncomfortable having several people in your home, throw money at the problem: entertain in a restaurant party room.

Prepare EVERYTHING in advance
You may want to serve foods to your guests that you can’t prepare much in advance, such as spinach salad. I’m sorry, but you really need to knock that off your planned menu because you need to prepare EVERYTHING in advance! There are two reasons for this:
1.    When you are entertaining, the only thing you should be thinking about is enjoying yourself.
2.    If you have a small space, you can use your food preparation areas as flat surfaces for putting out food.

This lovely display of family photos will be put away in the service of snacks!

This lovely display of family photos will be put away in the service of snacks!

Use every surface
And I mean EVERY surface: the stove (if you don’t have a flat top, use planks of plywood and table cloths to make it flat); the top of the coffee table where you usually keep magazines; the end table where you keep awesome photos of your kids; the kitchen counters (which you don’t need since you already prepared EVERYTHING in advance).

bookshelf-barUse the rest of the house creatively
Empty a bookshelf and use it as a bar. Keep the cold drinks in your bathtub or kitchen sink. Put everyone’s coats on the wicker sofa in the screened in porch.

Final reminders.
•    Enjoy yourself.
•    If you have only one bathroom, don’t use that bathtub for cold drinks.
•    If you don’t want people to go in your bedroom, don’t put coats in there.
•    Before you have people you aren’t close to in your house, snoop-proof it. Paper bags are helpful for this. Say you keep several medications in your medicine cabinet in the bathroom that you’d rather not have just anyone see. Put them all in a paper bag and put the bag in your underwear drawer. That is not a great hiding place to prevent burglaries, but it is good enough for a party.  While it is entirely likely that someone will open your medicine cabinet; it is improbable that a party-goer will rifle through your underwear drawer and open a paper bag. Use a paper, rather than plastic, because it makes more noise. Since your medicines are all together in one bag, they will be easy to return to the medicine cabinet after your party.

party-toys•    Leaving toys and reference books (atlases, dictionaries, etc.) out are always good for getting lively conversation going.

Easy and fabulous party foods:
•    Figs, cut in half topped with cream cheese mixed with chopped pecans (you have no idea how great this is until you try it)
•    Homemade cookies
•    Apple slices with lime juice squeezed over them, served with good cheddar cheese

The best party foods:
•    Don’t require a fork
•    Don’t require a plate
•    Can be eaten standing up and with one hand
And here’s the deal about serving:  Nothing you serve has to look fantastic. Rather, it should be easy to get to and serve, and it should taste great. Your friends are there to enjoy you and your hospitality, not to be impressed.



Domestic Goddess: Packing for Holiday Travel October 26, 2008

Filed under: Domestic Goddess — rebmas03 @ 3:40 am
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Pack Bathroom Bag

My bathroom bag is always packed.

By Julia Pantoga

Between this time of year and January, I take several lengthy driving trips to visit friends and family. Because I am typically away for 3 or 4 weeks, and I am doing so many different things and seeing so many different people, packing for these trips is a big project. But, I lead a life full of obligations at home, so I never have much time to pack. Hence, I have developed various systems to make the job easier and to make sure that I don’t forget things.

Packing List

Packing list

Keep a List

I keep a running list of things I need to pack. This list includes everything I might need in every circumstance. I also keep a short list in the corner of the things that I need to remember for this specific trip (e.g. cranberry relish recipe for sister). I keep this list handy on my computer and update it as the trip approaches, and I remember things. Right before the trip, I print this list out and refer to it carefully while I am packing. I put a line through things that I don’t need for this trip and check things off as I put them in the “staging area” for my packing (which is usually my bed). If I pack anything that is not on my list, I write it on my list and, if I may need it for a future trip, I add it to the master list on my computer.   When I leave the house, I fold the list and put it in my purse. I then have a checklist to use every time I repack along the way.

Pre-packed Bathroom Bag

Have Some Bags Always Packed

My bathroom bag is always packed. I don’t pack bathroom items such as: toothbrush, shampoo, hand lotion, deodorant, etc., because I have duplicates of all of these in my bathroom bag. The main disadvantage of this system is that my bathroom bag is heavy, as it not only contains a toothbrush, but sunscreen, insect repellant and a host of other emergency items. The great advantage of this “system” is that when I return home late at night, I don’t have to unpack my bathroom bag to find my toothbrush. All my “home” bathroom items have been left in their usual spots.

Here’s another tip—put really nice products in your bathroom bag–shampoo and conditioner that smell so great, that showering is a treat. As you are driving at odd hours, sleeping on different couches every night and adjusting to other household’s routines, you need to remind yourself that you always take care of yourself. No robber would ever realize it, but my bathroom bag is one of the most expensive items in my car when I travel.

In addition to my bathroom bag, I keep an extra workout bag in the car, complete with extra sneakers, water bottle, sports bra, swim suit, etc.

My Bags Are Packed

My Bags Are Packed


My own strategy is to pack a lot of small bags that I can handle myself. If I have help loading and unloading my bags (and I usually do), helpers that are bigger and stronger than I (a category that includes most adults) can carry multiple bags at once. But, if I find myself in a situation where I have to handle my luggage myself, I can handle my own bags with multiple trips.

Leave Your House Ready for Your Return
Every time I leave any dirty dishes when I am going to be away for any length of time, I regret it terribly when I get home. Pe-ew! Wash all your dishes, take out the garbage, sweep the floors and generally pick up the house before you leave.

The best tip I ever got about traveling is to change my sheets right before I leave. Nothing says, “Welcome Home!” like a fresh bed.

Welcome Home!

Welcome Home!


The Easiest Holiday Cookies Ever! Part One October 18, 2008

By Julia Pantoga

I don’t get what people love so much about decorating holiday cookies; everyone but me seems to think it’s fun. The benefit to you of my disdain for decorating holiday cookies is that I’ve thought about how to make every step simpler and less excruciating. (By the way, I did not decorate the cookies in the photo above; an artist friend of mine did.)

Okay, there are three parts to making decorated holiday cookies:
1.    Making the dough
2.    Rolling out and baking the cookies
3.    Decorating the cookies.

I like the first two steps; it’s the third step that gets me.

Make the dough now and freeze it.  When it comes time to make cookies in December, you will be really pleased you have that done.  Wait to roll and bake the cookies; however, because baked cookies are very delicate and likely to break before you have a chance to decorate them. (Although broken cookies are magnificent crumbled up and served over fruit.) Here’s the recipe I use. It works when you freeze it and roll it out later, and it tastes great. I divide it into three batches that I freeze.

Sugar Cookie Dough
1 cup butter (I like salted butter for this recipe)
½ cup sugar
1 egg (don’t forget to bring it to room temperature by putting it in a bowl of hot water)
3 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
½ tsp baking powder

1.    Cream butter and sugar.
2.    Add egg and vanilla, beat well.
3.    Measure and mix in flour and baking powder. (I mix the two together before putting them in the dough).
4.    Divide dough in three batches, label and freeze.

If you must know…  For 1/8” cookies, bake 5 min. @ 400 degrees.

You should begin shopping for decorating supplies now.  Go to a store that specializes in cake/cookie decorating.  There, you will find exactly you need.  The store will have the most interesting assortment of cookie cutters, colors of food dye and specialty icing spatulas.  The sales clerks will be knowledgeable and helpful about cookie decorating
The easiest cookie cutters to use are those with the fewest “appendages”.  For example, a bell shaped cookie cutter will make cookies that are much easier to handle than a fussy angel-shaped cookie cutter.  If you have young children, or if any of you are easily frustrated, easy cookie cutters are a must.
While you are at the decorating store, buy:  a small angled and tapered spatula that is designed especially for icing cookies, fantastic green, red, yellow and blue food dyes (they will be so much better and more complex than what you can buy at the grocery store), decorating paintbrushes (I’ve tried dime store paintbrushes, but the bristles fall out, which is unacceptable when you are making food.). Don’t buy anything that won’t “dry”.  “Gel” decorating products look great; but the next day, the cookies are still sticky. Make sure that everything you buy for decorating will eventually harden.  At a decorating store, the clerk will know what hardens and what doesn’t.

I’ll tell you what I know about rolling and baking cookies in Part 2 of this series and give you some ideas for decorating in Part 3.  Keep in mind though, that I don’t like decorating; so my decorating tips will be along the lines of easy-and-quick (but fabulous).


Cleaning the Microwave with Lemon October 11, 2008

Filed under: Domestic Goddess — rebmas03 @ 11:27 pm
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By Julia Pantoga

I was visiting my sister the recently, when she called from the kitchen, “Hey, Domestic Goddess, do you know how to get fish smell out of the microwave?” I was in the other room showing my niece some music videos on this blog. I disinterestedly yelled back, “No idea. And don’t call me that.”

My sister yelled, “I’m going to try microwaving a lemon. Does that sound right to you?”

A few minutes later, she came to the door and proudly said, “It worked.” She’s a Domestic Goddess too. Most of us are.  Here’s what she did:

1.    Wiped the microwave down to remove all residue.
2.    Cut a lemon in half and squeezed the lemon juice out of it onto a paper towel folded into quarters.
3.    Placed the lemon halves in the middle of the towel in the microwave and ran it on high for 1 minute.

After cleaning the microwave, she went back to making Macaroni and Cheese from a recipe in Mark Bittman’s cookbook, How to Cook, which turned out great. My nephew said, “This is so much better than that stuff that comes out of a box.”


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.