Beaded Woven Purse

Thrifting Threes: Clothing I Look For

Vintage

I love thrift stores: the pre-loved clothing crowded on racks rich with past lives and probably dust, mismatched flatware and commemorative beer mugs so you can fondly recall the Stella you drank in Florida last winter, and the smell, a combination of attic-ridden Christmas decorations and your grandma’s closet (the one with the Danish cookie tin full of sewing supplies). Thrifting and buying second hand is on the rise as vintage styles undergo a renaissance and sustainability becomes essential to young people. I know I can’t resist a trip to the nearest thrift store. It’s an adventure that exercises creativity and allows anyone to push the bounds of personal style and expression. I personally go into thrift stores with no expectation so as to keep an open mind. What do I buy? When it comes to clothing, I typically shop within three main categories.

Basics

Your closet needs a solid foundation of neutral and practical articles that you can seamlessly accessorize and pair with just about anything. Here is not the time to harp on designer names. Second hand basics can come from anywhere, but it is nice to find higher quality pieces that will last longer. Beige, brown, black, white and grey items as well as denim are valuable finds at any thrift store. Also, staples that you have difficulty finding in your size at other retail shops. I’m 5ft tall (5ft short, rather) and can never find maxi skirts and dresses that don’t drag on the floor. With the range of styles, sizes and decades represented at most thrift stores, it’s easy to find size and shape outliers. It may take digging, but it’s worth it.

Quirky Statement Pieces

Thrift stores are treasures troves for weird and unusual clothing. Of my statement pieces, silly embroidered chambray shirts are my favorites. This is the time to bring retro patterns and colors into your wardrobe. It’s also the perfect place to find ugly sweaters and comical t shirts previously worn by cool dads and 80’s nerds alike. These pieces bring out your personality, and offer an inexpensive way to push your own wardrobe’s boundaries and have some fun. This is an opportunity to go wild in the accessory section and find the beaded bag or dad hat of your dreams. It’s an opportunity to look through all sections of the store, men’s, women’s, pajamas, to find the piece that suits you. It’s these pieces that rightfully garner the most attention from friends and colleagues, even if sometimes that attention is in the form of “what is that?”

Designer Labels and Luxury Pieces

Here is when the label matters. If you’re reading this, you definitely don’t get paid enough to drop cash on luxury brands or premium fabrics. Smaller local thrift stores or consignment shops typically offer a more curated selection, but sometimes increase the price knowing the value of what they’re carrying. No matter, it will still be less expensive and more eco-friendly than buying something brand new. I’ve been fortunate enough to find cashmere turtleneck sweaters and a brand new (tags! still! on!) Michael Kors pencil skirt for less than $10. My boyfriend scored with a full Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece navy blue suit (retailed at a few thousand dollars) for less than $15. Here is where you maybe want to also consider shelling out extra money for alterations if the piece is valuable and right.

Alternatives

Now I’m aware that not everyone can shop for new items at environmentally friendly, ethically made clothing stores. Some people may not even be able to shop at higher end consignment shops depending on tier, or even thrift stores due to travel. This doesn’t mean you can’t still wear sustainable clothes AND be fashionable. Swapping clothes with friends and family is an environmentally friendly and FREE way to refresh your wardrobe, especially when it comes to formal wear and highly seasonal or specific pieces. Cull your closet and invite friends to do the same. Dump your clothes out and swap.

Bistered Shishitos with Tangy Sauce

Blistered Shishitos with Tangy Yogurt Sauce

food, recipes

Do you ever pull a recipe completely out of your ass? I did. I didn’t even actually make this before suggesting it to my mom to serve at a dinner party. I guess you just have to trust your gut sometimes, right? I was happy to learn that it was easy to make and her guests LOVED it. In fact, it’s making a return on her menu sooner than I would’ve expected.

This recipe draws inspiration from tangy yogurt sauce I love so much. I feel like for so long I associated yogurt with sweetness, but really yogurt it sour and compliments sweet and savory foods with acidic delight.

Now you probably don’t remember the first time you tried certain foods, but I was fortunate to experience fun food firsts late enough in my teens that the memory is still fresh. When I worked on a farm we would occasionally sell produce that I had never seen or tried before. Since I was often asked about flavors or recipes, I took it upon myself to taste anything I had never seen before. This is where I tried tomatillos, thai basil and mizuna greens for the first time, among other stranger vegetables. It was all for the job, trust me. When we received our first batch of shishitos I had questions about the wrinkly light green pepper. Was it spicy like a jalapeno or sweet like a bell pepper? I learned that it can be a little of both. Turns out, every few peppers are spicy while most of them are mild. It’s like jalapeno roulette!

Years later (aka 2019) these peppers are everywhere.

Shishito peppers are small enough to keep whole for this recipe. Plus, the attached stem doubles as the perfect tool to pick up and dip the charred peppers. Flavor and function. You love to see it. You want to dry roast these in a cast iron pan until they blister and take on color. Don’t fear burning them, they taste better with more char.

Arrange them on a plate to cool. While the peppers cool, combine your Greek yogurt, lime juice, grated garlic, chili powder, salt, pepper and olive oil. Let the yogurt sit for a few minutes, as the garlic will develop more flavor the longer it sits. Taste for seasoning and adjust according to what you like. Add more yogurt to make it more creamy or more lime juice for sweetness. Plate the yogurt sauce in a small bowl for dipping or spooning over the peppers.

Finally, let your guests go crazy dipping peppers into the yogurt sauce. Snacky enough to finish each pepper in one bite, and deceptively healthy.

This recipe is flexible too. Can’t find shishitos? Use poblanos the same way, just slice and seed the peppers before charring. You can use lemon juice instead of lime and cumin instead of chili powder. The yogurt sauce also tastes great with cucumbers or with burrito accoutrements (think burrito bowl, chipotle chicken, that sorta thing).

Get Into Breakfast Salad

food

I unintentionally fell in love with breakfast salad while I stubbornly ate a leftover lunch that I refused to throw away. It was an arugula salad with Italian tuna on it. I haphazardly forked the salad in my mouth, hoping to distract my senses from the early morning roughage. But instead it was delicious. And I didn’t feel weighed down by a heavier breakfast I would’ve grabbed on my way to work.

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Get into breakfast salad ✨

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Hence, this ode to the breakfast salad.

Now I’m not saying eat a full on Greek salad for breakfast. Red onions? At 8am? Pass. But I am saying that your leftover salad from dinner would be dope with some scrambled eggs. Think about it? A nice creamy scramble with a side of acidic veggies? That’s some hot girl summer dining.

It’s also a great way to avoid letting a leftover dressed salad get weepy and slimy. We all know I’m a fan of reducing food waste, so this perspective adjustment helps reduce the amount of salad you may be prone to throwing away.

Now I know my first encounter with breakfast salad had tuna on it and that may sound less than appealing to the masses, but fish isn’t totally out of the question in terms of breakfast options (hello, lox). However, eggs might offer an easier transition into breakfast salad.

While I had a solid slice of bread toasting in the oven (I used Dakota bread), I scrambled two eggs in butter. I left the eggs runny and creamy so they would almost spread over the toast. This requires a low and slow approach. Don’t get impatient and raise the heat, I promise it will be worth it. Don’t forget to salt your eggs.

I took my leftover salad out of the fridge. I made a tomato and tomatillo salad with baby lettuce and a vinaigrette of lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and grated garlic. This mingled with the tomato juices and the whole thing marinated overnight. Delish.

Once the eggs were set enough and the bread was toasted, it was time for assembly. Now you can leave all components separate, but I spread the eggs on the toast and placed the salad on top. So I guess I turned this into a toast? Whatever.

Not only was this a quick breakfast, but I feel satisfied. Plus, riffing on this is easy as long as you have salad + protein + toast. Try swapping in a slice of sourdough and a smear of a thick and tangy Greek yogurt. Or pita and hummus. The sky’s the limit. Do your thang.

Tofu, meet the omnivores

food, lifestyle, vegetarian

My first encounter with tofu was neither pleasant nor life changing. I ordered a miso soup that accompanied a sushi dinner. I remember dunking my spoon into the cloudy amber liquid and lifting jiggly chunks of tofu out from beneath the brothy surface. The flavor was nothing spectacular but the texture was just a little off-putting. I had little to no desire to give tofu a second chance.

But this wouldn’t be a good blog post if I didn’t try tofu again. Many years later I tried tofu in a rice bowl, cooked until crispy and drenched in creamy coconut curry sauce. I thought “man, this is good.” For a second I thought vegetarianism was possible for me.

But the truth is, I love meat. I grew up in an Italian household and that meant fish for Christmas, lamb for Easter and fresh vegetables on the side. The comforts of a Sunday sauce simmered with meatballs or a fried chicken cutlet at my grandma’s house could never be replaced by vegetarian alternatives.

Though I love meat, I have no desire to try something marketed as a “meat alternative.” It’s not meat, don’t try to make it meat. What do I want? I want to highlight plant based proteins and meals for their naturally, non-meat flavors, which brings me to tofu. Let’s edit the dialogue…

While some “meat substitutes” capitalize on tofu’s ability to crumble like ground beef, I prefer to savor this jiggly soy protein for its naturally appealing qualities, and that means heavy handed seasoning and crisping the edges until golden brown. Since tofu is a blank canvas seasoning is everything. It’s not the time to be timid in the kitchen. In my experiences, tofu tastes best with a sweet and salty sauce (like here in this vegan noodle bowl). The tofu’s creamy texture also compliments a bit of spice nicely, so go ahead and add those chili peppers.

When cooking tofu, at least for a crispy result, it is imperative to really squeeze that liquid out. Put the block under some weights and let it just release liquid for as long as possible before cooking. This will ensure maximum flavor absorption and minimal spongey texture.

The downside to tofu? Not great for leftovers unless eaten cold. In my experience reheating tofu results in that rubbery texture. Certain things (like the aforementioned noodle bowl) don’t taste spectacular cold or reheated, but a cold tofu dish tastes great. These shawarma spiced tofu pitas tasted arguably better the next day cold: the tofu maintained crisp edges and didn’t seize up and become little morsels of rubbery nightmares.

Takeaways to this tofu rant: vegetarians and non-vegetarians can enjoy tofu. Period. If you try tofu and it’s spongey or jiggly, give it a shot elsewhere. Season it aggressively and don’t expect a meaty flavor. Instead, approach tofu with open-mindedness and interest to try something new. You might be an omnivore like me and begin incorporating more plant based meals into your diet too, no disguise needed.

Does “natural wine” even mean ANYTHING?

drink, lifestyle, wine

So maybe you read my post about natural wine (psst, it’s over here) where I talk about my first experience trying a “natural wine.” I liked it, it tasted natural as one might imagine. But what does “natural wine” mean? Well, nothing apparently.

Now I’m no expert. I just probe poor store clerks whenever I get the chance. Last week while I was killing time in Artisan Wine Shop in Beacon I had to ask the clerk about the signage in the store. What does “low intervention” mean? Is that like “natural wine?” Well, he put it into perspective: when something says “all natural” what qualifies it as natural? Are certain things more “natural” than others? Does “natural wine” mean anything other than a marketing ploy to feign wellness? All I could think about was how could I succumb to this trick? Well because I’m a millennial and I love to know what’s trending and what I could or should be drinking.

Not to say “natural wine” means nothing but there’s no distinction or certification to classify wines as natural or not. All natural wines are, however, produced from organic grapes. But that doesn’t meant that organic wine is “natural wine.” GUH??

I was sort of right when I asked if “low intervention” was “natural wine.” When a wine is produced with “low intervention” that means during the fermentation process there is little technological involvement or additives. There is likely no sugar added to jumpstart the fermentation process, and nothing added to reduce acidity. “Low intervention” is a generic term because the wine making process involves A LOT of intervention to begin with.

Some natural wines will have that funky “barnyard” taste but many are softer. Natural wine essentially enables grapes to run their natural course in the fermentation process producing different tastes each time. Saying non-natural wine is bad would be false: additives and general intervention might be for the sake of consistency in batches, not necessarily producing a lesser quality wine.

So like, yes? It means something? But just barely. Does it define quality or guarantee the best taste? No. Use your best judgment and, as always, befriend the folks at your local wine store. Ask questions to find the wine that suits you best. Ask questions to find out which wine might have that funky “natural wine” flavor versus asking which wines are “natural wines.”

 

An Intro to French Wine

drink, food, wine

I love wine. Specifically, I love dry reds. After my time in Italy drinking mostly Chianti (*cue eye-roll at 20-something girl talking about studying abroad*) I developed an appreciation for big, full-bodied reds with a little tannic bite. So, that was my go-to. I unintentionally just never really ventured into French wines. Truly French wines. Not just a cab franc grown anywhere, but an imported French wine.

Let me begin by saying this: I’ve disgraced the French culture before. I’ve butchered the language and have made a fool of myself on the streets of Paris at least twice. Yet I’m craving a trip back to that enchanting city. It’s been the subject of my dreams as of late.

But back to the wine. On one of our weekend adventures we found ourselves in a boutique wine shop in Millerton, NY. The shop owner was knowledgable and very enthusiastic and while we think we look like toddlers, he took us very seriously. As we stared at the French section for a little too long, we decided on a bottle. Now, when we went to the counter our new shopkeeper friend asked why we chose this one. “I’ve heard of this label and really wanted to try it out,” Nick says. Later I learn, he just liked the bottle. Could’ve fooled me too. Honestly, I’m no better.

This wine was very drinkable (“no sh*t,” I say aloud as I type this). Not too sweet and not too dry. The perfect wine to finish in good company on an evening that you know will be full of laughs. I’d been craving meatballs all week and while we had fun putting our meal together we just couldn’t help drinking glass after glass of this wine. Enchanting, intoxicating, lovely.

I tried looking up reviews of this wine but I couldn’t find the exact vintage. So here’s my short review: I would drink this at a picnic, I would drink this with steak frites, on a boat, with a goat, I’ll drink this anywhere so long as I’m with someone I love. I guess that’s the allure of French culture: it’s somehow all about love in the most romantic sense. This isn’t the wine to bring for girls night, this is romance wine.

That pretty much sums up France for me: beauty and almost pretension on the outside, yet full of laughter and love within.

Natty Wine

drink, food, lifestyle

I’m a lady that loves wine. The words “natural wine” make me think one sip will turn me into this picturesque woman drinking wine on horseback at sunset. Or something. I don’t know, just my brain illustrating my impressions.

Nonetheless, I finally explored the realm of natural wines this weekend when I picked up my first bottle at Kingston Wine Company on Saturday. While intimidating to invest in a new wine that you may or may not love, this particular wine shop made it easy with friendly, knowledgable staff and handy labels on certain bottles marking flavor and whether staff recommend it. This bottle was a shop favorite and a customer favorite and I was lucky enough to snag the last bottle.

We decided on a French red. Domaine Le Briseau Coteaux du Loir Patapon Rouge (wow, a mouthful). Since the natural part makes this a little tannic and quite funky, the light red had dry elements without it being heavy. Without carbonation, it had a effervescent feel, like kombucha. In fact, it tasted like if someone made kombucha from grape juice. Does that sound bad? It was gamay-like but this is not a wine you want to chug on it’s own. That would be a crime. Food deserves to be paired with this wine. This is a wine I can drink with a big fat (phat) bowl of pasta or a lot of cheese and salami. Salty, cheesy foods need to have a real love affair with natural wine. It really be like that.

I enjoyed this probably because I love funky farm ales, which tend to have tannic qualities and are usually fermented without interruptions or additions. However, this was more akin to a farm cider. Ciders are technically apples wines, and this wine (for me at least) evoked the same feel as Graft’s Farm Flor cider: not-too-sweet, funkalicious and dry without that overbearing, headache-giving mouthfeel.

And hey, just because it’s trendy doesn’t mean you have to like it. I went on a wine tasting and the owner of the vineyard told me something I’ll never forget: the best wine is not always the wine with the award, the best wine is the one you like drinking. For you, the best wine may not be the trendy natural wine, but I highly recommend trying a one to explore that decision for yourself.

Marcella Needs a Beer: Collective Arts Brewing Mash Up the Jam

drink

The week was long. Laundry piled up in the corner of my bedroom. I could no longer ignore my check engine light with a nervous sigh. My fridge was a mess. I didn’t know what to do. So after work I bolted to the craft beer store a few blocks from my office because Marcella needed a beer. I then waited until AFTER doing laundry and getting my car looked at to crack one open.

I was always attracted to Collective Arts Brewing’s cans. First, cans are always well labeled. This week’s pick had the word SOUR in large letters on the side in bold serif font. Hard to miss, and just what I needed. Second, can artwork is an ingenious way to attract new drinkers and support local artists. Illustrations, bright colors and characters make a difference to me. I’m looking for something delicious and something kinda cute and I’m not sorry about it. It’s also just good marketing to make your can standout when so many new breweries are entering the game.

This week’s pick was Mash Up the Jam, a dry hopped sour, which as expected was dry, a little hoppy and very sour. There was a lemony lightness to it and it was very clean. I could guzzle this down (but I didn’t, of course). What I liked about this was it was vastly different from Collective Arts’ other sours, like the Guava Gose which was juicy and a little savory (with the addition of pink Himalayan salt) and the Prophets and Nomads which, to be honest, I don’t remember too much (I gave it a 3.25 on Untappd which means it was fine). Update: as it turns out, Prophets and Nomads is Collective Arts’ core gose so the Guava Gose is just Prophets and Nomads with the addition of guava. This explains why I don’t recall Prophets and Nomads too well.

One thing that unites these sours, however, is how border-line IPA they taste but in unique ways. The dry hopped sour was, obviously, a little hoppy and the Guava Gose had that juicy citrus flavor that New England IPAs take-on, almost like grapefruit. Maybe it’s because I’m starting to enjoy IPAs, but I tasted some similarities which explains why I like IPAs like Sloop’s Juice Bomb and Dogfish Head’s Flesh & Blood. Whether Collective Arts is aware of this or not, brewing sours that resemble IPAs is a smart tactic in a time when IPAs continue to reign supreme and sours are middle of the road. Some people feel that sours taste very unpleasant, just like how some people really can’t stand IPAs. However, the IPA train is packed while the sour bus is looking to fill seats.

At any rate, Marcella got her beer and drank it too.

Intentionally burning food was my first sign of true adulthood

food

A timid child, I cried at damn near everything. Couldn’t get the combination in dance class? I cried. Someone made a harmless joke? I cried. I was frustrated easily and fragile beyond help. I was insecure and sheepish for years. That girl is long gone now, but the lingering effects held on in one facet of my life: my cooking. I loved cooking and baking, but I yearned for perfection every time. There were never burnt edges or crispy bits on any of my baked goods or meals, but that resulted in undercooking nearly everything. Setting timers for the minimum cooking time and being the most pesky oven checker were my culinary downfalls. I craved perfection so tenaciously that my efforts had the opposite effect entirely.

Early in my college career my love for food manifested itself into my academics. In my journalism classes I squeezed food into every assignment I could, from political assignments to longform creative pieces. I attempted to become that modern urban farmgirl who cooked squash and overnight oats and blogged about it. I was passionate about local honey and became evangelical about eating locally and seasonally. I had ancient grains coming out of my ears. I needed to have my quirky side and excel at something niche. I snagged an internship with a local food publication and became a published food writer. And yet, each time I roasted a vegetable I couldn’t keep my hands off the oven handle. I hauled squash from the farmers market to class only to bring it home and woefully under season or undercook it for the sake of not making a mistake. I was the girl watching the pot boil. I would peek into the door and feel the warm dry heat on my face, look at the slight color on whatever was cooking, and take it out prematurely. I would take food out of the oven, plate the dish and realize it was undercooked after slicing into it, after which I would throw it in the microwave and nuke the crap out of it, making up for lost time.

My desire to achieve perfection overshadowed my research and knowledge. The hours I spent reading Bon Appetit and Food52 were wasted because my internal monologue inserted itself into the narrative. I knew that color equaled flavor. I knew that salt was essential to all recipes and despite knowing those facts and more, my food was timid and colorless. I was a people pleaser down to my core, and while then I would never admit it, now I see how desperate I was to be an image of perfection through and through. I can definitely attribute that (and probably any aforementioned insecurities) to some form of anxiety. I would bring baked goods to family gatherings and sit anxiously as everyone cut into my acceptably cooked and seasoned pie, knowing that I could have cooked the crust longer or added spices other than cinnamon to the filling. I was obsessed with following a recipe and not deviating from that, fearing that a freestyle move might cost me my reputation. I made beautiful looking olive oil cakes that could have used extra time in the oven, or more lemon zest than the recipe required. While everyone loves the gooey, undercooked section of the brownie pan, everyone also likes the crispy edges. My insecurities revealed themselves in my inability to deliver both.

In any communal living situation and even when I would cook with my boyfriend, my sheepishness returned. Too nervous to make a mistake, I would either wait until the coast was clear and the kitchen was empty, or ask him (or whoever else I was cooking with) to do many of the things I knew I could do but just felt unsure about in the moment. Everyone’s a critic and for some reason, despite being the most amateur of amateurs, I was afraid my knife skills, or some other trivial aspect of my cooking, would insight mocks and giggles.

I’m now 22 and living alone. In my castle (this one bedroom apartment), I am the queen and I’m cooking for me and only me. It’s now that I’m getting dare I say edgy about cooking. I’m taking risks with flavors because who but me am I aiming to please? In the most cynical of ways, I didn’t care about disappointing myself. And yet, that’s how I achieved perfection, or what tasted like it. I love cooking onions until they stick to the pan and take on caramel sweetness. I love hearing sausages sizzle in the pan and take on crispy brown sides. I like seeing the edges of my fried egg become crispy and lacy from the heat. I season haphazardly knowing that no one around me can tell me something is too spicy. I don’t measure my spices with a spoon, but I feel the granules leave my palm as I just toss. I’m the queen of the kitchen sink, sometimes throwing whatever I have in my fridge together and wishing for the best while I let it simmer, bubble, or bake.

Taking control of my kitchen and eating food that I enjoyed unapologetically was a sign of adulthood. I realized that I actually like kale, provided it was smothered in olive oil and roasted into crisps. Deciding what to eat, when to eat it, and most importantly how to eat it seems menial but the creativity thrills me. You know you’re a real adult when dinner’s uncertain outcome becomes exciting. Cooking for myself, I feel shameless in my choices. I can eat spicy potatoes whenever I want, or breakfast for dinner on a Tuesday.

And mistakes? I don’t know her. In the words of Bob Ross, “there are no mistakes, only happy accidents.” Rarely does a silly mistake warrant an unsalvageable meal. Sometimes you just need to think it over and find a way to repurpose or rectify without retrograding and crying over a burnt pan sauce.

In this journey through burnt edges and sloppy sautés I’ve learned more about my heart than I’ve learned about cooking: there’s more to life than perfection, and if you’re a people pleaser make sure you don’t leave yourself out of the equation.