Friday, January 20, 2012

Dressing Up in 2012

My Mom drew my name in Secret Santa, and since she knows me so well, she bought me a dress! (I'm really not that hard to please when it comes to gift giving.) The dress, from the designer Vince Camuto, features a side zipper and came in this beautiful burgundy color.

Vince Camuto Zig Zag Seamed Sheath Dress:
It's on sale now for right around $50, marked down from $140, at  You can also find the dress in select sizes at for the low price of just $35! That's quite a deal, so scoop it up now while you can!

A Toast to 2011

New Year's Eve
My sisters and I, as married ladies, have to take turns spending Christmas/ Thanksgiving with our parents and family in Alpharetta. In 2011, we were all with my parents for Thanksgiving and our in-laws for Christmas. On the years we are not all together for Christmas, we usually try to get together for New Year's Eve, and this year was extra special because we also waited to exchange gifts until December 31st.

We did a Secret Santa gift exchange so that we could all buy a gift for just one other person. The dollar limit was $50. I drew my sister, Laura's, name, and since she is expecting her first child in March, I wanted to get her something that was really meaningful, to help her understand how excited and happy I am about the impending arrival of my little nephew.

I decided on this Tiny Name Charm Necklace from Three Sisters Jewelry Design by Zoe. Not only do I love the name of this website (Three Sisters!), but this necklace was the perfect price at right around $50. I also had "Reid," the name of my upcoming nephew, engraved on the charm. Laura loved the gift, and tells me she wears the necklace everyday. I'm glad I could get her something so special.

I had heard about the company through People's Style Watch Magazine, and had been wanting to buy something from the site for quite awhile. The craftsmanship on the necklace was top notch, so I most likely will buy again. I love finding unique gifts for my friends and family, though most of the time, I end up getting a gift card, sweater or purse or something typical like that. My friend from college, Laurin, is probably the queen of unique gifts. I will always treasure the Izzie necklace she gave me for my birthday in 2010, and every year she surprises me with something totally unexpected. I wish I could be so creative. Some years, she even makes the gifts. I could never do anything like that.

Magret Duck from di Paolo
After we opened gifts, we spent the rest of the afternoon snacking on appetizers and cookies leftover from the Cookie Party the day before. We also played games, including Bananagrams, and after Laura and her husband went home to tend to their pugs -- we are a pug family -- Chapin and I dressed for our dinner out. We had planned to eat a nice meal out with my other sister, Gail, and her husband, Rich, at one of our favorite Alpharetta eateries: di Paolo Restaurant.

I wore the Royal Purple Nanette Lepore Still Free Shift Dress (no longer available), which I paired with my new Kate Spade New York Women's Gina Platform Pumps in Gold and Kate Spade Sparkler Coin Purse (that I use as a little clutch).

We ordered a bottle of wine (or two), the special bruschetta of the day, and then dug into our entrees. Chapin and Rich both had the duck special: Magret Duck with roasted sweet potatoes, pancetta and an orange duck demi glace. (Check out the picture on the left.) Gail opted for pork and I had fish: the Pan Roasted Grouper with Corn-Mascarpone Risotto. It was just a wonderful meal, as it always is at di Paolo, and I loved getting to try out the risotto. It was delicious!

We ended the night with a game of Taboo with my parents, and drove home just in time to see the ball drop in Times Square. Happy New Year 2012 to all!

With my sister, Gail, on New Year's Eve 2011

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Favorite Things - 2011 Edition

It's time once again for my annual Favorite Things post, where I share some of my favorite finds in skincare, makeup, fashion, entertainment and more. Here are my picks for 2011:

Paige Denim: I know I don't usually show off my jeans wear on this blog, but I am currently in love with the jeans brand Paige Denim. I love my Paige Denim Skyline skinny jeans, because they are so comfortable and stylish they make me forget that they are hugging every inch of my legs. Even more... they make my legs look longer and skinnier than they are in reality. Pajama jeans, they are not. (I actually don't own those. If they do, in fact, make you look fabulous, then leave a comment below. I want to hear from you!)

Color Block Dresses: I know the color blocking trend has been going on in fashion for awhile, but since it's my favorite trend of 2011, I just have to give it a shout out as one of my favorite things. I think it's the simplicity and the subtle play with color evident in every color blocked dress. Plus, each color block dress -- the ones I own, at least -- are professional enough to wear to work, yet still appropriate for dinner or drinks well into the evenings. Jay Godfrey is probably my favorite color blocking designer.

One of my favorite color block dresses (from Jay Godfrey)

The Kindle: I wasn't the first adopter of e-reading, but I think it's safe to say I'll never read a book in the traditional format again. (Although I do love the smell of books... It brings me right back to my childhood.) I received my Kindle from my parents for my 33rd birthday, and I have already read at least 20 books on it. I really only read when I work out in the mornings, so book reading is slow for me... and now the turn of a page is just a push of a button. I love it. 

Bridesmaids on Blu-Ray DVD: Chapin and I don't really buy too many DVDs anymore. With Amazon Prime, cable and On Demand services, it's easier to just push a button on our remote than actually get up off our butts, pick out the DVD, put it in the DVD player, wait for the previews to play, etc. But we did buy Bridesmaids on Blu-Ray DVD the day it was released in stores. This movie just makes us laugh, and I think the friendship at the core of the movie is something that all females can relate to. Who hasn't feared they would lose a best friend to another woman (or to a husband)? Who hasn't lip synced to Wilson Phillips' Hold On? And who hasn't defecated in a wedding boutique sink while suffering from horrible food poisoning? Ha ha. Just kidding about that last one.

Bye Bye Under Eye: I'm forever on the hunt for the perfect under eye concealer, and my favorite choice seems to vary from year to year. In 2011, I discovered Bye Bye Under Eye, my current favorite. The trick is choosing the best color. Go too light, and you look washed out (the raccoon look). Go too dark, and you're probably just making things worse.

Sparkly Nail Polish: I love that the sparkle nail polish trend seems to be growing in popularity; since I'm just about the biggest girlie girl I know, it's an accessory that makes me swoon. I especially love the sparkle polishes from Deborah Lippmann, and the Muppets inspired OPI line. Miss Piggy never looked better.

Lorac Breakthrough Performance Oil-Free Anti-Aging Foundation SPF 14: This Lorac foundation is probably at the top of my makeup necessities list right now (up there with my industrial strength hair dryer). It's not only oil-free (good for my acne prone skin), with SPF and anti-aging properties (essential for my 33-year-old skin), but it comes in a variety of shades, including one with yellow undertones (perfect for my Italian skin). It goes on smoothly and keeps my face looking fresh all day. I encourage you to try to get a free sample if you're interested in trying it out. That's how I discovered this truly fabulous foundation.

King of Pops: Chapin and I discovered the King of Pops, an amazing cold dessert, early in 2011, and surprisingly, it's not a cupcake. The King of Pops, currently available in just three cities, creates these truly sensational treats for the palette. Chapin's favorite flavor is Chocolate Sea Salt, while I have two favorite flavors: the Lemon Ricotta and Banana Pudding. My only request: Don't tell me how many calories are in just one.

Female Domination in Entertainment: In addition to Bridesmaids, 2011 was filled with numerous movies that starred women in leading female roles. The Help, the movie version of that favorite novel of mine, is at the top of that list, but I also enjoyed What's Your Number, Something Borrowed, I Don't Know How She Does It and others. On the small screen, Amy Poehler is amazing me every week on Parks and Recreation. And in the book world, I thoroughly enjoyed Tina Fey's Bossypants, which made me laugh out loud... a lot. Mindy Kaling from The Office also wrote a book last year, which is on my wish list, but I think her "Flick Chicks" article in The New Yorker is also worth a read. Hooray for women!

Scars on 45: I love to discover new bands before the rest of the world, and hopefully one day Scars on 45 will make it big. I love their old school alternative sound, especially in the single "Give Me Something." I could, and have, listened to this song on repeat many, many times before.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

C is for Cookie

A few years ago, I read a wonderful book about a group of women who get together each year to exchange cookies and recipes for their favorite Christmastime treats. The book, The Christmas Cookie Club, by Ann Pearlman, made me want to start my own club. I love cookies, and the holiday season is probably my favorite time of year, so it seemed like a perfect combination for me. Somehow, though, I never got around to organizing one... until 2011.

Although I held the party late (December 30th, 2011), I figured it was still close enough to New Year's to really count as a holiday celebration. It also gave me a chance to wear the sweater my mother-in-law, Sheila, got me for Christmas. I think this green moss sweater, from Ann Taylor Loft, really helps the blue in my eyes stand out. Actress Zoe Saldana (Avatar) likes this sweater, too. She was spotted in the exact same style earlier that month. Here is a picture of me wearing the sweater, and posing with my sisters, on the day of the party. (I look exhausted because I had to work earlier that day, and I had been up late the night before baking.)

I really debated about what cookie to make for the party. I thought I might make Pecan Sandies, the cookies my mom has made every Christmas for as long as I can remember. We actually baked them together the weekend before Christmas this year, and they turned out wonderfully (and are so easy to make, too). Whenever I bite into one, it's like I'm biting into a piece of my childhood. And they are so delicious! However, the Sandies are covered in powdered sugar. I brought some to work, and all week you would find a dusting of powdered sugar on the floor, on desks, on the carpeting... I decided they might not be the best choice for a party.

I thought I might do a chocolate chip cookie, or a chocolate chocolate chip cookie, but that seemed like too "vanilla" an option for the cookie party. I love making Oatmeal Scotchies, but again... the recipe is right there on the butterscotch chips package. I wanted to do something extraordinary to share with my friends.

I finally decided on these Oatmeal Cream Cheese Butterscotch Cookie Bars. I had flagged the recipe months before, but had never compiled all the ingredients and actually attempted to make them. One night, the week before the party, I got everything I would need to make them. The night before the party, I started actually making them... and reading through the recipe for the first time. I didn't realize I would have to bake in phases, and zest a lemon (I had no idea how... but I called my husband, who was out of town on a business trip, and he walked me through it), but it worked out.

Although the recipe took longer than I wanted to dedicate to baking that night, they came out so delicious. I have already made them again since the party, so I could bring some to work, and they went over well there as well. I think I found my new favorite butterscotch cookie recipe!

As my friend, Katie, also wrote on her baking blog, KT Kakes, everyone at the party brought so many unique cookies. There were several kinds of sugar cookies, ginger cookies, lemon wreaths, oreo cookies and much more. My sister, Laura, also made the Paula Deen recipe, Meemaw's Kitchen Sink Christmas Cookies (which really impressed me, as they seem quite complicated).

I kind of improvised on the set-up of the cookie sharing: I just made each person stand up, tell a little about the recipe and if it was at all special to them/ why they chose it, and then go around with her cookie platter so each person could sample the cookie. Although my dad wanted to come, I told him it was females only. I think it worked out ok, because everyone seemed to have fun enjoying the cookies. It was a great start to the New Year's weekend!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Perfect Pose

Chapin and I always do an annual Christmas card photo to send out to our friends and family, and this year was no exception. We usually pose in front of the Christmas tree to help bring the holiday spirit into the photo. Of course, we always include George in our photo, since he is an integral part of our little family.

Although he has numerous places to rest his head -- including four beds, couches, pillows, etc. -- if the tree is up, George can usually be found under the tree amongst all the presents.

The photo above was taken just a few hours after the tree went up!

With George's favorite spot in mind, Chapin and I thought it might be a good idea to try having him pose there for our photo, with us standing on either side of him. Our goal was to get him to actually look at the camera. It didn't work... so we tried some other options. Nothing seemed to do the trick, even after about 25 different takes. Here's the photo we finally settled on. I guess having him look at us is better than nothing.

Dress: Nanette Lepore Payback Dress in Teal
Shoes: Betsey Johnson

Long Weekend in the Mountains

The weekend after Thanksgiving, Chapin and I traveled a few hours outside Atlanta to enjoy a long weekend in the mountains with some friends. Although we called it a "cabin," the house we rented in Blairsville, Georgia, was huge, with four bedrooms (a TV and bathroom for each), a game room, living room and enormous kitchen. I don't even know why we started calling it a cabin, because even the website refers to it as "Majestic Lake Manor."

It was a fun weekend, filled with lots of game playing, outdoor walks, reading and... eating. All the couples took turns cooking, and since I don't cook, I assisted Chapin or mainly just helped clean up after all the meals. Rahul made everyone a personal omelet on our first morning, and the next morning, we had shrimp and grits from Kate and Russell. The dinners were divine as well: Chicken marsala a la Chapin one night, and pasta with a Turkish twist on another. I'm sure I gained five pounds just from that weekend alone! I also discovered a great new game that I ended up buying myself when we got home: Bananagrams! As a Words with Friends fanatic, this game is perfect for me!

One of the biggest perks of the "cabin" was that we could all bring our children with us -- our dog children, I mean. George definitely enjoyed the different scenery, and he was generally well behaved... except when we would sit down to eat. He would go around the massive table (it sat ten, I think) to each person, begging for food. Chapin and I were so embarrassed, but that's George for you. We have never been able to break him of this habit. I still remember the day we saw him for the first time. He and his brothers and sisters were all playing together and running after their mama. Well, George was the one running after his mama to get at her teat!

Chapin actually celebrated his 35th birthday during our cabin weekend, so we surprised him with a chocolate and peanut butter cake. I think he was amazed we fussed over him so much, but it's an important birthday, and we couldn't let it go by without at least acknowledging it. He got so embarrassed when we sang "Happy Birthday" to him, but I think he loved it, too.

I spent most of the weekend in jeans and t-shirts, which -- as readers of this blog know -- is not normal for me. The outfit I wore in most of the pictures here was probably my favorite: Paige Premium Denim Skyline Skinny Jeans, v-neck t-shirt from INC International Concepts, Old Navy red ruffle coat (last season).

It was a great weekend that I hope to make an annual tradition!

The Cabin Group (Dec 2011)

Cooking for Family

The Original Five: My Family

The Thanksgiving weekend was a busy one for us. After stuffing our faces on Thursday, Chapin and I spent Friday cleaning, cleaning, cleaning our loft. Although we live in about 1,200 square feet, whenever Chapin and I decide to clean, it's a massive undertaking, mainly because we are both slobs, and don't really clean up unless we think there's any chance someone outside our tight knit crew (that's me, George and Chapin) will witness our mess.

Chapin and His Mom, Sheila

Fortunately, over the Labor Day weekend, we brought bins and bins of clothes to Good Will, and got rid of other junk, old newspapers and magazine, toys and more that was clogging up our small place. So, although the undertaking wasn't as large as usual, it was still a pain in the butt.

Anyway... the reason for our cleaning was because Chapin and I were hosting a dinner Saturday night at our loft for my parents, my sisters and their husbands, and two special out of town guests: my mother-in-law, Sheila, and her husband, Nix. They drove in Friday night, and we treated them to pizza from our favorite pizza place EVER, Antico Pizza.

The next day, we kept football on the TV while Chapin prepared the meal. Although I like to bake, Chapin is definitely the cook in our family. I think it has to do with following your instincts... When it comes to cooking, I don't have any! I can follow a recipe, but that's about it. I measure the right amount of flour, sugar, butter, etc., but I don't usually improvise. Chapin will taste something and know it needs sage or more salt or a dash of red pepper. Maybe he just has more refined taste buds. In fact, that's probably the case.

Chapin had a whole menu planned for the night:
The Appetizer

Bruschetta with Ricotta, Honey and Fresh Tomatoes

Main Course:
(1) Chicken Parmesan
(2) Baked Ziti (courtesy of my mom!)
(3) Brussels Sprouts (Chapin's version are really very good!)

Leftover Thanksgiving pies

Red wine from Alpha Omega

We enjoyed sharing our favorite wine with our family. We discovered Alpha Omega on our trip to San Francisco in 2010, and now, it's hard for me to drink the cheap wine (Middle Sister) I used to love. Chapin says I am too used to the good stuff!

Chapin worked really hard preparing the meal, and every bite was delicious. It was so wonderful to spend an evening with family on a weekend where we are especially thankful for each other.

And in case you are wondering, I am wearing an Ella Moss dress that I've had for years. Sheila said it was her favorite dress from the Fashion Challenge, so I wore it especially for her.


Thanks Be

Thanksgiving 2011 was very special to me because I had the opportunity to spend time with both of my families: my parents, sisters and their husbands, as well as my husband's mother and step-father.

With my sisters: Thanksgiving Day 2011

Chapin and I rotate holidays between our respective families, and for 2011, we were due to spend Thanksgiving in Georgia with my family, and Christmas in Alabama with his family. My sisters and sister-in-law try to stay on the same schedule so we can all be together, and this year was no exception.

The Thanksgiving Day started out very nicely... an opportunity to sleep in! I got a quick workout in (thank you, Jillian Michaels), and then we headed over to The Pie Shop to pick up the pies we ordered for dessert.

With my handsome hubby

The Pie Shop was doing a limited menu for the holiday week, so we decided on Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie and Chocolate Ganache Pie. My family is chock full of chocolate lovers (especially my dad), so we knew that both choices would go over well with the group. (We were right.) Although the pies are pricey (around $30 each), they were certainly delicious. What a treat!

The Dessert Table!

As for my dress that day, because I had to wear a dress, I decided on this beautiful Nanette Lepore In Disguise dress in Raspberry. I love the color! I also think the photo above with my sisters is one of the best of us ever. Thank you, Rich, for being the day's photographer. He even got this great shot of George enjoying the sun in front of my parents' front door:

George enjoying the sun
Alhough I have had to deal with sadness and heartache over my 33 years -- Izzie's illness and death, losing my Grandma T. and Grandpa F. -- I know I have a lot to thankful for in my life.
  • I have a wonderful husband who loves me and who always puts my needs ahead of his own.
  • My son, George, has tied with Chapin for the love of my life... to be loved by a pug is a wonderful thing.
  • I have healthy parents and siblings who are all happy and content in their lives.
  • I have a wonderful extended family, especially my husband's family, who treats me like I am their own daughter/ sister.
  • I have a good job, where I am leading a full team and helping decide on the direction of my own business. It's amazing to go home each day and know I have accomplished something significant!
  • I have good friends who I know will be there for me when I need them.
  • I have had opportunities to travel and to expand my education, and I definitely feel fulfilled

Happy Thanksgiving - We should give thanks not just once a year, but everyday.

How to Marry a Vampire

My office closed early on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so I was able to meet up with both of my sisters for a showing of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1. I had other movies higher up on my "must see" list, but my little sisters were insistent, so we watched Bella finally marry her vampire love, Edward.

As a fashionista, I was excited to see the wedding dress chosen for the film. There was a lot of speculation over the designer and the overall look of the dress leading up to the film's release, which made me all the more curious.

The designer is the ultra-glam Carolina Herrera. I often associate Ms. Herrera with Renee Zelwegger, who is frequently seen in the designer's creations for red carpet events. Ms. Herrera has been a staple of the fashion industry for years, and even dressed cultural icon Jackie O, so I think she was a good choice. Her designs are usually hit or miss with me - I either love them or hate them - and as you will see I had mixed reviews of the wedding dress for this film.

Ms. Herrera said of the wedding dress for Bella in Town and Country Weddings:

"I took into consideration the character of Bella and Kristen’s portrayal of her, and what this fantasy character would choose to wear for the most important day of her life."

The dress is probably being knocked off around the world for all the adoring young brides who so love the series. To be honest, though, I felt the dress was a little matronly when viewed from the front. Bella is supposed to be an 18-year-old bride, and I'm not sure the long sleeves and high neck were age appropriate.

The back, though, is where you see some sexiness and youthfulness come into the design:

I love all the beading and detail in the dress, and the long veil is simply breathtaking. I even like her hair piece! In a year of famous wedding dresses (hello, Kate Middleton), I think this one stood out, although it's probably not ever going to make my list of the most beautiful wedding dresses in the world.

Taylor Lautner (Jacob)
As for the movie itself, I am Team Edward, but you had to feel sorry for Jacob, who I am happy to report takes off his shirt several times during the movie. These young actors sure have stunning bodies!

Chapin and I read this series of books several years ago during our annual car trips. (I read aloud to him while he drives.) The books are not well written, and the movies are not much better, a combination of over-the-top acting and cliched dialogue. This movie at least had the mention of sex, which the previous movies lacked. It was written by a Mormon, after all.

Still, I would have rather seen The Muppets.

On a final note, let me just say as a forever Buffy-Angel fan... where were all these vampire crazed fans during those shows' runs? That show had all the ingredients of The Twilight saga taken to the nth degree:

  • Love triangle (Angel - Buffy - Spike)
  • Forbidden love (a vampire slayer in love with a... vampire)
  • Excellent writing using the supernatural as a metaphor for the dramas in a young girl's life
  • Intense acting and development over almost a decade that made you care for the characters
If you are a Twilight fan and have never watched an episode off Buffy the Vampire Slayer or its spin-off, Angel, please do immediately!

Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) and David Boreanaz (Angel)