Sunday, September 2, 2012

Almost Famous

A few weeks ago, a photographer from The New York Times came to my office to take pictures to accompany a story that was going to run in its August 15th edition. The story focused on Puneet Mehta, my business partner, and a past effort to get a marketing company up and running. Local Marketing, Inc., our current company, was mentioned only briefly toward the end of the article.

I knew that being included in the photo was a definite long shot, but like any fashionista, I had to thoroughly prepare for the possibility.

Shoshanna Plum Sateen Dress and Kate Spade Slingback Pumps

I decided I wanted to wear one of my favorite, flattering and most professional dresses for the photo shoot, so I chose the Shoshanna Plum Sateen Pleated Cap Sleeve Dress. I absolutely adore this dress for its beguiling color, waist-enhancing silhouette, and simple cap sleeves that slim the arm.

The dress in this plum color is no longer available, but here's the same dress in a pink floral pattern: Shoshanna Hibiscus Jacquard Charlotte Plated Dress.

I paired the dress with my (current) favorite pair of work shoes: the Kate Spade Celeste Slingback Pumps in black leopard. These Kate Spade shoes are still available online at in a different color, and you can find the same color in just a few sizes (and on sale, too) at Eve's Apple.

If you like this dress, I've found a few others online that have a similar silhouette, so I hope you will check them out if you are in the market for a new addition to your closet:

Cusp: Shoshanna Allison Tweed Dress

Saks Fifth Avenue: Shoshanna Metallic Jacquard Dress

ShopBop: Shoshanna Antonia Print Dress

Nordstrom: Tahari Belted Dress (Petites) -- on sale!

Bluefly:  Calvin Klein Cap Sleeve Belted Dress --under $100

Happy shopping!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Homegrown Fashion

Wearing the Nanette Lepore Cosmic Crepe Dress
The fashion world is definitely not without its controversies. One major topic that seems at the top of everyone's lists this summer is over high-end, American fashion designers outsourcing their clothing manufacturing, resulting in lost American jobs and revenue. Made in the U.S.A.? Made in China is more like it.

Even the Ralph Lauren-designed Team USA Summer 2012 Olympic uniforms turned out to be produced overseas. While that fact certainly did not cast a pallor over the Olympic Games -- though, it seems to me, that if any one item of clothing is made here, the Team USA Olympic uniform should be it -- it did turn up the heat on American designers who choose profit over patriotism.

It also got me thinking about my own closet, and what items gracing my shelves are made more cost efficiently outside the United States. It turns out... a lot.

Of course, a few of those labels make a point to produce as much clothing as possible in the United States, in areas like New York City's famed Garment District. Nanette Lepore is one of the most outspoken designers on her stance to keep her clothing made in the U.S.A. She appeared on an episode of Project Runway All-Stars, and part of the challenge for the designers involved factoring in the cost of American production when making their creations. She also talked to CNN earlier this summer about her outrage over the Team USA Olympic uniforms:

My friend, Taryn, actually brought this issue to my attention a few years ago, when we bonded over our love of Nanette Lepore clothing. She told me that she purchased a top, knowing full well that Nanette Lepore's clothes were made in NYC, and discovered later that the label read "Made in China." She was outraged, and wrote a letter to the company to tell them so. What is shocking is that she actually received a reply. The truth was, they told her, if her top had been produced here, then it would have cost so much money most people would not have been able to afford it. That broke my heart.

A recent article in the NY Daily News highlighted the issue of American clothing manufacturing as well, showing that Nanette Lepore isn't the only designer who is making an effort to bring clothing manufacturing back to the United States. Shoshanna, another of my favorite designers, also produces some of her clothing here. It's not a giant leap, but it's at least a first step.

Nanette Lepre Cio Cio San Dress with BCBGMaxAxria Sandals

I've highlighted just two of the Nanette Lepore dresses in my closet on this post. If you're interested in shopping for Nanette Lepore clothing, shop her website, Each product page, like this one, shows where the item was made, and most of them proudly boast, "Made in New York City."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Life's a Peach!

One of my favorite designers is Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss.  (Before she became famous as a designer, you may have known her as Jerry Seinfeld's 17-year-old girlfriend. He dated her for a chunk of the 90s.) The dresses she designs are beautifully cut, well made, and almost always exhibit my favorite combination of classy and feminine. Plus, they are designed for women with realistic proportions (hips and boobs). As she explains on her website:

"I found that there were not any wearable, beautiful clothes out there for someone with my body type. I could never find a halter dress or strapless top that offered support for women who usually need to wear a bra. That experience inspired me to create the pieces that make up the core of my collection." --Shoshanna

I have a good number of Shoshanna dresses in my closet, though I always have to buy them on sale. Bluefly usually has a good collection of her designs, and you can also find them on Lord & Taylor, Saks and, to name just a few stores that carry her line. (She also designs some beautiful bathing suits and bikinis.)

This peach dress, the Shoshanna Coral Stretch Ponte Cap Sleeve Dress, is currently sold out, but is one of my favorite work dresses. I love its simple yet elegant look, and the peach-coral color really pops. It's especially great to wear during the Spring and Summer months when that color really works - and when you have tanned skin to serve as a nice contrast.

Shoshanna Dress with Kate Spade Shoes

I wore the dress on our recent trip to Italy - during a night out in Milan - and also several times to the office.

If the dress looks familiar, there may be a reason why. The dress was seen on Leah Michelle's character, Rachel Berry, on Glee, as well as on actress Gabrielle Union at an event last year. Who do you think wore it best?

Actress Gabrielle Union in Shoshanna
I have compiled a few dresses that are similar to this dress if you love the look - the fit and flare style is very 50s... and very on trend at the moment:

Calvin Klein Short Sleeve Dress - Macy's

Kate Spade New York Jane Dress - Bloomingale's

Emily & Fin Too Much Fun Dress in Bubbles - ModCloth

Calvin Klein Pleated A-Line Dress - Macy's

Shoshanna Red Brittany Dress - Saks Fifth Avenue

Nanette Lepore Modernista Dress - Saks Fifth Avenue

Shoshanna Clementine Dress - Cusp

Happy shopping!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Wooed by Wu

Ever since Jason Wu emerged onto the scene with his stunning gown for Michelle Obama at the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Ball, I have been a huge fan of his work. He has a fresh style that manages to be both feminine and classy, whether it's a wear-to-work sheath dress or a gorgeous frock for a special occasion.

But his designs will cost you - usually several thousand dollars.

That's why I was so excited when he paired up with Target back in February 2012. I was there at my local Target store very early on Sunday morning, February 5th, 2012, so I could have my pick of the best styles in my size. I think I arrived at the store about 15 minutes after it opened - and even by then, everything had already been picked through. The one dress I wanted, a cute navy blue poplin dress with red and white accents, was no longer on the rack in the my size. I was so upset (disappointed).

Dress and Purse: Jason Wu for Target

I tried on a few things, and ended up with a purse and a shell in a fabulous aquamarine color that I knew I could wear under a suit. But THE DRESS eluded me. As I emerged from the dressing room with my new items, I spotted the dress on the rack of discards that hadn't yet made it back into the store. I quickly looked through the sizes... no size 4. But I would not give up hope yet!

I stood my ground, and a few more people came out with the dress, but not in my size. Finally... hope. A young woman came out of the dressing room with the dress, and I quickly saw it was in my size. However, another young woman had the same idea I'd had, and we reached the dress about the same time. I was adamant, though - I'd been standing there much longer than the other woman, and I wasn't about to give up that dress. I could see the sales girl wanting to side with the other woman, because I was very clear (and truthful) that I had been waiting there longer. I knew the sales girl had seen me, too. Finally, the other woman gave up, and the dress was mine. I grabbed it and ran to the register. I did not want to spend any more time there. I'm not a violent person, and I HATE confrontation, so that took a lot out of me. I guess you could say I just really wanted that dress.

In recent news, after the success of his Target collaboration, Jason Wu will be launching a new line called Miss Wu that will hit Nordstrom stores in January 2013. According to the news articles I read on the announcement, the line will start at about $195, which puts it much more in my price point that his high end, thousand-dollar designs. I am super excited to see what he will come up with for the lower priced line.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Check Out This Author

I've mentioned before on this blog how much I love to read, and one of my favorite authors is Australian Liane Moriarty. I recently finished her novel, The Hypnotist's Love Story, and if you are looking for a fun, fast read that's a perfect complement to poolside lounging - look no further.

Last year I wrote to Ms. Moriarty to tell her how much I enjoyed her 2011 novel, What Alice Forgot, and to my delight and surprise, she actually responded. So, like the dork I am at heart, I decided to write her again when I finished The Hypnotist's Love Story. And, again, she wrote me back. How cool is that?! I've included our recent correspondences below, and definitely check out all Ms. Moriarty's books on Amazon's Liane Moriarty Page.

Happy reading!

July 10, 2012

Dear Ms. Moriarty,

Hello! I don't know if you remember me, but I wrote to you last year while I was reading What Alice Forgot. I am such a huge fan of your writing, and eagerly awaited the publication of your latest novel in the US. In fact, I almost ordered it from an Australian site before it was even out here! I just finished it today, and it was another hit. I loved the character of Ellen - she was so real! - and it was interesting to see another side of a stalking case like that. I wasn't sure about Patrick and Ellen until the end, and then, of course, I'm glad they ended up together. What an intriguing idea for a book - not just the hypnotism side of things, but the whole story.
Australian Cover
I'm sure you hear praise like that all the time! You are fabulous, and I just wish I had a new Liane Moriarty novel to look forward to more often. Do you ever think about going on a book tour in the US? I tell everyone I know about your novels, but more people should definitely know about you.
My husband and I were recently on a vacation in Italy, and we met up with so many Australians. One couple was seated right next to us at a dinner in Milan, and so we got to talking. The wife loved to read, and I told her all about you. I was shocked she hadn't heard of you! :)
Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for another wonderful read.

Dear Michele, 
Who was that Australian in Italy who didn’t know my books? What sort of Australian was she? Thank goodness you were there to set her straight. (Actually, I am extremely envious – a trip to Italy would be wonderful right now, although I have to admit I don’t even have a valid passport at the moment, that’s how home-body-ish I’ve become.)
I’m so glad you enjoyed The Hypnotist’s Love Story and I’m VERY grateful that you’re recommending my books to people. I’m sure a book tour in the US will be on the cards some day, although I think need to write and sell a few more books before my publisher will feel justified in bringing me out, so in the meantime I’ll have to depend on you to keep telling your friends. When and if I do get there, I will look forward to meeting you and thanking you personally for all your wonderful support.
With very best wishes,
Liane Moriarty
PS. Hope your George is not being as naughty as mine is right now...

Monday, July 16, 2012

La Dolce Vita

Chapin and I recently traveled to Italy, a dream vacation a decade in the making. We spent ten wonderful days exploring Milan (fashion capital!), Rome, and Florence and all their culinary, artistic and scenic wonders.

My wonderful husband, Chapin, waited to give me my 34th birthday present so that we could pick something out together on our trip. He ended up buying me this beautiful Dolce & Gabbana Stretch Crepe and Lace Dress at the Dolce & Gabbana store in Rome, Italy.

Chapin took this picture of me at home in Atlanta. It was a windy evening in June, and -- surprisingly for Atlanta in summer -- it wasn't too hot yet. I really love the juxtaposition of the city and the dress in this photo, because it seems to mirror the combination of the crepe and lace in the dress itself. This dress is just the epitome of cosmopolitan chic.

Plus, I love how the fabric hugs my curves. These two men sure know how to dress a woman's body.

I was thrilled to discover as I was writing this post that several celebrities have been spotted in the dress:

The actress Liv Tyler wore the dress to the 2012 Golden Globes InStyle and Warner Brothers After Party. Liv was more demure, pairing the dress with a wrap. She is seen in the photo posing with actress Kate Beckinsale.

Actress Deborah Ann Woll also wore a tricked out version of the dress for Entertainment Weekly's 2012 cover shoot of the True Blood cast. I think the dress is perfect for a vampire, don't you?

At least I'm in good company wearing this sexy dress!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Polka Dot Print

If you liked Natalie Portman's Dior Haute Couture polka dot dress at this year's Oscars, then you will want to check out the Nanette Lepore Want Me Dress.

This Nanette Lepore dress is on sale now ($328 reduced to just $131.20) and comes in two different color options: black/white and black/violet. Hurry, though, because only limited sizes are available. I prefer the black and violet version, because -- like on Natalie's dress -- the polka dots seem a little more subtle.

The dress is also available at the following retailers:

I did not think polka dots would work for an event as elite and elegant as the Oscars, but Natalie pulled it off. I love her whole look here, especially the gorgeous Harry Winston diamond v-shaped necklace she sports around her neck. Now where can I get some bling like that?

Nanette Lepore Want Me Party Dress

Baby Shower Fashion

My sister, Gail, and I recently threw a baby shower for our little sister, Laura, who is expecting her first child -- a boy! -- this March. My nephew, Reid Payne, is due to enter the world on March 17th, and my family is so very excited about the new addition to our family.

Me (left) posing with my pregnant sister, Laura
My mom was integral to the planning of the shower. With work being so crazy lately, and Gail doing what she could from Nashville, I think the baby shower was such a success because of her dedication and arts and crafts savvy. (I wish I could be more like that... but I'm terrible with crafts and any kind of homemade project.)

Highlights from the baby shower include:

  • Zaxby's food! Laura had a craving for Zaxby's chicken fingers, so we served them, along with Zax Sauce, and a selection of chicken sandwiches and salads.
  • Blue frosted vanilla cupcakes courtesy of my favorite cupcake place, CamiCakes.
  • A beautiful chocolate jungle-themed cake with koala cake topper to match the shower invitation and nursery theme from KT Kakes (and my best friend since 1994, Katie K.). Katie has her own blog, and writes about the experience of creating this cake here.

  • Tables: We decided to use stuffed animals as table decorations so that Laura could keep them for the nursery after the shower was over. We included a pug -- Laura has two of her own -- along with a giraffe, elephant and monkey.
  • Diaper Cake: My mom created a beautiful diaper cake with a koala on top that matched the real cake. Laura's nursery is koala themed, so we wanted to included koalas in some of the shower decorations. It's also great because Laura gets to keep all the diapers!
  • Party Plates: We also found plates and napkins with a cute jungle theme print to match the decor... at The Dollar Tree! (I couldn't find the exact ones online, but they are included in the picture above and feature an elephant, lion and other animals.)
  • Baby Clothes: My mom found some clothes that Laura wore as a baby, and strung them on a clothesline along with some new clothes for Reid.
Entry way featuring the Diaper Cake


We had a few fun games that we played during the shower:
  • Trivia: I had fun creating the entertainment, history and baby themed questions for the trivia game. Do you know what 1988 movie starred Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth McGovern as a couple trying to have a baby? Could you pinpoint the year that Mother's Day became a national holiday? Do you know where Katherine Heigl worked in Knocked Up? Could you name the original Gerber baby? If so, you may have done well during the game.
  • Guessing Game: Guests saw a jar of animal crackers when they came into the venue. They had to guess how many were in the jar! 
  • Onesies! To make the present opening time a little more fun for guests, we had them each guess how many onesies Laura would receive as presents.
  • Belly Measuring: Guests had to take a gander at the measurement of Laura's pregnant belly. This picture is probably my favorite shot from the day:
Measuring Laura's belly
We think Laura's guests had a great time!

As for the fashion, Gail and I decided that we both would wear shades of blue in honor of the baby boy shower. I chose my new Nanette Lepore Local Vine Dress in Teal, which I am completely in love with. For some reason, the bodice started rippling, and I'm wondering if it may need some boning to keep the shape. Perhaps that is something I will attempt to add one day! You can still buy the dress on It was originally $378, but it's available for $151.20. I fortunately got it on sale with my Christmas money! The dress also comes in black and raspberry, as well as a dark gray.

This dress would work on a variety of different body types due it's A-line design. The belt helps showcase a tiny waist, and the cap sleeves help slim the arm. The teal and raspberry are my favorite colors... I love bright colors because they can work on so many different skin tones.

The dress is exceptionally well made, too, and definitely worth the sale price. You can find so many great deals on Nanette Lepore's dress sale page. Happy shopping!

Posing with my mom and sisters

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)