Friday, September 28, 2012

Date Night

Do you still go on dates with your fiancee or husband?  To me it feels so fun to get out of the house and do something we used to when we were first dating. Dinner and a movie, ice skating, walking around--whatever it is, just spending time together.  And I feel like it's almost more fun when you've planned it and set aside time in advance.  It gives me something super fun to look forward to all Friday!

We've been trying to save some money for house renovations and the wedding, so our "going out" fund has been cut back a bit. That's why I'm so excited I scored some free movie tickets. We're going to go out for our first dinner in a while and then see a movie--the perfect Friday date night!

Tomorrow I'm really hoping we can convince ourselves to get up early for the farmer's market. I lived in Ohio and went to the amazing North Market in Columbus every Saturday. I'm not sure what to expect here...probably more of the "real deal" in terms of people setting up stalls and selling their wears. Anyway--super excited to try cooking something new with fresh, organic ingredients!

So what are your weekend plans? Fun dates, relaxing? Any farmer's market junkies? Whatever it is, I hope you have a great one!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Spaces

Do you ever find yourself getting antsy waiting to start your next project?  I stumble upon a gorgeous bathroom or kitchen photo and just like that I'm ready to go!

As if the room isn't amazing enough--check out that ocean view! Can you imagine?

Now I know once I actually get to work, I might get a bit burned out. I know I'll be surprised by costs I didn't see coming, etc, but for right now the inspiration is going strong and all I can think about is making my bathroom/kitchen into everything it currently isn't: chic, fun, contemporary.

Beautiful black and white inspiration! I love how the floor adds color and character.
We bought the house knowing that it needed some updating, and it is definitely fun to leave your mark on a place. Plus nothing beats the feeling of walking into your new room the day after you finished and enjoying that hard work.  The peace, happiness, and just plain rightness of the new space is striking.

This has a more traditional feel, and I love the character and classiness that it provides.

So tell me: do you get antsy waiting to start on a project, home or otherwise? Has that energy carried through the project for you? How did it turn out?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wedding Hair

I've been thinking on and off about how I'd like to wear my hair for our wedding.  There are sooo many options, and I love that today's versatility lets brides be more themselves.

While I love the look of long, Hollywood-style waves, my hair is about shoulder-length so even if I let it grow for the next seven months, that unfortunately won't be an option for me.  I talked things over with my hairdresser and she also gave me a thought: updo's take a bit to get into place, but they'll stay that way. Your look will be pretty consistent throughout the night since it has structure to hold it in place. And gobs of hairspray. :)  Plus it's less susceptible to humidity/frizziness or losing its volume.

So I've been looking to the red carpet and wedding sites for inspiration, here are three that I'm loving:

Jennifer Morrison's beautiful loose bun. Love the tendrils around her face!
Dianna Argon--always great for hair inspiration.
And this lovely bride featured on

Do you have a favorite? Or another inspiration picture you're loving? Or better yet: a picture of your own wedding hair? I'd love to hear!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Shoe Obsession

Dear shoes: I have a mild obsession with you. Please join my closet. Thanks!

Your pal,

T-strap, pointy toed heels--hot! Thakoon NYFW Fall/Winter 2012 Collection
After taking a drill to the existing closet organizer to better accommodate my shoes, I was informed that I may have a shoe obsession.  Guilty as charged!

While (perhaps fortunately) my budget won't allow me to get every new pair I fall in love with, I do find myself collecting more shoes than I have in the past.  In college I was under a much tighter budget, and also had to contend with the practicality of my shoes. Well...sometimes. I'll admit I didn't always think through exactly how far I'd have to walk in a hot new pair. (I'm sure you've been there?) But I digress... :)  So now I've begun setting aside a bit of money for shoes and I've found that they tend to fall into one of two categories: stylish for work, or fun for going out/going to weddings.

Absolute classic!  Would LOVE to go to work in these.

I've also become a bit hooked on the flash sale sites like Gilt or Rue La La to enable my shoe collecting. Have you tried any? I guess why not get a discounted designer brand for just a bit more than I'd spend at the mall?  Nothing against the mall!  But I'd like to think the quality of some of the brands available on the flash sites is more than I could afford under standard circumstances. I could be wrong, but for now I'm enjoying splurging every once in a while on a more expensive pair.

In any event, my latest purchase is supposed to arrive today--some cute Cole Haan booties! And then I'll (try to) lay off for a while--promise!

Cole Haan Air Swan Booties
I'm so excited about these, especially for fall/winter.  Phoenix doesn't see snow, so I'll be able to wear the heels without worry while still giving a cool weather vibe to my outfit.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on using flash sites verses making scores in person.  I've definitely had good luck both ways.  And if you have any favorite shoes for fall--do tell! :)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Kitchen Dreaming

Do you ever see a room that resonates with you, one that you’d love to walk into every day?  This kitchen does that for me—just strikes a chord. 

Our house has saltillo tile running through the family room and kitchen that we frankly weren’t sure what to do with.  Those red tones seemed daunting to style around, but we knew one thing: the tan textured walls that were there just weren’t doing it for us!  Enter this image: the beautiful blue-gray wall color and dark woods contrast nicely with the red tone of the brick floor.  It adds a lot of interest yet creates a soothing, well-thought-out environment.  

While we aren’t yet able to remodel our kitchen, we did put this color combination to work in our family room.  Because our tiles have a slightly bolder tone (and are more in the orange family) than the bricks shown, we chose darker wood to compensate.  Overall I love the effect!  And I think the before and after pictures really say it all.  The changes?  New paint on the walls (we used Behr’s Premium Plus in the eggshell finish and managed with one coat) followed by painting and installing baseboard (this time in a white semi-gloss).  We also pained the existing sconces bracketing the fireplace white to match the baseboard. There was a decent amount of sweat equity (more than I expected going in, honestly), but I think the end results are worthwhile.
Before: This is actually the listing photo from the previous owners. Super sweet older couple.
After: Gray walls and white baseboard.

There are still a few things I'd like to tweak, but I'd like to think the overall effect is cleaner and more inviting. Obviously, to each his own tastes, but it was a neat project.  From here? I'm thinking either a graphic rug or some graphic throw pillows to add interest. I'd also love to stain the mantle a dark brown to match the book cases.

So, any advice?  Yeeeah... before painting, go over your walls more thoroughly than we did.  The texturing on the walls disguised some problem areas that we should have fixed before painting. Instead we wound up having to go back afterward, and some parts still aren’t quite right.  Other thoughts?  I think the baseboard was a huge change for the better.  The old trim was plain and colored to match the walls, now we have extra detail and contrast that I think makes the room look more interesting.  Ok, biased opinion. :)  Big caveat: this was a lot of work.  I may post a tutorial later on how we (read: my fiancee) installed baseboard, but just know that you'll probably want to invest in some tools (the air compressor and nail gun were a life saver!) and some extra boards just in case. :)

Have you remodeled a room?  Did you use a picture as inspiration or did you create your own vision?  And the big one: did everything go as planned?  I hope so!  Either way, hopefully the end result was worth it.  I think more than anything it gave a feeling of making the house "ours".  Which is all I could've hoped for.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Finding Fall

I live in Arizona, so fall is more of a feeling than an actual season. I'm a northerner at heart and desperately miss those first cool days, especially as the leaves begin to change. So I try to embrace the season through colors, wearing more saturated, rich tones as apposed to bright poppy summer colors. And that includes my nails.

Initially I was afraid to venture beyond the safe realm of pale pinks and french nails, convinced that anything darker/bolder would be too harsh against my pale skin.  But once I did--oh baby, there was no going back!  So in honor of fall, I've found a new shade: OPI's Every Month is Oktoberfest.  The name may have swayed me too. :)  I may be jumping the gun a bit, but as October rolls around, I think this will make the perfect nail color: a dark and moody plum with a hint of gorgeous red sparkle.

OPI's Every Month is Oktoberfest Polish

If you're not quite ready to take the full plunge into a dark shade, another one I've been loving is Chanel Le Vernis Nail Colour in Peridot.  It's a very unique combination of gold and green, which seems perfect as the leaves are changing (elsewhere...lucky ducks!).

Chanel Le Vernis Nail Colour in Peridot
I just love how this polish gives a dramatic color change, it's very fun to catch a glimpse of during the day!  I think you'll definitely get compliments. :)

So tell me: what are your favorites shades?  Has one leaped out as the perfect start of fall color?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Coffee Craving

While I’d love to make a commitment to eating healthy all the time, I desperately need those little cheater moments to keep me going.  But no reason those can’t be slimmed down, right?  My theory is if I’m absolutely craving something, I’ll let myself have it in moderation.  So: enter the slimmed white mocha.  Because let’s face it: some days require coffee.

What I use: ground espresso from a local coffee house, Sugar Free White Chocolate Syrup by Torani, Sugar Free House White Chocolate by 5Sparrows, nonfat milk, ice, and of course an espresso machine. 

The white chocolate by 5Sparrows is a powder, almost like small white chocolate shavings and it gives either iced or hot mochas a nice creaminess. It's especially helpful if you're using skim milk.  However, I like a lot of flavor in my mocha so I use the white chocolate syrup to add flavor without calories. The two products pair nicely and give you flavor and creaminess without a huge calorie spike--bonus!

So here's my process for creating an iced mocha. You could easily omit the ice and get similarly good results for a hot mocha. Just microwave your milk for a minute before adding your syrup.

2 shots freshly brewed espresso
2 tablespoons sugar free house white chocolate by 5Sparrows
1 cup nonfat milk
1 tablespoon sugar free white chocolate syrup by Torani
1 handful of ice

Begin by brewing about 2 shots of espresso.  Feel free to use less or more to taste (or based on how how awake you'd like to feel after. :) )

Mix in the 5Sparrows house white chocolate, stir until completely disolved.

Next you'll prep the cold part of the drink: pour a cup of milk into a glass.  Add the white chocolate syrup and ice, stir to combine.

 And the final step: combine these two halves into a delicious white chocolate mocha. Enjoy!

Made this way, the final calorie count is about 184. So while it'll cost you a bit more than a skinny flavored latte, you're still not in astronomical territory. It's certainly better than your garden-variety white chocolate mocha (even if those do taste amazing!). Next we'll have to try adding sugar free peppermint syrup for the holidays. :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Big Decisions

It seems that despite our best intentions, life sometimes gets away from us. In the interim since my last post, so much has happened!  We traveled across country to try caterers and take engagement pictures, family visited for the first time to see our new place, we tried several new local restaurants, a lot of wedding dress shopping happened (more on that later!), we received our engagement photos, and this past weekend was my fiancee’s birthday.  Whew!

Wedding planning just jumped to the foreground of my world.  I’m in a rush to make all the big important decisions only to realize…wait: there are still hundreds of decisions left!  And I don’t feel overwhelmed (yet, haha, no doubt that will change in 6 months!). I think we’re attacking these decisions early enough to get a good handle on things before the wedding.  I’ve just realized that I have to break things down into categories and attack them one at a time.

So the first important decision?  The dress.  My sister commented that everything else is nice and all, but it really is all about the dress. I don’t know how true that is, but while my mom and the groom’s mom were in town, I definitely made use of their time to try on a ton of dresses and gather opinions.  After a day of looking (and three bridal shops later), we were narrowed down to two top contenders. Making matters worse, the dresses were very similar in silhouette, just extremely different in finishing touches.  They definitely had different personalities. 

Side note: for those of you who haven’t tried wedding dress shopping, it’s definitely an experience.  The dresses in the store are typically size 10-12 or so, and the associates either clamp you into the dress (literally pulling the dress snug against your body and using industrial clamps or pins to secure the shape) or add an additional fabric piece to the back of the dress to “let it out”.  Sounds strange (it was a little weird for the first few), but it definitely gives you a feel for the silhouette of the dress and how it will move around your body.  Pretty clever, actually!

So back to the exciting part, here were my top two choices:

Both were fit-to-flair style, which worked very well with my pear-shape. And for you smaller on top ladies, no worries: the dresses have boning and fit tight enough that all the weight is supported around your waist and you can definitely pull off a strapless! No adjusting/tugging all night. This was pretty much the best piece of news I discovered all month.

And for grins and giggles, here is a picture of me pinned into the second dress--they do a surprisingly good job, no?

So my advice for brides-to-be: try on a lot of dresses, take your time, and it's totally ok to go back to the store and try it on again.  In fact, I'd definitely advise trying on your top few choices back-to-back (even if they're at different locations) to make that final decision. I fully understand the "you only get to do this once" pressure of finding the perfect dress. So I sent out pics of me in both dresses and polled a ton of friends, but ultimately the decision was mine.  There was a certain feeling for the dress.  As one of the associates put it: think about what you want the groom to see, of how you'll feel walking toward him in that dress. That's the important part.