Friday, December 30, 2011

Holiday wishes

I hope you had a wonderful holiday!
My Christmas and my whole vacation has been absolutely amazing, with an unending streak of great family and friends. I am glad I didn't promise to write everyday while I was gone, because it's definitely been a whirlwind. There's so much to tell you that I will definitely need to get organized again once I'm back home and do a serious catching up entry! I also have some exciting news to share! But for now, I at least wanted to drop you a line and say hello.

Tell me about your holiday and your plans for New Years Eve! xx

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cozy nights + Christmas lights

How was your weekend?
Mine was quite nice. On Friday night, Steve and I had a couple close friends over for a little Christmas get-together/sleepover (not just for teenagers anymore, oh, no!). We made a pot roast dinner in the slow cooker, made some ready-to-bake chocolate chip cookies (just as delicious as the ones you have to mix up yourself, I say!) and experimented with some different cocktails, and  "Sassy Little Elf" martinis. I quite enjoyed playing bartender. I must say, this was a very easy way to throw a nice, cozy little soiree without spending a ton of money (even to feed everyone a hearty meal - crock pot meals are genius and so simple!) or putting in a ton of effort. Light some candles around the apartment and put on a pop Christmas pandora or iTunes station, and you're set! It was a fun night, which we ended by watching "Love Actually".

We stayed up until 5am, crazily enough! When we were all finally awake the next day, we cooked up a pancake breakfast. Always a good way to start a Saturday. The rest of the day was pretty chill. 

 "Sassy Little Elf":
2 oz. X-Rated Fusion Liquor
1 1/2 oz. vodka
1 1/2 oz. guava juice
1 oz. half and half
1/2 oz. lemon juice
Pour everything into a cocktail shaker (along with some ice cubes), shake, and strain (so no ice cubes go into the glass) into a martini glass. We garnished the drink with blueberry candy canes (you can hook them on the side, or put them in the bottom of the glass), which explains the blue specks in the photo above.

Major winged eyeliner.

I wore my new fur vest (I wanted it long and baggy, so I bought it in extra large) from Vera Wang's line for Khol's. The $69 item was on sale for $27! Score! Khol's is amazing. I don't know why I don't remember to go there more often.

On Sunday I had a nice walk/jog around the neighborhood, and I gotta say, I love finishing a work out and stopping by the mailbox to find two new magazines waiting for me. It's like a little reward.
Sunday evening, Steve and I ventured out to an annual Christmas light display at a park downtown and then over to a nearby mall that we don't get to very often. We browsed around and grabbed some food court Thai and Japanese food for dinner. Why is mall Asian food so delicious? It's a total guilty pleasure, which unfortunately should probably only be enjoyed on rare occasions.

 Steve and I under the large light-tree at Zilker Park.

Steve and I leave for Arkansas on Tuesday to spend Christmas and New Years Eve. I am super excited about going, even though we were just there for Thanksgiving. I know I'll be running around finishing up my shopping and doing a lot of visiting with family and friends, so I'll go ahead and say right now that I am just going to try to blog whenever I feel the urge and not necessarily stick to my usual schedule.

I hope you have an amazing Christmas, and I'd love to hear your holiday stories!
I'm off to start packing!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In the Navy

I've spent the day making my apartment extra cozy and festive for a little get-together I'm having tomorrow night. I thought it'd be nice to have just a couple close friends over before we all go our separate ways for the holidays.

I'm still deciding on the perfect outfit for tomorrow (something casual, and comfortable for hanging around the house, but also fun and festive!), but I have recently found the perfect manicure for the season. I'm bored of the regular old red or burgundy nails I normally do this time of year, and while I became a big fan of black around Halloween, I wanted something that really represented that Christmas-feeling. Lately, I had been settling on a creamy pale pink color with sparkles (see here), because at least it represented snow (or even champagne...oooh), but I had grown bored of that too. Don't get me wrong though, I WILL be saving that idea for New Years Eve!

The other day, the exact color I needed hit me - Navy! I ran to Target specifically to buy some, and just my luck, Revlon's "Midnight Affair" was on a half price clearance sale! I guess no one else was into that color, but to me, it was perfect! I've been wearing it for a couple weeks now, and loving it, but for the little party tomorrow, I decided to add my sparkles.

I used ICE brand "Spit Fire" for the sparkles. Use your own creativity for how you want to do them. I like to paint just the tips, with sort of a jagged shape at the top. If you like perfectly thin, straight tips, or the whole nail painted, go for it! A lot of times, I like to just add sparkles to one random nail on each hand.

What are some of your favorite holiday-style ideas?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Shopping spirit

Yay, me. I got an appropriate amount of Christmas shopping done today. The weather has been super mild here this week, but unfortunately that has been accompanied with lots of rain. Between that and the usual crowds/traffic (is it just me, or does Christmas shopping suddenly mean it's totally ok for people to just walk into you and act like they don't even notice?), it was a little hectic. But it feels great to get a good chunk of it done, and I'm having so much fun picking out gifts for everyone! Besides the Christmas spirit, here are some "go-to's" that helped me on my shopping trip today:

Raindrops on my coffee!

Shopping fuel:
Starbucks grande soy latte + one Splenda pack

Shopping soundtrack: 
Noel Gallagher's, "High Flying Birds" album, which my brother gave me for my birthday last month. Check out the strings in track one. Beautiful.

Shopping style: 
My knee high boots. Stylish, rain proof, and only a small heel.

To be honest, I got these boots at Payless for $20 or so, about three years ago. They've held up great and I still LOVE them.

Wow, it is absolutely POURING down rain now. I got home just in time!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Let's talk shop

 I was hoping to get most of my Christmas shopping done today, but the rainy weather is just making me want to avoid going out altogether. Hopefully I'll get myself up and running in a bit! Meanwhile, I'm taking care of some different tasks (including some online Christmas shopping) around the apartment - I can't believe we leave town early next week. Lots to do!
How is your Christmas shopping coming along?

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Christmas Effect

 For some reason, the holidays and retro-style just seem to go hand and hand. They're both nostalgic, I guess. 
I've been a little Bridget Bardot inspired lately.

The holiday season tends to be a busy time of year for all of us, as you can tell from my recent blog-post-slacking, but I kind of love the hustle and bustle. However, my schedule has felt completely out of wack lately, which is one reason I didn't post last Friday. Steve has had the last two Fridays off (it's nice when you have so much vacation time left at the end of the year, that your company is literally forcing you to take days off. Yay for three day weekends in December!). I kept thinking that Friday was Saturday, so I literally forgot to post!

But maybe it's a good thing for me to ease up on myself a bit. I've had a ton going on, and I never want blogging to get to a point where it feels forced or I don't enjoy it.

Remember to enjoy it...which might mean being a total dork. Like me.

During all the insanity lately, I've made an effort to try and maintain a lifestyle that will allow me to
a.) not look like a bloated pig over Christmas
b.) feel healthy
c.) stay energized

It's important to center yourself and have sort of a neutral place to come back to whenever you stray...and trust me, I DO stray. Between Christmas parties with junk food and cocktails, crazy schedules, shopping traffic, traveling, etc. etc. etc., it's almost impossible not to end up feeling like a big 'ol mess at some point, whether it's from stress or bad eating habits. Or both.

So here are some of my tips to counteract the "Christmas Effect", as I will call it.

1. Do some physical activity every day, for at least 15-20 minutes.
On good days I'll do 30-45 minutes. Usually it'll just be a power walk/run on the treadmill, and on really good days I'll do crunches, push ups, and lunges afterward. I've actually been trying to get in 50 crunches each morning before I do anything else. A great routine to get into! None of this has to take a lot of time, and I can't tell you how much better I feel on the days when I've worked out for even 15 minutes.
p.s. Shopping trips CAN count (as they say), but try to add it to your day as a bonus to your treadmill time. You'll feel even better and more accomplished.

 Rarin' to go...and feeling good afterwards.

2. Eat healthy when not around tempting situations.
I know there are going to be so many times this month where I will be surrounded by delicious foods, and I am just NOT going to be that girl who turns down a Christmas cookie (or 2, or 3...) or a cup of eggnog (with rum...) when it's offered to me. But I feel less guilty (and in the long run: less full, less bloated, and less lethargic!) about letting myself have those foods when I know I've been eating really well during the majority of the week.

My everyday "yes" foods:
- Blackberries (sometimes I'll sprinkle a little feta cheese on top)
- Grape tomatoes
- Baby carrots
- Hummus (Usually as dip for the baby carrots or grape tomatoes)
- Hot tea (with honey and a little vanilla soy milk)
- Coffee (usually with just a splash of soy milk. Coffee's great if you don't load it up with calories!)
- V8 juice
- Chicken breasts
- Eggs
- Canned tuna (in water)
- Whole wheat bread (in moderation)
- Water. Stay hydrated.

3. Winterize your beauty routine.
Take time to put on your favorite body lotion after a shower to protect against dry skin, try using a deep condition (my hair is SUPER dry, so this is a must for me), and/or invest in a teeth whitening treatment (no dentists - just strips or a good toothpaste). You'll feel great "maintaining" yourself a bit in the dead of winter. Maybe opt for a slight change to your hair. I just recently re-did my roots, and I'm considering cutting some bangs to spruce up my hair even more. Give yourself a home manicure/pedicure one night in front of the TV. Slather lots of lotion on those dry feet and put on your comfiest, fuzzy socks. I also highly suggest investing in some warm pajamas. Something comfortable, but a pair that still makes you feel cute.

My PJs of choice: Target, $20

 If you have any tips or feedback, please share!

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Just found out that one of my very favorite blogs is going away (or...totally changing format really, I guess). Sad day. Go check out the amazing photos at Cognac and Coffee. I'm sure I'll still be visiting the old posts for some inspiration from time to time!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Off day = day off

Sometimes it's important to give yourself a day off.
There was no pressing work I really had to do yesterday, so I allowed myself to have a "me" day (this is where working at home really comes in handy). It felt good, considering all the stress I've been under and how busy things have been.

I dyed my hair to get rid of my pretty horrific roots. Although, once again I decided to try a new brand of hair dye, Garnier Nutrisse. Bad idea. I ALWAYS regret trying a new brand. I just need to stick to Feria (ever since Herbal Essences discontinued their hair dye line, at least). I must say, I think I've been disappointed by just about every Garnier product I've ever used (their awful 3-minute deep conditioner comes to mind, especially). Their "ultra bleach blonde" dye left a lot of red tones in my hair. Plus, Feria (and Herbal Essences) comes with a mini bottle of great conditioner that lasts me for at least a couple weeks. Garnier's hair dye comes with pretty much a one-use packet. Oh well. Wont be doing that again.
Anyway, not complaining....just want to share some useful product info with you guys. All in all, it feels great to have my crazy roots gone and I'm thrilled every time I catch myself in the mirror!

I've really been wanting a classic pajama set with a men's style top and bottoms, and I found a great pair at Target yesterday on sale for $20. They are white with a small, grey leopard print pattern. So comfy!! I don't want to take them off this morning!

For now, I'm gonna get started with a cup of coffee and see where the day takes me. I should definitely get a workout in and run a few errands. I hope you have a lovely day.

p.s Any thoughts on Garnier?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

WICKed tips for candles

I came across these great tips for getting the most out of your candles on "Shine - from Yahoo" the other day. I have gotten to where I really love collecting candles and lighting them regularly to create a mood, but I was definitely uninformed about a lot of this stuff! Hopefully these tips will help you out, too.

10 amazing tips for getting the most out of candles in your home

1. Before lighting it for the first time, trim the wick of your candles to 1/2 inch to ensure the flame burns evenly and prevent soot from accumulating.

2. The general rule of thumb is that you leave a candle lit one hour for each inch in diameter (tea lights are the exception to this rule). For example, for a four-inch wide pillar candle, you should light the candle for four hours on your first use. Once the wax pools close to the edge of the candle, blow it out and allow the wax to cool and solidify. You can re-light it once the wax has cooled. This will ensure that your candle maintains its original shape and will prevent it from dripping or spilling over.

3. If using multiple hurricanes or votive holders, make sure there is no glass to glass contact and ideally keep your candle holders at least three inches apart.

4. The jury's still out on the validity of this one - but many candle aficionados claim that storing your candles in the fridge or freezer will ensure a slow and even burn (in my experience this works!).

5. Add half a teaspoon of water to the bottom of your tea-light holders before adding the tea light candle to protect the holder from excessive heat and make cleaning much easier.

6. Candle wax can be a real pain to remove from candle holders. For easy removal, put your candle holders in the freezer for a couple hours, then gently press the wax with a spoon. The wax will literally 'pop' off, leaving a clean surface.

7. Do not burn candles in glass containers that are cracked, chipped or damaged - these can be a fire hazard!

8. An easy tip to light candles if you don't have any extra-long matches or a barbecue lighter is to use a (raw) piece of spaghetti.

9. To remove wax from fabrics or carpeting, let any spilled wax solidify so that when it hardens it can easily be removed in pieces. Place a bag of ice cubes in a plastic bag on top of the wax to harden it, then use a spoon or butter knife to scrape off the excess wax. To remove any wax residue left behind, spread a damp cloth (some recommend a brown paper bag) over the wax stain then use an iron on low heat on the cloth/bag. The iron against the damp cloth will create steam which will suck the wax right into the cloth.

10. I'm sure I don't need to mention this one - but never (never!) leave the house or leave candles burning unattended. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

High lights

Here are some highlights from my weekend.
It actually ended up being a stressful one...I'm so tired of dealing with incompetent businesses and customer service people making my life harder. I should get paid for all the time and effort I've spent trying to counter about 4 different companies' mistakes over the last few weeks. I just want what's rightfully mine, and I will raise my voice if that's the only way to get it. Shady companies: beware.

Add in a lovers' spat and annoying health problems and it makes for a pretty awesome weekend, gotta tell ya. I'm assuming at some point I am bound to get a break from this seemingly-never-ending phase of stress, if even just by pure coincidence.

So anyway, like I said...focusing on the highlights...

Steve's company Christmas part was super fun, and their balcony has a great view.

Chowin' down on some really good walnut/cranberry/feta salad (omg, three of my favorite things) and a mini pumpkin pie! The food was pretty adorable.

Food is always a "highlight" in my book. We had a cozy night in one night and made some lentil soup with a mix we got from Crate and Barrel. It was my first-ever trip there. I can see why people love it, but it's too pricy for me. Really fun to browse around though, and pretend you're one of the special people. Paired the soup with hot ciabatta bread, out of the oven.

 $6 for a bottle of this stuff. It's actually a malt beverage, not sparkling wine, but it was really yummy.

We haven't tried the butternut squash soup yet, but I am really looking forward to it. (Crate and Barrel, $7.95 each) p.s. the soup mixes are all natural with "real" ingredients, nothing artificial.

We grabbed lunch one afternoon at Phil's Icehouse. If you have one near you, you MUST go. Epic junk food. I always get the 78704 (I think?) Burger, but this time, Steve and I opted for their burger SAMPLER (choice of three burgers as sliders!). I always get sweet potato fries. Oh so delicious. And is it just me, or are sliders the cutest thing ever?!

Ok, you know what? The stress had definitely rolled over into my Monday, and it's been a crazy-busy day, but looking over some of the weekend fun has cheered me up quite a bit. :) How was your weekend? I hope your week is starting out on the right foot. xx

Friday, December 2, 2011

'Tis that season

Had enough with the cheesy Christmas-themed headlines already? Maybe...?

So, the task for Steve's company holiday party was to come up with an outfit that felt like "me", but was still something appropriate for mingling with Steve's business associates, most of whom I had never met. There was also time to be spent on the large balcony of their new building (which includes a gorgeous view of the Austin skyline), so something relatively warm was also in order. We were lucky to have a night where temperatures stayed in the upper 60s, so it was actually very comfortable out.
Here's what I pulled together.

 Never underestimate the usefulness of a plain, causal, comfy sweater. I believe I got this one at Target a couple months back. I paired it with a short, gray pencil skirt, tights, and my Soda wedges.

 Tried to get a better view of my skirt/tights. Where's my personal photographer when I need him?!

 Sort of a full view...minus the wedges. Blurry face. I love these tights (bought them at a Halloween shop this year). They instantly add edge to any outfit.

My hair was being especially big and not particularly cooperative, so I just went with it and piled it all up into a fluffy (perhaps, 1980s? eesh) messy ponytail.
P.S. I am sort of in love with this necklace, which a girlfriend gave me for my birthday.

What do you like to wear for "business casual" type events? How do you balance your own style with a level of conservativeness? What are you holiday go-to items this year? I really want to know, so don't be shy!

For now, soup is simmering on the stove and raspberry sparking wine has been poured. I'm ready to enjoy a cozy night in. Hope you have a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Season's Greetings

Happy December! I couldn't think of a more perfect day to head to Target (where I had some birthday gift cards to spend!) and get some holiday accents for the apartment. We still need to get a tree and decorate it, but it is definitely feeling a bit more festive in here. It felt nice to trade my regular flowers for poinsettias and spring colored pillows, etc. for richer pieces and cozy textures.

 It's easy to make an affordable holiday center piece for your table! I came up with this totally on the fly this afternoon. I bought this silver, square tray for just $1.99 at Target, and filled it with little items I already had: Christmas balls, cinnamon sticks, a fake poinsettia flower that had fallen off a bouquet, and one un-eaten candy cane from last year. I received these two "Seasons Greetings" cards in the mail as samples, along with a card catalog from The Gallery Collection. I saved them, thinking they might be useful for decorating, and I'm glad I did!

This candle is so pretty, I almost don't want to light it....or take it out of the cute wrapping! Target, $5.99 (candle only. I already had the stand).

 Switched out my spring-like bird pillow in favor of this green one, which I used to have on the bed.

 Vases are now filled with red and white.

 I finally found a wintery pillow that I really liked! Target, $14.99

More poinsettias (Target, $3.99) on the mantel, along with some great retro portrait books a friend gave me for my birthday.

 I've had this clock for years, but I love it even more around Christmas time.

What are you doing to make your space a more festive place?? 
Tonight, I am going with Steve to his company Christmas party. I feel like a real adult! ;)