Monday, January 25, 2010

recent faves and raves

I've had some good shopping luck for the last few months. Believe me, with all of these post-holiday sales, it's been tough to have any sort of discipline or self-control! But I stuck to my wishlist, patiently waited for sales and codes, and came out with a few items that I absolutely adore.

Steve Madden Veronna boots (Sold out on the SM site)
I'd been pining for the Frye Veronica Slouch boots for over a year now. Sadly, every time I found a sale, they sold out super quickly. I spotted the SM Veronna boots and knew I'd found a great stand-in (they were also featured by Jen at TheLook4Less). I'm so impressed with the quality and color (a perfect worn-but-still-dark brown), and the leather is not stiff like Fryes can be (even after a few years of wear, my old Campus boots never really softened up). The sole is not as luggy as the Fryes, and the fit is definitely closer to the leg (I often have trouble with boots being too wide). I found them on sale, and with an additional 30% off and free shipping, they were a fab deal! I live in them now!

I LOVE Sir Alistair Rai scarves. The fabric is a soft soft cotton and they are so unique. I love the larger size of them...perfect for travel to use as a blanket or shawl, and the perfect weight for year-round wear. The Sammi scarf has a bold and bright print...I spotted it on one of the online sample sale sites, and it sold out nearly instantly. Finally found, on sale, and with an additional discount code, this pretty thing was finally mine.

Calypso Christiane Celle Pazzi dress
I saw this on so many girls in the city last summer, styled in about a hundred different ways. Belted, dressed up, dressed down, with jackets and cardis...the simple shape is flattering (yet perfect for a big brunch or dinner), and the signature Calypso silk is THE best material to take on a beach vaca. Even after it went on sale, I didn't bite, trying to convince myself that I had enough summer dresses. Been kicking myself ever since! After the New Year, my ridiculously low best offer on ebay was accepted on a never-worn coral Pazzi. It is gorgeous! I think I need it in navy and black as well. Hopefully Calypso comes back with it next summer...def not making the same mistake twice!

This has been on and off my wishlist for YEARS. Not even kidding. Years! So many cheap stand-ins that fell apart and didn't fit the bill. No longer. Found on sale and for an additional 50% off! The size is huge...I recently stuffed it with purse things, papers, and a mag for a day trip and it was great. The color is divine. A dark rusty brown with a reptile pattern, which is actually a really cool feature that I love! LM's purses are such great quality. I have 2 other clutches and the leather is so buttery soft. Worth every penny, but even better on sale!

Urban Outfitters Silence & Noise Intarsia Sweater
I have Amber at Amber'sNotebook to thank (or blame - ha!) for this one. Spotted on her blog and worn effortlessly and stylishly....I was smitten from the get-go. Of course, once I decided I had to have it, every store in the country was sold out! I visited at least 6 different stores, in 2 different states. Poor husband had to endure my quest, as I described the sweater as best I could to clueless sales associates. It finally popped back up online in limited sizes and I pounced. So what if it's a size too big? I just wear it with leggings, tall boots, and belt it to get the proportions right.

I've never really liked Cole Haan shoes - they always struck me as overpriced, a little matronly, and uncomfortable to boot (no pun intended - bwaha!) I saw these at Lord & Taylor before realizing the brand. Even more surprised when I tried them on. So cute, and so so comfy. I guess because of the Air Nike technology? I must have had my head in the sand, because I did not know about this union. Anyway, I could seriously walk for hours and hours in these. Most ballet flats hurt my feet and ankles after a while...not enough support for my high arches. But these are definitely different. The color is neutral enough to go with anything, and the pattern adds interest (plus a few scuffs would hardly be noticeable). Purchased at Lord & Taylor on sale and with a wedding giftcard (we cannot seem to get rid of these!)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

winter blues

This is the time of year when I just want to retreat on the couch under a throw blanket with Husband and puppy - warm spice candle burning and glasses of red wine - and not come out of the apartment until spring. The time when we're knee-deep in the throes of frozen fingers and red, dry noses. I've got a bad case of the winter blues. No inspiration to shop, window shop, or blog. Work work work. Blah.

What better way to shake the blues than plan a trip? A girls' trip to be exact! Come March, 7 of us college friends (also sorority sisters - shhh) will head down to Cancun to bask in the sun at Le Meridien Cancun Resort & Spa. The place looks amazing, and something about being in Mexico screams relaxation to me.

The idea of this trip couldn't come at a better time. It'll keep me motivated to work out extra hard (already planning an extra spin class in my weekly schedule). Looking through Resort 2010 collections for inspiration will make me excited for spring and summer!

I just pray my passport name change will come back in time. Yikes!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

recipe review: chocolate guiness cupcakes

Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guinness Cake (made into cupcakes)

Review: Super easy to make. Cupcakes weren't super moist but icing was divine. Perfect for those not crazy about chocolate - has a subtle chocolate flavor that's not too sweet.

I mentioned that we were going to try cocktails of champagne and Guinness (nothing to write home about - I prefer each separately). What to do with the extra Guinness but make Nigella's Chocolate Guinness cake (and sip some while baking, of course)! I had to wear my new apron from Husband for the occasion (from Anthro - loves it).

Ingredients (for the cake):
* 1 cup Guinness stout
* 1 stick + 2 T. unsalted butter
* 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
* 2 cups superfine sugar (I subbed granulated Splenda)
* 3/4 cup sour cream
* 2 large eggs
* 1 T. vanilla extract
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 1/2 t. baking soda

Ingredients (for the icing):
* 1 box cream cheese, 8 oz. (softened to nearly room temperature)
* 1 1/4 confectioner's sugar
* 1/2 cup heavy cream (I used 1/4 cup skim milk, which was fine)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper. [Since I was making cupcakes, I just used cupcake liners and buttered a mini loaf pan for the extra batter.]

2) On medium-low heat, combine the Guinness and butter (add butter by the tablespoon). When butter melts, remove pan from heat.

3) Add cocoa and sugar, whisk to blend (I did not whisk, since I was using my nonstick pan).

4) In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, and vanilla until mixed well. Slowly add to the Guinness mixture.

5) Add flour and baking soda, whisk until smooth. [My biggest mistake was forgetting to take the batter off the heat! My batter ended up kind of dry and rubbery, and in a panic, I added more Guinness to compensate. Bad not do this!]

6) Pour mixture into buttered pan or muffin sheet (I only did 2 tablespoons batter in each cup, which is why my cupcakes look so sad and puny...I should have done at least 3-4). Bake until risen and firm - about 45 minutes for the springform pan, and about 20 minutes for the cupcakes. [If in doubt, stick a toothpick in the should come out clean or with a crumb or two.] Let cake cool completely before icing.

7) Mix confectioner's sugar and cream cheese (I'd highly recommend using a hand mixer...I tried using a whisk to disastrous results). Add cream (or milk), and mix until smooth.

8) Let the icing commence! Ice the top of the cake (or each cupcake) as high as you can to look like the froth at the top of a just-poured pint. [I borrowed a neighbor's cake decorating bag, which worked well for this.]

As you can tell, this recipe didn't go as smoothly as my others, but it turned out good nonetheless. I might substitute a bit of canola oil in place of some butter to add some moisture to the cake. Also, since the flavor almost resembles bittersweet or dark chocolate, I might try using whole-wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (don't think it would detract much from the intended taste).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

wishlist for reals

Ok so I put out my long-term lust list. The items that, whenever they are acquired, will hold a treasured and permanent place in my home. That's all fine and good to drool over every so often, but I still have a more realistic wishlist of items I hope to pick up this year!

Lululemon Gear
I've bought workout clothing everywhere from Target to Old Navy to Nike. Most of it hasn't fared so well through countless washes and wearings. I think this is the year I step it up and invest in some Lululemon. I'm intrigued by the patented Luon material that wicks away moisture and holds in all the lumps and bumps. In particular, I've got my eye on the famous Groove pant for it's booty-flattering quality, the cropped Run pants for their mesh paneling behind the knees (perfect for spin class), a moisture-wicking jacket to wear to/from gym, Rock Out shorts for their not-so-short inseam (also great for spin in the summer), and various tanks that I swear have looked great on every girl I've seen. If the eastern seaboard doesn't get out of this deep freeze anytime soon, I might also go and pick up some thermal-lined running leggings I saw a while back in store.

American Apparel / Alternative Apparel tees
I lived in these last spring/summer. Paired with skinnies, a long cardi, flats, a statement necklace or fun earrings, and a high messy was my go-to uniform. I've gotten rid of most of my more fitted tops that hug the stomach, preferring flattering drapes and looser styles. These tees are perfect for that - body skimming yet not too tight. Although I'm partial to American Apparel's Tri-Blend deep-v tees, their marketing campaigns and photos creep me out more and more. Alternative Apparel's Burnout tees are fast becoming a celeb staple, and I love the unique texture and look of the fabric. The one thing holding me back is price - while you can find Am.App. pretty easily and on the cheap via ebay, Alt.App. prices have slowly been creeping up and they aren't as ubiquitous.

I still remember my first J Crew purchase. It was from the catalog, in the days when they included the order forms that you could mail in. I filled out the information as neatly as I could, and begged my parents to call in the order. About 2 weeks later, they were at our doorstep. A supercool, superbasic pair of sneakers. White and canvas, they were a preppier look than my Chucks, but still comfy and cool. J Crew stopped making these sneaks ages ago, but the Superga ones are a pretty close match. I'm not sure which preceded which. All I know is that I lived in those JC shoes until they fell apart. I'm eyeing the Supergas in a neutral goes-with-everything taupe (maybe even black or navy...oh so daring am I!), although the red or cobalt are so fun and different.

Long Gray Cardigan
Like I said, I lived in long cardis throughout spring and summer. I need the perfect long gray cardi...not too light, but not to charcoal. This one from J Crew has the right idea, but is a bit too dark and not heathered. The hunt continues...

An item I'm intrigued about. I've seen a few girls with them at the gym, and they seem like such a great alternative to elastics that tear hair. I always get a headache when I'm wearing headbands (possibly due to my larger than average me, it's a problem), and also when I wear high ponies all day. I actually love the tie-dye version, but might start off with a neutral set. They're no more than $15 for some simple sets, making them an affordable addition to the wishlist.

Kiehls Amino Acid Shampoo
I had to shower at my gym (Equinox) earlier this week when our apartment building's heat and hot water went out. I've blogged before about the Kiehl's products at the gym, but got to fully test them out. Along with the Grapefruit Body wash (smells yummy, but a tad on the runny side), I used the Amino Acid Shampoo and Hair Conditioner & Grooming Aid. The shampoo has coconut oil in it, and smells delectable. It lathers really well and cleans wonderfully. I'm stuck to my Matrix Biolage for its heavier moisturization, but come spring/summer I'm picking up the Kiehls for sure.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

long-term lusts

Husband and I used our time together this weekend to go over the household finances - assessing our spending and saving over the past year and adjusting our budget for this year. One thing that floored me was spending in the Clothing category. Oops. Pretty sure most of that was me. Even though we live in NYC (= shopping mecca), I rarely buy clothing in stores...instead using coupon codes, major sales, and ebates to make online purchases. That discount shopping really adds up. I try my best to keep up carefully edited wishlists, but it's easy to stray.

I've vowed to do better this year. Less random shopping from F21. Less sale shopping from J Crew and Anthro. More thoughtful purchases.

To that end, I thought it would be fun to show my long-term wishlist. Full of items that (most people) couldn't just buy on a whim. Items I plan to keep for as long as humanly possible. Items I have no business buying as a student...but that could be good gifts for 'monumental' occasions (PhD completion, big birthday, etc.). Sometimes it's fun to dream!

Burberry Trench Coat

The price is prohibitive, but I swear I would wear out the cost and then some! So classic, so chic...a quality piece that gets better with age. A coat I'd never get bored of, and that can complement about a million different looks.

Nikon Digital SLR Camera

I've had a longtime dream of being a really good photographer. Or at least pretending. I'll play around here and there with my little Canon point-and-shoot, but I hope to someday get my hands on a Nikon DSLR.

Cartier Two-Tone Tank Francaise Watch

I have 2 watches I have worn regularly for the past several years. A Swiss Army stainless steel watch, and a two-tone vintage Gucci found for a steal. The Cartier Tank is sleek, classic, and goes with everything. It's a grown-up piece. Love.

Jimmy Choo Knee-High Boots

Picture Source

Every woman has a quest for the perfect black boot. I have several pairs that are ok, but not THE pair I would re-sole and re-purpose until the end. The leather on these Choos are buttery soft and the quality is impeccable. At 85 mm tall (just over 3 inches), they seem comfortable but still chic and dressy (for work or a night out).

Le Creuset Dutch Oven

Haha! You thought I would list some other high-end fashion-y item. Nope. A Le Crueset dutch oven seems to be a must for serious cooks. I could get so creative with this thing! Sadly, not only are they expensive, but we have no room for one in our teeny kitchen. Someday, I will prepare meals in this for a/our family!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Laura Mercier = dead to me

Prior to our engagement photo session in Central Park, I had my makeup done at the Laura Mercier counter at Bendels. I was happy with the look, and ended up taking home 2 glosses and a concealer that matched my skin perfectly. It was a compact with 2 shades (one lighter, one darker), that I could combine to use in the summer when I was more tan, and in the winter when my skin tended to be lighter and dry.

For the last 6 months, I've been stalking every department store and Sephora for my color (Undercover-5). Most told me that I must be mistaken about the brand or the color, since Laura Mercier never made such a color. Excuse me? Last I knew, the product was available up to 6 or 7. (This was told to me at every Sephora I visited...why are their SAs the least helpful or knowledgeable product salespeople ever?)

Finally, I decided to return to Bendels - the original place of sale. As it turns out, they discontinued my color shortly after I had purchased it. Now my skin is not that dark, meaning they phased out every color beyond an olive tone! I checked out the available powders and liquid foundations, and those too are only available in lighter colors. Anyone darker than me (or me in the summertime) would be unable to use these products. This just seems crazy to me! And makes me so angry. The SA at Bendels informed me that LM will be introducing some more colors later this season, but honestly, I may not even shop the line when that happens. It's hard enough finding shades that work for me...particularly concealers (YSL Touch Eclat included here)...and in a weird way, I feel totally discriminated against. I hardly believe the market was not there for these shades, so I wonder why they pulled them. Ugh!