Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday House

Before I write this post, I would like to acknowledge the tragedy that has recently taken place in Connecticut. Lives have been ruthlessly taken, and I cannot begin to imagine the grief that the families and friends of those who were killed must be feeling. My heart goes out to all of you. There is nothing that can be said to ease this kind of pain, but nonetheless, I am sorry. Sorry that there is evil in this world beyond compare. And sorry that life is so unfair and so unkind sometimes. Those children and faculty are in a much better place. I hope everyone can find some kind of peace in the wake of this sadness. 

I love the holidays. The house is warm, the smell of fir trees and cookies waft through the air, and the decorations are wonderfully tacky in all their lit up brilliance. 

This year, Dan and I decided to buy a fake tree. Just so you know, I would never buy a regular fake tree that tries to resemble a Noble or a Douglas fir, but I would and have most certainly bought a fake tree that is pink. It's fabulous and anyone who disagrees is crazy. 

These photos do not do the color justice, but the tree is the perfect shade of light pink. We got our pink-beauty from treetopia.com —I cannot say enough good things about this site! On the tree we have added an assortment of sea-colored and clear bulbs. The complimentary colors play well off of each other. 

I love bird motifs, so when my mom brought over some little feathery-birds to nestle among the branches, I knew I had to find a bird tree topper. This is Gloria. She gracefully perches a-top our tree, adding whimsy to our living room. 

Our tree is really the only thing that is unique about our decor this year, so the rest of this post will be pictures of the rest of the house. Enjoy!

Til next time. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Matrimonial Monday!

Today I would like to address something that every wedding and every bride will encounter—advice.

I got engaged six months ago, and nearly every person I have encountered since has had some information to impart. Some of it is good and some of it is bad.

Here is some advice I have been given, and my insight on said advice:

1. It's YOUR day (bride and groom), so don't accommodate everyone else at your expense.
This is common advice, given by every former bride, future bride, and everyone in between. I struggle with this piece of advice as I tend to be a "peace maker" and someone who does not like to hurt others feelings. But, this advice is true. As Dan says "Twenty years from now, you and I will be the only ones who remember our wedding, so lets make it nice for us." Touché.

2. Things will go wrong.
This advice is also common. I take it to mean that you should be flexible and understanding. People will try to get their way ("My child is a wonderful angel, why can't they be at the wedding?"), and try as you might, you may have to succumb on certain issues. Kids at a wedding may or may not be one of them.

3. Only have who you want in your wedding party or on the guest list.
Yet another thing I am struggling with. Dan and I have always wanted a small wedding party and guest list. With each added soul comes more complication. So while not inviting someone to be part of the wedding party or guest list may be awkward, I think this is one of the most fundamental rights of the bride and groom. It doesn't mean you don't adore that person, it just means you are trying to keep it simple—the key to a stress free wedding.

4. Ask for help.
This advice is standard for almost any situation, but it is advice that in many cases I don't employ. In the case of a wedding, your bridesmaids and maid of honors (I couldn't choose between them!) are there to help you and share in celebrating your impending nuptials. When they except their role, they are excepting a certain responsibility. I can promise all of my girls that they will not be expected to bend over backwards for me or the wedding, but the reason I chose each girl is that she brings a special touch to what she does.

5. Have fun and be happy.
Wedding planning can be stressful, time consuming, and exhausting. But if all goes to plan, it is a once in a lifetime event, so everything leading up to the big day should be as enjoyable as possible. Try not to let the haters or the insignificant details getcha down!

Now that I have interpreted some of the advice I have gotten, it's time to give my own. 

Do what you want. I think this advice covers all the advice above, plus much more. If you want a one bridesmaid, have one bridesmaid. If you don't want kids at your wedding, don't have kids at your wedding. If you want cheese burgers and fries to be the cuisine of choice at your wedding, then hire In-N-Out. It's as easy as that!

Til next time. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

It's the end of an era

In the last couple of weeks I have googled "what to do after college" more than once. Not kidding.

Soon I will be free from education. Free, as in I am no longer required by law, by my parents, or by my own determination to get a B.A. Any education here after would be on my own free will. I like to say, almost daily, either to myself or whoever is listening, that I will probably go back to school. I think I say this because a) I am terrified to end relationships—including that with school—and b) I still don't know what I want to do, and school seems to be the obvious answer to this foreboding quest.

I have "hated" school for a long time now. It required work, time, and energy that I was sure would be better and more interestingly spent doing other things. *Said "other things" have never been discovered, hence the problem with this logic.* But as it turns out, I have become happily dependent on feedback, grades, the fear of doing poorly on a test or in a class, the relationships I build with my peers and teachers, and the general stresses of being a student.

My name is Holly, and I am a school-addict.

I have already investigated classes being taught at my local junior college come spring. Sick. I know... I think my life has been so defined by my education, that I have no semblance of an idea of who I am with out it. School is my safe place. The work world isn't. Everyone I know that has graduated states with conviction "Stay in school as long as you can. Working sucks." I figured. Does it suck because spring and summer vacation aren't just around the corner? Does it suck because bosses would prefer to point out what you are doing oh-so wrong instead of what you do well? Or, does it suck because it's hard to find what you love and then do it?

I will think I've found what I want to do, but then I realize why I don't want to do that thing, and the search continues. I've wanted to be an interior designer, a nurse, a fashion merchandiser, a screen play writer, a journalist, a makeup artist, a blogger (heeeey!), a photographer, a nutritionist/dietitian, a boutique owner, a winery owner/operator/whatever, a novelist, a personal trainer, an animal activist, a YouTuber, a stylist...I know that list is incomplete. And while I am unsure about all the aforementioned careers, the only thing I am 100% completely positive about is that I want to be passionate about my life and what I do with it.

I want a job or a career. It doesn't have to make me rich or the envy of everyone I know, but it has to make me happy. I want close relationships with my family and friends. Closeness that can't be broken by anything—calling all true blue friends! I want to give back in some way—I am not just saying this. And I want to always make time for new things and new experiences. This last one will keep me learning about the world and myself forever, even if I am not a student in the traditional sense.

I think my first step to discovering and implementing ^all that^ is to take an inventory of my life. What is necessary? What is an obligation? What can I cut ties with? What brings me joy?  And what do I want to try? I won't try to figure all of that out here, because who knows, it might take years. But then again, it could take minutes. So here are a few things that come to mind (write your own. It's liberating!):

1. What is necessary?  Finding a job...at this point, it probably doesn't matter what it is. Just something tolerable while figure IT out.
2. What can I cut ties with? People I don't like. I've got a few. I can also cut ties with the amount of online shopping I do (I'm talking about reducing it to only a couple hours a week. And yes, that would be an improvement).
3. What is an obligation? Cleaning, paying bills, and working out. Two of those a lame. But we all have to.
4. What brings me joy? A lot of things. Dan, working on my blog, seeing my friends, thinking about traveling, eating good food, putting together the perfect outfit, seeing my mom change into the person she was always meant to be, having a clean kitchen and living room, working out, taking pictures, my four favorite TV shows (wouldn't you like to know)—the list goes on and on.
5. What do I want to try? I want to try to cook more. Dan does it all. He's a saint. I want to try a photography class. I want to try to read a book in less than a month. I want to try to not say mean things about myself...or others. Don't judge—you know you do it. I want to try to be more patient. And finally, I want to try to be more spontaneous. Carpe Diem! It wouldn't be a blog about life after college if I didn't have "carpe diem" in it. #sorrynotsorry

To sum up where I am at, where you might be at, and where we will all be someday I have chosen a "road" analogy.

I am at the end of a long road. It had twists and turns, but generally speaking, it was a safe road with guidance along the way. This road was mapped out out and familiar, which is important when you are just a kid. The road I stand in front of has many paths stemming from it. It is less mapped out, less guided, and less safe. But it is full of opportunity and hope. Surely I will reach dead ends on this road, but in this case, those dead ends only lead to new things. It's not your typical road. In fact, it's a weird road.

It's scary to leave anything behind. A boyfriend. Your parent's house. A former friend. A job. A school. But everything ends as unfamiliar replaces knowing and new replaces old. So to my fellow graduates or anyone leaving something behind, it's time for the first step in a new direction. God speed.

Just so you know, those google searches I mentioned in the beginning were not fruitless. In fact, I suggest you type something similar into your web browser of choice. I've read about jobs that are perfect for recent grads, backpacking trips that won't break the nonexistent bank, how to get to Joshua Tree, articles with titles like "the survival guide for the petrified graduate"...and so on. But most of what I found was inspirational *tear*, and although corn-ball-ness sometimes falls on deaf ears, I think for those of us who are graduating (or in any other life-transition) need that sentimental push to find what we love but also to know that sometimes being lost and directionless is what it takes to find something great. Or, the great in ourselves. Who's the corn ball now?

Thursday, December 6, 2012



Not sure if you recall, but a few years ago Ann Demeulemeester designed a pair of flat, triple-lace boots—√° la Edward Scissorhands—that were, in a word, amazing. I became obsessed with them, but at $1695 they didn't quiiite fit into my budget. The great news for me was that Pour La Victoire created some gorgeous look-alikes at a fraction of the cost. But, that "fraction" rang in at about $560...still not in the cards. However, hope was not lost.

A couple years ago, Gilt, a website dedicated to bringing it's subscribers deals on designer duds, listed the Pour La Victoire look-alikes. They were on sale for about $150. I had a credit on my account. The rest is history. And in case you are wondering, we are still very much in love.

I wore them yesterday with mid-rise jeans by Gap, a thrifted cropped sweater, an army-green anorak, top knot, glasses, and a bold red lip.

This very simple outfit paired with the boots becomes a touch more special. Basically what I am saying is that these boots have special powers. No big deal.

Til next time.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

BB & SS & CC Cookies

I try not make cookies too often as they seem to quickly and magically disappear. Weird how that happens...But when I read about these brown butter and sea salt chocolate chip cookies (the abbreviation in the title was clearly needed), I knew I had to make an exception.

These cookies are as good as they sound, which I think is often not the case. I followed the recipe exactly, and if you are thinking of making them, I recommend you do the same. Monique of Ambitious Kitchen definitely knows what she is talking about when it comes to the kitchen. The girl can bake! (Monique, if you see this...I love your blog!! I want to make everything you bake/cook!)

I think that the key to how amazing these cookies are is the brown butter. Everything is good or better with brown butter. Make sure that you brown it long enough so that it gets a strong, nutty aroma. Otherwise, you don't get the full effect of this amazing stuff.

The dough whips up very neatly, which is another plus. These cookies are easy, quick, and clean which is a big part of why I have made these not once, but twice in the past week! Make sure to follow Monique's instructions on chilling the dough. I have made many a-cookie where I did not do this, and now I am a believer. It does seem to make for a chewier center while still achieving a crisp outside. 

Another key to this recipe is the sea salt. I added a bit before the cookies baked, and a bit after.

So there you have it. Brown Butter & Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies. You will love them. Your friends will love them. Your family will love them. Bring them to holiday parties, the office, kid's soccer games and cookie swaps (never been to one, but this cookie would fit in just fine). Hope you enjoy!

Til next time.

Friday, November 30, 2012

I blame the recipe...

Today I am back with another failed recipe. I'm wondering if I should stop integrating these tales into my blog...

I was perusing Pinterest the other day (user name hea12...find me!), and I came across this recipe for "Crispy Edamame." Healthy? Yes. Tasty? Absolutely not. Let me tell you how I made it and why you never should!

I followed the instructions perfectly, the only exception being that I added a bit more parmesan than asked for (they ask for 1/4 cup, I added about 1/3). I also cooked the edamame for about 40 minutes as oppose to the suggested 15. 15 minutes equates to mushy, watery edamame. Yum!

So after many taste tests, hoping that the edamame would in fact become crispy as the recipe name claims, I finally pulled the baking dish out—why does the recipe require these be cooked in a baking dish? Seems wrong—and plated the darn things.

These appear slightly crispy, but let me tell you, they aren't. They manage to be hard and mushy, undercooked and overcooked. Gross. Dan and I ate about 3 each and I tossed the rest.

The lesson here? If cooking up some frozen edamame to make a healthy and delicious snack sounds too good to be true, well, it probably is.

Onward and upward to triumph over more recipes!

Til next time.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sunday Brunch

A couple weekends ago, I had the pleasure of celebrating my aunt's birthday at the Buckeye Roadhouse—an amazing Mill Valley restaurant that serves beignets...enough said.

As I feel that brunch is a more refined affair, I decided to dress in lady-like, casual separates.

H&M Cardigan, Alfani Pussy Bow Blouse, H&M Skinny Jeans, Nine West "Martina" Pump (Favorite pumps I own!), and Chanel Clutch.

This outfit is the essence of simplicity, and feminine without being fussy. My biggest advice for brunch style: wear a loose top so you can indulge in the beignets, eggs benedict, and the grapefruit mimosa. Just lovely.

Til next time.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Matrimonial Monday!

Image Courtesy of bellethemagazine.com

I'm back! I decided to take Thanksgiving week off from blogging, which ended up being a good decision, as it was one crazy week.

Today I'd like to say a word or two on bridesmaids, specifically, bridesmaid style.

Bridal fashion is so different than it use to be. No longer are the days of ruffly-teal dresses with sky high shoulder pads, to which the bride claims "You can definitely wear this dress again!" There are now so many ways to let your bridesmaids maintain their individual style, while fitting in with the brides aesthetic, and ultimately looking fabulous.

Image Courtesy of exquisteweddingsmagazine.com

I personally love the look of mismatched bridesmaids dresses. Maybe you have a sexy, sassy bridesmaid, or maybe you have a sweet, demur bridesmaid. If you go with different dresses in the same color family it allows everyone to shine! (I am obsessed with the picture above!)

A tight up-do is rarely a good look on me. On some ladies, it highlights all of their features. For this reason, I want to work with each of my bridesmaids on finding the perfect look for them. I'm not a lover of symmetry, so I am more than happy to have variations in all of my bridesmaids. This includes hair, makeup, shoes, jewelry...you name it. I want my bridesmaids to be comfortable and confident.

My point: let your bridesmaids be them! Making the wonderful, unique women you have picked to be in your wedding be something they aren't not only won't look good, but it won't feel good. Work with each bridesmaid to strike the perfect balance of both of your styles. Because even though they are representing you that day, a girl always has to represent herself.

Til next time.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dry Skin Solvers

I have always had dry skin. And as many of us know, dry skin equals dull, lifeless skin. It often means redness and irritation, too. So pretty.

The good news is that I have discovered some products that work miracles for my very dry skin. The best part, most of them are very cheap!

So here is the list...

If you also suffer from dry skin, you know that cleansing your skin can be a rather upsetting task. Cerave's Hydrating Cleanser ($13 depending on where you buy) makes cleansing comfortable! It doesn't lather, which takes some getting use to, but I think that makes it all the more gentle.

Remember when I mentioned redness? Well, the genius' over at Eucerin created a whole line that target just that. The Eucerin Redness Relief Lotion ($15 ish) is soothing, light, and it has SPF. When the lotion comes out of the pump, it is green, which helps to neutralize redness—red+green=neutral—this also takes some getting use to, but if you have redness, it won't take long to love this!

I find that no matter how good a moisturizer is, sometimes I just need something more. Introducing the Eucerin Professional Repair ($8 ish). This stuff is seriously good. Seriously. I am not going to pretend to know the science behind it, but it's amazing. My only tiny complaint is that it can feel slightly sticky. But, if you don't use too much, that isn't a problem!

Night cream. A part of my skincare routine I have just initiated. This one, also by Eucerin, is part of the same Redness Relief line ($13 ish). I notice a visible difference when I wake up in the morning after wearing this. It leads to soft and calm skin. I couldn't ask more of a night cream.

Last but not least, eye serum. And yes, I am a believer in serums, not creams. I have dabbled with eye creams for a while, however they never really stuck with my routine. Part of the reason for this is that I felt the creams left my eyes heavy and puffy. This Boscia Enlivening Amino-AG Eye Treatment ($38) is great for those who want light-weight hydration. I notice that my under eye looks a little tighter and a little lighter when I use this consistently.

So that sums up the bulk of my skincare routine. Yes, there is the odd bit here and there, but this is the master list. I would give anyone my full recommendation for any of these products. Please let me know if you try any of them! I'd love to know.

Til next time. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thanksgiving Fail

The other day, while surfing foodnetwork.com and trying to create a dinner menu, I became excited by the fact that Thanksgiving is only a mere 10 days away. So excited, in fact, that I decided to cook (with Dan's help) a mini-Thanksgiving meal.

Oh boy...

Although salad may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think TG, I find it to be a necessary dish among all the butter laden ones on the table. This salad is refreshing and easy. All you need is spinach, toasted walnuts, dried cranberries, goat cheese, and a vinaigrette of your choice.

Number one reason for eating Thanksgiving dinner? Candied yams. Amazingly enough, yams are a pretty health starch, full of potassium and higher in protein than most root vegetables. These health benefits are only slightly hindered by the addition of brown sugar, butter, and marshmallows (a no-fat food!). Dan is not a fan of these, however I look forward to them every year, so they had to be part of our pre-thanksgiving thanksgiving meal. But these yams...they just weren't quite right. Normally I would be able to make an entire meal of these. Not this time.

So here is where all really fell apart. Herb roasted turkey breast. Sounds easy enough. According to Rachael Ray (whom I will never trust again), all we needed was skin-on turkey breast, fresh herbs—oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley—lemon, salt, and pepper. This turkey was the worst. Ever. It may have turned me off to turkey for life. The texture was bizarre and beyond explanation. And as Dan succinctly said "I'm not sure how this turkey manages to be overly-herbed and under flavored simultaneously, but it does."

Long story short, Dan felt especially disappointed by "Thanksgiving," so he ended up where all failed meals do: McDonalds. I stole a few fries.

That concludes the tale of Thanksgiving Fail. The next time I feel like recreating a meal that only happens once a year, I won't. I guess that means I won't be making any St. Patrick's Day corned beef. Oh well!

Til next time. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Matrimonial Monday!

No one likes to admit when they aren't "in the know," but I am here to admit just that. I had heard rumors long ago that Urban Outfitters, Inc. (Anthropologie's parent company) would be starting a bridal store. I searched for a long time, but alas, never discovered the site. I think I gave up, and then forgot, until about a month ago when I realized that a site that I have loved for some time was the bridal site I had been hunting for! (palm to forehead) It's called BHLDN, and I love it so much, that I decided it deserved it's own post.

Everything on the site maintains the same whimsical nature of things found on Anthropologie. The dresses are flowy and romantic, the accessories are sweet and feminine, and the decorations are fun and idyllic. Every detail on every item is what the Anthro-girl would want for her wedding. And as a self proclaimed "Anthro-girl," I am obsessed with just about everything on the site. 

If I Have A Cake Topper, This Will Be It

I find this site very inspiring for my own wedding. The styling of the site is too beautiful for words, so I really recommend a visit to see for yourself.

Images Courtesy of BHLDN.com

I'd love to know what your favorite item (OK, let's be honest, items) on the site is?

Til next time.