"We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have". - Frederick Koenig

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Favorite Five: March

March certainly has been a packed month, and always seems like such a transitional time of year.  This being the last day of the month, I thought I'd do a little recap of my favorite five things about the past 31 days.

1. BIRTHDAYS! - Yep, March has a LOT of them from my perspective (including my own).  I think there has been one for almost every day this month; or at least every other day.  It may entail getting another year older, but this, of course, opens up a lot of opportunity for cake and parties - two of my favorite things.  Even more importantly, it provides an extra reason to reach out to some of the folks that are most important to us and show them just how much we appreciate them.  Though I am under oath to keep most of my party pictures private, you can catch a few birthday action shots in my 'Springing Forward' piece.

2. SPRING - Though it may not be all flowers and sunshine yet in your neck of the woods (it was sleeting at my humble abode yesterday, suck), spring is definitely here -- at least according to the calendar it is.  Though there have been some 'sneak previews' of the warm weather speckled throughout the month already, just knowing that there is more on the way helps lift my spirits and raise my hopes just that much more.

3. NEW BLOGS - Since I'm still kind of new to this myself, I am thoroughly enjoying discovering and learning from a bunch of new blogs.  It can be kind of like finding a nice piece of candy during an otherwise blah day.  It really is amazing how inspiring, supportive, exciting, and slightly indulgent it is to step outside of your own world and see into someone else's through their eyes - talk about gaining perspective!  I feel like this will not only help me improve my own blog, but also enrich my life in a new and interesting way.  It has also been super exciting this month to have inspired a new blogger  and dear friend to take up the type and find her online voice.  If you haven't already visited her blog through the link on my page, take a second to jump on over to 'Napolejen' and show her some support in her new undertaking!      

4. WYE OAK - There is some music that you listen to when and because it fits your fleeting fancies, and there is some music that is your meat and potato music.  For me, this is a straight serving of some of the choicest cuts of meat and creamiest potatoes I've heard in a little while.  Maybe it's because I'm a so-called 'child of the nineties', but this entire album makes me feel like I'm wrapped in a warm, comfortable blanket.  Listening to the sounds and the vocals affect me almost like a wonderfully distinctive scent from somewhere in the past that hasn't been experienced for a while, and then when it is, you're right back to remembering everything about it that you've been missing.  That doesn't happen very often, and I wouldn't necessarily want it to, but when it does it makes for something amazing.  

Here's a clip of the title track off of the album.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

5. VCU BASKETBALL, FINAL FOUR BABY! - Admittedly, I am not really a sports fan.  In fact, I have never really been a sports fan.  I went to a university that doesn't even have a football team (and most students prided themselves on that), and where not only was school spirit underwhelming; it was virtually nonexistent.  Now all of a sudden, I have found myself not only watching a game, but jumping up out of my seat and yelling at the tv with more school spirit than I think I've had in my entire life.  Even more, the ENTIRE CITY is energetically rallying behind the players with all of their newly found VCU school spirit and rooting for this team that comes from what was traditionally an art school.  (I never would have thought I would see anything like the clip below from the 'Anti-University').  The critics said they couldn't do it, the commentators say they shouldn't be anywhere near where they are now, and quite honestly I'm not sure how many alumni actually cared about any of it ... until now.   And THAT my dear friends, is why VCU, my alma mater, making it to the Final Four this coming Saturday has been one of my favorite things this month.  This underestimated team has not only worked to prove themselves to their school (which may have been the largest feat), they have proven 'the impossible' to the world, and have somehow inspired me to know not only what time they are playing on Saturday (6:09pm against Butler), but to actually purchase a school shirt.  I don't think I even had one of those once upon a time when I was a student.  I honestly can't think of anything this month that has been more personally inspiring than that, and I LOVE it!  GO RAMS!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Burritos and Brahmin Bags for Summer 2011

After blowing my total calorie intake for the entire day at lunchtime (thank you Taco Bell) on 'synthetic' food (we all have our weak moments), I thought the best diversion from thinking about how my pants are now not fitting and how I can't eat dinner tonight would be to look at beautiful, one-size-fits-all bags.  For the same reasons that shoes are always wonderfully consoling during a food-driven guilt trip, so it is for the handbag.  This exclusive preview of the Summer 2011 Brahmin handbag lineup, courtesy of the Vogue Network, seemed perfect to take my mind away from all things disappointing. 

Anywhere Convertible Birch Melbourne bag
Natural Anaconda Sariah bag

Haze Melbourne Anywhere Tote
Blue Copa Cabana Anytime Tote. 

Suri Wallet- shown in assorted Colors

Sadie Chamois Melbourne Satchel bag
Mojito Cantaloupe Melbourne bag
Bronze Rio Anaconda Dagny bag

Haze Leopard Luxe Clara bag

Trista Pecan Leopard Luxe satchel bag

Allie Rose Orange Saffiano bag

Selia Rose Bronze Saffiano bag

   Though I'm mostly too lazy to swap out my handbags often or frequently, I certainly appreciate those that do, and am quite selective about the one that I carry. There's nothing quite like the perfect bag to compliment and top off an equally perfect outfit, or to spice up one that might be a little plain. Likewise there's nothing quite like finding the bag that not only looks great, but can handle the organization of your entire life inside of it. The selection above look like they are ready to handle all of that and then some. Honestly, I was a pleasantly surprised that they all have such lux detailing, classic shapes, and actual organization potential. Not to mention the price point is waaaay more reasonable than a lot of designer brands; especially if you eat cheap fast food only once a day all summer and save up the rest of your cash for a bag or three that will always fit - no matter how tight your jeans might get. ;)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


The other day while I was finishing off my coffee before schlepping miserably to work for the day, I happened to catch a 'Today Show' food segment where they were making meatballs with the owners of 'The Meatball Shop' in NYC.  These were not just your standard run-of-the-mill meatballs, but really yummy looking meatballs.  Now, I'm normally not a huge meatball aficionado, but these seemed like something I wanted to try.  So, after bringing Jay in on the idea (he was all over it), we set out to make these miracle meatballs for tonight's dinner.

Though both of us took to our tasks and were working simultaneously, the "Classic Tomato Sauce" was first underway so it could have time to simmer while the rest of the dinner was being prepped.  I was pleasantly surprised at how low maintenance it was for being so tasty. 

Saute some chopped onions & garlic with oregano,  salt, & a bay leaf.

Add a little tomato paste to the mix and let it simmer.

Pour in some canned crushed tomatoes to the onion mixture, let simmer, and season to taste.

Now on to the meatballs, which were Jay's charge and were just as easy to put together as the sauce.

Using the 'actual' recipe as a bit of creative inspiration, Jay used a butcher's blend of ground meats (from our local Belmont Butchery) and added egg, bread crumbs, and seasoning.

Into the oven on 450 for 15 minutes.

Then onto the plate over some creamy polenta and with a side caprese salad!

For being so easy and quick to make, it certainly was delicious and came off feeling like a slightly elevated comfort food.  More than one plate was had by one of our guests, though I won't name any names. ;) If you're interested in dishing up some of this in your own kitchen or being inspired by the original source, you can find the recipe for the sauce and the inspiration for the meatballs here.  I know I especially plan on trying out the chicken meatballs with the parmesan cream sauce myself!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Josie Maran Argan Matchmaker Serum Foundation: One Shade Fits Most

Have you ever gotten a "One Size Fits All" t-shirt, and wondered how it could fit you, AND fit everyone else in the world that is a completely different shape and size than you?    Somehow, when you try it on though, it looks great on you.  And then when your friend tries in on, it looks great on him or her as well.  And then, there's that one person that, well ... it just doesn't look as great on.  Well, I believe I was that one person with this foundation.

I really wanted to like this.  Besides the fact that it just sounds space-age cool, after questing years for a foundation that is an exact match to my ghostly pallor (I usually wear a .5 foundation on a scale or 1-10 and sometimes that is too dark), I truly wanted the self-adjusting feature to work for me.  When I received my sample bottle from Sephora (through the Vogue Influencer Network), I was so anxious to see if I had finally found the answer to all of my foundation problems that I promptly washed my face and with baited breathe, gave it a go.

This is what happened.

Yikes, right?  Yeah, not so good.  I'm not sure whether the foundation color, my skin tone, or the triple chin I had to create in order to get this picture is the most frightening.  Needless to say, I could not even wear this around for a day just to get a feel for the wearability of the product.  Kind of sad, but not super surprising.  I suppose that's why I find myself back using same cosmetic brand for my foundation year after year.

As it turns out, just when you thought this little review couldn't possibly have a happy ending though, it really does.  Knowing full well that I am in the minority when it comes to luck with foundation (after years in the industry and tests of multiple brands and shades, I found maybe 2 or 3 foundations that were actually passable for me to wear in the daylight), I decided I needed to find a few more faces to try it out in order to get a more accurate review, and asked two lovely ladies at Salon 604 to give it a try and report back.  Their results not only sounded better, they looked better too (thank goodness)!

Here is the report back from the salon trials.

   The color matched my skin tone perfectly! It was cool how it went on white, and then changed to    match my complexion, though I wonder if it was just coincidence that it matched or if it actually does what it says! The argan oil makes it feel luxurious and very moisturizing, but I have oily skin so after about an hour my face felt pretty greasy. The coverage was a little light and sheer for me as I usually like something heavier.  I have a feeling someone who prefers a lighter foundation and tends to have slightly drier skin will like it a lot.

 LOVED the foundation!  My skin looked radiant! I loved the moisture in the foundation, and the coverage was perfect.  Wearing it again today!

So, in summary it seems that if you prefer a sheer coverage, tend toward the drier side, and are not the color of paste then you might have just discovered your new foundation! 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

PhotoHunt 258: Caged, A Spin Through the National Zoo

So you might be thinking that this isn't the epitome of this week's PhotoHunt subject, but quite honestly it was my favorite shot from one of my trips to the DC National Zoo.  If you look, you can most certainly see the cage at the top of the shot, and trust me, there was no doubt a cage was involved here -- quite a large one too.  I think what I enjoy most about this shot though, is how natural it looks; as if the lounging cheetah is almost as thankful for the cage as the people on the other side of it are. Even though the thought of a cage tends to bring to mind negative connotations, I suppose it works both ways sometimes as long as it's humane.  In this case, it doesn't look like the cheetah seems to mind a little peace and quiet, and it probably leads a pretty cushy life all things considered.

Here are some additional photos taken the same day.  In some, you can see more cage than animal - probably more appropriate for the topic, though nowhere near as beautiful.  In the last shot, you can catch a glimpse of what the District might look like behind a cage - something in which some might find a little irony.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Drink of the Moment: Dirty Vodka Martini, My Dirty Little Secret

What day isn't a dirty martini kind of day?  Well in my opinion, not many, but I knew today had far surpassed the beer threshold by 9am, and I was going to need my comfort cocktail (or more) before all was said and done.  The winter-like temps over the weekend make this even more appealing to curl up with like a warm blanket.  Not sure exactly why I enjoy this drink so much - I'd say it's my signature cocktail, maybe it's because of it's nice savory flavor (like an olive tapas plate or something), or maybe it's quick to make the worries melt away.  Who knows, but whatever magic it is that makes this my happy drink, I'm about to share my 'dirty little secret' with you now.

My (Favorite)Dirty Martini
(courtesy of John Barrar)

2 oz Stolichnaya Gold vodka
1 oz olive brine (preferably from a jar of olives)
1/2 oz Noilly Pratt dry vermouth
Whole olives (I prefer the extra large ones, or even stuffed ones sometimes for an added depth of flavor)

Shake extremely vigorously for about 30 seconds with ice, and pour into your favorite martini glass.  Garnish with olives, and let the day melt away.

Pretty low maintenance, huh?  I've had martinis in all sorts of places, made all sorts of ways (believe it or not, there is a lot that can go wrong with just 3 ingredients), and after actual taste tests between them, this one is the champ.  So what makes this one so different from the others?  Because there are so few flavors, it really boils down to the quality and specifics of those that are actually there.  There are 3 things to note in this recipe.  1) I am very specific about the types of ingredients that go into this cocktail - I know everyone has their favorite brands, but these are the ones that I've found combine together for my most optimal beverage experience.  I have even had die-hard fans of other vodkas (quite nice ones too) cave to the smoothness that you get with the Stoli Gold in this particular drink.  It really does make that much difference.  2) I use vermouth - I know you can make a pretty bang on dirty martini without the vermouth, and for years that was my preference as I had only tried using extra dry vermouth and found it to be horrible.  There is something about the dry vermouth that works amazingly well though, and actually compliments the cocktail instead of killing it.  I still drink martinis without it no problem; this is just my favorite way to drink them.  3) Shaking the drink hard enough is very important - no one likes a warm drink unless it's supposed to be warm.  Since this drink is served up, it's best when shaken hard enough so you get the little ice chips floating in the top of the glass. That keeps it much colder and crisper while you sip and proceed to get warmer and fuzzier. 

So, that's more than enough writing for now.  I've got places to go, people to see, and cocktails to consume!


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hourglass Aura Sheer Cheek Stain: Way to Glow!

Just got my latest free sample product from the Sephora Hot Now list courtesy of the Vogue Network, and I love it!  Seriously, this new Aura blush from Hourglass makes me happy.  I received the 'Petal' shade (a peachy pink, though it also comes in a plum shade and more blue-pink shade too), and am now totally ready to rock this spring's pretty blush trend.  It makes you look great in seconds flat, is portable, and is so super versatile that it makes me wonder why I didn't know about this until now.

The formula, which is termed a 'stain', is a fabulously lightweight sheer gel/cream hybrid with a gorgeous sheen to it.  Besides this shade itself being a wonderful wake-up for winter skin, the sheen imparts what looks like a wonderfully natural glow.  Depending on how much you apply, it can go from a sheer wash of color for day to a more intense, dramatic hue for evening and beyond.

There's not much to explain in the way of application because it's as easy as twisting the bottom a few clicks and then smoothing on this great gel/cream "stain" that appears on the fabric applicator - a huge change for me instead of using a powder blush with a separate brush.

Once on,  you can blend down the edges with your fingertips a little if you need to, but if you're using a light application you probably don't even need to do that.  On top of the simple, one-step application to your cheeks, you can use this on your lids and also dab some on your lips for a subtle healthy glow on those days you don't have time to (or don't want to) make much fuss over your makeup.  Below, is an example of how using the cheek stain for an all-over color wash works.  (Keep in mind that my uber-fair complexion usually looks completely washed out without any outside help).

Light application on cheeks & eyelids
Heavier application on cheeks, lips & eyelids

This complete look was accomplished in almost no time flat using only a little foundation, the Hourglass Aura Cheek Stain in 'Petal', Buxom Smoky Eye Stick in 'Black Pistol' (still rockin it!), and some mascara.  Pretty cool for a natural look, no?  I don't know about you, but I'll take anything that helps me out this much in a matter of seconds.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Buxom Waterproof Smoky Eye Stick: Simply Seductive

Ok ladies, I know at least once in your life you've probably tried to achieve that rocking, come-hither, sexy, smoky eye look; maybe on a fun whim, or to mix things up for a night out, or just to come up with a fresh fashion statement.  I also know that everyone who has tried this look has also at least once ended up looking more like they were on the losing side of a street scuffle or even worse - a street corner,  instead of getting that daring, mysterious, sexy vixen look that they were going for.  There's no denying it; it's kind of like an inevitable right of passage.

I can't tell you how many just plain BAD 'smoky eyes' I saw when working in the cosmetics industry, and I know I've certainly had my own share of botched attempts (which I then properly removed to avoid any assumptions - correct or incorrect, from being made).  I also can't tell you how many requests I received for instruction on how to create the perfect smoky eye while I was working in the cosmetics industry either.  Personally, I've always thought that the concept of the smoky eye was a pretty simple one, but applying the concept to the reality and then explaining the technique to someone had a way of losing something in translation (or application, or supplies, or that certain je ne sais quoi).  Thank goodness someone has finally come up with a simple one step solution.  Fast forward to now, and enter the Buxom Waterproof Smoky Eye Stick from Bare Escentuals.

I received my free sample of the Buxom Waterproof Smoky Eye Stick (compliments of Sephora through the Vogue Influencer Network) in 'Smokin Pistol' - a fancy name for black.  Though I do like a dark eye on occasion, because of my fair skin tone I have given up wearing shades as dark as black around my eyes (with the exception of liner and black mascara) so I don't look like an aging goth kid - at my age, that would be authentically scary, and would have made me look like the wrong kind of sad.  Not having done a true black smoky eye in years, I figured this would not only be a test of product, but also a test of suitability.  Here is the result:

So, what do you think?  Is it working, or is it too much?  I also did more of a lighter look for contrast (and to really see the range of the eye stick), here:

In creating both looks, I found the eye stick to be quite easy to use and very versatile - you basically just draw a fat line at the base of your lashes and blend upward - a LOT.  (I cannot overstate the need to blend, blend, and then blend some more in order to achieve the smoky eye effect you want instead of the one you want to avoid).  Want a softer look, make a smaller line and blend gently upward; want a more dramatic look, make the biggest fattest line you can and then blend upward towards your brow as well as below on your lower lash line.  Easy as that.  In full disclosure, I did use a moderately stiff shadow brush, and apparently there is a brush that is made specifically for the shadow stick, but if you have one at home already I'm sure that it will do the job.  If you don't already use makeup brushes, you could easily use a shadow applicator sponge, or even your finger (though because of the waterproof property of the pencil, I would start with applying a little foundation on the eyelid to assist in blending should you decide to use your finger).  I also played around with a little shimmer at the brow bone and the tear duct at the inner corner just to brighten things up a bit.

All in all, I was so pleased with the minimal effort required for a maximum effect, that I'd really like to try some of the other colors.  Even better, the look was 'Jay approved' - how often does a cosmetic come along that even the male in your life notices in a good way?!?!  Oh, and this stuff definitely holds up to water (which means it doesn't crease or run while wearing).

Though I can't speak to a dip in the pool, it certainly withstands the tap extremely well, and also did well through a shower (yep, I tried it).  While this doesn't come off in water when you don't want it to, unlike some other waterproof formulas I've tried in the past,  it does come off quite easily with a little eye makeup remover or face wash when you are ready to try a new look!  Pretty nifty little eye stick if you ask me.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Turning Heads at Salon 604

Today I was very lucky to have been able to participate in a shoot for a new website for Salon 604.  While it was personally flattering to have had my little noggin requested for showcase in the new site, it really wasn't so much about my head, as much as it was about the person (and place) that gives me the good hair that happens to be showcased on my head.  Though Salon 604 is a relatively new salon in the area, I have been making regular visits to my favorite stylist, Vildan Ocalan, for about the past six or seven years now and was even driving from Washington, DC back to Richmond, VA for a time just to get Vildan to do my hair.  (Living in DC, I was constantly getting stopped and asked who did my hair, and saw that alone as a reason to make the drive).  Vildan is a wonderfully gifted stylist,  and is always giving me great hair that never fails to get the right kind of attention.  More importantly, she is an equally wonderful person that immediately puts you at ease and makes you feel at home in her chair.  After following her through several interesting salon incarnations,  she and a group of stylists with similar values - Cindy Som, Leila Rowe, & Nadia Baramki have established their own personal niche by opening Salon 604 (formerly known as Salon Bleu) in May 2010.

With so much going on for today's shoot I almost forgot to snap some shots to share, but did end up with a few.  I'll be sharing the link to the professional shots on the website once it's done, but until then I hope you enjoy the preview below.  If you live in the Richmond area and are looking for some great hair, don't hesitate to give them a call at: 804-353-0933!

Doesn't she do a great job?!?!