Thursday, March 31, 2011

{Thrifty Thursday} Less Means More

“Fashion can be bought.  Style one must possess.”  Coco Chanel
You know, many people may stick their noses up at one of fashions most notable icons, dismissing her empire as elitist, snobby, pretentious, and so on.  These very people may have no idea that Chanel’s modern vision for women’s fashion and her rebellious spirit are responsible for so much of the start of the women’s movement.  Let me put it this way:  would you want to wear the equivalent of a lavish wedding gown every single day?  When Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel entered the world of women’s fashion, she decided enough was enough with the long, full, train-bearing skirts and the tight, corseted, plunging tops.  Enough with the heavy silks and tapestries, costumed as every day wear at the time.  If a man could wear a coat made of jersey fabric and still be socially acceptable, then why couldn’t a woman wear jersey too?  Chanel was a first for many, many things!  She introduced a new concept to the world of fashion.  A very risky one of exposed ankles and calves, slim silhouettes, and (gasp!) comfortable fabrics.  She took a risk with her interpretation of a new standard for women’s wear and immediately gained a following among the most elite circles, a following her house of couture has kept intact long after the passing of every woman’s fashion heroine! 
I often wonder what Chanel would think of today’s woman.  Who is she?  Arguably, she is well dressed.  And why wouldn’t she be?  One of the biggest contributions Chanel made to fashion was access.  No longer did a woman have that one gown saved for only the most special occasions.  The less labor-intensive silhouettes and cheaper, more comfortable fabrics vastly enhanced women’s wardrobes everywhere!
And today, perhaps more than at any other time this century, and I’d even go as far as to cover the last 50 years, you don’t have to go far to find access to great fashion.  Fashion today serves women of all budgets, social circles and incomes.  They key is possessing a great sense of style.   With this post, we want to introduce our Less Means More column and share our style tips for staying on trend and on budget.  Even Chanel wouldn’t want money to be what keeps a woman from wearing what she would consider socially acceptable frocks and accessories. 
Here are this week’s recommendations:
This fabulous ring of coral cluster will get lots of use this season.  Neiman Marcus Last Call, $45, plus an extra 25% off through April 5, 2011.

I had to have this blazer when I saw it at Bloomingdale's!  I thought the stone 'Girlfriend' blazer was also great.  Both are $88 and until April 3, an extra 20% off with Friends and Family password: BFRIENDS.

I bought these flats at Target three weeks ago and I loved them so much that I bought a second color.  Three of my friends have seen me wear them and later purchased them too! $24.99
Last week Cristi talked to us about her love of summer scarves and I've been spotting them EVERYWHERE since!  I started 'window' shopping and found the cutest one at Old Navy.  I'm loving polka dots lately and so, how cute is this?  $12.50

And this one, too, which would compliment all of my summer navy (and new blazer, hello!), whites and brights!  Michael Stars, $58, (20% off until April 3 with code BFRIENDS at checkout)


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wine Wednesday!

We're mid-way through the work week, which means... pour me a glass of wine!  Here are the good grapes we enjoyed this week:

Mami and Papi served a delicious bottle of Malbec at family dinner this week and Jackie and Cristi left wishing there was more of it to pass around!  The vintage was Seleccion 2008 and the Vinter was Alamos.  I received a bottle of this for my birthday and I understand the positive reviews!  At under $20 a bottle and rated 90 points by Wine Enthusist, this is an excellent wine for taking to a dinner party.  Its intense aromas and variety of flavors compliment almost anything that is served.  Malbec seems to be the family selection lately, must be because Papi is dying to take that trip to Argentina!

I hosted my girlfriends for a dinner of homemade pizza (and wine) and a friend brought a bottle of Delas St. Esprit Cotes-du-Rhone.  Intense, full bodied and deep garnet in color, it was the perfect compliment to the variety of pizza toppings offered.  


{March Book Review} Back to the Classics!

Pride & Prejudice Jane Bennett, A Woman After My Own Heart
I’ve always been a lover of books and recently I’ve decided to go back and read some of the classics that I’ve forgotten about. When I read most of these books, it was to pass a high school literature exam. I usually wasn't reading for pleasure and thus, hardly enjoying the books. This journey through the classics has reacquainted me with Hemingway- who despite being a depressed alcoholic who took four wives and eventually also took his own life, is able to write the most beautiful love stories and even won the 1954 Noble Literature Prize; Fitzgerald-another troubled man and alcoholic who managed to write beautiful prose; and this month's author, Jane Austen, who gave us Pride & Prejudice. 

The last time I read Pride & Prejudice was my Freshman year English class at Ursuline. I’m fairly certain I resorted to class lectures for content and hardly delved into any of the book's themes and messages. Well this time around, it is completely different. It’s like re-watching Disney or Pixar movies as an adult and realizing all the subliminal messages and adult humor in the movies that completely went over your head as a child. Anyway, in reading Pride & Prejudice with a little more maturity and appreciation, I realize I can completely relate to the character Jane Bennett.

Jane is 22 when the book begins and is often compared to her sister, Elizabeth Bennett (the main character). Without giving too much away, let me get to my point: Janene develops feelings for a young wealthy gentleman, Charles Bingley.

Elizabeth and her best friend, Charlotte, start talking about the budding romance between Jane & Mr. Bingley and Charlotte suggests that Jane should show her affection to Bingley more openly, as he may not realize that she is indeed interested in him. Elizabeth dismisses the opinion—replying that Jane is shy and modest, and that if SHE can see it, Bingley must too, see how she feel.  Here is an except from the book:

It was generally evident whenever they met, that he did admire her and to her it was equally evident that Jane was yielding to the preference which she had begun to entertain for him from the first, and was in a way to be very much in love; but she considered with pleasure that it was not likely to be discovered by the world in general, since Jane united, with great strength of feeling, a composure of temper and a uniform cheerfulness of manner which would guard her from the suspicions of the impertinent. She mentioned this to her friend Miss Lucas.
"It may perhaps be pleasant," replied Charlotte, "to be able to impose on the public in such a case; but it is sometimes a disadvantage to be so very guarded. If a woman conceals her affection with the same skill from the object of it, she may lose the opportunity of fixing him; and it will then be but poor consolation to believe the world equally in the dark. There is so much of gratitude or vanity in almost every attachment, that it is not safe to leave any to itself. We can all begin freely—a slight preference is natural enough; but there are very few of us who have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement. In nine cases out of ten a women had better show more affection than she feels. Bingley likes your sister undoubtedly; but he may never do more than like her, if she does not help him on."
"But she does help him on, as much as her nature will allow. If I can perceive her regard for him, he must be a simpleton, indeed, not to discover it too."
"Remember, Eliza, that he does not know Jane's disposition as you do."
"But if a woman is partial to a man, and does not endeavour to conceal it, he must find it out."
"Perhaps he must, if he sees enough of her. But, though Bingley and Jane meet tolerably often, it is never for many hours together; and, as they always see each other in large mixed parties, it is impossible that every moment should be employed in conversing together. Jane should therefore make the most of every half-hour in which she can command his attention. When she is secure of him, there will be more leisure for falling in love as much as she chooses."
Okay, so my point…I am Jane!!! My mother always told me that you must dote on a man and constantly encourage him that you DO like him so he KNOWS and can openly express his feelings too. You have to tell him how you feel, hug him, kiss him, do the things he wants you to do, wear the clothes he likes to see you in, wear your hair the way he likes it, etc. I pride myself on being an independent self-efficient lady, but have I taken my independence too far? Life’s better with someone in it, isn’t it? Am I too prideful like the characters in this book? This is something I constantly struggled with in the past, playing games and playing hard-to-get and thinking “psshhh, not worth my time.”
I’ve since come to realize, this doesn’t work! I am currently beginning a new relationship and I’ve noticed that with this one, thing are different. We are able to express our feelings and be completely open and honest with eachother. It is quite refreshing and exciting and so far, going extremely well. Maybe my stubborn Jane days are behind me. To find out what happens with Jane & Mr. Bingley, well I suggest you pick up a copy of Pride & Prejudice (I’m a sucker for the Public Library or Half Price Books), pour a glass of your favorite wine, curl into bed and indulge in the young romances at the turn of the 19th Century. To find out what happens with me and mystery man…well stay tuned.


PS- Next month's book review - "Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success"

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mac and Cheese, with a Conscience!

I often crave a favorite meal or dish and immediately nix the idea once the thought of calories and saturated fats associated with my most loved hearty foods sets in.  Searching high and low, I have managed to find better-for-you alternatives to some delicious classics and savory cravings. 

Because very soon we'll be grilling and entertaining outside, I decided to test a popular classic, Macaroni and Cheese.  Three years ago, I found a reduced fat version (with added fiber too!) in my Rachael Ray Everyday magazine, and haven't stopped baking it since!  I think this recipe packs plenty of taste to satisfy the craving for the cheesy deliciousness, but it contains a fraction of the calories found in traditional recipes.  Add the broccoli (I don't always add it), and you add a serving of vegetables and all of the benefits that come with it. 

Next time you're invited to a summer picnic or barbeque, bring this dish and just wait for the compliments to follow!

Baked Macaroni and Cheddar
1 large bunch broccoli, cut into bite-size florets and stalks peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 pound whole wheat elbow pasta
2-1/2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots (about 3)
3 tablespoons flour
3-1/2 cups low-fat milk
3 tablespoons cornstarch
12 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
6 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, smashed
3 tablespoons bread crumbs

From  Racheal Ray Everyday,


  1. Fill a large pot with enough water to reach a depth of 2 inches and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli and cook for 1 minute; drain and rinse with cold water. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and add the broccoli in an even layer.
  2. Fill the same pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente; drain.
  3. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400°. In the same pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the flour for 1 minute. Whisk in 1 cup milk until thickened, then whisk in 1 cup more. Whisk the cornstarch into the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk, then whisk the mixture into the pot. Simmer, whisking, until the sauce thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Lower the heat and stir in the cheddar and 4 tablespoons parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the pasta. Spoon the mixture over the broccoli.
  4. In a small heatproof bowl, combine the garlic and remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter; microwave at high power until melted, about 20 seconds. Stir in the bread crumbs, the remaining 2 tablespoons parmesan and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Discard the garlic, then sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on the pasta. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.


Monday, March 28, 2011

{We're Obsessed!} The Crossfunctional Crossbody

We love the Crossbody bag! 
My love began after living abroad for a couple of months and realizing I hadn’t taken very many pictures. I figured out it was because my purse kept getting in the way! Every time I wanted to capture an image, I would stop and fumble around with my purse thinking “what do I do with this while I’m trying to take a picture??!!” So what was I to do? As an avid photographer, I couldn’t continue to miss these breathtaking photographic opportunities because of my BAG—that’s absurd.  Enter the Crossbody bag.  Four years later, I still love this style!
The Crossbody bag solves the challenge of freeing up my hands and arms while I’m aimlessly walking around in new cities.  I can keep my eyes looking for photo-worthy moments while my hands steadily grip my Nikon D3100 or my Cannon FTb, inherited from my father who used it in the 1970s.

Crossbody bags are stylish, convenient, comfortable, and come in all colors, sizes and styles-so just find what works best for you. They’re not only great for traveling but also great for a night out with the girls. So just swing your bag across that body and dance, dance, dance.  Here are some great styles and looks for all!

1.  My roommate recently got this bag and I love it! It’s the perfect evening out purse, you can even remove the shoulder strap and use the shorter chain strap for a different look. I like the white for summer, but the classic Damier Ebene Canvas is also to die for!
Louis Vuitton Eva Clutch $610; select boutiques & department stores

2. I have this bag and while it may not add a lot of color, it is the perfect travel bag. It packs well and the nylon material lends itself to any weather and it is easy to clean. It is so convenient! $455; select boutiques & department stores

3. This Scooter Sling Bag from Anthropolgie is a great hippie-chic bag for the city gal. Love it! $189;

4. This Marc Jacobs Cross Body is the perfect example of a fun, bright and convenient bag. Dare I say…the perfect crossbody? $350; select stores


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Enchilada Recipe!

Hello.  I am writing to tell you about the enchiladas I made on Saturday night.  They were honestly amazing!  Like, the BEST I have ever had.  Joey ate 10 and loved them! 

Okay, so here it goes:

1 plain rotisserie chicken, shredded
~16 corn tortillas
2 white or yellow onions, diced
2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 bottle green salsa, HERDEZ is the best
1 can of a creamy Campbell's soup (this recipe has worked well with low fat cream of chicken, poblano pepper and southwestern pepper jack - what I used this time)
queso fresco*
sour cream (or ff plain Greek yogurt as a substitute)*
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro*

1. lightly toast tortillas directly on the oven rack at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes
2. cook soup over stovetop on low heat
3. shred the rotisserie chicken, puting pieces in large bowl
4. add diced onions to chicken
5. add cheese to chicken mix
6. open the jar of salsa and pour contents into a medium sized bowl
7. dip warmed tortillas in green salsa
8. Spoon a small amount (about 1.5 tbsp) of soup into a dipped tortilla.  Top with chicken, onion and cheese mixture.  Roll tortilla.
9. Repeat steps 7-8, placing rolled tortillas in a 9x13 baking dish, in a row
10. combine remaining salsa and soup, mix
11.  Pour salsa and soup mixture over rolled enchiladas. 
12.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes
12.  Top with optional garnishes: queso fresco, sour cream and cilantro

I swear these were amazing!  SO EASY too!  Enjoy!


Friday, March 25, 2011

Hello Friday!

I can think of only a few things more exciting than opening up a new pair of shoes!  My coworkers have even compared me to Imelda Marcos for the little collection I keep under my desk (the modest collection, as I call it).  My gift-wrapped package arrived yesterday from Net-a-Porter and I was like a child unwrapping and untying.  Shoes are my love and as I grow my collection, I am sadly running out of closet space.  So as the space to store my shoes becomes less and less, my shoe buying habit follows the same pattern.  In the event I do buy a new pair, I think for months about what I could possibly add to my collection that I may not already have, in one variation or another. 

My most recent pair was inspired by my grandmother, who always said of Christian Louboutin, "Red is the sexiest color  a woman can wear and feet are ugly.  It's a no-brainer."  Thanks for the lesson and the inspiration, Abuelita!  This goregous red patent pair is for you!  I can't wait to wear them with my pair of last season Sloan trousers from Banana Republic and that classic linen cap sleeved shirt from Ann Taylor.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Parting: Is it a Sweet Sorrow?

As spring invades Texas (which means 90 degree weather for us Southern folk), I’m thrilled about the sunny weather and easy livin’ but also a little saddened to have to part with my favorite winter accessory – my cashmere pashminas. Let me tell youthat this is more than a favorite accessory, I’m a little obsessed. I have pashminas in every single color: camel, champagne, off white, white, black, brown, grey, yellow, cobalt blue, turquoise blue, ice blue, Kelly green, red, merlot, plum, periwinkle, hot pink, magenta…okay, you get it. EVERY color. It was perfect, I could throw on a lame outfit for work like black pants with a black tank and then add my pop of color with a bright pashmina. A simple black dress went from blah to wow with a bright pashmina knotted around my neck. What will I do without my favorite accessory? My neck will be so bare and my wardrobe won’t be nearly as exciting. But duh, there is always a solution! My solution—fun, light-weight, colorful printed SUMMER SCARVES!  They are back!

Why summer scarves? Well they are light-weight and can easily be crammed into your bag. They’re useful during the chilly nights of spring and summer.  They also are airy and provide you with even a little more sun protection around your neck and chest-two highly sensitive parts of any woman! And hello, they’re a fun, unique accessory that can turn your shorts & tank into a perfect happy hour outfit. Just add a summer scarf and some wedges and viola! You’re ready. 

There are so many varieties of the summer scarf that they are affordable on almost any budget and can be worn in so many ways. The most popular ways to sport a summer scarf is by wrapping it multiple times around your neck and tucking the edges under, folding it in half behind your head and looping the open ends through the hole near your collarbone, or simply swooping it around your neck and tossing one end over your shoulder. Just experiment and see what you like best-whether its twisting, knotting, braiding or even as a last minute halter top—have fun! 

Suddenly packing my pashminas into their airtight package on the top shelf of my closet isn’t so sad. Can’t wait for my fun summer scarves. Here are a few of my favorites:

Clockwise, from center:
1. Jessica Alba rocks this Tolani printed summer scarf with jeans, a white tee and some big sunglasses for a hot summer look!

2. This Paisley Fronds summer scarf from Anthropologie has the perfect spring and summer hues of coral, off white and sea-foam green. Love it!

3. The Kinetic Dots silk scarf will add some color and texture to your outfit. $148.

4. This vibrant and bright Coral Sun Scarf is perfect for a sunny day and will add instant brightness to your outfit! $48;

5. This Theodora & Callum Mosaic Scarf has a gorgeous contrast with the tangerine and navy—two of my favorite summer colors! $135;


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wine Wednesday!

It's Wine Wednesday!  Time for us to share what we've been drinking this week so that our fellow wine lovers can hopefully find something new and delicious to try while enjoying our blog!

Jackie and Cristi have enjoyed a Malbec from a family favorite - Cupcake Vineyard Wines.  ALL of Cupcake's wine are fantastic and the Malbec is especially tasty with its notes of all of the excellent red wine essentials: chocolate, plum and berries.  It has a dry nose and is a perfect Spring pairing for our chosen food of the week: Steak!  I'm preparing a simple filet mignon recipe by my favorite, the Barefoot Contessa as we speak.  

I've been enjoying a red Spanish blend by Este, vintage 2008.  Simple and fruity, perfect for the crisp spring days we've had this week.



Easy Dinner!

I made that steak salad recipe last night from Cooking Light!  (trying to make more recipes from my cooking mags…)  Easy, delish and cheap!  Blue cheese crumbles (my store sells “reduced fat”), skirt steak, bag of spinach, radishes, cucumbers, and homemade dressing.  Having leftover tonight—will add onions. 

Spinach-4 (2 bags)
Cucumbers-2 (2)
Steak-6 (4 steaks)

Total cost--$14.  Servings = 4. Cost PP/dinner = $3.50! 

Best part is the low calories!!!  MMMM! 


Monday, March 21, 2011

In Love and Bicycling

Friday, March 18th.  One of my favorite days of the year! Literally.  Two days shy of the first official day of Spring, and the weather could not be any more perfect in Dallas. High of 77—double digits of my favorite number, ever. 

That Friday I came home from work a bit later than planned, and I walk into the house—back room curtains open, and a beautiful new sea-green and white
Huffy Cruiser bike is sitting on the back porch!!!  A gift from my one-of-a-kind husband, “just because.”

I’ve been eyeing cruiser bicycles for about three years now, and for some reason always found what I thought was “something better” to spend my “play money” on.  Boy, have I been wrong!  This cruiser is a beaut!!!  I named her Lucy.  Lucy is the newest kid in town, and she obviously is best-dressed!  She came into my life just on Friday, and my wardrobe shopping list has already changed around what looks good next to her!  Hello cropped pants, ballet flats, and
silky blouses that blow in the wind as I ride, or shall I say cruise?!  And let’s not even get into how fun it is to accessorize Lucy!  Ordered my Nantucket Lightship Collection basket today on for the front.  Next on the list is a rear wire basket (to carry groceries from my trips to my local Sprouts Farmers Market just around corner!) and a bell! Oh what fun!

I’m telling everyone I know!  Live like a kid again!  Buy yourself a cruiser!  Join the bike-wagon!  Or better yet…have your true love surprise you with a new toy “just because.”

Huffy Cranbrook Cruiser bike,

Photo snapped from the inspirational Bloomingdales Spring 2011 "So Put Together" catalog

Never give up on the type of love that brings you presents “just because.”  The type of love that makes the perfect day even more perfect…  And as Mami always told us, “Never settle for anything less than butterflies”

Hello Springtime Butterflies!

Got a cruiser?  Share your pictures and stories with us!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

We are what we Carry

Spring to me means sun, long days, bike rides, pedicures and color.
I caught a moment this evening to review my growing stack of catalogs and magazines, and penciled my list of must-haves.  I'm a quality over quantity girl, and adding a few pieces to my growing collection here and there gets me all sorts of giddy!  Luckily, it seems as if some of last year's trends are here to stay, at least for another season:  the gold boyfriend watch, the espadrille, printed tops, shorts, white denim and bold dresses. 

Since I already have all of these and can't wait to wear them again this year, maybe I will splurge on that Mulberry Bayswater bag I've been eyeing.  Maybe.  The everyday bag is essential, and as such, demands thought and strategy.  Afterall, you wear three things everyday:  your face, your hair and your bag.  If you invest so much time and energy on the first two, why would you ever neglect the third? 

This weekend, a friend asked if I could recommend an every day bag for her, and I sent her my five favored options: the Longchamp crocodile-embossed leather bag, the kate spade New York 'cobble hill-leslie' leather satchel, the Cole Haan Kendra bag, the J. Crew Sawyer hobo and the Banana Republic Market tote. I thought I would share, incase you're contemplating a new everyday look to wear on your arm.

kate spade
Cole Haan
J. Crew
Banana Republic

If it's true that you can know everything about a woman by the contents in her bag, then I would argue that a beautiful bag is the starting point for discovering the mystery within.