Friday, April 29, 2011

{Good Grapes Destination} London!

Hello good grapes!  As I mentioned in the previous post, our friend, Christina, is giving us the scoop on dishing and shopping, should you ever find yourself in London.  So happy to have her share her travel diary with us!  And insanely jealous she got to visit our dear Fio, how we miss her!  Thanks, C!
Cheers!
Ana


Admittedly, I did nothing to prepare for my recent trip to London.  The way I saw it, why prepare?  I was visiting a friend that lived in the city.  She has great taste, so I knew I’d be well taken care of, even if the only planning on my part was deciding which flats to pack.  I glanced through one tourist book and saw the usual suggestions…tea at the Ritz, a visit to Piccadilly Circus, etc.  But for my trip, I surrendered myself to the whims of my friend who currently lives there, and trusted in her judgment.  Luckily, she did not let me down.

Where we ate:
·         Thomas Cubbitt:  Tucked away in residential Belgravia (one of the wealthiest districts in the world) on Elizabeth Street, is Thomas Cubbitt.  A small restaurant, popular among locals (or so it appeared), it was a terrific place to get the English staple of fish and chips (which apparently is something mainly eaten by tourists).  Happy to be a tourist, I indulged in their healthy version on a particularly sunny day, with all the windows of the restaurant wide open.
·         The Providores:  As if Marylebone High Street weren’t enjoyable enough, stopping here for wine and small plates was an excellent diversion to a day of…well, ok, I was a tourist, I didn’t need to be diverted from anything because my day was already pretty great.  But if I were, let’s say, trying to beat the crowds sure to be present during the weekend of the Royal Wedding, I would surely stop in here for a bite. 
·         Gordon’s Wine Bar:  If you love wine, and you crave an intimate, interesting environment (aka, a cave), this place is a must see.  Make the trip to Embankment and get a bottle of wine, a plate of cheese and cozy up with your friends for happy hour.  You won’t be sorry you stopped to check it out.
Just like we would do on a gorgeous day, C opts for a cool rose wine instead of tea!

Where to shop:
·         Harrods:  Is this a tourist destination?  Yes.  Is this a place where locals would go to find that perfect outfit for their wedding viewing party? No.  Did I care?  No.  It is shopping heaven.  A full city block of sheer shopping splendor.  Located in Knightsbridge, it’s Vegas meets Disneyland meets 5th Avenue.  If you like shopping, go here.  Be a tourist, stop at their chocolate shop (did I mention Disneyland?  Because Walt Disney has nothing on Harrods chocolate shop) and get a truffle or two, and just enjoy the grandeur of it all.
·         Selfridges:  Is this a tourist destination? Not really.  Is THIS the place for Londoners to get that perfect hat for the wedding?  Yes.  This Oxford Street department store isn’t much different from a NYC Bloomingdales…but you’re in London, so it seems amazing.
·         Primark:  When both the woman sitting next to my on flight to London AND my friend suggested Primark as thee place to go for significantly discounted items, I had to check it out.  There are several throughout the city to be found, and all offer amazing deals.  You may need to weed through some less desirable items, but the buys I found made it well worth the searching.


NOTE ON THE SHOPPING:
As a US tourist, ask for the tax exempt paperwork on all of your big ticket items.  Those Jimmy Choos you purchase in London have a sales tax built into the cost, but as a non-resident you can avoid that charge by taking the receipt and paperwork to the customs officials at the airport.  I won’t bore you with the math, but you save a lot of money.
C at the London Eye with Fi.  Can't I be photoshopped in? ~A



Thursday, April 28, 2011

{Good Grapes Destination} Royal Wedding!

Well we're not REALLY going to the wedding in London later on today (let's say we're on Paris time), but if we were, this is what we would wear.  Ironically, both Cristi and I chose a neutral color palette.  Are we related? 
Hope you like what we've picked out!  Cristi chose a timeless classic in designer Oscar de la Renta's (love him!) convertible capelet cocktail dress, and I decided to embrace British designer Vivienne Westwood's draping and feminine lines.  Of course, we've both chosen to give a nod to only our favorite shoe designer ever, chic Brit Tamara Mellon, and dance the night away in Choos. 


Dress, VW Gold Label, $1,355, NET-A-PORTER; Brooch, Alexis Bittar, $495, Saks Fifth Avenue; Earrings, Issac Mizrahi, $250, Saks; Shoes, Jimmy Choo, $950, http://www.jimmychoo.com/; Jimmy Choo travel accessories; not pictured: clutch, Judith Leiber, $1995, Neiman Marcus

Do stay tuned this afternoon for our guest blogger Christina, who really DID go to London, just returned, and is ready to share her must-see list with all you good grapes! 

Cheers!
Ana


{Thrifty Thursday} Royal Edition: Kate Middleton's Fascinator

This post is dedicated to Cauffiel, one of our readers who tipped us off on where we can buy some of our very own feathered fascinators, a la Kate Middleton.  If you didn't catch it, Cauffiel posted the article on our Monday post

Absolutely no doubt that the soon-to-be princess has made hair pieces famous on a global scale (hello, headbands!), but she is very loyal to her staple headpiece, the feathered fascinator.  And, you don't have to break the bank to buy a fascinator to adorn your very own head!

Enjoy!



Well we've found some great shops to find great fascinator head pieces.  Our top three are: Serendipity Tiaras
Fantasia Bridal Veils (fabulous etsy shop!)
and another etsy shop, Elizabeth's Tresses


Top: Elizabeth's Tresses; Bottom Left, Fantasia Bridal Veils; Bottom Right, Serendipity Tiaras.  $15-$38



Cheers!
Ana

{Thrifty Thursday} Royal Edition: Dress Like Kate Middleton!

Kate Middleton has taken the fashion world by storm.  And now, we're all rushing to emulate her gracious and classic style.  Today's Thrifty Thursday is dedicated to looking like a princess on a commoner's budget.  Happy shopping!


Kate Essentials:

Black blazer $100, macys.com
Cobalt dress $90, Bluefly.com
Black Platform Pumps $99, endless.com
Gold Medallion Necklace $45, Max and  Chole
Wide Brim Straw Hat, $12, Kohls

Cheers!
Ana

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wine Wednesday!

Did you think we would interrupt our Royal Wedding week posts to bring you our wines of the week?  Well, guess what?  We are drinking the official sparkling wine of the royal wedding!  Thanks to wine.com's clever social media outreach and particular thanks to the Steward Ship membership program (of which I'm a member, obviously!), we've learned that as far as the bubbles are concerned, the Queen will be serving her guests Pol Roger Brut, a French Champagne.  And so, in lieu of a wedding gift, I've ordered a bottle for hubby and me and two for the famila in the Big D.  I figured, if I'm not attending the wedding in London, I'll spend what I would have spent on a gift on champagne for the fam. 

Visit wine.com and order a bottle for your next special occasion.  Compare it to your favorite and tell us what you think!  (I still prefer Roderer Estate L'Ermitage to anything I've tried in the category!)


Cheers!
Ana

Royal Wedding Recipe

I remember my own wedding planning and the only thing I really took deep interest in was the menu.  Upon this royal wedding countdown (2 more days!), I can't help but wonder what the Queen would serve her guests when she welcomes over 650 friends, family and foreign royals to her palace on Friday. 

Personally, I couldn't imagine visiting Buckingham Palace without tasting a delicious scone, and so, I've decided to cook up my own batch to channel royal wedding flare from across the ocean.  I think I'll take my favorite muffin (lemon blueberry) and turn it into a scone.  Luckily, the trusted Epicurious site had one that readers awarded rave reviews. 

photo by Megan Caruso, via Epicurious.com

Ingredients:
  • 3 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup (11/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups dried wild blueberries (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon peel or regular lemon peel
Directions:

Position rack in top third of oven and preheat to 425°F. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk self-rising flour and 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl. Using fingertips, rub in chilled butter until pieces are size of small peas. Add dried wild blueberries and toss to coat. Mix 1 cup buttermilk and finely grated lemon peel in glass measuring cup. Pour buttermilk mixture into dry ingredients and stir until dough begins to form (some of flour will not be incorporated). Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and gather together. Knead dough briefly, about 5 turns. Divide dough in half. Form each dough half into ball and flatten into 1-inch-thick disk. Cut each disk into 6 wedges.

Transfer scones to prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Brush tops with remaining 1 tablespoon buttermilk and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until scones are golden brown on top and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

Enjoy!

Cheers!
Ana


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sweeter than a Wedding Day

Royal Wedding fever has so many of us holding our breath until Friday morning's nuptials.  I think for the ladies my age, we all have a particular obsession with this wedding because quite frankly, our mothers have been talking about the Diana/Charles wedding for almost 30 years and while that was THE wedding of their generation, this is THE wedding of ours. 

I was still too young to remember the wedding of 1981 (I had just had my 7 month birthday), but my mother said she pretended I was sick so that she could stay home from work and watch the wedding instead.  If you think that is funny, our good friend's mother scheduled her c-section so that it wouldn't conflict with the royal wedding!  She scheduled for one of our BFFs (AS) to be born just days before the wedding so that she could be resting comfortably at home with new baby in hand and royal wedding on TV.  That is ALMOST as genius as the royal wedding treats we discovered this week:

Naturally AS and her mother have a special bond over royal weddings.  So how thrilled was AS to receive these amazing royal wedding cookies from Elenis, the famous bakery in NYC's Chelsea Market?  I had to steal her Facebook pics and share them with everyone!
 

Pictures of Eleni's royal wedding cookies, via AS; Three Sisters at Eleni's in NYC
Too far from NYC?  I've got the DC area's newest best kept secret (though secret not for long!)  If you think those Eleni's cookies are amazing, you should see what one of our good friends, Amy of One Preppy Cookie, has literally cooked up this week.  Just how perfect will these darling treats be for Lilly's wedding watching party Friday morning?  Amy, sweeter than a sugar cookie, is a super talented cookie artist and we are so excited for her website and blog to launch this week!  The timing couldn't be more perfect.

Royal wedding cookies from One Preppy Cookie, via Amy
Cheers!
Ana

Monday, April 25, 2011

{We're Obsessed!} Kate Middleton

HAPPY ROYAL WEDDING WEEK!!!

I am so excited about the wedding this Friday but one thing has me a little stressed out.  What on EARTH am I going to wear?  I can't wait to plan the perfect outfit.  My dear friend Lilly is hosting a tea while broadcasting the event live in Arlington, VA.  I've never been so excited to be ready and dressed at 6 am on a Friday before but, afterall, I have been waiting for this event since the Di/Chaz wedding that I don't remember.  So naturally, this week's obsession is no other than the brave (who on earth would want that sort of media scrutiny forever?) and beautiful KATE MIDDLETON.

Top five reasons we're obsessed:
5) She stole Wills' heart.  That should count for something.
4) She has an education and if/when she becomes queen, she will be the first one with a college degree!  Girl power!
3) She is classy.  She's been William's heart throb since 2001 and how many times have you seen her interviewed on TV?  Exactly.  She's not a paparazzi stalker like most famous women of our generation
2) I'm sure we're not the only ones who have picked up on her impeccable sense of style.  She even had a quick gig wirking for London's high-end fashion chain, Jigsaw.
1) She makes being brunette cool again!!!  We, of course, LOVE THAT!  Seriously, as the new 'it' girl for the world, haven't you noticed runway and magazine models looking very 'Kate?'  We're loving this and so is our long brunette hair style!




Cheers!
Ana

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cascarones!

Happy Easter! 

I remember a tradition we had growing up in which during Holy Week, we'd all sit around the table and make
'cascarones' - confetti-filled eggs that have been hollowed out, dyed, filled with confetti and then closed with colorful tissue paper and cracked open on Easter Sunday.  It's a tradition popular in Mexican and Mexican-American households.  As a family, we would chase each other around our back yard in Washington, D.C., basket of cascarones in hand, and once we caught up to the unlucky someone, we'd crack the eggs over their heads, and bits of dyed egg shell and confetti would spill all over!  By the end of the afternoon we had a a multicolored lawn, lots of egg shell bits spread all over, and each of us was in desperate need of a shower.  We loved everything about it.

 I remember my parents would start collecting the eggs right around the beginning of Lent.  I have vivid memories of our father cautiously cracking the eggs, careful not to break them beyond a tiny little hole at the top, patiently discarding the contents into whatever he was preparng for breakfast and washing the egg shell (cascaron in Spanish) and placing it back in the carton for future dying and 'stuffing.'  It couldn't have been easy to watch the old eggs pile up and to clean the disaster that followed Easter Mass, but I guess the fun of it made it worth it to them.  God bless 'em and may He grant me similar patience someday!  For what it's worth, it was among our favorite family traditions.  Curious?  Try them by following this simple e-how on how to make Cascarones.*

*Note: If you use an instrument other than a knife (pin, nail or needle) and plan to cook with the eggs you hollow out, sterilize the metal used to open the shell, as it will touch the food. 




Cheers!
Ana

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Easter Bunny will be arriving on Sunday and I'm wondering what he'll bring me this year. I love his combination of sweets, snacks (I've always preferred salty to sweet), the occasional book and yes, even some intimates. I love Easter because it gives me the chance to shamelessly indulge in some of my favorite treats. So whether you're preparing a basket for a roommate, a friend, a young one or a significant other- be sure you include some of their favorite treats!

Cheers!
Cristi

Thursday, April 21, 2011

{Thrifty Thursday} DIY Easter Centerpieces

This week (Holy Week), Whole Foods is having a special on Tulips- three bunches of 10 for $12. Tulips happen to be one of my favorite flowers so naturally, I had to capitalize on this great deal. I bought three bunches-a purple, a pink and a sunset multi colored bunch and waited a couple of days for the buds to open. Once they began to open, my mom and I trimmed down the stems and leaves and placed them in shallow Waterford rose bowls with some yellow daffodils for a colorful Spring floral arrangement, perfect for our Easter table landscape. Mami also set out her Spring tulip-designed china and we had a perfectly set dining room table. Love the Spring theme & can’t wait for Sunday afternoon's family Ester dinner to sit at mom & dad’s table and enjoy a delicious meal and some vino.  Check out the pictures of the table with our stellar center pieces. And don't forget to visit local grocery stores and floral shops for their daily deals.


Cheers!
Cristi

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wine Wednesday!

It's like the week just can't slow down!  Lots going on and lots to celebrate.  That calls for uncorking good grapes!

This week I poured myself a bottle of Vampire Merlot.  I remember when the Twilight Saga was what everyone was talking about!  I had a coworker in particular who read the series and convinced us all to crack open the books and learn all about the love triangle for ourselves!  As a housewarming gift, another coworker gave her a bottle of Vampire Vineyards Merlot, because, at the time, it was just so cute and fitting.  And then we all heard the wine was good!  In fact, 'much better than expected.'  And so, when I received it from my friend for a Christmas, I smiled because I had been curious about this wine for a year, and now I had the perfect excuse to try it for mmyself!  What I found: a great summer wine that is light and versatile.  Drink alone or with a meal and it works all the same! 
Cheers!
Ana


This week, my roommate and I drank a bottle of Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2008.  About the wine: Intense ruby red color. In nose, a fruity wine with aromas of black fruit, plums and herbs, pleasantly combined with undertones of vanilla, cloves and spices from the barrel in which it was matured. In mouth, a medium body wine, that is expressive, complex, well balanced and persistent. Side note, at $10 a bottle, it was amaze!

Cheers!
Cristi



Feed the Craving, Lose the Fat!

It's kind of  new tradition to join my workout buddies for dinner and margaritas at the Mexican restaurant next to the gym.  Effective, I know.  But worth it every time!  So since today wasn't one of our once-a-month party nights, I decided to cook a Mexican dinner for my husband at home.  I've had this recipe for a Quick Taco Salad in my online file for at least a year and realized I've been totally missing out!  This recipe takes little time, tastes amaizng and makes for easy clean up! Enjoy!

Modifications:
I used ground turkey
I mixed all of the greens (onions, cilantro and lettuce) together and kept the mixture seperate from the turkey/salsa/red bell pepper mixture
Made my own tortilla chips out of low carb corn tortillas (simply drizzle a teeny amount of vegetable oil over 4 tortillas and place on skillet or griddle until crispy)
I served the meat mixture over the greens mixture and topped with a sprinkle of reduced fat cheddar and added a dallop of Dannon plain non fat Greek yogurt (sour cream substitute)

Quick Taco Salad
Ingredients:

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner, via http://www.myrecipes.com/
  • 12 ounces ground round
  • 2 cups chopped yellow, red, or green bell pepper
  • 2 cups bottled salsa
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped romaine lettuce
  • 2 cups chopped plum tomato
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup crumbled baked tortilla chips (about 12 chips)
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
Directions:
  • Cook beef and bell pepper in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until beef is browned; stir to crumble. Add salsa; bring to a boil. Stir in cilantro; keep warm.
  • Place 1 cup lettuce on each of 4 plates; top with 1 cup meat mixture. Sprinkle each serving with 1/2 cup tomato, 1/4 cup cheese, 1/4 cup chips, and 1 tablespoon onions.

Monday, April 18, 2011

{We're Obsessed!} Jimmy Choo Patent Wedge

Raise your hand if you've ever fallen in love with a shoe you couldn't afford, made budget cuts here and there, saved enough money to finally buy them, and later found out that they were sold out and are no longer available.  Anywhere.  Yup.  It happens.  Luxury designers are brilliant in this clever marketing scheme.  Every eye catcher makes you think, "Is this something I can live without?" and when the answer is "no" we have a challenging decission to make: walk away and cross our fingers they are there when we come back, or splurge and hope the investment is worth the debt, or dent. 

This is why we love Jimmy Choo.  Designer Tamara Mellon's gorgeous shoes are worth the steep price tag (and REALLY comfortable at that), but unlike her premier designer friends, she reintroduces her most classic and popular styles season after season, assuring us that if you miss out on a shoe this time around, it will likely come back around next season. 

In March of 2009 I saw a Jimmy Choo shoe that I decided I couldn't live without, and today I rank it among one of my favorite purchases ever.  Three springs ago, when espadrilles were just being reintroduced to the high-end clientele, and wedges were literally parading around city streets after a brief hiatus that started around 2002, I really thought I was making a risky investment.  I NEVER expected wedges and espadrilles be in style three Spring/Summer seasons in a row, and since this shoe is perfectly stylish still today, I've definitely gotten my money's worth. 

We all love this Jimmy Choo Wedge as much today as we did when they were first released in 2009.  And, if you've missed out on wearing them the last two summers, you can still purchase a pair today.  The shoe is super elegant for a wedge/espadrille so you can wear it with more than a casual summer pant and top, making it the most versatile option availble in this category.  It embraces so many of today's footwear trends: Nude, check; patent leather, check; wedge, check; espadrille, check; sexy, you betcha!

That's why this week, we're obsessed witht the gorgeous Jimmy Choo Patent Phoenix Espadrille Wedge in Nude.  $395, select department stores and at Jimmy Choo Online.


  

Friday, April 15, 2011

{Good Grapes Destination} Packing Essentials

I'm sure everyone reading knows that I really enjoy making jewelry.  Naturally, I have quite a bit of jewelry and even when jetting off to my next mini vacation, I find a way to pack the right pieces for the outfits I've planned.  I have a couple of beautiful and useful jewelry rolls for taking in my carry on and wanted to share my ideas on the best ways for your jewelry to travel with you.  I've been asked more than once how I get my delicate chains to travel well and I'm giving you my answers.  Add something I've picked out below to your gift wish list, you'll be thrilled with any of them!


Clockwise from Pink:
Pretty in pink, $35 http://www.comfortmarket.com/rdb1366.html?mr:referralID=5b8d16a1-646e-11e0-9f53-001b2166becc Yup.  Pretty and perfect for securing necklaces



And I'm putting this at the top of my 'need now' list.  Sweet good grapes this is the best jewelry organizer I've come across!  $50 http://www.clos-ettetoo.com/products/the-traveling-jewelry-case And, as if that weren't enough, you can buy additional inserts.  Short trip?  Use as is.  Long trip?  Add pages of organization!  Brilliant!!! http://www.clos-ettetoo.com/products/the-traveling-jewelry-case

Cmpact jewelry storage roll in lime and gold.  I love the colors and the detachable unit is perfect for an overnight trip or for throwing in your gym bag (see link).  $20. http://www.amazon.com/Travel-Jewelry-Roll-Leather-Compact/dp/B001DIKYS6/ref=pd_sim_dbs_bt_2

And while not pictured above, I've always loved this monogrammed collection from Horchow, which includes a jewelry roll.

Not only are these fabulous and stylish travel essentials, but they make absolutely lovable gifts!

Bon Voyage!
Cheers!
Ana   



Thursday, April 14, 2011

{Thrifty Thursday} Step out in Style

Now that Spring has arrived, I’ve surrendered my $85/month parking permit and have started walking or riding the free McKinney Avenue Trolley to work. During my walk, I’ve noticed a lot of other people walking to work and I’m always quick to take notice of the shoes they’re wearing. Finding a good walking shoe is a daunting task indeed-especially for women. Before I found my current pair of flesh-colored Sperry Top-Siders for my one-mile trek, I was wearing my bright blue neon running shoes which basically ruined any effort I put into my outfit that morning, and before those—I was wearing regular flats which beat my feet & toes up. So for all you city girls that want to enjoy the fresh Spring air on your walk to work, but don’t know what shoes will work for your trek, I’ve picked out a few styles that might work. Check them out!




Stimulate your leg muscles with every step in these fit flops. A subtle brown/black or the Oasis hue won’t clash with your work attire on your walk. http://www.nordstroms.com/; $49.95 - $59.95


I’ve been a lover of Rainbows for most of my life. This flesh colored double-layered pair is a great walking shoe as the double-layered cushion provides extra padding and support for your walk to work. The memory foam in the shoe will also mold to your foot for extra comfort. http://www.nordstroms.com/; $48.95


These flesh-colored Sperrys are my choice for my walk to work. They are subtle, so comfortable and provide great padding and support. http://www.nordstroms.com/; $79.95


The Sperry Pamdale flat is also a great shoe. It comes in a variety of colors, has a rubber sole and is well cushioned. http://www.nordstroms.com/; $97.95

Cheers!
Cristi

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wine Wednesday!

On Saturday Jackie and I lunched at a family friend’s house and perfect hostess that she is, we were sent home with a couple of bottles from her family’s vineyard to take and enjoy. I am in love! A little research about the bottle's vintage led me to discover that their 2008 Petit Sirah won the Silver Medal, SF Chronicle Wine Competition and it is phenomenal! No surprise this vineyard appears multiple times throughout various categories.  The Petit Sirah is a plummy, deep purple wine and has seductive nose of violets. Its delicious flavor is enhanced with boysenberries, blueberries and blackberries -- with dark chocolate notes on the finish.  It is DELISH! You won’t be able to find it in your local stores (yet) but visit http://www.oakcliffcellars.com/ and order a bottle of this Napa gem today, you won't regret it!  As a bonus, you can say you were one of the first to try this wine, whose vineyard is so new it has just produced their first bottled wines.
Cheers!
Cristi


Hi!  It's Ana.  I'm blushig as I write this, but yes, I had to send back a bottle of wine while dining out this week.  I asked for a red similar to a wine I like that they did not have on the list.  What I requested: {name of wine} because I wanted a medium bodied red that had layers of berries but also subtle hints of oak.  The somolier was sure I would love this new realease red but when it was uncorked and poured all I tasted was vanilla.  Without my saying a word, she read my expression of disapproval.  Before rushing off to find the next bottle, I heard her say, "I thought so.  I've got something you may like."  Boy did she!  She came back with another new release red from Napa Valley.  It was the 2009 Decoy red wine Bordeaux varietal blend of four different grapes aged 100% in French oak barrels.  I loved this mouthwatering wine and for once was happy that I was picky (I can't imagine settling for that first wine when this one cost the same and tasted soooo much better).


I am fairly new to the Decoy brand, as I was introduced to this delicious brand for the first time in August.  I've since sent the bottle as gifts to dear friends celebrating special occasions.  I love a vineyard that is consistent in quality.  Made by the premier Napa Vineyard, Duckhorn, quality and enjoyability is a guarantee. 


The good grapes enjoyed this week added two new vineyards to my 'must visit' list the next time we visit dear Napa (return visit still to be planned, but I dream about our last trip every day)!
Cheers!  Ana



Isn't it Lovely?

Ahhh... To have a special place in your home or apartment that is your exclusive little nook.  What would you do with it?  Dream? Write? Nap? Read? Enjoy a glass of vino?  I've started a project of converting a bedroom into my own feminine space.  Pictures of my room to come but I've cut this out and added it to my inspiration board.  Even though these aren't the colors I'm working with, I think this space not only defines serene and comfortable, but also screams "no boys allowed," all while remaining elegant and classy. 

Cheers!
Ana


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I'm Craving Cream Cake!

It's Tuesday and I'm still recovering from lost sleep due to an amazing and weekend in Lexington, Kentucky.  What could perk me up more than a delicious homemade dessert?  Luckily for me, strawberries (also my favorite fruit!) are in season and on sale.  Today might be the perfect day to try this cream cake from Sunset magazine. 

If you bake even just a little bit, you probably already have all of these ingredients in your pantry.  Just pick up some whipping cream and a pint of strawberries and you're good to go!

Enjoy!

Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, plus additional to taste for berries
  • 2 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 quart strawberries, sliced
Preparation
  • 1. Preheat oven to 325°. Grease a 9- by 13-inch pan. In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, 1 1/2 cups cream, and eggs until smooth, creamy, and quite thick.
  • 2. Pour batter into pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.
  • 3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss strawberries with sugar to taste and let stand for at least 20 minutes. Whip remaining cup cream to soft peaks. Serve cake topped with strawberries and their juices and whipped cream.

Cheers!
Ana


Monday, April 11, 2011

April Showers Bring May Flowers…and Great Fashion!


Last week Dallas got hit with its first major rain storm and I woke up in a foul mood thinking my trek to work was going to be brutal. Luckily, I was well equipped for the torrential downpour and wanted to share some of my favorite rainy day accessories and the three critical items every girl should have for a rainy day: the trench, some fabulous wellies and a fashionable umbrella.
Clockwise from Left
  1. Tory Burch Buckle Rainboots: the lace up & buckle detail add a modern and trendy flare to these great boots!
  2.  I own these Burberry boots and love, love, love them. Their rider boot style keeps your outfit sleek and sexy even in the rain. 
  3. I also love these Burberry boots, similar to the other ones but with buckle hardware for a cool accent.
  4. Nothing is more traditional than the Hunter Classic Tall Wellies- I also own a pair of these in brown and love them! Try the Hunter fleece or cable sock for some extra height and warmth with your sock! 
 Clockwise from Left

1.      Burberry Double Breasted Packaway Trench: Burberry is known for its trench coats and this is a great classic style that keeps any look classy & sleek in the rain.
2.      This bright yellow Totes umbrella adds a bit of sunshine even on a rainy day.
3.      Classic black trench from Banana Republic
4.      Totes Mango/Claret stick umbrella
5.      J.Crew Swing Out Slicker Trench (tip: add a skinny belt around this trench to make even better!)
6.      The Totes Clear Bubble umbrella will keep you completely dry and fashionable
7.      The J.Crew Icon Trench is a great trench at less than half the cost of the Burberry trench.

Cheers!
Cristi

Friday, April 8, 2011

{Good Grapes Destination} Where the Grass is Greener

It's time for my favorite Spring weekend!  A quick popover to the Bluegrass State for a weekend of Bourbon tasting, bet making and beautiful blue grass that is the greenest green you've ever seen.  Salud amores!  I'll let you know all about it later. 



Photos taken from last year's visit.  We'll post our 2011 pics soon!

Cheers!
Ana

Thursday, April 7, 2011

{Thrifty Thursday} Can You be Preppy AND Thrifty?

So if you know me, the last thing that defines my style is preppy.  I've never owned a pair of khakis, and argyle is not my thing.  I own ONE v-neck sweater and I don't do well in collared shirts.  Even though our parents have given us gorgeous strings of pearls as gifts on dozens of occasions, mine have just sat nicely tucked away in the secret compartments of my jewelry chest. 

The thing is, I've always admired the look on so many.  Last week, I dared myself to venture into 'prep' and lo and behold, I LOVED it.  Prep is a safe classic and in this uber trendy season where I'm finding that some fashion finds seem too risky to stand the test of time, I'm adding a new element to my wardrobe and for the first time, find it flattering. 

Last week's outfit: slim fitting navy pants, ballet flats (so ballet flats aren't exclusively prep, but I couldn't just go cold turkey on this one), a navy fitted button down shirt, and a beautiful equestrian inspired silk scarf in kelly green accented with hues of gold and brown, and large pearl earrings.  All I needed was a pair of penny loafers to complete the outfit (just kidding).  I'm testing the waters with this new look and in putting my own 'twist' on the ever popular and timeless prep, I've managed to find some great deals.  It feels refreshing to try a new look without breaking the bank!   These are my thrifty picks this week, with a preppy spin. 

 Canary yellow Argyle cardigan by MNG for JCPenney.  $47.99
Old Navy blouse, $30
Old Navy Gold Sandals, $20 

 Lauren Ralph Lauren silk scarf in emerald, $38

Cheers!
Ana

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wine Wednesday!

What is it with my Wednesdays lately?  It was such a stressful day for both Zach and me that we finished a bottle of wine before we knew it.  Before dinner was served, in fact.  This week we uncorked a new Cabernet from Leaf Street. My mother in law picked it up at Wegman's last month and it was delicious.  Full bodied with subtle hints of fruit and oak, I immediately Googled the vineyard to learn more about it.  Wegmans.com says this: 'This Napa Valley vineyard is not famous (yet) and still under the radar, but their wines are delicious!'  I agree!

Jackie and Cristi enjoyed (surprise!) a new Malbec this week.  Rave reviews for Terrazas 2008 vintage!   Seems that the Ramons can't get away from Malbecs.  But for red wine lovers living in warmer climates, this lighter bodied red with fruit aromas is the perfect pick. 

Thank goodness for good grapes!  How else would we manage to get through the week?


Cheers!
Ana


Yummy Empanadas!

We are so lucky to have grown up on Cuban and Mexican cuisine!  What taste buds we've developed!  One of our favorite family dishes is the empanada, or beef turnover.  Our mother makes the best and in craving her cooking, I found this trusty recipe, courtesy of Goya.  There isn't a Cuban household in America that doesn't have a ready stock of Goya products on hand, so I knew this recipe would hit the spot when Zach and I wanted to make a dinner of empanadas and yuca frita for friends that we hosted the other night.  We enjoyed left overs for days and didn't tire of them!  In fact, we were pretty sad when we ran out.  Enjoy!




Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon Goya Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Goya Tomato Sauce
  • 6 Goya Spanish Olives Stuffed with Minced Pimientos, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons Goya Sofrito
  • 1 packet Sazon Goya with Coriander and Annatto
  • 1 teaspoon Goya Minced Garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Goya Dried Oregano
  • Goya Ground Black Pepper, to taste
  • 1 (14 ounce) package Goya Discos (yellow or white), thawed
  • Goya Corn Oil, for frying

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add ground beef and cook until browned, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes. Add onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes more. Stir in tomato sauce, olives, Sofrito, Sazon, garlic, oregano and black pepper. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until mixture thickens, about 15 minutes.
  2. On a lightly floured work surface, using a rolling pin, roll out discos until 1/2-inch larger in diameter. Spoon about 1 tbsp. meat mixture into middle, fold in half to form a half moon; moisten edges with water and pinch to seal closed, or seal with a fork.
  3. Fill a deep saucepan with oil to a depth of 2 1/2-inches. Heat oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking (350 degrees F on deep-fry thermometer). Cook Empanadas in batches until crisp and golden brown, flipping once, 4 - 6 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
Cheers!
Ana

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Flawless Makeover, Pronto!

As a spokesperson for a large corporation, I’ve found myself in front of the TV camera more than once and with HD TVs in almost every household today, I find myself being a little self conscious in front of the camera. I can deliver my key messages right on point and stay calm, cool and collected while being badgered by any reporter—but I’m constantly worrying—how does my skin look? All three of us have suffered with early-adult acne, each being on Accutane at least once and seeing a dermatologist since we were children. While my skin is leagues beyond where it used to be, I am still so careful with every product I put on my skin and very particular in my selection of makeup. So I wanted to share a few of my favorite make-up products with y’all.   Have fun!



Clockwise, from top, center:

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer
This Primer is essential! It keeps the shine down and keeps my makeup on for hours! It also prevents any creasing.  http://www.ulta.com/

Chanel Matte Luminere Makeup
This foundation provides phenomenal coverage and even conceals my large pores and redness.  I haven’t ever strayed far from the Chanel make-up counter.  http://shop.nordstrom.com/c/chanel-shop

Laura Mercier Bronzing Duo
I love love love this bronzer/blush duo set from Laura Mercier. It allows me to blend and get the perfect hue for my cheeks and when I need some extra color on my face.  http://www.neimanmarcus.com/

Chanel Giggle Lip Gloss (Glossimer)
I love almost every color in the Chanel Glossimer Lip Gloss collection, but I especially love Giggle-which gives a subtle nude lip with some shine. Perfect for my “au naturale” look. http://shop.nordstrom.com/c/chanel-shop

YSL Macara
I am completely obsessed with the YSL Singulier mascara. One quick swipe gives me dramatic, full, luscious lashes that don’t clump and look super fab. Love! www.sephora.com/ysl

Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion
This Urban Decay eyeshadow primer in a shimmery champagne color is a perfect eye primer and highlighter. I like to do a quick swipe under my eyes and along my cheek bones to give extra definition and omit any darkness under the eyes.  http://www.sephora.com/

La Mer
To finish off my au naturale easy look—I do a full sweep of La Mer’s translucent powder. It keeps everything in place, prevents shine and is so light you can’t even feel it. Nothing is worse than overdoing the make-up and looking cakey on TV, so this light powder is the perfect finish!  http://www.neimanmarcus.com/

On the weekends I may add these to my makeup routine:

YSL Eyeliner
This eyeliner goes on smooth and lasts forever! I always keep one in my purse, just in case I end up going out after a day at the office. www.sephora.com/ysl

Chanel Eye Shadow, "Les 4 Ombres de Chanel" in Smokey Eyes
This smoky eyes pallet from Chanel is perfect for creating a dramatic and sexy smokey eye. Just don’t forget the Urban Decay Eye Shadow primer underneath. Your eyes will be seductive and flawless for your night on the town. http://shop.nordstrom.com/c/chanel-shop

Cheers!
Cristi

Monday, April 4, 2011

{We're Obsessed!} Cut out shoes

Oooh!  We're loving the laser cut look on pumps, flats and sandals that are flooding shoe boutiques everywhere of late.  Perfect for summer, as those strategically cut shoes add not only decor but breathability.  Function AND fashion?  Yes, please!


1.Laser cutout Elona sandal, $119, http://www.ninewest.com/; 2. miu miu perfprated patent leather pumps, $650, http://www.net-a-porter.com/; 3. Banana Republic Segovia diamond cutout flats, $89.99; 4.  miu miu white lattieced bowtie flats, $345.60, http://www.bluefly.com/; 5. Merona Makana white cutout flats, $22.99, http://www.target.com/; 6. Valentino Lace Effect pumps, $675, http://www.net-a-porter.com/; 7. Prada Laser cut patent pumps, $695, http://www.saks.com/;  8. Giuseppe Zanotti ankle boot, $1,095, http://www.endless.com/

Cheers!
Ana

Friday, April 1, 2011

{Good Grapes Destination} Atlanta!

TGIF! 

I am so excited the weekend is here! I'll be traveling to Atlanta, GA and I'm so excited to explore the sights, sounds and tastes of Atlanta! Any recommendations of things to try and places to see?

Cheers!
Cristi

{DIY} The Bulletin Board Grows Up

I've purposely left the wall space over my desk in my home office blank for the last two years because I always envisioned some sort of "inspiration board" on that wall.  A space that could serve as a collector of jewelry, magazine pages, destinations, invitations... you know, things that inspire my creativity, particularly my jewelry making. 

I have seen many bulletin boards and padded cloth boards, but none seemed right.  They were too small, too large, too cheap looking, too juvenile, too much of what I didn't envision for that wall. 

I finally got excited when I came across these totally grown up bulletin boards at Ballard Designs.  Gorge and JUST what I need on that wall.  But, $200!!!  I can't afford THAT kind of inspiration, so I got creative and went shopping.  One stop at Tuesday Morning to find one hideous but cheap frame and another to the local A.C. Moore for spray paint, a roll of cork, multi-surface spray adhesive and push-pin decor (aka wedding scrapbook bow stickers).  The only supply needed was an exacto knife, which I already had at home. 

Shopping List:
Frame - $19.99
Paint - $5.19
Cork - $8.99
Spray Glue - $3.50
Bow Stickers - $0.99
Total - $38.66



 1. the frame as-purchased 2. the original frame, pre-paint 3. first layer of cork was glued in pieces (what remained after the clean cut was made)onto the back of the frame.  I then glued the clean cut of cork roll over the first layer.  4. the bow stickers next to the push pins 5. the 'posh' push pins 6. the painted frame and the cork board 7. the bow pins on the framed cork 8. my birthstone chart now has a new home!

Left, my desk, 'before.'  Right, my desk 'after.'






Cheers!
Ana