Friday, April 29, 2011

THE dress!

Happy Friday y'all! The Royal Wedding day has finally arrived, and while I didn't get up to watch it live, I've been watching the coverage all morning. It's a historic day, and it looked like a truly beautiful wedding. I was eagerly awaiting to see what Kate's dress looked like, and I thought she looked absolutely STUNNING. I loved her long sleeve lace gown, designed by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen, she truly looked like a princess. Congrats to the newlyweds and have a great weekend everyone!!

Allergy Season

"Like millions of Americans, I too suffer with allergies..."

Earlier this week, Cam took Lola to the vet because she's had some sniffles and congestion. We were concerned that she might have an upper respiratory infection, however, it turns out that she has allergies! I didn't even know dogs could have allergies, but apparently our little runty peanut of a puppy does. Greenville has crazy high pollen levels, so that probably has something to do with it. Anyway, the vet gave us some pills to help clear up the congestion, and so I just wanted to give a shout-out about one of my favorite dog related products I've found--Greenies Pill Pockets! If you need to give you dog any sort of pill, these are such an awesome invention. Sure you can stick a pill in cheese or a hot dog or something, but often times they'll end up eating the food and spitting out the pill. Pill Pockets are made with a little pouch to stick a pill, and they are squishy so you can seal up the end. This ensures that the pill actually stays in and gets swallowed when you give the dog the treat. They are super ingenious, and Lola seems to love them!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Water for Elephants

Last night, I finally went to go see the new movie, Water for Elephants! I say finally like it's been years, when really this movie has been out less than a week, I was just dying to see it! I had been wanting to read the book for awhile, so I finally broke down and did it back in January when I got my new Kindle. I loved the book. The story takes place in a Depression-era traveling circus, so that unique setting was perfect for Sara Gruen's extremely descriptive writing style to paint some beautiful mental images for the reader. The book definitely has some intense themes, but I thought it was a moving story, and it's the type of book that just really allows you to use your imagination because her writing is so descriptive. So when I heard they were making it into a movie, I was so excited, especially because Reese Witherspoon is one of my absolute favorite actresses. Overall, I thought the movie was good...but not great. Not as good as the book, but then again, I feel like it's hard for a movie to be as good as the book because you already have your own preconceived notions of how the characters look in your head, and then it's annoying when they change up the story line, as they always do when adapting a book into a screenplay. To me the biggest thing with the movie that was different than the book was the fact that they took the whole story line of the older Jacob Jankowski out completely. In the book, the chapters alternate between what's happening in the 1930's and the present, where Jacob is in the nursing home. I feel like Gruen did an excellent job of candidly describing the challenges that go along with aging, and it only makes his flashbacks of his life as a young man more poignant by contrasting it with him as an elderly man. In the movie, they basically just showed him as an old man in the beginning, he started telling his tale, and then they didn't show him as an old man again until the end. I was hoping they would have given the movie more of the Notebook treatment where they actually flash between the characters at the different points in their life. I think it would have made the film much more powerful. As far as the casting, it was just alright for me. I feel that sometimes when you have big starts in a film adaptation of a book, it's hard to see the celebrity as that particular character because you just think of them in other ways. That how I felt about Reese and RPatz, they were both just ok. I think I just imagined Marlena much differently in the book, so while I love Reese Witherspoon and I think that she did a decently good job in the role, her strength to me is much more romantic comedy. And then Robert Pattinson is not at all how I imagined Jacob Jankowski in the book, and honestly, he's just not that great of an actor in my opinion. I did think that Christoph Waltz was well cast in the role of August, because he really is able to strike that balance between charm and just pure viciousness. According to my hubby (who I dragged to the movie with me), his sort of schizophrenic personality that wavers between the guy that's gregarious and likable and a person who's unstable and violent is very similar to the role he played in Inglorious Bastards. (I fell asleep during that movie so I have no idea) Although in my mind, I really pictured August as Billy Zane circa Titanic, just very debonair with a dark side, and Christoph's wasn't quite as smooth to me. So overall, it was a pretty good film, but I'd highly recommend the book if you haven't read it yet!

However, the thing that I did really love about the film was Reese Witherspoon's whole look in the movie, she was gorgeous. Her 1930's hair, makeup, and wardrobe were spot on and she just really looked fabulous. I loved the light blonde hair with the waves and big curls, and then she wore a couple head scarves throughout the movie which I thought were really cute. I also loved the great bias cut dresses she wore throughout the movie, her wardrobe was super feminine and elegant. But my favorite thing about her look was her makeup; I love loved the smoky eye she was sporting in some of the scenes, definitely going to try something like that soon!

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Adventures & Eatings

Happy belated Easter y'all! I hope everyone had a wonderful time celebrating, the weekend went by too quickly! I had a friend from high school visiting for the weekend, so it was fun to show off my lovely hometown of Greenville, as well as take a day trip up to Asheville to see the Biltmore. (Cam and I have season passes to Biltmore thanks to my in-laws, so this was actually my 3rd trip there since October!)

Saturday, my friends who just moved to Charleston ventured up to Greenville, and we all did a hike up Table Rock, and thankfully the weather cleared up just in time for us to reach the top and take in the great views.

Sunday, we all went to church, then Cam and I cooked an Easter meal for everyone, and we had our friends who live in Spartanburg join us as well. So all and all, it was a fabulous, albeit busy, weekend. This was really the first holiday that I haven't been with family, so that was a little different, but it was really nice to be able to open up our home and celebrate with friends, and I think that everyone appreciated the hospitality. I really enjoy having people over, but this was the first big holiday that Cam and I had ever hosted on our own, so it was a little bit of a weird feeling, sort of like wow, I guess we really are adults!

We were able to pull out a lot of different different dishes and trays and things that we had received as wedding gifts, but don't use on a daily basis, so that was fun. Cam and I planned the menu together, and I think that everything came out pretty well. We had deviled eggs...they came out ok, I found this website helpful, but I should have used my grandma's recipe instead...I did use smoked paprika though, and I thought that was better than regular...

We also had Ina Garten's shrimp and orzo salad...

I also made a homemade cheesecake and topped it with strawberries...

And it wouldn't be Easter without birds' nests...

And of course I had to have lots of Easter cute are these little buckets?!

Since our apartment is decorated with a lot of turquoise, I opted to go with turquoise and white with some lime green for the table...

(The pattern on the napkins is EXACTLY the same as the pattern on my blog...what a coincidence!)
 My wonderful husband also prepared a beef tenderloin with a red wine reduction and a blue cheese compound butter for our main course...not exactly traditional, but it was DELISH! (I wish I would have gotten a picture of it!) I'm a lucky girl to be married to someone who is such a good cook! All in all, it was a lovely weekend capped off by a fantastic meal shared with great friends. And since it was 90 degrees here in Greenville on Easter, I think it's safe to say that spring is more than here in the South and I'm loving every minute of it! :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ladies' Night!

Tuesday night, Cam and I had the pleasure of going to see Sara Bareilles in concert, and it was a fantastic show! She came to The Orange Peel in Asheville, which is this really cool, local place that's a great chance to see performers in a more intimate setting. It was my first time there, and I loved it--they've got microbrews from local breweries on tap, and it's standing room only, so you get a much more interactive type show than when you're sitting in an seat in a larger venue. (Side note, I love Asheville, it's such a wonderful city. It's set in the mountains and it's got this hippie, outdoors-y vibe much like Ann Arbor or Portland. It's got a big bluegrass music scene and there are lots of artsy shops and galleries. And it's only a little over an hour away from where we live, so Cam and I love going there whenever we can!) Anyway, back to the concert. SB had 2 opening acts: Ximena SariƱana and Elizabeth and the Catapult. I had never heard of either of these artists, but both were excellent! Ximena is from Mexico, and she had a very youthful presence with a soulful voice. She sang some songs in Spanish and some in English, and used a lot of Imogen Heap-esque type sounds. Elizabeth and the Catapult is a trio of one girl and two guys from Brooklyn, and I loved their sound. They were kind of like an engetic mix of indie rock/jazz/pop/funk, and gave a great performance. Then SB came on stage and totally met my high expectations I had for her. She's got such a strong, beautiful voice and had a really fun energy on stage, totally the kind of person that I would love to be friends with. She played a mix of her old stuff, and then her new songs from her album 'Kaleidescope Heart', along with some awesome covers of Coldplay, Mumford and Sons, and Cee Lo Green. If she's coming to a city near you, I'd highly recommend checking out this tour! (And even though the crowd was overwhelming female 20 somethings in Zooey Deschanel-eque outfits, Cam still had a great time...)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Here comes Lola Cottontail...

Happy Easter Week everyone! This weekend was the start of what's going to be a very busy time for us; I'm pretty sure that I have something scheduled every single weekend from now until the middle of June! But it's all good, fun things, so I'm looking forward to all the excitement ahead. This past weekend, we went to Charleston and had a fantastic weekend there. We got to tour historic homes, visit with our friends who just moved there from Michigan, and just enjoy the beautiful weather. I want to do a separate post about the homes we saw on the historic home tour with the pictures I took, but we'll see if I find the time this week. We're having visitors come in later this week, so the next few days are going to be a little hectic, so in the event I do get too busy to post, I just wanted to wish everyone a blessed week! I also wanted to share the Easter card that I had made to send out to our families; I love sending out Christmas and birthday cards, but I don't always send out cards for other holidays. However, since we're not going to get to celebrate Easter with either side of our family this year, I decided that I wanted to send a card. And since Lola has ears that make her look like she's part rabbit, I just couldn't resist ordering these adorable cards from Shutterfly. I was really pleased with how they came out, and glad that I could send everyone a pic of our sweet little bunny :)

Love Some Bunny Easter Card
Invitations, announcements and Valentine's Day cards by Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Jewel of the South

This past weekend, Cam and I decided to go for another hike up in the mountains of North Carolina to enjoy the beautiful spring weather we've been having. We decided to drive up to Mt. Mitchell, which is about an hour north east of Asheville. Mt. Mitchell is the tallest peak east of the Rockies, but you can actually drive up to the summit. We ended up deciding to only do a 4 mile hike up to the top since it's about a 2.5 hr drive from our house and we didn't really have the time to hike all day, but were able to eat lunch at the top and enjoy the great views from the observation deck. Great way to spend a Sunday :)

 We were actually able to enjoy beautiful views for most of the drive up to Mt. Mitchell because we drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway! The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of my favorite things in the South...actually it's probably one of my favorite things in the country. I mean, talk about a great idea. Here you have these gorgeous mountains (and they really are), and someone had the good sense to preserve this majesty and put this scenic road right through them so you can admire them from your car. The BRP runs between Virginia and North Carolina, and was commissioned as part of the New Deal in 1936. And it's perfect because now the car is so central to our culture as Americans, so the Parkway allows you to drive and admire the beauty of nature at the same time. It's a National Scenic Byway, which means that it's basically a national park meant to be explored on wheels. It's beautiful, yet functional, and that's what I love about it. It snakes along like a gorgeous ribbon on top of the mountains and it gets you where you need to go, including taking travelers to lots of fantastic camping and hiking. And all the while, you're surround by panoramic overlooks of these stunning mountains, and there are plenty of overlook points where you can pull over, get out of your car, and really take in the view. We've driven on the Parkway many times since moving to the South, and each season has been equally beautiful. If you're ever in the North Carolina or Virginia, take the time to cruise the Parkway and enjoy what I think is one of the true jewels of our nation's natural wonders. Here are some pictures I took along Parkway this weekend! :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Life is too short to eat bad food...

Talk about a crazy Saturday night.
I love food. I love shopping for food, I love cooking food, and I especially love eating food, whether I've made it or not. (I could do without the cleaning up food part though...) I love watching TV shows about food, I love discovering all the fantastic blogs that exist about food (because there are a lot of them out there!), and I love writing about food myself. I am also married to someone that loves food just as much (if not more) than I do. It's something that is a shared passion for both of us and something that we love to enjoy together. For this reason, our monthly food budget is a little out of control. What we spend between restaurants and groceries for two people is really a little absurd, but you know what? I've decided that I'm ok with it. Sure, I'm always going to try to do what I can to cut costs where I can and try to keep reducing this area of our budget, but at the same time, I'm not going to cut corners. It's important to both of us that our food is produced in a way that is sustainable and reduces impact on the Earth. This is why we do the majority of our grocery shopping at Whole Foods. (At least during the winter months; during the summer, I try to go to the farmer's market as much as possible!)  But another reason that we shop at Whole Foods? There is just some really really good food there. If I want fresh ground peanut butter, triple cream brie, or different varieties of prosciutto, Whole Foods has the best selection, at least here in Greenville...

Don't get me wrong, I'm fortunate to live in a place that at least has a Whole Foods. But it's no Zingerman's. Ahh Zingerman's. For those times when I want a hard to find blue cheese, an amazing slab of bacon, or a dreamy sour cream coffee cake, I do wish that I could teleport back to Ann Arbor. Cam and I were getting home sick for Zingerman's the other day because we were watching America's Best: Top 10 Comfort Foods on Food Network, and Alton Brown crowned the mac & cheese at Zingerman's Roadhouse with the #1 spot. Umm tell me something I don't know Alton. The macaroni and cheese at Zingerman's is SO good. And since Cam and I are the same person in that when we see something on TV that looks so delicious, it plants a seed in our mind(s), and inevitably we'll end up making it. Case in point, we watched the America's Best Comfort Foods on Wednesday...and we made the mac & cheese from the Zingerman's cookbook this weekend. Bam. And boy was it yummy. (It's the dish in the picture at the top of this post!)

Even though we're in our twenties and occasionally feel obligated to go out and be young, Cam and I really like having low-key nights on the weekends where we just stay in. Honestly, we can be super lame and I'm totally fine with it. We both work all week, so it's nice to just stay home and relax sometimes. And usually this relaxing involves cooking, eating, and watching a movie...and ice cream. That's another thing we have in common, our shared love of ice cream (which falls under that whole food umbrella I was referring to). After our Whole Foods trip run and cooking our Zingerman's mac & cheese on Saturday, we settled in to watch a movie. This weekend's pick? Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Talenti Mediterranean Mint gelato. Last weekend, it was Summertime and Talenti Belgian Milk Chocolate gelato. Two patterns here. One, I like old movies...and I can usually get Cam to agree to watch them with me if there is some element I can hook him in with. For 7B47B, it was the fact that it takes place in the Oregon...and if you've ever seen this movie, it's a musical that Cam would love...and he did. For Summertime, it was the fact that the film was shot in beautiful Venice, in complete Technicolor glory, and we were able to reminisce about Europe. The other common thread? Talenti gelato. This stuff is the bomb. (I know people don't really use this expression anymore, but I really just couldn't think of any other way to describe it!) I've been to Italy twice and have tried lots of different types of gelati here in the US as well, and this stuff is great. Every flavor I've tried has been delicious...and I've tried a lot of them.  My favorite so far is the Belgian Milk Chocolate, it's seriously heavenly! And, surprise surprise, Talenti gelato available at Whole Foods :)

Happy eating y'all! :)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lucky Little Lola

Lola's signature pose
 This weekend, I was just reflecting on how blessed we are to have sweet little Lola in our lives. We took her to the vet on Friday to have her weighed and she's a whopping 27.5 lbs already! A huge change from the tiny little 3lb nugget that she was when we first started fostering her...but for a boxer lab mix that's almost 6 months old, she's really not that big. I actually put her weight/age in an online calculator and it said that she should only be 36lbs when full grown! I am thinking that she'll end up being a little bigger than that, but who knows, and no matter how big she gets, I am so happy that we have her.

Relaxing in the South Carolina sun
  Although she's not the type of dog that Cam or I would have chosen if we would have each gotten to pick individually, she is the perfect compromise for what we both wanted and is really ideal for our lifestyle. She's loyal like a lab, but she's also comical like a boxer, and then I don't know where her big silly ears came from (she may or may not be part bat!), but they are my favorite thing about her. She's very high energy and athletic and loves to play with other dogs and go hiking, but she's also very sweet and cuddly and loves to sit and watch TV with us. She definitely chose us, and she just fits perfectly to make us a little family.

Stopping to smell the flowers!
The last few months have been full of joys, but that's not to say that there haven't been difficulties. Having a puppy is a lot of work, and sometimes I think that they are so adorable simply to keep you from killing them when they misbehave! I think that it's caused Cam and I to really grow in our relationship with each other as we learn to be "parents" to Lola. Having a puppy can be a serious strain on a relationship because it's it seems like there is constant frustration about who's letting her out or cleaning up after her. However, having to work through all this stuff and figure out how to allocate the increased responsibility has been good for us, and when Lola is being good, it's rewarding to be able to share in those successes together.

Her first time swimming in the lake!
 There is no question that Lola can be a handful, but I know that we really lucked out with her because overall she's a really sweet and fairly well-behaved dog. So I totally chalk it up to a blessing from the Lord, and not anything that Cam and I have done, we are by no means dog whispers! While she does chew up the occasional sock or tissue, she's not really destructive at all, and I can leave her unsupervised in the other room and not have to worry that she's going to destroy something, which is great. She just loves being with us, so when we are trying to do something like cook or get ready for work in the morning, she'll just come in and sit or lay down on the floor. She's pretty good about just playing with her toys, and while we play fetch with her all the time, she has no problem entertaining herself with a chew toy or bully stick. (Side note: If you have a dog and have not gotten them bully sticks yet, you are missing out. Lola LOVES these things and will literally pay attention to nothing else if we give her one.) She's always enjoyed being in her crate since she was tiny, and most of the time it's actually more of a struggle to get her out of her bed in the morning! She's pretty quiet and is pretty much housebroken, thanks to her learning how to use the Poochie Bells we got for her, seriously such a life saver!

Her favorite place to be--relaxing on the couch!
 Don't get me wrong, she's by no means perfect. She still chews up things, she's not great with the command "come" when we're outside, she's always trying to get into the dishwasher, she's always trying to put her paws up on the counter,  and she doesn't have great manners around food (she has no problem trying to help herself to food off anyone's plate if they are in her immediate vicinity!). But overall, she's just a sweet little puppy and I'm really glad that she is a part of our life!

Our little fam :)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Discoveries from a Beauty Hoarder

I have a confession to make. When it comes to beauty products, I am a marketer's dream. Whenever I see an ad for a new mascara or read an article about a new moisturizer, I have to try it. I end up purchasing these products with hopes that  this "new & improved" product will be drastically different than the 6 others that I already have at home taking up space under my bathroom sink. And more often than not, I'm disappointed with the results. So I'm pleased as punch when I find products that actually live up to my expectations, and want to share my finds with as many people as I can. Here are some of my recent beauty buys that I'm actually glad I went out and impulsively purchased:
    It's cheeky ads like this that are my downfall.
  • Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector: So I have been wanting to buy this stuff for awhile, however, it's $50 so I had been holding out for fear that it would be relegated to the basket full of "ineffective but expensive" skin care products that I have under my sink. However, after reading a number of reviews online, I figured that I had to try it out. Even though I'm in my 20's, I still have very oily, breakout prone skin. And against my better judgment, I have popped pimples and picked at zits, which has resulted in somewhat significant acne scarring. Plus, Clinique gives away a bonus gift pretty much every other week, so if you can purchase this when you get something free, it makes the $50 seem like a much better value. I have been using this stuff morning and night for about 3 weeks, and I have already noticed a little bit of improvement on my cheeks. One bottle is supposed to last you 4 weeks, and then you're supposed to see full results in 3 months. I figure if I feel like the results have been significant by time I run out of this bottle, I'll probably buy it again...but only if I can get another Clinique bonus kit! 
  • e.l.f. Studio Golden Bronzer: This is why I love Target. I was looking for a new bronzer and planning on ordering one from Sephora (because we don't have a Sephora in Greenville...not cool), but I was hesitant about spending $40 on something I couldn't see the exact color of. Being a blonde with fair skin, I have had a hard time finding the right bronzer because the majority of what's out there is either too orange so I look like an Oompa Loompa or it's too brown so it makes my skin look dirty. I happened to be browsing around the cosmetics department at Target this weekend when I saw the e.l.f. collection, and couldn't believe the prices--this stuff was dirt cheap! The majority of the products ranged between $1-$3, so admittedly, my expectations were pretty low. However, their studio bronzer collection looked pretty good, so I decided to take a $3 gamble on their golden bronzer. I'm glad I did because it's fantastic! Nice mosaic pattern, sleek black case with mirror, perfect color, and just a hint of shimmer. And it's actually a huge bronzer for less than what a grande skinny vanilla latte costs me at Starbucks! (My next e.l.f. purchase is going to be their bronzer/blush duo that is literally identical to the Orgasm/Laguna duo that I've purchased from Nars a few times...such a steal!)
  • Essie Nail Polish in Sand Tropez: A friend of mine had on this nail polish when we visited NYC and I just had to buy it for spring. It's the perfect nude polish that nicely complements vibrant spring clothes. I've been wearing it this week and it's the equivalent of wearing a great pair of nude pumps; it's classic and chic. This color looks great for spring, and I plan on wearing it straight through to summer because I think it will look great with a tan! (and the color is also great for hiding chips!)

  • Garnier Pure Clean Conditioner: There has been an increase in eco-friendly hair products on drugstore shelves, which I think is great. At the moment, I'm loving this conditioner by Garnier. The bottle is made with PET, the most recyclable form of plastic, and the conditioner doesn't contain any parabens, sillacones, or dyes, so it's much more biodegradable than a normal conditoner. But the best part is that it's fortified with the antioxident-rich Acerola Berry, and it smells fantastic! 


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