September 30, 2014

image via Pinterest

Friday Favorites

September 26, 2014

As September draws to an end I find myself thinking about the holiday season and the hustle and bustle that is about to ensue in just a few short weeks. As always, I'm excited for it--it's my favorite time of year, after all--but I'll admit, just thinking about the shopping and parties and planning and packing is enough to make me want to take a long nap. Starting next weekend I've got birthday parties, baby showers, trips to the pumpkin patch, Halloween, a trip to Disneyland, my daughter's birthday and my brother's birthday--and that's just October! I'm thankful that this weekend I've absolutely no plans. What are you grateful for today? Have a safe and blessed weekend, and God bless.

The return. (Was that dramatic enough for you? I promise not to make this a regular on Friday Favorites. But seriously how awesome was that season premiere?!)

This insanely gorgeous closet.  

The perfect fall look

A favorite quote.  And also a reminder to be a little more courageous.

These ridiculously cool boots.

How to Wear Summer Essentials This Fall

September 25, 2014

I love fall fashion, and I'm excited about pulling out my favorite sweaters and scarves, but I'm not quite ready to trade in all my summer clothes for cold weather essentials. If you're like me and you don't want to pack up all your summer wares just yet, here are a few ideas for incorporating some of your favorite warm weather pieces into your fall wardrobe.    

White Jeans
I really love a monochromatic look--white jeans paired with a chunky, winter white sweater and neutral heels or booties.
Clockwise from top left: Gap Cable Knit Sweater,  Baublebar Candy Floss Gem Collar,  Old Navy Classic Chambray Shirt,  The Edmund Heel from Madewell

Floral Print Dress
For me, the perfect autumn gamine look starts with a sweet floral print frock. Add a black cardigan and dark tights, and suddenly that summery dress becomes a go-to for fall.

Clockwise from top left: Sweet Bliss Cardigan from Tulle Dorothy Perkins Black Check Tights,  Nine West Nostalgia Lace-Up Oxford Shooties,  Kate Spade Hanover Street Aster Crossbody  

Breezy Maxi Dress
Maxi dresses are ubiquitous during the warm weather months, but they can easily transition into the fall. I like to toughen up the feminine silhouette with a moto jacket, a thick, knit scarf, and boots.

Clockwise from top left: Hannah Faux Leather Biker Jacket,  Zara Metal Detail Leather Boots,  Throwback Crescent Hoop Earrings Ganni Snowball Knitted Scarf

Must Have: Magic Wand Salt & Pepper Shakers

September 24, 2014

I want these; I want these so bad. I spotted them on a design website and couldn't get over how darling they are. I've even come up with a couple of cute nicknames inspired by them: Fairy Godmother of Flavor, Sorcerer of Seasoning, Enchantress of Essence.

Friday Favorites

September 19, 2014

The heat in Southern California doesn't seem to be letting up, and after running around in the life-leaching sun all week, I'm looking forward to a weekend spent doing nothing but enjoying the A/C. And some frozen yogurt, of course. As always, I wish you a wonderful weekend, and God bless!

A coffee mug that'll make my morning cup a little fancier.

Pretty ways to organize my plethora of beauty products

The shoes and the jacket

The most gorgeous waffles ever.

Sweet, shmushy faces that make me smile.

Skinny Mini Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

September 18, 2014

I've never been one to seek out skinny versions of my favorite recipes, but I recently found myself with a big bag of whole wheat flour (when did I buy it??) and wanted to put it to good use. Since I'm sort of deeply into pumpkin right now (see here) I decided skinny pumpkin muffins were in order. This recipe uses a mix of whole wheat flour and oats, and calls for less sugar and oil than most pumpkin chocolate chip muffin recipes, but the results are still just as addictive. And they're even better the next day with coffee!

Skinny Mini Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
1½ cups whole wheat flour
1½ cups rolled oats
¾ cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1½ canned pumpkin 
3 tablespoons canola oil
¼ cups low-fat milk (I used almond milk)
1 large egg
1 large egg white
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375° and line mini muffin tin with paper cups, or spray with baking spray. Whisk all dry ingredients and spices together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl combine pumpkin, oil, milk and eggs and mix well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix, then add chocolate chips and stir. Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake for 10 minutes.  

Must Have: Sequin Ice Cream Clutch

September 17, 2014

I mostly stick to neutral-colored handbags, save for a few vintage numbers, but I think a fun, colorful statement clutch is a major must, especially for a night out. This one is nothing if not fun--it's got sequins, it's got color, and it's even got just a little bit of cheekiness, but in the most playful way.

101 Delicious Pumpkin Recipes

September 12, 2014

Pumpkin is one of my favorite flavors of the fall, and there is no shortage of unique pumpkin recipes available, from sweet (cakes, cookies, truffles, and pies) to savory (enchiladas, soups, pizza, and pastas). I've rounded up a ton of recipes that I would love to try, and put them all on a Pinterest board titled 101 Delicious Pumpkin Recipes. Check it out and get inspired to whip up something tasty soon. 

Friday Favorites

September 12, 2014

I'm telling you, something about the changing seasons makes me want to throw on my apron and spend the day in the kitchen, cooking and baking all my family's favorites and trying out new recipes. Since it's still hot as Hades here in Southern California (what's up with that?), I've resorted to scouring Pinterest and a few other sites and drooling over pictures of food, rather than actually cooking food. I'm hoping that will all change soon, but in the meantime, I'm thoroughly enjoying looking at this picture of New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp. I hope you enjoy your weekend. God bless!

Cajun BBQ shrimp, one of my most favorite foods.

The most adorable DIY printed clock. I'd love it with a fun, glittery print or bright colors.

This sweet little Kate Spade--happy birthday to me?

Four more days until Season 3.

Giant bow gift wrap, you know, for my inner 5-year old. 

13 Years Later

September 11, 2014

Today, all across our nation, people of all colors, races, religions, and sexual orientation are united by the memory of the tragic events of that fateful Tuesday. We are linked together forever. We will never forget.

image via

Tips to Become a Better Baker

September 10, 2014

One of the reasons I love autumn so much is because it's the perfect time to do some baking. Since fall is right around the corner, and the holiday season is right on its heels, there's no better time to brush up on my baking skills. Here are a few tips I find helpful.

1. Read a recipe all the way through before starting. Countless times I've mixed in flour before sifting it with baking soda, or creamed butter with sugar before whipping it. I've even unintentionally omitted steps and changed the recipe entirely. 

2. This is kind of a no-brainer, but make sure you have all the ingredients on hand before you begin. Remember how sad Amélie Poulain was when she had no yeast for her famous plum cake in the movie Amélie? Baking is a happy sport; never be sad. 

3. If you don't have the necessary equipment called for in the recipe, make sure you have a suitable substitute. For example, you don't need a standing mixer if you have a good hand mixer with different attachments, and a large, deep bowl. Or if you don't have a cake leveler, you can use a serrated knife.

4. Start with your ingredients at room temperature to achieve the best results. This is especially important for the butter and eggs.

5. When using measuring cups and spoons for dry ingredients, use the flat side of a knife blade or metal spatula to level them off. Baking is a science, and precision is the key; under measuring your flour or adding too much baking powder could mean the difference between a moist, fluffy cake and a vanilla-scented rock.

6. Know your oven. The instructions may call for cookies to bake for 8-10 minutes, but if you know your oven tends to take longer to bake things all the way through, adjust the bake time by just a few minutes and use a tester.

7. Get familiar with baking terms. Knowing the difference between creaming and crimping, drizzling and dusting is key to getting the results you desire. Check out this glossary if you're unsure about a term you saw in a recipe.

8. To avoid getting eggshells mixed into your batter or dough, crack your eggs into a separate bowl before adding them to the mix. If you do crack them directly into the batter and happen to get eggshells in it, use the empty half of the eggshell you're holding to retrieve the pieces (they'll stick right to the shell, promise).

9. The recipe may not say it, but always use the middle rack of your oven for baking.

10. Use separate measuring cups for your liquid (milk, water, oil) and dry ingredients (flour, sugar, chocolate chips,etc). Using a dry cup measure for liquids, or vice versa, will result in the wrong amounts, which could ruin your product. And if it seems like a liquid but can be scraped with a spatula (e.g. sour cream or peanut butter), use the dry measuring cups.

Must Have: Equinox Pleated Maxi Dress

September 10, 2014

I'm more than a little obsessed with this dress for fall. The colors are beautiful and I love the print (flowers and tree branches). I also love the way they have it styled here with the floppy hat and chunky heels--perfect for fall. But I suspect it will be just as amazing next spring with sandals and a jean jacket. 

Friday Favorites

September 5, 2014

There are still a couple of weeks left before the official start of autumn, but since school has started, football season kicked off, and I literally, just this second, watched a Christmas commercial, I'm getting anxious for the seasons to change. It probably won't cool off in Southern California for some time, but that hasn't stopped me from stocking up on baking supplies in preparation for fall. Here's to a wonderful almost-end-of-summer weekend! God bless!

Simple, warm, and comforting for the brisk fall days that I'm hoping are ahead.

A Kate Spade inspired party.

The cutest DIY cake domes

Disneyland Paris--does it get any dreamier?

Remembering the woman who first asked the question, "Who are you wearing?" The red carpet won't be the same without her.

Disney Paris image via Pinterest

Chocolate Stout Brownies

September 4, 2014

The NFL regular season kicks off tonight, and there's no better reason to bake up a batch of brownies--with beer! (Because I'm almost certain beer is the official beverage of football season.) I never would have guessed, but somehow beer enhances the flavor of chocolate; it makes it deeper, more intense. Besides the beer that's in the batter, a thick layer of stout-spiked ganache makes these the richest, fudgiest brownies I've ever tasted.  

Chocolate Stout Brownies
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
16 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped and divided
1 cup plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter (about 2¼ sticks)
1½ cups sugar 
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1½ tsp kosher salt, divided

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9x9x2" metal baking pan with foil, leaving a 2" overhang. Spray foil with baking spray (Pam with flour or similar).

Bring stout to a boil in a medium saucepan; cook until reduced to ½ cup, about 12 minutes, then allow it to cool. Reserve ¼ cup stout. Stir 12 ounces of the chocolate and 1 cup butter in a medium metal bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water). Whisk sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend, then gradually whisk in chocolate mixture, then ¼ cup stout. Fold in flour and 1¼ teaspoons salt. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake brownies until surface begins to crack and a tester inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 35–40 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool for at least 20 minutes. In a microwave safe bowl, heat remaining 4 ounces of chocolate on HIGH setting in 30-second intervals until melted and smooth, then add reserved ¼ cup reduced stout, remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, and ¼ teaspoon salt; whisk until well blended.
Pour warm glaze over brownies and let set at room temperature for about 40 minutes. Using foil overhang, lift the brownies from pan and cut into small squares.

10 Ways to Help Out a New Mom

September 3, 2014

According to statistics, more women give birth in the month of September than any other month of the year. If you happen to know someone who is having a baby this month, or whenever, show her some love by lending a hand with the new baby and around the house. As a mommy of two little ones, I can assure you she will appreciate it. 

1. Mommy may not want to leave her tiny bundle right away, but she may not object to a nap or hot shower. Offer to come and sit with the baby while she catches up on some Zs. And if the baby is napping too, see if the dishwasher needs emptying or bottles need washing.

2. Cook or bake a dish that will keep in the fridge or freezer in case she doesn't get around to eating it right away. Give her a call first to find out if there are any dietary restrictions, especially if she's nursing, and find out a good time to drop it off.

3. When mom is ready, pick her up for a quick mani/pedi or to grab a cup of tea. She'll appreciate the break from her wee lamb, but won't be gone long enough to send her into a panic about leaving the baby.

4. After 40 weeks of anticipation, lots of mommies like to send a birth announcement. Show up at her place ready to stuff and seal envelopes and attach stamps. It's a little gesture that she'll no doubt appreciate. And if she's not sending birth announcements, she's likely sending thank you cards for all the gifts she's received for baby; take care of those for her.

5. Bring mom some reading material to peruse as she recovers from giving birth, especially if she's had a C-section. Nothing too long or intense, as she'll likely not have time for it; think fashion or gossip mags.

6. Offer to do baby's laundry for the first few weeks. It's a big commitment, but one that will be greatly appreciated by any new mommy. 

7. When you're out running errands, text mom to see if there are any errands you can take care of for her. 

8. If there are older siblings in the house, let mom know you can pick them up from school or get them on the weekend for some time at the park or somewhere else really fun. Mom will appreciate the bonding time with the baby, and the kids will have a chance to get out and run around--something they may not have had a chance to do since baby's arrival. 

9. Offer your assistance when baby is a few weeks old. During the first week or two, new moms get bombarded with help, but things die down shortly thereafter, so show up ready to help when the new momma may need it most.

10. Whether she's gushing over her sweet little lamb or ranting about sore nipples and lack of sleep, listen. And do so without judging or forcing your unsolicited opinion on her. New moms go through a ton of physical, emotional, and hormonal changes, so having a good friend to lean on is always a comfort.

image via

Must Have: Atelier Cologne Grand Néroli Cologne Absolue

September 3, 2014

I'm always excited to discover a new fragrance, and I think it's especially appropriate to switch scents right as the seasons change. I'm a sucker for citrus scents, so I'm thinking this one may be a winner for fall. It has notes of orange blossom and herbs, which are clean and bright, warmed up with musk and vanilla. 

Make Your Manicure Last Longer

September 2, 2014

After paying good money to have your nails done, or taking the time to it yourself at home, there is nothing more frustrating than having your freshly-painted nails get messed up the next day. It's happened to me countless times, and I've learned that even the simplest tasks, like typing up a quick email or snapping my handbag shut, can ruin a good mani. Here are some tricks I've discovered to help keep my nails looking good, days after I've had them done.  

1. Apply a top coat.
This may seem unnecessary if the nail technician applied a top coat at the salon, but adding a layer at least every other day will seal in the color and prevent chipping.

2. Keep cuticles moisturized.
Use a cuticle oil or this DIY cuticle cream, or grab some olive or grapeseed oil from your kitchen and apply a drop to each nail every morning and every night before bed to minimize peeling or splitting. 

3.Polish the free edge.
Applying the base coat, polish, and top coat to the free edge (the part that's been clipped or filed) helps to seal the nail color and minimize chipping.

4. Don't blow on your nails.
Your breath is warm, and applying any kind of heat to your freshly-painted nails actually slows down the drying process, which takes about 12 hours. If you want to speed things along, set your hair dryer to a cool setting and run it over your nails for a few minutes, or plunge your hands in a bowl of icy water. Just keep in mind that while they may feel dry to the touch, your nail polish has not hardened.

5. Wear gloves.
Submerging your hands in water, like when you're washing dishes, can lead to peeling. Wear rubber gloves whenever your hands will be immersed in water, and keep showers brief so your nail polish lasts longer.

6. Bring your own polish to the salon.
Sure the nail salon has loads more color options, but chances are they've been diluted with polish remover, which extends the life of old nail lacquer. Watered down nail polish won't last as long as newly opened nail lacquer, so bringing your own ensures a better, longer lasting manicure.

7. Cut them down.
You may love the look of long nails, but they're more likely to split. Keeping your nails on the shorter side will actually help your mani last longer.

8. Skip the sanitizer.
Hand sanitizer contains alcohol, which can eat away the shiny top coat and make color look dull. Instead of sanitizer, wash hands with a mild antibacterial soap or wipes.

9. Get it done early.
Since it takes roughly 12 hours for nail polish to dry and harden, don't wait until evening to get your manicure. You'll wake up to unsightly nicks or even sheet marks because you will have gone to bed before the polish had a chance to harden.

10. Take care.
Just because they're there, doesn't mean your nails should be used as a screwdriver or to scratch the label off a bottle. Be gentle and avoid using your nails as tools.

The Power of Love

September 1, 2014

With all the racial tension, hatred, and intolerance that seems to be plaguing our world, we need to remember that love is the answer.

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