New York, Here We Come

The time has come ... helloooooo, New York!

New York

My NYC trip wishlist:

1. A faux fur vest. 
I know I'm late to join the party on this one, but all of the versions I've tried on seem so bulky and huge.  I'm still on the hunt for a slim, trim, non-Sasquatch-spotting fur vest. 

2. Cheap, trendy jewelry.
I absolutely love those cheap, trendy jewelry stores in NYC with the jewelry that goes on for miles and miles.  My favorite store there is called So Good.  On my last trip there, I bought two pairs of earrings that are some of my very favorites!  They always get compliments.  You can often find good knock-off versions of Amrita Singh and Kendra Scott earrings there.

3.  Bubble tea.
We used to have a kiosk here in Charlotte that is now kaput.  But I can always rely on a good bubble tea fix in Chinatown!

4. Starbucks.
Because it would be a tragedy to go to New York during the winter holidays and NOT walk around with the traditional red cup.  We obviously have Starbucks on every corner here in Charlotte, but it all takes on a new meaning in chilly New York.

5. A street vendor pashmina.
My pashmina collection is truly out of control, and I attribute that to all of my former New York trips where you can score them for $5 after a little bit of haggling and doing the walk-away.  I think I'd like a purple one, or maybe a pretty minty one.

What else should be on my New York wishlist?

To see recaps of my last trip to NYC this past March, click here for Day 1, here for Day 2, here for Day 3.


Breakfast In Bed

One of my favorite things about holiday get-togethers is that you can justify making a lot of recipes that you otherwise wouldn't want to have hanging around the house as leftovers.

Often times I stumble upon great splurge-worthy recipes for breakfast and brunch items, but it would be downright dangerous to make these recipes for our little family of two.  We'd end up with lots of leftovers tempting us ... "come on April, you know you want a cheesy, gooey, bacon-topped biscuit for breakfast this Tuesday morning, riiiiiight?"  And then the whole day is shot.  Because once you have that for breakfast, you're eating pepperoni pizza and cheese fries for lunch.  Or maybe that's just me.  :)

So, for now I will aim to stick to my healthier plan of sliced fruit or smoothies for weekday breakfasts.  And when the time comes to select a recipe for a work get-together or a holiday gathering with family members, I can whip out the recipes I really want to make!

Here are some recipes from my Breakfast In Bed board on Pinterest that I'd like to attempt this season:

Pumpkin French Toast Bake

Lemon Blueberry Bread

Source: via April on Pinterest

Coconut Pecan Lemon Glazed Muffins

What are some of your go-to breakfast or brunch recipes for a large group?


The Bling ... Let's Discuss.

Let's talk diamonds. {Do I have your attention?}

Ian and I made no secret of the fact that we knew fairly early on that we would end up gettin' hitched.  Lots of references made to "the future", some rather vague and some downright straightforward. 

One day, as it was apparent that we were moving into the proposal zone, Ian nonchalantly* asked if I wanted to pop into a jewelry store** to check out some rings.

*nonchalantly = tried to cover the nervousness in his voice and mostly succeeded
**he already knew the answer to this one, duh!

So I guess it's a bit non-traditional that we went shopping for my engagement ring together, but he knows what a big jewelry lover I am, and he wanted to make sure that I tried on a lot of different styles, took the store up on their offer of free wine, and found a ring I'd be comfortable wearing foreverandeverandeveramen.

The Bling

Our first trip was nothing special -- we didn't click with the sales rep we were paired with, the store was hot and packed to the gills, and nothing really caught my eye.  We went to a second store, and again -- nothing special.  On the third trip (which was actually back to that first store), we got paired up with a fantastic sales rep, one that was straightforward and diamond-savvy.

I described to her the look I wanted.  I wanted sparkly, I wanted feminine, I wanted something that could be mistaken for an estate piece.  Antique jewelry just really strikes my fancy.  She thought for a second, told me she knew she could find a ring like what I wanted, and then said "Let me just bring over one setting that I think is not what you are looking for -- maybe a little too much for your small hand."

Well, folks, that was the one.  Hook, line and sinker, I was sold.  I looked up at her, said "You may think I'm crazy, but this is it!" and Ian agreed completely -- he loved it on my hand.

At that point, we left the store and I told Ian that it was most definitely the ring for me, but the rest of the process was completely in his hands.  I told him I didn't care if our engagement happened in one day or one year.  That way, there was still the element of surprise for me.  And you can read our engagement story here.  We selected this ring in December (if I'm remembering correctly) and we got engaged in May.

So, I'm curious, what do you think about shopping together for a ring?  If you are engaged or married, what route did ya'll take?  Or are you a traditionalist, maybe drop a hint here and there (or make sure your sister, mom, and best friend know what you love) but leave it in the hands of your man?

And ... just for fun ... which ring above strikes your fancy?  I adore my oval-cut stone, but I think #1 is such a stunner as well!


{Why I Truly Need} The J. Crew Herringbone Vest

So, I've had my eye on a vest.
And I'm thinking it may be a good Christmas list addition.
It's the one I blogged about Saturday!

At $138, it's not uber-expensive ... but I still want to make sure I get my money's worth from it.  So I did a little bit of playing around.  and here's what I came up with.

J. Crew Herringbone Vest

This reminds me of the old "Choose Your Adventure" books ... who used to love those like I did?!

We'll start here:

Vest: J. Crew Excursion Quilted Vest in Herringbone

And then you choose your own adventure...

Look 1:
J. Crew Toothpick Jean in Vibrant Fuschia (pastels on sale here now too)
Marc Jacobs Riding Boots
Juicy Couture Pretty Little Gems Gemstone Bracelet
Honora Pearl Stud Earrings

Look 2:
Hudson Signature Bootcut Jeans
Steve Madden Studly Loafer: Gold (okay, now these are fun)
Tory Burch Maya Cuff
Tory Burch Rylan Stud Earrings

Look 3:
J. Crew Minnie Pant in Boulevard Green (these fit so well)
Ann Taylor Blake Patent Bow Suede Flats
Gag & Lou Black and Gold Bracelet
Michael Kors Tortoise Watch (this was my Christmas gift from Ian last year!)

So are we all reaching the same consensus ... versatile, versatile, versatile? 
Glad that's settled!

Which look is most your style, look 1, 2, or 3?

(PS - Thanksgiving recap coming soon, whenever Blogger allows me to start uploading photos again.  Seems many of us have reached our limit at the same time ... hmm, sounds fishy to me!)


Cyber Monday + A. Liz Designs

The only post-Thanksgiving sale shopping I did was at LOFT when everything in the store was 50% off ... other than that, fighting the Black Friday crowds is not really my style.

I'd much rather wait a few days and do my sale shopping online ... what three words are more fun than "Add To Cart"?!

As you start your holiday shopping (or end it, for you overachievers!), I'd be honored if you would consider my Etsy shop when selecting gifts for your girlfriends, coworkers, neighbors, sisters, mothers.

In honor of Cyber Monday, enter coupon code FUNDAY at checkout for 30% off your purchase ... this coupon code good today only!

Regularly: $44
With Coupon Code: $30.80

Regularly: $18
With Coupon Code: $12.60

Regularly: $44
With Coupon Code: $30.80


Thankgiving Cliffs Notes

Stuffing, wine, and pie are right around the corner, and I can't wait.

Here's a little peek into my Thanksgiving!

The Plans
When Ian and I were dating and engaged, we spent holidays with our own families.  It was important to me for both families to have "their babies" with them until we were husband & wifey.  Last year was our first married set of holidays.  We decided, based upon the fact that our families are several hours apart from each other, that it would work best to swap holidays and spend each one fully dedicated to one family.  Last year I spent Thanksgiving with Ian's family and he spent Christmas with mine.  This year, we'll flip-flop and do Thanksgiving with my family.  This will be the first time that Ian has been with us for this holiday.

The Family
We have a somewhat different arrangement that may seem strange to some; as my sisters (and the husbands) and I prepare to spend Thanksgiving with the family, my Dad travels to spend Thanksgiving with his brothers and their families.  We used to join this big group, but several years ago, we broke away from the extended family for Thanksgiving and just started spending it in our own home.  A big reason was that we were traveling home from college and Mom wanted us to be able to spend the holiday in our own beds and not have to hit the road immediately and stay in a hotel.  Dad still enjoys the opportunity to spend time with his three brothers, though.  So Dad is never with us for Thanksgiving dinner, but he'll come home on Friday to spend time with us.

The Food
This Thanksgiving, our plan is to have turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, sauteed green beans, and warm homemade applesauce.  We made our menu tasty but still health-conscious by choosing sauteed green beans over a casserole-style dish and doing the homemade applesauce to add in a fruit serving.  I am making chess pie for the dessert in lieu of the traditional apple pie, pecan pie, or pumpkin pie.  To me, chess pie is about as all-American as you can get.

The Traditions
One Thanksgiving tradition that we have, besides the quintessential Thanksgiving meal, is that we like to get outdoors during the day and do a big walk.  A "Turkey Trot" of our own, if you will.  Instead of joining in on a 5k, we lace up our tennis shoes and complete a 4-mile walk around our neighborhood.  It's a good time to chat and to make room for a big dinner.  We also have a seemingly-random tradition of going to Walgreens on Thanksgiving day, where we stock up on makeup and other items, and Mom pays ... I know, it's a strange one with a funny backstory.  Other than those traditions, we'll graze a bit during the day and then all gather in the kitchen to make dinner while we sip on some wine.  If it's cold enough, we'll have a fire.  We usually go around the table before we eat dinner and all mention something we are thankful for.

The Goals
My goal for this Thanksgiving is to get in a lot of relaxing time.  Since mid-October, Ian and I have filled up all of our weekends to the brim with lots to do.  I've got two books that are calling my name, and I can't wait to turn the morning alarm on my phone OFF.  I'd like to take a walk around the neighborhood on Friday and Saturday as well to make sure I'm getting in some exercise.  I am also going to do my best to keep the peace.  We all know that holidays with family can cause some, ahem, heightened emotions ... so I'll strive to be sans drama.

The Importance
What truly matters to me is the ability to spend this holiday with loved ones, with more than enough food to fill our bellies, and take the time to reflect on life's abundant blessings.

Source: via Lauren on Pinterest

I'd love to hear about your Thanksgiving plans, traditions, and goals ... what is your Thanksgiving going to look like?


If You Cook, And If You Grocery Shop...

Before I share a life-changing app ... and I do not use that term lightly ... I just wanted to send out a big, heartfelt thank you for all of your sweet comments yesterday regarding my blog's 2nd birthday.  The great thing about having a blog turning 2 is that you get to skip out on the "terrible twos" ... it just gets better and better!

So, ready to see the app that I consider life-changing?

Meet ZipList.

I first learned of this app when Erin from Blue Eyed Bride mentioned its' amazingness on Twitter. 

(and by the way, it's free!)

What I love about this app is that it lets you effortlessly search for recipes and then add ingredients to your shopping list.  You can also add other staples to your shopping list, i.e. red wine and double-stuffed Oreos. 
So, last week I had a hankerin' for baked ziti.  Ya'll know we don't do a lot of pasta, but it was a chilly Sunday night and we were in the mood to splurge on some classic comfort food.
All I did was start by choosing the "Recipes" option in the above screenshot and then I looked through a few versions until I found the one I wanted to use.  

I saved this recipe in my "Recipe Box" for ease, so it now appears when I select the "Recipes" option highlighted in blue above.

Then you just click the icon in the upper right corner and it brings up this menu:

From here, I selected "Add To Shopping List" and it then imports all of the ingredients into this pop-up box below.  Everything defaults to having an "x" beside it which means that it will be added to your shopping list.

From there, you just deselect the items that you already have on hand or won't be needing, and then you click "Add".

And just like that, you are taken to the "List" tab of the app, where all of these ingredients are added to your list.  Furthermore, they are organized by section, which makes grocery shopping so efficient.  You can see below the items that you need to get from the produce section, the dairy section ... couldn't be easier.

The app also allows you to email the recipe out.  In my family, we love sharing recipes.  This makes it so easy!
I loved the recipe that I chose and followed the instructions completely except for substituting the ground beef for sausage (I told you it was a bit of a splurge night!).

So there you have it, a life-changing app.  No more jotting grocery store lists down on the back of a receipt for me and going from the canned foods aisle to the frozen foods section and then back to the canned foods aisle. 

Efficiency at its best!


Bloggie Birthday + Introduce Yourself!

Yesterday marked a big day ... my blog's 2nd birthday!

Let's plan a celebration in style, shall we?
Of course you are invited.
After receiving this in the mail, you learn the party details.

It will be a most colorful affair.

With St. Germain drinks galore, of course.

And for the meal, we will have cookie dough dip.

Source: via April on Pinterest

And will the party end after that?

Because we've got a bounce house, ya'll.

And then I will send you all on your merry way with a vintage teacup candle that I effortlessly DIY'ed. (Remember, we're dreaming here)  

But seriously, it's been such a FUN two years, and I have met so many sweet people through this ol' blog. 

Now, in true cocktail party fashion, let's do a fun little introduction game.  Please comment with your name and where you live.  For those of you that have a blog -- your blog name & web address, and your favorite three things to write about!


Entertaining + Hostess Gifts

This time of year, it's so much fun to gather with friends for a dinner party. The cooler weather just begs for a fire in the fireplace and warm cozy food.

Why not spoil your host with a fun new cookbook?  Williams-Sonoma always has such a great selection with the prettiest pictures on the front. 

Williams Sonoma Cookbooks

For The Newlyweds:
Bride & Groom Cookbook (we were given this for a wedding gift; love it!)
For The Foodie:
For The Hostess:

I also think an apron would be such a thoughtful hostess gift.  Anthropologie always has such a great selection of designs.

And the best part?

I fully believe that if you are the hostess, you should treat yourself to a hostess gift of your own!  Why not?  :)  Will any of these be making your Christmas list this year?


Mountain Weekend

We spent this past weekend in the mountains.  Ian and I drove separately since he had to leave early Sunday morning to get back for the Panthers game, and we also had our friends Ashley and Chase coming to join us.  I was the first one to arrive at the house, so I did all of the normal things ... turned on lights, got the rooms warmed up, got music flowing through the house, set out an appetizer, and poured a glass of wine.

And then I waited, and waited, and waited.  I felt like a kid on Christmas morning.

I took my wine outside with Drake and stared down the driveway, just praying for a car to drive up it soon.  And finally, everyone was there and our weekend began!

Friday, we kept it low-key and just spent lots of time chatting in the kitchen and then went out for Mexican food.

Saturday morning, we took the Ranger out exploring.  Ash and I were in the back sitting on a quilt, and when we got down to the bottom of the mountain we took the drivers' seats and put the boys in the back.

We followed that up with a little target shooting.  Ash was a natural!  Ian is an extremely good teacher.

Around 1:00 we started tailgating for the 3:30 game -- Appalachain against Furman (my alma mater).

We had awesome seats for the game.  Furman did lose, but only narrowly.  They kept it close the entire game!

After we left the game, we took Ash and Chase to The Gamekeeper, which we discovered recently for Ian's birthday dinner.  Ash and I had a cocktail made with St. Germain, and the boys had a beer.  We all shared their wild game appetizer.

We finished off that night in the hot tub with the cold air swirling all around us. 

Perfect weekend indeed! 


Charlotte Holiday House Tour

This past Sunday, I was invited to join sweet Dee from Dee's Adventures for a holiday home tour.  This tour was a fundraiser put on by MMAE, the Mecklenburg Medical Alliance & Endowment.  The holiday home tour lasted just through this past weekend and it was held at the home of a local physician.  Fourteen local florists took over the rooms of their lovely home and showed some great holiday floral decor ideas.

When we first entered the home, we were in awe at the gorgeous dining room.  The showstopper was the chandelier, which was decked out in crystal ornaments, twigs, and faux snow.

The room also featured a tree at the large windows.  I love the placement of this because, when lit, it is visible from the front of the house.  I also have a real weakness for a tree with an urn base like this one below.

On the walk to the kitchen there was this cute butler's pantry area.  When we were house shopping, we considered a home with one of these.  Our current house doesn't have one, but it's on my eventual home wishlist.

The kitchen was any cook's dream (can you tell that I was just as enamored -- if not more -- with the actual home's architecture than I was with the floral decor?!).  I snapped this picture for my husband because I knew he would absolutely adore the stone elements in the kitchen.

I was also really intrigued by this Thermador built-in coffee maker that is below the microwave.  How cool is this.  I looked them up online and they seem to be pretty pricey ... upwards of $2000.  I think we'll stick with our Keurig for the time being!

The family room had a gorgeous tree that was decorated with orchids amidst the ornaments.  Such a fun idea.

Even the back patio had great floral inspiration.  I loved the lime green wreaths.

The home boasted a wine cellar that was pretty spectacular.  It was closed off for the tour but you could see down into it through a wavy glass pane in the hallway wall that led to the office.

The master bathroom and bedroom also had beautiful florals.

Wouldn't you actually enjoy laundry in a spacious room like this one?

Moving on to some of the childrens' rooms -- the boy's room had some cute floral features, and the little girls' room had a beautifully-painted ceiling and the most darling beds.

A mini-tree in an urn ... instantly in love.

There was even a theatre room and an exercise room in the home.

We made our way down the hallway to the back stairs, where there was a nicely-done family gallery wall and a guest bedroom.

As we exited the home, they had even had a gift shop set up in the garage. I loved these little silhouettes.

Spending my Sunday walking through a gorgeous home and getting excited about decorating for the upcoming holidays was perfect.  Thanks, Dee, for inviting me to join you!
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