Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wedding Wednesdays : My Bestie's Kate Spade-Inspired Bridal Shower {Sneak Peak!}

[ The bride and I, posing in front of the "selfie station." ]

This past Saturday was my best friend's bridal shower. After months of planning (see the invitations here!), it was both thrilling and nerve-wracking to see my Kate Spade-inspired vision come together. Things went off mostly without a hitch. We were a little slow to get going in the beginning, still putting out food when the clock struck 1 p.m., but fortunately party guests tend to trickle in a little late. Plus, it was such an intimate gathering, with just 16 gals, so there was really no pressure for perfection (even if I do put that upon myself!). Everyone was just mixing and mingling for a few minutes, taking advantage of the "selfie station" and the bar until I corralled the gang together to officially kick off the party. It was smooth sailing thereafter. Today I'm finishing up last-minute details for the bachelorette bash in San Diego, which we leave for tomorrow, so for now I thought I'd just share a few images from the shower. Many, many more to come!

[ The shower decorations included calligraphed signs, Scrabble tile messages and engagement photos. ]

[ Pop, fizz, clink! Mini champagne bottles bedecked with pink bow ties were the perfect party favors. ]

Friday, February 20, 2015


I am obsessed with this embroidered ASOS dress. Ever since I saw it online a couple weeks ago, I have kept the page open on my desktop, unwilling to close the window and dash my own dreams of ever wearing it. I simply do not have the money right now to claim this fabulous flirty frock for my already overstuffed closet, but oh how I wish it had been around last year when I was looking for white dresses to wear to all those bride-related events that a soon-to-be-hitched gal feels obligated to wear white to. I totally would have worn this to my wedding rehearsal, and happily worn it countless times since then. It just feels so fresh, so girly, and just plain fun. It also screams "hello, Spring!", which is my favorite season, and while it may still technically be winter, it doesn't feel like it here in Florida. Plus, I'm a California girl at heart, so I make my dresses work any time of the year. See how I'm trying to convince you (and myself) that I need this sweet little number in my life? Alas, I'll just leave it here for now. It's too pretty not to share.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Simple Sweets : Brazilian-Style Truffles

Valentine's Day is the chocolate holiday. And while I would never turn down a heart-shaped box filled with candy, there is something infinitely sweeter about offering your love a plate of homemade truffles, don't you think? Especially when they are so quick and easy to make. I came across this recipe while watching Food Network last week and since they were so irresistibly simple to prepare, I decide I just had to make them for G. (And, let's be honest, for me!) 

While most truffle recipes I'm familiar with involve melting chocolate, this one utilizes sweetened condensed milk, which gives the truffles an ultra creamy and smooth texture that would be difficult if not impossible to replicate with any other ingredient. And did I mention it is super easy? No double boiler here.

The original recipe calls for coating the truffles in mini chocolate chips and sprinkles, but this is where you can get creative and play to the occasion (and theme) at hand. Desiring a variety of colors and textures, I added toffee bits and powdered sugar to my topping line-up. Colored sanding sugar, crushed freeze-dried fruit (such as strawberries) or a sprinkling of fine flaky sea salt would also be excellent. And you can't go wrong with the crowd-pleasing pair that is sure to be in your pantry already: cinnamon and sugar. Sweet and spicy. Just like my Valentine. 

Brazilian-Style Truffles
Cook time: 10 minutes | Total time: About 2.5 hours | Makes 16-20 truffles

One 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter, plus more for your hands
2 tablespoons unsweetened coca powder
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
Toppings of your choice (I used mini chocolate chips, toffee bits, sprinkles and powdered sugar)

Combine the condensed milk, butter, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue stirring until the mixture thickens and, when stirred, pulls away from the bottom of the pan, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and pour the mixture into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely chilled, about 2 hours.

To form truffles: Prep toppings by pouring each into a dish or shallow bowl. Lightly butter your hands. Using a tablespoon or small cookie scoop, scoop some of the truffle mixture into your hands and roll into a bite-size ball. (Work quickly and gently, and don't roll too much, as to prevent the chocolate from melting!) Roll the truffle in your chosen topping, coating the exterior completely, and then place on a plate. Continue with the remaining chocolate. Once all the truffles are made, pop in the fridge for about 10 minutes to firm up again before serving. 

Truffles can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week—if they last that long. (Ours didn't!)

One word of warning: I would recommend using a tablespoon measure for scooping the truffles. I used our "small" scoop and ended up with 12 large, two-bite truffles. Not that either of us were complaining. They were still delicious. But if you want a larger yield, with one-bite truffles, try to exercise restraint when scooping your chocolate. (Or don'tno judgment here!)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Homeward Bound

Today's the day! This afternoon I'll be boarding a flight home (with Jasper in tow) to Simi Valley, California. This weekend is my best friend's bridal shower, which I have been thinking about and planning for months! I'm excited to see it all finally come together and a little nervous, too, hoping everything goes off without a hitch. Just five days after the shower, the bride and I, along with her best gals, will be off for a bachelorette bash in San Diego. Two weeks after that, G will join me in SoCal for the wedding of another pair of friends. And two weeks after that, it will be my bestie's turn at the altar (and I'll be giving my maid of honor speech, eek!). Suffice to say, I have a busy month-and-a-half ahead of me, partying it up to be sure but also helping out my favorite bride-to-be with anything and everything she may need. Wish me luck! I'll be sure to check back in and share about all the fabulous festivities.

[ Me & my bestie, at my wedding last May. ]

(California sunset image via Kayleen Eng,
wedding photo by heidi-o-photo)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Our First Married Valentine's Day

Did you have a nice long weekend? Ours was fairly low key, spent chilling on the couch watching TV when not running errands, but we did get dressed up and go out for a nice dinner on Saturday night, for our first married Valentine's Day. G surprised me that morning with a beautiful bouquet of pink- and peach-hued tulips, my favorite flower next to dahlias. (I may have dropped a couple hints over the past few weeks, ooh-ing and aah-ing whenever I saw a bunch of tulips at the store. He's a good man and picked up on my not-so-subtle cues.) He then made us a delicious lunch at home, a chicken pesto risotto, and we exchanged gifts. 

Though I told G that we should keep gifts small this year since we have lots of travel expenses coming up, he took to heart my longing for a new, large, sturdy purse and bought me a big beautiful bag—complete with fringe! He said he thought it would come in handy when I fly to California, since it can fit my laptop, kindle and wallet with ease. Men, always thinking about function and practicality. But it is truly a gorgeous bag and I was even more impressed to hear that he went downtown to browse small boutiques to find it. G's card also came with a sparkling layered necklace. He's such a good hubby. I, on the other hand, did keep my gift simple. To encourage his new hobby, I ordered him two unique, hand-forged guitar picks from UncommonGoods: a glass glazed stoneware pick (in ocean) and a ridged glass pick (in surf). G tried them out and was pleased with the look, feel and sound, so I'd call it a success. 

After opening presents, I finished one more surprise for him: homemade chocolate truffles. (I'll be sharing the incredibly simple recipe later this week!) We ate a couple that afternoon, and a few more after we got home from our Valentine's dinner at RumFish Grill in St. Pete Beach, and we finished off the plate by Sunday.

Photos from our day, if you'd like to see...

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Art Meets Fashion : Paper Crown X Rifle Paper Co.

It's a dream come true: The gorgeous floral illustrations of Anna Bond, the creative director of my favorite stationery company, Rifle Paper Co., gracing the ultra feminine frocks designed by Lauren Conrad for her fashion house Paper Crown's spring collection. I've been looking forward to this collaboration for months now, ever since I saw it announced on Instagram in September. If you were to take a peek into my closet, you would see hangers full of floral printed dresses. A couple, even, from Lauren Conrad's more affordable Kohl's line. But nothing as swoon-worthy as the pieces in this art-meets-fashion mash-up, which is debuting to the general public this weekend, Feb. 13-15, at a Valentine's Day Pop-Up shop at The Grove in Los Angeles. Oh, how I wish I was on the West Coast for this! In addition to flirty, vintage-inspired apparel, the shop will also feature sweet stationery products designed in tandem by Anna and Lauren. (Plus tons of other Rifle goods, floral bouquets, live calligraphy, and limited edition signed prints!) Not that I need any more paper products in my life... but, oh yes, I do. Can't wait until this collab is available to shop online. Until then, if you live in the L.A. area, I beg of you: Go to the pop-up! And report back :)

Until then, I just have to live vicariously through all the beautiful images floating around on social media.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wedding Wednesdays : Words of Love

With Valentine's Day almost upon us, I thought it would be nice to reflect back upon some of the lovely words that were spoken at our wedding ceremony last May. We had two readings, each given by longtime friends. Both speak about love but in very different ways. The first is romantic and makes my heart swell each time I read it. The other is offbeat and funny, mostly because it is such a true comparison. (You'll have to read on to find out exactly what love is compared to!)

Now for your reading pleasure...

by Roy Croft

I love you, 
Not only for what you are, 
But for what I am 
When I am with you. 

I love you, 
Not only for what 
You have made of yourself, 
But for what 
You are making of me. 

I love you 
For the part of me 
That you bring out; 
I love you 
For putting your hand 
Into my heaped-up heart 
And passing over 
All the foolish, weak things 
That you can't help 
Dimly seeing there, 
And for drawing out
Into the light 
All the beautiful belongings 
That no one else had looked 
Quite far enough to find. 

I love you because you 
Are helping me to make 
Of the lumber of my life 
Not a tavern 
But a temple; 
Out of the works 
Of my every day 
Not a reproach 
But a song. 

I love you 
Because you have done 
More than any creed 
Could have done 
To make me good, 
And more than any fate
To make me happy. 

You have done it 
Without a touch, 
Without a word, 
Without a sign. 
You have done it 
By being yourself.

"How Falling in Love is like Owning a Dog"
by Taylor Mali

First of all, it’s a big responsibility,
especially in a city like New York.  (or, San Diego for us!)
So think long and hard before deciding on love.
On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:
when you’re walking down the street late at night
and you have a leash on love
ain’t no one going to mess with you.
Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable.
Who knows what love could do in its own defense?

On cold winter nights, love is warm.
It lies between you and lives and breathes
and makes funny noises.
Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.

Love doesn’t like being left alone for long.
But come home and love is always happy to see you.
It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,
but you can never be mad at love for long.

Is love good all the time? No! No!
Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.

Love makes messes.
Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
Love needs lots of cleaning up after.
Somethimes you just want to get love fixed.
Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper
and swat love on the nose,
not so much to cause pain,
just to let love know Don’t you ever do that again!

Sometimes love just wants to go out for a nice long walk.
Because love loves exercise. It will run you around the block
and leave you panting, breathless. Pull you in different directions
at once, or wind itself around and around you
until you’re all wound up and you cannot move.

But love makes you meet people wherever you go.
People who have nothing in common but love
stop and talk to each other on the street.

Throw things away and love will bring them back,
again, and again, and again.
But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
And in return, love loves you and never stops.

Do you have any favorite passages or poems about love? Share below in the comments!

(Photos from our wedding, taken by heidi-o-photo)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Weekend Recap : Localtopia 2015

[ A great crowd came out for the second annual Localtopia. ]

On Saturday, G and I ventured to Williams Park in downtown St. Pete to celebrate all things local—to eat, drink, shop and listen toat the 2nd annual Localtopia. It was a beautiful, 70-degree, blue sky day. The Florida sun was shining and the community was out en masse to support small, independent businesses and local makers of all kinds. The park was packed, and while at times it was a bit difficult to maneuver around all the attendees, plus their strollers and dogs, and the lines for the ATM and (massive!) draft beer truck rivaled Disneyland at times, it was wonderful to see hundreds of people come together under the banner of Keep Saint Petersburg Local. The festival showcased more than 100 vendors, many of which we were first introduced to at this Localicious event last October. After surviving the long lines to get cash, beer and food, the hubby and I had a fantastic time browsing the expansive marketplace—and we even picked up a few goodies along the way! 

Here's a few photos from our afternoon, if you'd like to see...

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sips & Nibbles : Girls' Night at Annata

With the weekend upon us, I'm throwing it back to last Friday night with my lovely friend Jen of Letters & Pearls. My Coastie hubby had duty and Jen's Marine man was away on a work trip... in Qatar! So, what else to do but get together, drink wine and have a chat fest? When the men are away, the girls will play.

Since for our last girls' night I crossed the bridge to hang in Tampa, Jen came my way and we went to downtown St. Pete to check out new-to-me wine bar, Annata. Located on the bustling Beach Drive corridor, G and I have walked by the place several times since it opened in August but somehow we always missed it. Perhaps due to the tapas-style eatery's unassuming exterior and the fact that it is tucked right next to a tea shop. But I definitely took notice when it popped up on the Tampa Bay Times' Top 50 Restaurants of Tampa Bay and made a note to make a visit, stat. (Read the full Times review.)

While Annata would be perfect for a romantic date night, or pre-dinner date drinks, I'm glad I experienced it on a friend date first. Jen and I took our time choosing our wine and small plates and lingered over each succulent dish. And, lets be real, girls are just better at sharing! No rush to eat before your man devours every last bite. (But maybe that's just me and my hubs?)

We started with wine. I ordered a glass of Trebbiano, a white wine that our server likened to a Sauvignon Blanc, though I didn't think it had quite the same citrus zing as other Sauv Blancs I've tried. But it was refreshing and mellow and so good I ordered a second glass, and that's all that really matters. Jen opted for red, ordering a glass of Montepulciano, which I just love to say with flourish, in my very best-worst Italian accent.

Then it was time for food. The menu was full of tantalizing options so making our choices was slow... but deliberate. Charcuterie and crostini were a must. For our meat and cheese platter, we chose the "Ewephoria," a sheep milk gouda from Holland, a San Francisco soppressata and, as recommended by our server, the culatello prosciutto from Astoria New York. Our picks came gorgeously assembled on a wooden board, surrounded by all sorts of accoutrements: olives, pickles, nuts, dried fruit, honey and mustard. It was a feast for the eyes and the taste buds. The crostini trio (which is really a foursome) was also delicious; we had two traditional tomato bruschetta, as well as one crostini topped with roasted eggplant and another piled high with an olive tapenade.

Feeling it necessary to try one of Annata's small plates, we tapped the knowledge of our server to help us make our decision. Torn between the shrimp skewer, the lamb ragu and the chicken piccata meatballs, our server settled our debate without hesitation: Get the lamb ragu. I'm glad we did as it didn't disappoint. Like a bolognese but better, Annata tosses perfectly al dente ribbons of pappardelle with a savory lamb ragu that is then topped with dollops of creamy chèvre and baby basil leaves. (Is your mouth watering yet?)

Finally, I always have room for dessert, so Jen and I splurged and ordered the Orange Torta, served with scoop of caramel salted gelato and drizzled with a light key lime sauce. Jen and I agreed that the cookie-like dessert had an odd but delicious flavor. Citrus-y but cinnamon-y. Unique, in a good way. We ate every last bite.

We left happy and full, and looking forward to a return visitwith our husbands in tow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wedding Wednesdays : Cobalt & Gold Invitations

Almost nothing makes me happier than happy mail. You know the kind. Not bills. Not fliers. Not even coupons. But handwritten letters, party invitations... Basically love in an envelope. Last week I received the happiest of happy mail I could ever receive: My best friend's wedding invitation!

Marielle's wedding vision includes rich cobalt, golden accents and chevron details, and the invitations she ultimately choseand trust me, the MOH, there were several in the running!—convey that theme perfectly. Because even though she and her fiancé are getting married at a beach club (their engagement session was nearby in Santa Monica), they are not having the typical seaside, shells-strewn-everywhere wedding. The bride-to-be used Paper Source to custom create her sleek, chic and modern invitations that subtly recall the golden era of the 1920s. Her mother and one of the bridesmaids put their excellent penmanship skills to work and addressed the envelopes, while Marielle used a personalized stamp for the return address. Like G and I, the happy couple used fun, casual language on the RSVP card (guests are encouraged to write a song request on the back!) and to keep costs down they printed their own directions and information card. Smart!

I'm still debating exactly which song I should request but one thing is certain: I'm so excited for this shindig!

P.S. You can see G and I's wedding stationery here.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Oh, Baby

Yesterday, the hubs and I went to a casual house party to watch the Super Bowl, but at the end of the night, after the New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks, I realized that I had spent all of five minutes max actually watching the game. While at first the men and women were mixing and mingling together, inevitably the boys congregated in one room to watch the game (around the smaller TV, funny enough) and the gals lounged on the couch to chat.

Most of the ladies were knew to mewives of Coasties that G works with at Sector St. Pete. The moment I walked into the home, an adorable 2-year-old girl grabbed me by the hem of my dress and started leading me around, speaking in almost indecipherable baby talk. I quickly learned that her mother (who is five years younger than me) is seven months pregnant with baby No. 2. The sweet blonde toddler then took me by the hand and led me to meet another party guest, who just gave birth to a baby girl eight weeks ago. A little while later, another couple joined the party and I discovered that the wife is two months pregnant.

So, given the ladies assembled, it is no surprise that our attention veered far away from football and our conversation centered around pregnancy, babies and motherhood. (And I surprised everyone with all my strange-things-that-happen-during-pregnancy knowledge. Thanks, mommy blogs!) While there was one other lady there who hasn't given birth and isn't currently knocked up, she has decided that she doesn't want to have kids. I, on the other hand, couldn't feel more differently. 

As a young girl, I always thought I'd have kids by now. But isn't that always how it is? I also thought I'd get married earlier than I did. I know it's not a race, it's not a competition, there's no right or wrong timeline. But with my 30th birthday two months away, my desire to get pregnant sooner than later is stronger than ever. I feel like I have been in a perpetual state of baby fever since G and I tied the knot. I think about boy and girl names, I have way too much fun picking out newborn clothes and gifts for my mama friends, and my heart aches a little when I see a tiny babe, a baby bump or even a "we're expecting!" announcement. (My Facebook feed is full of cute baby pictures, sonogram images and belly shots.)

Of course, like so many other things in my life, this is a situation for which I am not in total control. Due to our travel plans this spring, we initially had to put trying for a baby on hold. While our goal, as newlyweds, was to be pregnant by the end of 2014, our hope now is to have happy news to share this year. Nevertheless, remember that woman I told you about, that just gave birth eight weeks ago? She shared with me that it took her and her husband a year and a half of trying before getting pregnant. Plus, since her husband is assigned to a boat that gets underway for two months at a time, she often flies home to Ohio to be around friends and family who can help with caring for her newborn. So no matter what I hope, dream and plan for, I realize that I will just need to practice patience. And trust in the timing of my life, of my and G's life. It's our story, no one else's, and the baby chapter will come when ... well, I don't know when. Until then, I'll do my best to enjoy this time of my life, right now.

But I'll still dream up and write down new, favorite baby names. I've been doing that since elementary school and there's just no breaking that habit (no matter how many times G vetoes my ideas!).

Any ladies out there that can relate to my struggle? Knowing you need to enjoy the stage of life you're in and not compare yourself to (or wish you had) others' lives?

P.S. This is a good reminder for myself today.

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