Love Thursday-Beauty

I saw Catherine's beautiful post and knew it would fit perfectly for Love Thursday. I've been wanting to post about my friend Rachel for some time. Rachel has such inner strength and beauty that I felt that my little corner of the Internet needed to know her. I've known Rachel for a few years (our husbands work for the same company and are hunting buddies). Rachel has always been very pretty, she's a pharma rep, so it is settled that she has to be pretty- tall, blonde, pretty. About a year ago, things started to go badly for Rachel and her husband. The short story is that after a long period of struggling, Rachel finally became pregnant. We knew a little of their struggles to conceive and always thought it was amazing how they would hang out with us and our children around all of our friends' kids and not show any sadness. I know it must have hurt them to see all those kids running around. Anyhow, Rachel was finally pregnant. And we were all so very excited. They really deserved to be parents and we could see their happiness. Unfortunately, the baby miscarried. We were devastated for Rachel and her husband. But, we were totally unprepared for what would happen next.

Rachel noticed something felt wrong and went to her doctor for confirmation. I won't tell her story here, because it is her story to tell. The diagnosis was breast cancer. Not just breast cancer, but Stage 4 breast cancer that had spread through her body. It was a complete shock. Rachel still looked healthy and happy. Knowing what we knew about cancer, we knew this was not a good diagnosis. We were all really scared. We were all at a loss for what to do and what to say. Rachel showed us all. She screwed up her courage and used it to fight the cancer. She did what she had to do. She had a mastectomy. She took her chemo. She visualized beating the cancer. Over the course of the past 6 months, she has managed to shrink her tumors. I say she because there's only so much credit you can give to the chemo. I think her power showed that chemo where to go and what to attack. She shaved her beautiful hair. She bought wigs and scarves, and changed her wardrobe slightly. But, she also continued to live. She continues to live. She refuses to let cancer dictate who she is. She is beautiful. She is strong.

We try to make sure Rachel has support when her husband leaves (the business our husbands are in causes them to be gone for stretches of time with little notice, hers and Alex's husband far more than mine). Rachel came over about a month ago for dinner. I missed most of that dinner, but my husband took a few pictures. I looked through the pictures and saw how Rachel had all the girls climbing all over her. They were all trying on her wig. And, I thought, God, she is beautiful. Rachel is so much more now than she ever was. You see her strength, her courage, her beauty far more than before cancer. You see the scars of cancer. But, you see the triumph. Her spirituality and heart are more noticeable now. It appears that she takes everything in her stride. Before cancer, she was pretty. But, I didn't really know her. Now, I know who she is. She is a woman of incredible character and strength. She is a woman who loves her husband, family, and friends so much that she is willing to go through hell to make sure she's there for them. She refuses to be sidelined. She refuses to change. She is living her life, beautifully. She deserves to know that we all are amazed. She needs to know that her beauty is stronger now. She is a model for us all. The fight is not over yet. There is a long way to go before she is cancer-free. But, today, Rachel is beautiful. Today she is loved. Today I am proud to be her friend.

Works for Me Wednesday

I'm posting this to Works For me Wednesday at We are THAT Family. This idea isn't exciting, or possibly even interesting. But, I have two girls who have a metric ton of hair accessories. We have a great hair rack for all the bows, clips, and ponytail holders. Unfortunately there just wasn't room for the headbands. Until a few weeks ago, I kept all the headbands in a basket, but it was getting kind of full. We also have a towel bar hung right over the girls' toilet. Inexplicable. I never really knew what to do with the towel bar. You can't really hang a towel over it b/c of the height. But, it was the perfect place to store all the headbands. Voila! Headbands within easy reach, towel bar used, and everything is easily accessible but not junky. It works for me.

Made it Work!

*This post is long because meeting Tim Gunn was a BIG, BIG, huge deal for me.*
Meeting Tim Gunn was, in a word, Fabulous! The only thing that could have made it better is if he asked me to develop a fashion/style program aimed for moms and working women. Since that didn't happen, here's what did:

I stressed out about my outfit for a few days, I was going to wear a black blazer, t shirt, denim skirt and multiple necklaces. I decided to follow some friend's advice and wear this ensemble (minus a few accessories ala Coco Chanel). Thank you J. Crew, Anthro necklace, and my husband's grandfather for the cool vintage watch. I "shopped my closet", just like Tim later told us all we should do: While I was freaking out about what I was going to wear to meet a fashion guru, sadly the rest of Houston did not. People showed up in all manner of sad jean outfits- flips flops, jean shorts, sweats. It was awful. I wanted to tell Tim that we really can dress. I was ashamed. Come on Houston, step it up!
I ended up arriving at the Galleria pretty early because I wasn't sure when things would start and I did not want to miss a second. After an initial snafu, I was able to get a fairly good seat for the fashion show. A short time later, the show began and TIM was there. Wow. The Fashion Show featured Kate Spade, Juicy, and Lucky clothing and accessories. I don't usually look at those lines or the stores, and I really didn't see anything that I "had" to have. The show featured rompers and "dress shorts" neither of which is a style I support or would wear. I thought the colors were pretty pedestrian and wasn't too wowed by anything. But, Tim and his co-host (in a romper with hose/tights) were very entertaining and did a good job of showing how a few changes could really make each outfit very different. She lost me 1) with her romper, 2) when she suggested wearing a pair of leather shorts with leggings to the office. Tim said No. Ha-I agree.
During and after the show, Tim gave out great fashion and style advice, here are some of the ideas I wrote down:

Per T's request, I asked Tim what his favorite Spring trend is. His answer- "A return to classics for both men and women. I love a great blazer (Dangit, I should have worn my blazer). Classics never go out of style and can be worn so many different ways. whether it is a boyfriend jacket, find what works for you."
What would you add to your list of basics. "Nothing really to add, just concentrate on those pieces. I love a great trench coat and every woman should have a basic black dress, you'd be amazed at how few women have that dress."

Think of your body in 3rds, break it up with a belt, scarf, etc.
Follow your own natural silhouette
"Denim shorts are in abundance and not for everyone." He used that phrase "not for everyone" a few times (denim shorts, rompers, leggings, gladiator sandals). I could tell those were the items he really didn't care for. I agree. Except on you, of course those trends look awesome on you!

He encouraged mixing patterns but said to make sure that the scales work so that you don't end up wearing a "test pattern."
I don't think Project Runway will return to LA. It was supposed to switch back and forth between LA and NY. You could tell from the audience that we wanted it to stay in New York, and so does Tim. Tim wants to see the show shake it up a bit. I hope that means different judging or different format.

Tim suggested that there is nothing wrong with finding your "uniform." He said Michael Kors has a uniform, he has a uniform. For example, Nina does not, that got a huge laugh!

He stressed the importance of great foundation garments. He mentioned Spanx and that he's tried them on (not that the wore them or needs them) and almost dislocated his shoulder!

What to wear with jeans- depends on the situation. But, please wear dark wash denim. (I agree) Best jeans are those with no taper, no flare, dark wash, not ripped or torn-"talk about war torn."

The meeting.
I managed to be one the first few people to meet Tim. It was really amazing. They had us go up in either small groups or by ourselves (I was by myself), and each person got a good amount of time with Tim to take a picture and chat. I pretty much memorized what happened when I met him, so this is pretty verbatim:
Me: Hi, I'm Elzabelz (except I used my real name).
T: Don't I know you?
Me: Why, yes of course. I am a super fashionable person who works with designers all time time. What I said was, "No, I think I look familiar. I get that all the time actually." (I do, it's weird.)
T: Really? Are you sure we haven't worked together before?
Me: Well, if you want to work with me Tim, please let me know. I'll be happy to!
T: Your outfit is great.
Me: Really? Thanks.
T: Yes, you are doing the 1/3 thing well. Your belt, your skirt, your shoes..
Me: You realize I'm never changing out of this outfit, right?
ha hah hah aha
(His assistant/co-host Romper Woman was there too).
RW: It's really great. What material is your skirt?
Me: It's dark denim, just like you (Tim) mentioned earlier.
RW: May I touch the material?
Me: Sure.
T: Who made it?
Me: It's J Crew.
RW: Oh, they do really nice stuff.
T: Yes, their line has been really great. So, what do you do?
Me: I'm in health care, I'm an attorney. I have to tell you that is is so great to meet you. I have been a huge fan since the very beginning.
T: When did you start watching?
Me: The very first show. Even though sometimes I don't like the judges' decisions. But we were all really excited when Chloe (Dao)won.
T: Chloe's great, isn't she?
Me: Yes, in fact I have a couple of dresses from her shop.
T: Great. What do you think about the show?
Me: Well, I wasn't pleased with last week's judging. Anthony was a great walking one-liner. But, the judges have let a number of designers go before that I really liked.
T: If you didn't like last week, get ready for this week. Something crazy happens.
Me: I saw something on projectrungay, T and Lo's site, that said that.
T: Oh Tom and Lorenzo, you read them?
Me: Of course, everyday.
RW: It is crazy, I've seen it.
Exchange of pleasantries, hugs, etc. And, scene.
He held my hand during the whole exchange-several minutes. And, we hugged! Hugged. I was so nervous, I was shaking after. I had to have some champagne to calm down. He was just as kind and polished as I imagined he would be. What a fun experience. I love Tim Gunn!

Friday Favorite-Tim Gunn!

In case you haven't guessed what item I am crossing off my list this weekend, it's meeting Tim Gunn! I am so excited. I've been watching Project Runway since the first episode and Tim is definitely one of the reasons I still watch. (I may not keep watching since they just kicked off Anthony in favor of Emilio and Mila, blech). But, I've thought the judges were wrong before...Tim brings such class to the show and to every show he's been involved in. I've read most interviews he's given and am waiting anxiously for his book to become available to read. Tim is the epitome of style, class, and kindness. I can not wait. I am a little scared about choosing the right outfit-it's Tim Gunn; it has to be perfect. I just can not wait to meet him and maybe have the chance to ask him a question or two. if you could meet Tim Gunn, what would you ask him? What celebrity or public figure would you most like to meet?

Love Thursday-Ranch Life

Kid's tractor-play version
Last week, my husband took the girls for a quick trip to our friends' ranch property. They were there for about a day and a half (first time I was away from my girls and my husband for non-work reasons). My husband loves the outdoors and is obsessed with owning our own piece of Texas ranch property. He loves to hunt, fish, the whole shebang. As the girls grow, my husband is really enjoying having the girls join him on his adventures. Our little princessy girls will walk out to him in their dress up costumes to see what he's brought back from a hunt. Believe me, the hunting thing is all his genes! The girls love riding around the ranch on the tractor with him. They helped him plant seed and put feed out for the animals. The three of them (along with his friend and children) generally had a great time "down on the ranch."

All three came home Friday night and I could see the dirt from about 40 yards away. The girls may not have gotten a bath while they were at the ranch, but they got a lot of daddy love. For Love Thursday , I hope you do something you love, tractor riding, painting, whatever makes you happy.

Life List (version 1)

I noticed a number of life lists last year after Maggie posted hers. I always thought it was a great idea, but never sat down to really think about it. I still have a few spaces on my list until I reach 100 because there are always new things to try. Since there is a very good chance that I will get to do one item on my life list this weekend, I figured I ought to write it down-you know putting it out there for the good karma. See if you can guess which item might get crossed off soon. I have been really lucky to have lived in another country and spent months in Europe by myself. I included a few of those items since I still think those experiences are pretty awesome. It also makes the list less daunting to have a few items crossed off!

1) Stand at the Great Wall
2) Snorkel or Scuba the Great Barrier Reef
3) Go on a photo safari in Africa
4) Take the girls to New York at Christmastime
5) Ice skate in Rockefeller Plaza
6) Walk part of the Appian Way- DONE
7) Take the girls to Paris
8) See the Mona Lisa- DONE
9) See David- DONE
10) Meet royalty- DONE
11) Take the family to my British home
12) Take girls to look for seashells- DONE
13) Family trip to see the Grand Canyon
14) Family trip to Disney
15) Take classes taught by Supreme Court Justice- DONE
16) Hear oral arguments at the Supreme Court- DONE
17) Mass with the Pope at the Vatican-DONE
18) Become fluent in another language (and retain that information)
19) Punt on the Thames- DONE
20) Family trip to Washington , D.C.
21) Visit Alaska
22) See Britney Spears in Concert- DONE
23) Meet Tim Gunn
24) Own a pair of Christian Louboutins
25) Find the perfect Black Dress-DONE
26) Take the girls to a Texas football game
27) Watch Texas play in the NCAA basketball tournament
28) Go as a family to the Texas v OU football game
29) Watch Texas play for the BCS National Championship-DONE
30) Take a picture with Bevo- DONE
31) Watch an Olympic sporting event in person
32) Run a 5K- DONE, 10K- DONE, half marathon
33) Do my girls' hair and nails for Prom
34) Swim with Whale Sharks- DONE
35) Swim with huge Manta Rays
36) Swim with as many species of shark as possible
37) Swim with dolphins
38) Own a great pair of cowboy boots-DONE
39) Zipline a forest canopy
40) Go rock climbing
41) Learn to ski well
42) Collect sand-dollars with the girls
43) Visit giant Redwoods
44) Take family to the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna
45) See humpback whales up close
46) Visit the Great Pyramids
47) Visit pyramids in Mexico
48) Learn how to make yummy empanadas
49) Have Phil Pritchett play a private party
50) See Las Vegas showgirl show- DONE
51) Gamble in Monte Carlo- DONE
52) Gamble in Las Vegas- DONE
53) Foster love of art in my kids
54) Participate in Oktoberfest in Germany
55) See Ayers Rock, Australia
56) See the Taj Mahal
57) Make a river raft-DONE
58) Meet Lance Armstrong
59) Learn to Sew-DONE
60) Go to the Sound of Music locales as a family
61) Catch a deep sea fish by myself
62) Eat crepes in France-DONE
63) Eat pizza in Italy- DONE
64) Visit great castles- Neuschwanstein, Versailles, Alhambra- DONE
65) Family trip to see European castles
66) Attend Mass at Notre Dame-DONE
67) See Willie at Luckenbach-DONE
68) Finish girls' scrapbooks
69) Take family stargazing
70) Go caving- DONE
71) Go open water kayaking- DONE
72) Eat haggis in Scotland-DONE
73) Take the girls to play in real snow
74) Make a difference
75) Gift husband with a really great hunting trip
76) Make cake pops
77) Go through The Daring Book with the girls
78) See Broadway show (not touring)
79) Learn to surf
80) Family trip to the San Diego zoo
81) Abseil/Rappell off a side of a cliff- DONE
82) Have one paid photo shoot
83) Own our own ranch
84) Go camping as a family
85) Sew dresses for the girls
86) Finish decorating the house, room by room
87) Take girls horseback riding
88) Chase butterflies with the girls
89) Visit Canada
90) Visit Tuscan countryside- DONE

If you haven't written a Life List, it is a great exercise. Let me know if you write yours, I'd love to see what is on your list.

I'm at Draft Day Suit

I'm over here at Draft Day Suit talking about college football and the draft. Please come by and share your thoughts. It was fun writing about football (duh) for another audience. Thanks Sarah for helping me get this chance!

A Crafty Piece of Art

I first saw the Family Rules project on The Pleated Poppy months ago and immediately loved the idea. We have about a 20 inch wide space in our kitchen that needed "something." Since we have four framed John Golden prints (No Dinner No Dessert, Eat Your Vegetables, Always Say Please and Thank You, and Wash Your Hands), I thought something that played off on the rules idea would be perfect. I then proceeded to work at a snails pace for months. I cut letters, I printed, I used stickers, I changed my mind on each rule, I measured, was insane. I was finally ready to glue everything down when I saw this from Viv via Jen:Oh my. That is us. It was the perfect style, the perfect take. But, ugh... all that work for nothing.
Well, I decided to trash the original rules (above) and start over. I love the look of subway art and think they fit in perfectly.

(Yes, slightly off-kilter, but hanging the thing was almost as hard as making it).

I adapted the project slightly from Viv's art since I already has a canvas for the Family Rules project. Viv's tutorial, and Lil Blue Boo's are dead on, so I am just going to add a few things I learned: 1) Live by the Nester's advice "It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect To Be Beautiful," that will make it much easier. I stressed out way too much on centering, lettering, etc. I finally just gave in and let it be. 2) If you can find vinyl lettering/stickers in a close enough style, I would go that way. The contact paper works, but it is pretty frustrating to try to separate the layers on that many letters.

3) Simplify! I included WAY too many thoughts/rules and it resulted in my peeling letters for hours more than I probably needed to. 4) If you make your own letters (like I did), make them as large as possible. The larger letters were easier to paint and easier to peel. 5) Consider painting the entire canvas and then tracing the letters on top with a paint pen. I had a lot of touch-ups to do. Our Rules: Live Boldly; Dream Bigger; Love God, Love Others; Obey Your Parents; Forgiveness is Mandatory; Keep Your Promises; Use Manners; Be Yourself; Ask First; Know You Are Loved; Make a Difference; Try Your Best; Find Joy & Share It; Be Patient and Kind; and Imagine & Create.
Even though this wasn't my idea, I am posting it because I am incredibly proud that I finished the darn only took 5 months from idea to completion! Even though it took forever, I am happy with the way it turned out.

Updated* At your request, here is a wider picture so you can better see the area.

I'm updating to link to the CSI Project page for Wall Decor projects because I'm just so darn happy with how this turned out!


Updating to join Jen's Subway Art party


God Bless Texas- The HLSR version

Living in Houston has its benefits. One of the activities we love to do as a family is to visit the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. Before we had children, my husband and I enjoyed the BBQ cook-off and the concerts. Now that we have kids, we love new parts of the Rodeo.

We love seeing the animals; this Longhorn was my favorite (go figure!).

We love watching the animal demonstrations and having a reason to wear our boots!

We love seeing the baby animals born during the Rodeo. Do you see the runt at the bottom right? So cute; the curly tail is too much.
Of course, the kids love the carnival rides. And, we all love the food.

How many places have deep fried everything? God Bless Texas!

Friday Favorite- Orla Kiely for Target

One of my sewing baskets from the Orla Kiely line

You know how much I love the new Liberty of London line for Target, right? I do, I do. I might have gone a little crazy…Anyhow, this week’s Friday Favorite has to be the Orla Kiely line for Target produced last year. I love Orla Kiely who makes great designs with a funky retro vibe. However, I can't justify all the bags and other fashion accessories from her line. Lucky for me, last year Orla Kiely designed a line of home and office accessories (see above) from Target and I was there at Target when they opened the boxes for me. Literally. They did not even have time to put the items on the shelves, they got the boxes from holding and let me pick one (or 2) of everything in the boxes. Oh, Target, I pink glittery puffy heart you. I get so many compliments on our Orla Kiely kitchen designs. I wish I had more. I wonder what designer Target will hook up with next Spring. Please let it be Tim Gunn. Oh please! Do you have a favorite designer that Target recruited (Dwell? Gautier?Rodarte?)? Do you love Target as much as I do? Any other Friday Favorites?

Love Thursday-Love Cooks!

My husband is a great cook. His food is almost legendary amongst our friends. He also does most of the cooking in the house (he works at home, so it is easier for him to start dinner while I pick up the kids). A couple weeks ago, he made the Best Enchiladas Ever (TM pending!). He made about 40 servings of them-completely serious. It is a labor intensive recipe and took him most of that weekend to make. We just finished those late last week. This Monday I hosted a baby shower for one of my co-workers and offered to provide the food. I sort of signed my husband up for cooking without actually asking him first. The mom-to-be asked for enchiladas. I couldn't say no. So, this weekend, when I'm sure he would have rather done other things, my husband shopped, boiled, chopped, shredded, and made the Best Enchiladas Ever. Everyone loved them.

Love Cooks (even when, I'm sure he would have rather been watching ESPN!).

I couldn't post this without sharing the recipe:

From the Joshua Creek Ranch Hunter's Harvest Cookbook
Pheasant Enchiladas

4 whole pheasants (You can substitute any meat you want-turkey, chicken, or pork would work extremely well)
6 ribs celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp black pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tbsp chicken base
2 jalapenos
1 10 oz can Ro-Tel tomatoes with green chiles
20 yellow corn tortillas
1 lb cheddar cheese, grated (original recipe uses 2)

Enchilada Sauce
2 10.5 oz cans cream of celery soup, undiluted
2 18 oz cans enchilada sauce
1 10 oz can Ro-Tel tomatoes with green chiles
1 cup Velveeta Cheese, cut up
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
Combine all sauce ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a low rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Remove any shot, unwanted fat, feathers from birds (my husband shot all the pheasant we used). Wash, Cook pheasant in stock pot with water, celery, onion, garlic, jalapeno, black pepper, and chicken base until meat starts to separate from the bone. (This is when the house starts smelling really good.) Drain and discard stock or freeze it. Remove meat from bone and chop. Add Ro-Tel and 1 cup enchilada sauce to meat. Mix and shred until meat is smooth.
Heat each tortilla in a pan with a small amount of hot peanut oil (I assume you can use vegetable or canola if there are allergies) to soften the tortillas. Place 3 tbsp of meat in tortilla, roll and place in a large pan. After all are rolled, pour remaining sauce over enchiladas. Sprinkle with grated cheese and paprika. Bake for 30 minutes.

These enchiladas are reeeeaaally cheesy and reallly good. You can make this spicier based on the kind of Ro-Tel you use. I know you will love it!

Scenes from Our Weekend

Texas in the Springtime. This photo is unedited, nature's beauty. We are so lucky to have a patch of bluebonnets a few houses down. I can't wait for our bluebonnets to bloom (we planted several patches this year).
There was lots of chalk.
The rider of this bike also can now make it all the way across the monkey bars BY HERSELF! Very exciting.

Craft project-Baby Banner. Completed!
And, the Best Enchiladas ever. Made by my loving husband. So, so, so good.

We had a great weekend. Hope your weekend was a nice mix of lazy, sun, play, and good food too!


Yesterday was frustrating.

As I mentioned the other day, I have been feeling "off" lately. Yesterday was one of those days, a gas tanker overturned about ten blocks away from our house. This resulted in our entire neighborhood being shut off from the hours of 11am to 7pm. My husband left for lunch and could not get home until well after dinner. It was frustrating and snarled traffic for miles. Waiting for me once I made it through the traffic was a jury summons. "What a day," I thought. When I started complaining about it, I was reminded of the good news that happened yesterday. A close friend of ours is battling cancer. She found out a few months ago that she had breast cancer, metastasized to her lymph nodes, liver, and lungs-stage 4. Since I worked at MD Anderson Cancer Center for many years, I knew this was not good. She's our age and the news was devastating. But, she's been fighting like hell and yesterday got her latest scan results- the largest tumor shrunk to less than a third of the original size and several of the smaller tumors are not visible anymore. GREAT NEWS. It really put things in perspective. I can complain about the frustrating things that happen in my life, or I can rejoice in my life.

Yesterday was a good day. Yesterday was full of perspective.

Friday Favorite-Liberty of London for Target

Getty Images for Target
I can not wait for Sunday. Sunday the new Liberty of London for Target line will finally be available in stores. I am so excited. I have arranged to be at my local Target store when it opens. I'll likely show up after refreshing the Target website to see what I can purchase online first. I was this excited last year when Target debuted their Orla Kiely line (which I bought most of). This line may be even more exciting since Liberty has included housewares AND clothing. Squeee! I lived in Britain for several years and was at the age where Liberty prints were absolutely necessary. So, this new line is like bringing back a very special piece of my childhood. Yes, I know I have problems. But, it's Target and great designers, what is not to love?!
Is anyone else excited about this new line? If you have a Target near you, let me know what you get!

Love Thursday-Spring

I snapped this picture of our blooming azaleas this morning. Straight out of the camera- I love you Mother Nature! Love is new buds in Spring. Nothing says Spring has come to Houston like Azaleas. I hope you find new Spring love or renewed love this Love Thursday.

Balancing Bubbles

I take on way too much. Usually I juggle just enough to keep all the balls in the air. But lately I feel like I've been balancing bubbles, at any moment something is going to pop. Nothing too dramatic or upsetting, but I feel "off." I remembered this image I took a few years ago of our friend's niece and figured it would be perfect for a Wednesday "Hump Day" picture. It was a perfect moment, right before the bubble burst.What are your tricks for getting through the "hump" days? So far Girl Scout cookie eating is not working out so well.

A funny kid story is keeping me sane for now...
My husband heard M yelling tonight after bedtime (our girls share a room). "Em, be quiet. Em, BE QUIET." He went to investigate and Em was sound asleep, snoring. M was yelling at her to try to wake her up so M could get to sleep! Classic.

Sunshine and Shopping

Barb (and T before her) surprised me with the Sunshine Award. The weather is so nasty here today, so I figured we all needed a little sunshine. I'm passing this to all of you here today. Feel free to bring it to your own blog. Thanks Barb and T. What goes better with sunshine than shopping? Susan turned me on to this deal- If you bring a pair of jeans into Gap between now and March 14, they'll give you 30% off a new pair. (These are the deals you find by using Twitter, woo hoo). I am really rethinking the wisdom of deciding not to shop during Lent. Augh.

Oh, this is better than shopping and full of sunshine-we found out a few days ago that our sponsored child Sandrine survived the Haitian earthquakes with no major injuries. Her home has been damaged but her family (mother and grandmother) is fine. Great news so far!

And My Awards Go To...the Best Dressed ladies

I may have mentioned before, but I love awards season. It's like playing dress up all over again. Now that my girls are 3 and 5 (and love dress up and all things fancy), we love watching the awards shows. So, our family sat down last night and watched most of the Oscars. I've included our favorite few dresses. I haven't included any of the worst because those were painfully obvious, weren't they?

*All images Getty via New York Mag

Jason Merritt
Vera Farmiga. Gorgeous in Marchesa. I love this dress. It was the perfect blend of interesting and classic. So many other actresses wanted their dress to make a statement like this one, but instead theirs said "I am a big pouffy, fruoffy mess."
Alberto E. Rodriguez
Gorgeous. Meryl Streep is really the Queen of Hollywood, isn't she? This is a perfect classy dress. The dress is simple and just lovely. And, (Bonus) it was designed by former Project Runway contestant Chris March. Well done.

Alberto E. Rodriguez
Sandra Bullock looking every bit a movie star here. I can't imagine it was easy to walk in, but it was gorgeous. She really pulled it off. Incidentally, this was my girls' favorite dress because she looked like a mermaid!
Alberto E. Rodriguez
Queen Latifah looked awesome in this lilac dress. Again, a simple silhouette that really played on her figure with one effective jeweled detail. Less is more and it definitely worked for her.
Alberto E. Rodriguez
I haven't seen Cameron Diaz look so good in years. I surprised myself by really liking her in this dress and loving her overall look. Finally we get to see that she really is a pretty woman and can look very polished. Well played, Cameron. She was my daughters' second favorite since she looked like a princess.

Alberto E. Rodriguez

Including Kristen Stewart in my "Best Dressed" post is my biggest surprise. I do not get her as an actress and she generally looks so distressed, dirty, and grungy. I have to give her credit, she actually smiled last night (not in this picture though) and she chose the right night to look like a million bucks. Well done Kristen. Please take note and dress like this (well, maybe not exactly like this) from here on out. At least smile once in awhile.

I came close to including Penelope Cruz, Jane Seymour, and Maggie Gyllenhall. Did I leave your favorite out? Anything grab you?

Favorite Photo 2 (x2)

It's way past time for another couple favorite photos. For those of you stuck in the snow, I hope these bring you to a warmer locale, even if only in your imagination. For me, I'm about 10 weeks away from a little vacation with my husband so this is motivation!
Both photos were taken in Kauai, Hawaii which is a gorgeous place to bring your camera!
*A special note to new followers-Thanks! If I could, I'd give you all a big hug. I never thought anyone except T and maybe a few family members would read my blog. So, thanks for stopping by and introducing me to your blogs too. Mwah-Happy weekend everyone.

Friday Favorite- Epiphanie Bags

Photo from Epiphanie Bags website
I have been looking for a better camera bag for some time now. I couldn't find just what I wanted until I saw "it" at the Mom 2.0 Conference. Karen had it, the Coral Epiphanie bag. Isn't it gorgeous? The bags are designed by a female photographer, so she knew exactly what female photographers want in a camera bag; a bag that has enough room for our camera equipment, but also for phones, make-up, etc. I love the coral and the blue. So pretty. Unfortunately I gave up shopping for Lent, so I am trying to patiently wait for my birthday to buy one. Hopefully I will be able to wait. Definitely my Friday Favorite!

Chalkboard in the Kitchen

One area of our home that gets the most comments is the chalkboard wall I painted last year. I can't recall where I first saw the idea (it was all over craft and design blogs last year). But, whoever inspired me, thank you. The previous owners designed the house and, for the most part, their designs are top notch. One area that baffled me for about a year was the refrigerator surround. The fridge has a wooden surround that leaves no room for error, drilling, etc. There was no way to hang anything or really utilize the space. Until I decided to use it as a chalkboard wall. It was the perfect answer.
I painted the side of our small wall housing the refrigerator (wasted space). I used about 4 coats of magnetic paint and then about 3 coats of chalkboard paint. If I had to do it again, I would use many many more coats of magnetic paint since it doesn't really hold larger magnets. I painted this so that I could post recipes next to the menu. It's a slight disappointment to not have the recipes there, but otherwise, we love it. It is a great use of wasted wall space and is a handy reference to what is on our calendar for the week. I'm posting this to Nester's Linky party today. Do you use chalkboard in your home?

Love Thursday-And

Like most families, we have our own jokes, habits, and routines. My youngest daughter and I unknowingly created a new "thing" this weekend. Every time my little one does it, I just smile. It seemed perfect for my Love Thursday post this week. My girls get (and give) hugs and kisses like crazy. I never want them to doubt that they are loved. I also firmly believe that a hug and kiss can make you feel instantly better. We hug and kiss; it is our way. I will often point to my cheek and M will give me a kiss (Pavlov training!). This weekend I kept pointing after she gave me a kiss saying "and," and she would kiss the other cheek. Well, she decided that was a pretty fun game. Since Saturday, she has been walking around pointing to her cheek, saying "and" until I give her a kiss. She usually stops saying "and" after about 7 kisses, all the while cracking up. I don't mind one little bit. I hope she never stops saying "and." It's our new little thing.

Find someone you love AND give them a kiss or seven today! Happy Love Thursday.

Come One, Come All to the Princess Ball

One of the reasons I started this blog was to share my not so secret obsession, planning parties. I tend to go kind of overboard with kids' parties. I met Lisa at Mom 2.0 and was reminded about how great a source the web can be when planning a party. I also love TipJunkie, Today's Creative Blog, and Creative Parties and Showers for party ideas. I hope my ideas can help someone out there plan the perfect Princess party for a little girl. A few months ago, my daughter turned 5 and requested a Princess Dress Up Party. Here are a few scenes from her party.
First, the invitation, selected by my daughter because it had a "diamond." I've included the wording in case anyone wants to use it:
Hear Ye! Hear Ye!
Princesses, Queens, Knights, and all good people,
Her Royal Highness, Princess Em is turning 5 years old!
In celebration of the joyous occassion of Princess Em's 5th birthday,
The Princess requests the honor of your presence at the Princess Ball.
Come One, Come All to the Princess Ball,
Please dress as your favorite princess. Finishing touches will be provided by the Royal Salon.
Follow the pink carpet to the castle where the Princess and her Royal Court eagerly await your arrival.
There was much dancing and glee at the Royal Ball.
We played "Pin the Jewel on the Crown." This was a big hit.

The Royal Salon, ready for Princess make-overs.
We painted nails and offered princess tattoos; you never know what princesses will want to wear!
We put out bowls of jewels for all the girls to make their own necklaces and bracelets.

One of my favorite ways to decorate is to hang lots of curling ribbon on the chandelier. Easy, big impact. I know, but I like it better without shades on my chandy bulbs.

I found a great sticker by number crown craft for the princesses.

My daughters and I made tons of tissue paper poufs in coordinating colors. We had these hanging on the stairs, on the chairs, all over the house. The girls really got into decorating. I kept them to hang in their room but will end up using them for a baby shower in a couple of weeks.
I drew a crown on our chalkboard to take pictures of each girl (this one is of one of our neighbors) at the party. I wanted to do a cut-out, similar to what Amy did for her daughter's mermaid party. But, I ran out of time.

Goody bags full of lots of Princess paraphernalia.

Other ideas we used for the party:
* Princess story time, read by the Fairy Godmother (Grandma), we read "The Paper Bag Princess"
* I laid out pink vinyl on our front sidewalk as a pink carpet for the girls.
* For the moms who stayed we served pink champagne. The girls dined on pink lemonade and various snacks.
* One of the best ideas I had was to "hire" two of our neighbors for the salon. We have two awesome tween girls who live on either side of us. They were great. I put them in princess aprons and they painted nails and then stayed to dance and play with the girls.