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Tomato Basil Soup

When I'm entertaining and/or out to dinner with friends, I'm often asked what do I like to cook or what's my specialty - which the hubby frequently answers - everything! Thanks honey for the vote of confidence. It's true that I love to try my hand at making a lot of things, especially the meals that we enjoy at our favorite restaurants. But I would have to say from Fall to Winter, my main specialty is soup. Specifically creamy pureed soups, and for obvious reasons. One) they fill your house with warmth and comforting aromas that make you just want to cuddle on the couch in front of the TV while cradling that steaming bowl of warm goodness in the palm of your hands. Two) they are easy to whirl up in no time. Three) they are richly flavorful and soothing to the soul. Four) They're what I like to call one of the world's best 'make-aheads' and create a satisfying meal with simple accompaniments, like rustic bread or salad. The added bonus: watching others enjoy it.

Ingredients {serves 6}

3 1/2 lb. ripe beefsteak tomatoes (Set aside 1 coarsely chopped tomato for garnish)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
3 small onions, diced
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
1 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. sea or kosher salt
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup whipping cream
6 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated
2 Tbsp. Brandy (optional)


Preheat oven to 400

On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with the garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes for about 20 minutes, until their skins begin to shrivel, stirring once halfway through.

In a Dutch oven, saute onion in butter over medium-low heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until onions are tender, stirring occasionally. Add in the roasted tomatoes, garlic, and vegetable stock. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Transfer tomato mixture in batches to a blender. Cover and process until smooth. Return pureed mixture to pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, finely chop the basil. Stir basil into tomato mixture. Add cheese, cream, and, brandy (if desired). Heat through. Stir until cheese is melted.

Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle with chopped tomato and basil. Enjoy!

P.S. The first time I made this soup, I served it with grilled cheese. Super yummy!


Grateful Moments

"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it, is like wrapping a present and not giving it." William Ward

~ What my Oscar party looked like last year ~ 

Happy Friday! Heading into this weekend with a little excitement knowing that the Oscars are this Sunday. This year unlike previous years, I'm going to fly solo with a light fare of detectable goodies to indulge on calmly, without the worries/stress of ensuring anyone else's comfort. Totally, unlike my character {I live to entertain and am a people person} but if I'd shared with you what happened last year, you'd totally understand why I'm being a little selfish this year. I'm also sure it might have something to do with it being bone chilly cold here that just makes you want to hibernate under cozy blankets. If you're on the east coast - bundle up and keep warm. Enjoy your weekend!

~ This amazing ankle bootie is so me and belongs in my closet asap ~ 

~ Saturated pink daisies{sort of fuchsia} that kept my space looking bright for three weeks ~

~ Deceptively cold blue sky where we spotted this little guy perched on cold winter branches ~

~ Weekend rituals - afternoon brunches ~

P.S. Who are you hoping to win this Sunday on the nominees list? I'm not a big movie buff - in fact, the only movie I've seen recently is Big Eyes. Watching the Oscars for me is like watching the Super Bowl. I watch the Super Bowl for the halftime show and the Oscars for the Fashion and the hoopla. Love me fancy parties.


West Coast Vibe Dreamin'

Never thought I would ever say this in my life, but I'm too honest to keep it in. This erratic polar vortex winter weather we've been having here on the east made me take a look back at what I was wearing this time last year. As unusual as it always felt to not be bundled up in the middle of winter or even need a scarf most times, I have to say that I could exchange some of our cold freezing days for a good dose of warmer west coast weather right about now. Which has me dreaming the west coast style vibe of wearing a not-so-basic blazer, white button-down shirt (or this intriguing Elizabeth and James sheer hem button-down), perfectly placed rips destroyed jeans, low profiling buckle ankle booties, completed with a perfectly sized slouchy tote in exchange for my heavy coats, scarves, gloves, hats and boots. Thank goodness, that'll be sooner than later.


Grateful Moments

~ Proof of our weather lately: walked in to these ice frosted doors in our home office one morning ~

Hi! How was your week? Hopefully, it was a fulfilling week for you. How was mine? Well, this week, I had to cancel a lot of appointments (some fun times with girlfriends and others not so much, so that worked out to my advantage), because I've been battling a terrible head cold and a mild flu this whole week. I've been downing all sorts of immune system boosters and of course lots of liquids so I can get well before NYFW starts next week. I'm afraid that this weekend is going to be a continuation of what my week has been - complete hibernation. So those of you that are in my shoes right now, please get well soon! And those of you that are in good health, go out there and have some fun this weekend for me, okay? After all, there is always something to be grateful for, right? Wishing you all a healthy and happy weekend.

~ My favorite Grammy performance that's been carrying me through my days since I first saw it. I'd love to get my hand on an apartment like that and put it back in order. I'm rarely obsessed over anything, but I am with this video. Still don't know why she didn't get a Grammy ~

~ Cooking this amazingly colorful cauliflower this week, sure put a good smile on my sickly face ~

~ NYC shining like a diamond ~

~ A night spent chatting over snacks with a girlfriend before this rabid cold invaded my body ~


Favorite Links Around the Web

1. The email habits of highly successful people that I'm hoping can help open my eyes to ways of kicking the awful habit of scanning through every email without deleting them, causing me anxiety as all the thousands of emails from multiple inboxes pile up.

2. Ever face the dilemma of ruining that most cherished item of clothing and wish you knew how to fix it? No need to fret. These 21 hacks for salvaging those ruined pieces will put a smile of relief back on the face.

3. I've been dying for a hair color change since last year, but have been afraid to go through with it out of fear the bleach will damage my thin weak strands. Finally, I think this easy video tutorial on how to get great Ombre hair has given me the idea of how I'm going to apply my non-bleaching organic color now. Hope it works out well. Stay tuned!

4. 15 aesthetically pleasing easy storage ideas solutions for gift wrapping supplies that I have implemented for years and make gift-giving that much more fun!

5. This quick video on how to remove salt stains from your boots couldn't come in any handier right now, especially for those of us living in the Northeast. All the salt on the ground to keep us from slipping on icy sidewalks and breaking our necks has also been wreaking havoc not only on our cars but also on our precious leather footwear as well.


12 Sassy Skirts Under $100 {From ASOS}

I have this love/hate relationship with skirts solely because unlike dresses that you can just slide on in one fell swoop, they can be a little more complicated to pair up with the right top and create a well-proportioned, balanced ensemble in a hurry. Especially when they are those random prints and patterns that don't visually combine well with the said tops or sweaters that I seem to possess. So, although I find creating chic outfit styles with print skirts more of an art form and a challenge as they test your ingenuity to put together a cohesive style combination, I've not given up on acquiring them. It's a challenge that stimulates my creativity on the days I'm feeling inspired and forces me to push the boundaries of pattern mixing much like in decorating a room.

At the same time, I do have the days that I'm not feeling so inspired/motivated to create those ideal unique combinations that I'd like. It's those dreadful mornings that I find myself standing in front of the closet racking my brain trying to figure out 'what can I put this skirt with today?' that inevitably ends up with a pile of different tops and skirts strewn all over the bed. Now my perfectionist nature just can't let me leave all of that behind to clean up later. Nope. I have to put everything back now before I walk out the door no matter how late I'm running.

In an attempt to alleviate this time drain, I decided this year to go back to the time of my corporate days by reintroducing a couple of solid-colored skirts in my closet that will make getting dressed a lot easier and quicker too, for those uninspired mornings. Additionally, it's always good to have a well-rounded closet with timeless classic style skirts for any and every possible occasion that may arise. Right now with all the sales currently going on, it's the perfect opportunity to shop a few fun picks that's been on the wishlist. Without further ado, here are my top 12 favorite styles (at the moment) with a touch of shimmering glam (of course) that I'm particularly loving from ASOS's big sale this week.

1. Floral Jacquard Pencil Skirt

2. Wool Skirt With Peplum Hem

3. Fringe Mini Skirt

4. Sequins Scallop Skirt (crop top here)

5. Sky Print Pencil Skirt

6. Pleated Chiffon Powder Blue Midi Skirt 

7. Check Kilt Skirt

8. Oil Slick Sequin Pencil Skirt

9. Midi Circle Skirt

10. A-Line Midi Skirt

11. Black Quilted Floral Midi Skirt

12. Checked Pencil Skirt

....more favorites:


Casual Cape Poncho and The Burgundy Floppy Hat

"Each day is a page in your own personal fashion story."

It's been so bone chilly cold here (you know, the kind that penetrates into the marrow of every single bone in your body), it has me wishing that we were still back in our old 90210 zip code - until I think back on the earthquakes, the alarming drought and the constant bottleneck traffic that had my anxiety level at such an abnormal level constantly the fourteen months we lived there. Those issues literally kept me from getting a full restful night sleep more times than I care to remember. Alternatively, I turned to this incredibly warm over-sized statement poncho hooded cape, which makes a fabulous sweater substitute - topped off with a classic on-trend winter color burgundy floppy brim hat that I unexpectedly scored at a flea market. Love when that happens. This is a page from my own kind of casual fashion story which protected my bits and pieces from freezing off.

Poncho Hooded Cape Sweater (similar), French Connection Stripe Sweater (seen here - similar), Boot Leg Jeans (similar), Suede Ankle Booties (old - similar), Tan Tote bag (old - similar), Burgundy Floppy Brim Hat (flea market find - similar)

On another note: I know the Grammys is already old news, but I'm curious about what you thought of the show? Does anyone else feel like it was a little flat again this year? My favorite performance of the night though was SIA - 'Chandelier.' I loved everything about it. That apartment prop was everything. I wanted to move into it with all its belongings. I guess that kind of gives you guys a little glimpse into my personality, eh?


Noontime Tea Time

Once the Super Bowl is over, that's when I start getting used to the idea that springtime is not too far off. With that comes the thought of gentility and renewal, which for some inexplicable reason makes me think of tea time - taking in the soft blowing air of the spring noon breeze while indulging on tasty food and drinks - possibly with pinky fingers stuck up in the air. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than dreaming of past ladylike days such as these. Days when women didn't feel guilty to carve time out for themselves to have a high tea party with girlfriends, where they discussed their worries and feelings in a relaxed setting. Though spring is still a little far off, as it gets closer I seem to have that imagery more and more in my head, perhaps because we now have a nice outdoor terrace (will talk more about that project in another post - stay tuned!!) for alfresco entertaining.

This year, I plan to turn those reminiscing thoughts of that past era into reality by starting my own noontime high tea tradition in my home to enjoy the fresh air, spend time with one or two close friends that can use the respite and as a way to welcome Spring. In fact, this playlist will be perfect for the occasion. Living in a world that is ridden with agitation, what could be more luxurious than taking out the time to host a lovely tea party filled with delectable fun sized treats, plated on elegant vintage china (or new...thankfully, I've amassed quiet a lovely collection from my mother-in-law) nestled in an array of beautifully assorted flowers on a round table in the outdoors. Those are the times where unforgettable memories are made to be cherished for a lifetime.

I rounded up the 12 basics to start off with from left to right:

1. Vintage tea plates. Mismatched is even more fun as they become conversation starters for your guests when they notice the different patterns and designs on them.

2. Charming cups and saucers - Gather as many different shapes and sizes. They don't have to be real vintage china or cost a lot, just collect them at flea markets, vintage shops or even online.

3. Pick up your sugar cubes like a lady with this sugar tong.

4. I personally feel that sugar cubes presents much better than fine sugar, and gives a precise amount of sugar per serving, thus averting any wet tea spoons going into the sugar creating unsightly tea stain clumps. An elegant sugar bowl makes for a classy presentation.

5. A crisp white tiered dessert stand makes a statement as it stands tall on your table.

6. I love the look of this peony print table cloth for its English and damask vibe - a great alternative to a vintage linen cover.

7. A Cake stand, elevates any basic dessert. I sort of collect them, strategically anyway since I lack storage space.

8. Keep things light and fun playing this tea party biscuits game.

9. Great assortment of teas. My three usual suspects are normally these: early grey, darjeeling black tea, and green mint tea. All of them can be served with milk, which is the only way I drink my tea.

10. Lovely teaspoons (on SALE). Aren't these birdie ones fun?!

11. Of course, a tea party wouldn't be complete without a tea set.

12. Last but not least, and not pictured, are very necessary items - tea napkins. are some more cool tea party items:


Pastel Pink Graffiti

What I love about fashion, is that much like art, it gives you the wonderful opportunity to express who you are by your own personal style - allowing one to paint a picture and say what you feel at the moment without a word. True style is not necessarily about labels, but a genuine reflection of the person within. Which is why I find Epictetus' quote very inspiring:

"Know, First, Who You Are; And Then Adorn Yourself Accordingly."

About this cocoon textured Express pink coat: ever since I started on a mission to break up the monotony of black, grey, brown and white in my closet, I've been on a prowl to find a pastel colored coat for its fresh soft subtle neutral color to uplift my collection. After a relentless search for over a year, trying every pink coat I could find, I sort of was resigned to the idea that I wasn't going to find the one that I felt suited me well. Until recently, when I was running around town doing errands and my eyes landed on Express' sales signs plastered on their doors. I decided to run in just to browse, and happily stumbled upon this pink coat, decided to try it on, and fell immediately in love with the color, its texture and classic vintage-y feminine style - plus, the deep discounted price on it made it even more attractive. Other than the fact that I'll probably have my tailor shorten the arm length on it, it makes a perfect addition to my wardrobe.

Sweater Top: I.N.C. (seen here x Macy*s), Skirt: St. John, Snakeskin Pumps (old ~ similar), Coat: Express (sold out ~ similar here and here), Clutch: Bebe (old), Belt: Calf Hair Leopard Print (similar)

And now, every time I open my closet to grab a coat, it's such a pretty sight to see. It's like a breath of fresh air to my bedarkened outerwear vortex.

P.S. Don't you love the serendipitous way of finding a wall background that just so happens to match your outfits? I couldn't believe how perfect this wall art tied in with my outfit ensemble. {Insert two hands raised in the air emoji.;-}