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6.30.2015

Checkered Top








Hi! It's been a little while since I've been on here. A special long visit with friends kept me so occupied that I did not get on my laptop at all last week. I'm looking to get back in the swing of things with work, posting and catching up on reading and answering all my emails that have accumulated in the hundreds. Last week, I opted for this loose fitting Zara's checkered linen top with back buttons, paired with one of my favorite red pencil skirts (also seen here) to a meeting that kept me well-ventilated on this particularly hot humid day while the tonal texture of my Rachel Zoe's snakeskin platform wedge sandals added that exotic fun touch to an otherwise basic outfit.


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6.23.2015

7 Floral Crown Bridal Hairstyle Ideas

Moody.Vintage.Floral.Bridal.Crown. Updo

My wedding hair updos post written over three years ago, has consistently remained one of the most popular on this blog, and it's for good reason - who doesn't love seeing a beautifully coiffed bride? Especially these romantic boho-chic, and/or old Hollywood glamour hairstyle looks. With summer wedding season in full swing, I wanted to share my top 7 floral crown bridal hairstyle ideas that I'm loving right now. Knowing what I know now, I realize that there are two things that I'd do differently if I were getting married to my hubby all over again. One, I would ditch the bridal party saga and second, I'd channel the inner flower child in me by donning a floral crown instead of wearing a veil. Although this veil, would come as the second best option if I had to wear one.

Side.Bridal.Floral.Crown
braided-updo-bridal-hairstyles
Glam.Floral.Crown.Bridal.Updo
Floral.Bridal.Hair.Updo

1| 2| 3| 4 +5 | 6| 7

Other pretty alternative options:


6.18.2015

Peanut Butter Mascarpone Frosted Banana Cupcakes

Peanut Butter Mascarpone Frosted Banana Cupcakes

Baking doesn't happen nearly as often as it used to in my household. A few years back, the hubby and I agreed that we were going to avoid keeping any kind of desserts in our home so as to curb our unbridled sweet tooth cravings. However, every now and then, the occasion presents itself where I get to bake - whether it's for when I'm entertaining or I simply want to surprise a friend with something sweet just to let them know that I was thinking about them. These cupcake treats were made for the latter. But once I got into the baking mood, I simply was not able to stop thinking of all the people that I wanted to surprise with a little something sweet, including our very own doorman. That's why the baking of these banana cupcakes with peanut butter mascarpone frosting (as per the hubby's peanut butter frosting request) was almost a daily part of my routine during the last couple of weeks. This recipe is by no means figure friendly, but it sure makes for the perfect unexpected indulgent treat that will sweeten any friendships.

Ingredients

2 sticks unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup (3 medium bananas) mashed ripe bananas
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used whole grain brown rice flour)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Insert liners into a medium cupcake pan.

1. With an electric mixer on medium speed, mix cream and sugar together until fluffy, about 3-5              minutes.

2. Add the eggs to the creamed mixture and beat well. Add the bananas and mix well.

3. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

4. Add all dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix until completely integrated.

5. Add the milk and vanilla. Mix for 1 minute on medium speed.

6. Fill cupcake liners one-half to three-quarters full with batter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center of cupcakes comes out clean. Pull cupcakes out of the oven and let cool.

Peanut Butter Mascarpone Frosting* {makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes}

12 tbsp (6 oz) mascarpone cheese
4 tbsp smooth peanut butter
4 tbsp heavy cream
1 lb powdered sugar
2 tbsp vanilla extract

Whip the mascarpone in an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in the peanut butter and slowly add in the powdered sugar until well combined. Pour in the heavy cream and vanilla extract, until smooth. Put the frosting on the cupcakes and top with peanut butter chips and banana slices (optional).

Peanut Butter Mascarpone Frosted Banana Cupcakes

*I was running against the clock before it got too dark in my kitchen to photograph these cupcakes, that's why the frosting looks softer than usual. But the frosting will thicken when allowed the proper time to cool on the cupcakes. In the meantime, let's call these...rustic.;-)



6.16.2015

Summer Plans {Part Two}

Summer Plans List Part Two

All you Summer lovers out there, guess what?! It officially starts this Sunday. We're already half way through the year folks. What are your Summer plans? When we lived away from NYC, although I thoroughly enjoyed doing several of the things on my last Summer plans list, there were still several moments when I found myself daydreaming about doing the things that I have on this year's list. Being that this is our first summer back, I'm thrilled to have another chance at fulfilling my goal of taking advantage of all the wonderful variety of  fun cultural activities that this amazingly exciting city has to offer that we previously sort of took for granted. It took moving away to appreciate those things much more now. Besides, what can be more gratifying and fun than checking off things off your summer plans list?

1. Enjoy a movie under the stars in the park. 
2. Test out this cronut craze at Dominique Ansel. Can you believe I've yet to try one? 
3. Visit the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Never been there.
4. Learn how to use Photoshop so I can improve my photo creation skills.
5. Host happy hour on our new rooftop terrace.
6. Host a Julie Powell {from Julie & Julia} style rooftop dinner soiree.
7. Get to know and shop the city's farmers markets.
8. Make my photo books that's been on my organize to-do list.
9. Enjoy a date night Jazz at the Carlyle.
10. Spend nights out on the town going to Broadway shows.
11. Pamper myself by getting professional facials.
12. Re-discover all the best brunch spots and wine bars in the city.
13. Find where the best dim sum and Thai restaurants are.
14. Spend some days at the beaches on Long Island like old times.
15. Want to read this book cause it was a recommendation, but also reminds me of some of peeps I know and this one just because it looks oh, so fun and chic.
16. Picnic often in different parts of Central park.
17. Take warm weather weekend trips up to Maine and Cape Cod for lobster bingeing.
18. And of course, summer would never be complete without a great memorable vacation. Currently planning that.

What are you looking forward to doing the most this summer?



6.15.2015

Hot Pink Romper and A Zebra Wedge


Good morning guys! I hope you had a great fun weekend with friends and family. My weekend was a busy fulfilling one with volunteer work in the community rounded out with a great relaxing late Sunday brunch with the hubby. This romper outfit ensemble came together on a whim this past Friday. After enduring a long day of meetings with my clothes glued to my skin from the hot sticky humidity we've been feeling here, I reached a point I could no longer bear the touch of anything on my skin. And since it's not legally advisable to roam the streets naked, I needed to find something to wear that came as close to feeling free as a jaybird as possible. My decision to run into a favorite local boutique to browse around ended up paying off, as it is how I found this pretty hot pink chiffon romper. Its color, the light airiness of the fabric, the comfortable fit of it, plus its style attracted me to it immediately, thus it was an easy outfit choice for that evening to meet a girlfriend for drinks and gab time.






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6.10.2015

DON'T LET PARTIALITY SHUT YOUR HEART

Don't Let Partiality Shut Your Hear Quote

Where there's kindness, there's goodness and where there's goodness, there's a better world. Be the difference.



6.09.2015

URBAN BALCONY MAKEOVER

Before+After.Urban.Balcony.Makeover

One of the must-have things that was high on our apartment hunting list when we decided that we were moving back to the city was to find a place with a small outdoor space. Of course on one hand, we subconsciously felt and knew that it was a far-fetched dream and surely we were setting ourselves up for great disappointment (ahem, meaning mainly me) as outdoor spaces in this tight city is almost unheard of, or come with a very hefty price tag. However, it was on our list nonetheless. On the other hand, I was realistic to realize that if we were fortunate enough to find a place with an outdoor space, it would either be one of those Juliet balconies which would give it a French style appeal, which was actually fine with me, as it meant somewhat of an outdoor space or a very tiny balcony - which ultimately was what I hoped for. All I knew was, I wanted at least a little outdoor spot where we could sit out in the mornings to have our hot beverages, and a place to relax in the late afternoon to enjoy wine sipping and pleasurable reading after a long days work while taking in the outdoor air. Imagine our surprise as the agent opened the door to our current apartment, not only to be greeted with an expanse of space flooded with light, but lo and behold - what was staring us right in the face? A balcony! And for New York City, it was even a wee bit bigger than I'd imagine it would be. I think we simultaneously did a little jig on the inside the way we both looked at each other. Ever since we moved in, I've been anxious to turn that little slice of outdoor paradise into a cozy little space to step out on the minute the weather turned nice.

Urban.Balcony.Before.Transformation

To bring life to this cozy urban balcony, the first order of business was to soften the harshness of the black railings with flowers and plants. I hung three long flower boxes over them filled with a variety of colorful plants. But in an effort to eventually turn this whole little balcony space into a cool lush cocoon, I also planted wisteria vines in pots flanking each corner of the space. So far, in a matter of two months - they've already shown tremendous growth, so I sure hope they blossom this year. The drab grey concrete floors called for something cheerie, so I laid down a yellow and white stripe floor runner from Urban Outfitters, placed my two Lucite ghost chairs from our old breakfast nook, and a small white round table. The final touches were citronella candle to keep any pesky mosquitoes away, a black and white throw to soften the chairs and for cozy reading on the chillier afternoons, along with a water can in a bright melon color for a great unexpected punch. There are still some small additions that I'd like to make for it to feel complete, but this is how things are looking like at the moment.

Before+After.Urban.Balcony.Makeover.Transformation



6.05.2015

Grateful Moments

"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of  our treasures." ~Thornton Wilder

1. I was the happiest woman on the planet when I scored these beauties at an antique shop in the neighborhood.

Over the past several weeks, the weather (with the exception of the last three days) has been showing true signs of lasting, beautiful warmer days on the horizon. This of course got me motivated to wash and pack away my winter wardrobe. However, I now realize how sparse and unprepared my closet is for summer as there is a gaping hole in my closet screaming to be filled. It's clear that part of my weekend plans is to get some shopping done for a few summer fashion must-have pieces, in addition to continuing my decorating plans for our terrace to get it ready for summer entertaining. In the meantime, here are a few things that I've been grateful for. Enjoy your weekend.

2. Finally tried grits and shrimp in Charleston, SC~

3. This lovely honey comb jug made for a perfect water jar on my brunch table setting.

4. My tiny urban rooftop variety herb garden box that I planted almost two months ago has grown a hundred times bigger in no time, and has yielded me some fresh herbs for my cooking.

5. This tasty homemade noodle soup warmed our soul on a cold grey rainy day yesterday.



6.04.2015

THE BEST HAND CREAM BUY 2015 {BARR-CO}


I rarely put my stamp of approval on beauty products as I often find almost all of them fail to deliver on their promise in what they claim the products do. And I try A LOT of beauty products as can be determined based on my lists (not limited to) here and here. But this hand cream, (that I accidentally stumbled upon while strolling in a new pop up store around the neighborhood) beckoned me to give the open test tube a try. As it turns out, this product became one of those indulgences that I didn't know was missing in my life all along. It's like that Rihanna song 'where have you been all my life...' moment. I thought I loved the silky feeling touch of this particular favorite, but boy, was I wrong. Hands down, this was the best hand cream buy I got this year. The buttery smooth coverage that you get with just a pea sized drop without feeling greasy or sticky makes me want to bathe in it. Oh, and did I mention its scent is heavenly? Plus, I love the typography and the vintage look of the metal tube. I'm definitely hooked! And I'm not even being compensated for this review. It's that good.

Can't wait to try these...

6.03.2015

5 SIMPLE KEYS ON HOW TO HOST A STRESS-FREE SUNDAY BRUNCH


One of the things I look forward to the most on the weekends is the moment that the hubby and I are walking into one of our favorite restaurants for brunch. Depending on the weekend and what our mood/taste buds crave, you'll find us either trying a new brunch spot or hanging out at one of our tried and true places that always leave us satisfyingly happy. While I do enjoy eating out, I find it even more exciting when I host brunch at our home. In fact, I hosted one at our place several Sundays ago and am looking to do so again, hopefully soon. There are many reasons that I love doing it. For one, I love to entertain (that's why I chose one of my careers in the PR world as an event host). I enjoy the process of creating a menu from libations to deserts. One of my dreams would be to own a bed and breakfast, a restaurant and hotel...so I could create and help others experience that ultimate luxury that is unforgettable...worthy to be remembered for a lifetime. Another reason is that it also gives me the opportunity to create a beautiful special setting for friends to come and forget about life's annoying hiccups for those several hours while they're in our home. Just the act of making fresh homemade food and serving it on pretty dishes and platters for others, wells up in me this joy that is indescribable. However, to experiencing that sort of joy requires good planning and keeping things simple. Over the years of entertaining, I've learned that you don't have to break the bank or spend hours slaving/sweating in the kitchen amidst a mess of pots and pans to put together a beautiful event. 

So today, I'd like to share with you my 5 basic keys to host the most amazing stress-free brunch.


1. The Menu - keep it simple with foods that can either be made in advance or be cooked in less than an hour. Here's what I had on my recent brunch menu:
  • Quiche Lorraine (or either one of these) which is quite fast and easy to whip up and cook in less than an hour.
  •  French Toast Cups (I want to try this recipe next time) that can be prepared the night before and just bake in the oven for less than 30 minutes the day of your brunch.
  • Bacon and link sausages can be baked crisp in the oven to prevent the mess of splattering oil and you still get that amazing smell of breakfast bacon in the house.
  • Green pear salad and glazed walnuts with a homemade champagne balsamic dressing.
  • Fresh blueberries washed the day before.
  • Fresh squeezed orange juice that was squeezed the day before for the mimosas.
  • Homemade peach puree for Bellinis, homemade raspberry sauce for mini chocolate cups that I made the night before. Will share some of those recipes in another post. 
  • Cranberry scones and banana muffins baked the day before. I made the scones dough two days prior and froze them, and just baked them few minutes before the brunch.
  • Mimosas and Bellinis. And of course don't forget to chill your champagne days before.
2. Set The Table - the night before, including your fresh flower arrangements. So make sure to get your flowers the day before and put them in their respective vases and spaces.

3. Create a Playlist - well in advance based on your guests personalities/taste. I have an iPod full of tunes broken down by every genre of music imaginable. For my particular crowd that day, I went with my lounge playlist and everyone commented on how they enjoyed the music in the background. But if you don't have an iPod, there's Pandora or Spotify that you can create a playlist made up of your guests favorite tunes with enough songs to last at least two hours. Remember to keep the volume low enough so that your guests will not be straining their voices as they converse.

4. Encourage Conversation - if your crowd isn't a talkative one, think in advance of games that might get the ball rolling. I didn't have that problem since I often mix my guests in order to make sure that we have stimulating conversations. Table topics is an excellent one.

5. Plush Socks - now that I'm back living in the city, I've gone back to the 'no shoes' inside the apartment policy. And to keep my guests feet warm and cozy, I keep a stash of fluffy socks on hand to lounge in for those who need it. Keep in mind that....


 "It is not the quantity of the meat but the 
cheerfulness of the guests which makes the feast." 
~ Edward Hyde 



6.02.2015

Midweek Getaway: Hilton Head Island and Charleston South Carolina


Those of you dear ones who are friends with me here, saw a sneak peek of my recent getaway in South Carolina. Our friends go to Hilton Head Island annually and for several years have invited us every time they go to come down to enjoy the island with them, but our schedules have never allowed for it. This year the invite came during our busy season wind down period and the idea of being in a different environment (other than our home office and busy city), the sight of different scenery and the word relaxation captivated us. So we accepted the invitation for a four day getaway from the midweek to the weekend with one request - that they take us to Charleston since we had never been there and it was on our list of places to visit.

We arrived in Hilton Head late on Wednesday night which made getting up very early to make the 2.5 hour drive to Charleston for breakfast a little challenging as we had rest on the brain. When we arrived, a glimpse of the city once again revived our excitement to explore it. But before doing the carriage ride, we tried our first restaurant there where I had grits and shrimp for the first time. Regrettably, it was not very good. They say it was because the place did not know how to make them properly, but for now, my view is tainted on this dish...not sure if I'll try it again. We then walked through the market square to get on our carriage ride tour. After our carriage tour, we made a stop at Belgian Gelato to refresh ourselves (from the hot sun and humidity) which by the way, was the best tasting Gelato I've ever had, so that made up for the grits for sure. I had the salted caramel and pistachio in a chocolate coated waffle cone with whipped cream on the inside. Unbelievably divine. We mozied on out as if on clouds savoring every lick of it, slowly making our way to the waterfront park adjacent to the Gelato parlor to sit and enjoy the cool canopy shade of this incredible forest like park. As we slowly regained foot traction after indulging on those creamy cones, we started our walk exploring Charleston, including the famous Rainbow Row street. 













Being drawn to historical architecture, lush gardens and courtyards - I found that I enjoyed our foot tour much better. The evergreen neighborhoods filled with federal-style inspired homes with vine covered facades, their grandeur and lush courtyards graced with stately window boxes spilling with vines and flowers throughout the neighborhoods just made me oh, so relaxed. I would have to say that the southern charm of Charleston was hands down one of the best parts of our short getaway. After a good 5 hours or more of walking we completely burned off that gelato and were ready for dinner. We couldn't have picked a better dinner spot to end our long day of exploring than the lovely Magnolias for an amazing dinner experience.




Since our main goal for going to Hilton Head Island was to relax from our hectic and sometimes overwhelming life schedule, we spent the next day hanging on the beach taking in the therapeutic ocean sound, the oceanic breeze and even got to see the shrimp fishing boat afar casting their nets and pulling in shrimp. When we arrived back to the house, our friends barbecued and we spent the rest of the night watching a couple of favorite movies we rented from red box while all cozied up on the couches wining, and munching on fresh guac I made with chips, barbecued corn on the cob and cheese a crackers. Just a plethora of goodies. It was the perfect amount of time for us to catch our breath for a moment. Hilton Head Island is definitely a town for laying low if that's what you want or Charleston for architectural southern charm and culinary exploration experience. So yes, it's a nice place to go for a quick reprieve if you're looking to getaway in between big vacations.



My only suggestions are:

1. Don't go during the summer season, unless you're a sun worshiper and don't mind extreme heat and humidity (I'm talking 110 degrees with 90+ humidity). Best time to go is early Spring or Fall.

2. Also, don't waste money on the carriage ride tours (unless you just want to experience a carriage ride if you've never done one), you're better off doing the foot tour option as you will get to see the better side of town at your leisure.

3. Had we stayed longer, we would have loved to have visited Savannah and especially Tybee. If you're into the southern charm, you'd definitely love those places.

4. As I've mentioned, Magnolias restaurant is a must experience. Highly recommended. You never know, you might run into Oprah there. But if you're in the mood for a hip urban rooftop vibe with a view of the entire city, go to The Vendue. If we were to go back to Charleston, it's one of the places we would stay at. The decor is exquisite.

5. Other food places on my list that I didn't get to try, but would definitely want to give it a go are these below: