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Tuesday, March 30

Soup's On!

Confession: I love homemade soup in the fall/winter/early spring. I could happily make a crockpot full of soup every Sunday and eat it all week for the majority of the year. It's so simple, hearty and good. This recipe has a bit of spice to it, and for some reason, it seems like more of a springtime soup to me. It worked really well last week when we had an equal mix of cold and warm days. I'm not really sure why, but I promise that it's really good. Semi-Mexican Soup - One 32 ounce box of low-sodium chicken broth/veggie broth - Five or six large tomatoes, chopped - Two bell peppers, preferably red, yellow or orange, diced - One tsp. cumin - One or two large onions, diced - One fresh jalepeno pepper, diced, or several pickled jalepeno slices (we like our soup hot, so we add a bunch!) - A couple of tablespoons of minced garlic, based on your preference - Three cups of dry black beans - Several cups of frozen corn - Three boiled chicken breasts (optional) - One tsp. oregano Warning: When we're making soup, we tend to add more/less veggies based on what we have. Don't follow the exact measurements for the soup - use your instincts. Plus it's a fun way to cook. :) Cook your chicken in a pot of water on the stove on high heat. It'll be white when it's ready. Cut the chicken into pieces. While the chicken is boiling, chop your veggies. Throw everything into your crockpot and cook for six-eight hours or until the beans are soft. Add water/additional spices as needed. :) Enjoy with a salad, baked tortillas (cut them into triangles and bake on 450 for homemade chips) or french bread!

Sunday, March 28

It'll Change Your Life

You won't see too many music posts on this blog. It's not that I don't love music - it's just not one of my true passions. It's more my husband's thing - he even has a music blog.
One band that I'm completely crazy about is The Shins. I first fell in love with their music in 2005 when Jonathan and I rented Garden State. In the movie, Natalie Portman's character, Sam, passes her headphones to Zach Braff's character, Andrew, and says, "You gotta hear this one song - It'll change your life, I swear."
Clearly, that music did change my life. I bought the soundtrack for the movie the next day, and Jonathan and I listened to it continuously for our last year and a half of college. It's a great CD - Zach Braff did a great job with the music. But the best part of the CD are the two Shins' songs - "New Slang" and "Caring is Creepy."
My favorite Shins' CD is their 2007 disc, Wincing the Night Away, which Jonathan and I listened to while we were househunting in early 2008. Every time I hear those songs, we're driving around our current neighborhood, looking for our new home. Two years later, I have all three of their CDS on my iPhone, and I even run to them. :)
If you haven't already, check out The Shins. They'll change your life.
The Shins' Albums : Oh, Inverted World, Chutes Too Narrow and Wincing the Night Away.
P.S. The Shins' lead singer James Mercer also has a new album out with Danger Mouse called Broken Bells. It's also pretty great.

Thursday, March 25

Fashion Inspiration: Coco Chanel

She brought us the little black dress, the tweed suit, the quilted shoulder bag, the piled-on pearls and of course, those iconic interlocking CCs. Until I married my husband, my initials were "CC," so I have a special place in my heart for them. I also have a place in my heart for all of Chanel's other creations, including the timeless Chanel No. 5. I wear it whenever I want to feel like a lady.
I was in college during The O.C.-era, and I was crazy about all of the Chanel clothes and accessories that Mischa Barton's character wore on the show. Although Chanel clothes and jewelry were totally out of my league, I did start wearing No. 5, tons of pearl necklaces and bracelets, and the occasional tweed mini skirt (mine was Guess). I also had a camellia ring from Banana Republic that seemed very Chanel-like to me.
My favorite Chanel moment on The O.C.? Marissa's prom dress (the prom dress she wore the night her character was killed off - how depressing!). I was so in love with it that I actually cut it out of a Vogue feature from Spring 2006. It would have made one heck of a wedding dress! :) A cool fact about that dress: in Spring 2006, there were only two available in the U.S. and six others for sale around the world! Wow.
Another favorite? All of the fabulous Chanel bags that Marissa and Summer wore! The quilted 2.55 bag (named for its launch date) is my dream designer purse...Sigh. I've read that Rachel Bilson (aka Summer Roberts) had quite a fabulous collection of vintage Chanel purses that were stolen several years ago. How tragic.
Without a doubt, Chanel was a trailblazer and a true fashion icon who has inspired generations of women the world over.
On my movie list? Coco Before Chanel starring Audrey Tautou. I'd also like to read a biography about her. Not sure which one though - there are several!

On My Reading List...

Reading is my passion, so there are always books that I'm ready to purchase from Amazon. Unfortunately, I've exceeded my shopping budget for the month, so I'm saving them for later. If I don't write them down, I know I'll forget about them, so that's one reason for this list. Another reason? You might want to check them out as well!

I Like Your Style - Amanda Brooks

A Guide to Green Housekeeping - Christina Strutt Crafting Vintage Style - Christina Strutt
Decorating Vintage Style - Christina Strutt
Romantic Home Sewing - Christina Strutt
I've wanted Alicia's cookbook since it came out last year. I've been a fan of hers since Clueless, and I love that she's become the spokeswoman for a healthy, green lifestyle. Although I'll never be able to go vegan (I have an annoying soybean allergy, and I honestly couldn't give up cheese or BBQ!), I do want to check out her recipes. Our diet is about 95 percent vegetarian, and I'm always looking for new recipes.
I first spotted Amanda Brooks' I Love Your Style at Anthropologie in Chicago. I paged through it, and I really liked what I saw. It breaks down the different styles - classic, bohemian, sporty, etc, which is a neat idea. Plus, I really enjoy a good fashion book every now and then! I follow Design Sponge on Twitter, and I got really excited when Grace tweeted about a new book from Christina Strutt of Cabbages and Roses. In case you don't know about Cabbages and Roses, it's a dreamy store with two locations in London. After checking out the book on Amazon, I realized I want to read ALL of Christina's books! Vintage style, vintage crafts, romantic sewing projects and "green" housekeeping...oh my goodness! I'm in love. Cabbages and Roses is on Twitter, so look them up! :)
What books are on your wish list?
On a side note, our new windows will be installed tomorrow! They were supposed to go in on Monday, but it rained. Now tomorrow is the big day. I'm a little nervous - our current windows are the original casements, but someone put storm windows on the inside and then painted all 12 of them shut. When the contractor (Champion Windows) measured, they said they'd never seen anything quite like our windows. Gulp!

Tuesday, March 23

March Pretties

Oh my goodness, I can't believe March is almost over! Time is flying by these days. I wish I could slow it down a bit...don't you? Especially on the weekends! :) Speaking of weekends, I broke my own no-more-shopping-in-the-month-of-March rule last weekend when I went "browsing" at Toad Hall Antiques, one of the cutest antique stores in Memphis. It's located in Midtown in a crumbly old building, and everything is so nicely arranged that it just makes you want to shop! I didn't go crazy (I'm pretty well-trained, after all!), but I did put up two little presents for myself:
Pretty "Picnic" Napkins (as shown with my vintage cookbooks).

I couldn't pass them up - I love the yellow stripes and the sweet little flowers. Plus they were in mint condition!

I also found this beautiful Florentine icon. I bought one for my mother for her birthday late last year, and I never thought I'd find another one in Memphis. I got this one for under $20!
While we're on the subject of pretty things, I bought this little painting in January. I bought it because of the pink roses of course, but also because the artist shares my grandmother's name - Joan. It was just too sweet. :)
Finally, since we're on the subject of spring, I thought I'd share my grandmother's little bird that I brought home from California last summer. Isn't he funny? He looks so inquisitive! He makes me smile every day.
I'm so glad it's warming back up again today. It was 72 on Friday and Saturday, but then it dropped to 35 on Sunday and it rained all day on Sunday and Monday! Really cold rain after two days of warm and sunny was not fun at all!
I'll be back later this week with a recipe post (we made Mexican chicken soup this week, and it's great!) and an inspiration post....not sure if it's going to be home or fashion yet. :)
Here's wishing everyone a warm spring day!

Friday, March 19

The Perfect Spring Day

For those lucky enough to be on Spring Break in Memphis, I'm so jealous. The weather is perfect today - 70 degrees and a cloudless sky. I feel like I'm in Southern California. Since I'm working today (currently on my lunch break), I wanted to share some photos of the lovely weather and our backyard that is finally starting to come to life. At work, I've pulled open the curtain on my tiny window as far as it will go so I can enjoy some of this sunshine. I've missed you, Mr. Sun! This is our Jane Magnolia - March snows killed it the first two years we were in our house. I think it's going to make it this year. Hurray!
More pretty flowers - not sure what this is called. I seriously need to look it up. We had a fake version of it on our dining room buffet that our cat recently decided he loves to eat. It now lives on our tallest bookshelf in the guest room.
Our new deck. We're staining it and the fence over the next few weekends. Jonathan cleaned the fence two weekends ago. It looks so much better already!
My garden book from Store B in Chicago. :)
One of my new Anthropologie purchases. I fell for the details.
Isn't it lovely?
This Anthro dress has lovely details as well (ruffles and lace on the petticoat), and it was on sale!
Yes, I'm a sucker for details...
Perfect new spring clothes for a perfect day! To add to the perfection, the Memphis Anthropologie store opens today! Although I've reached my shopping quota for the month (read: the next three!), I'm stopping by tonight to check it out. I have to see how it stacks up to Nashville's store! :)

Tuesday, March 16

Chicagoland!

Oh my goodness, what a crazy week! Jonathan and I were in Chicago last week, and we have been playing catch up since we got back on Sunday. To make things a bit more complicated, I think our cat has ringworm. He first got it seven years ago, and it looks like it's making a comeback. I was really calm about it at first, but now I'm starting to freak out because it's really contagious (humans and dogs can both get it), and he's such a lap cat. He literally wants to be sitting on top of me at all times. We won't know until next week whether it's ringworm or not, so I'm going to be cleaning like mad in the meantime. All of the stress is making me itch. I feel like I have fleas! Ugh. :(
On a happier note, our first trip to Chicago was a fun one. I hope to post some photos of my purchases tomorrow - I was too busy cleaning tonight that I ran out of daylight....
Here are a few must-sees from our trip:
Store B - 1472 N. Milwaukee Avenue Chicago, IL 60642 - This store was filled with beautiful vintage clothes, purses and home furnishings. Even if you don't buy anything, it's worth going just to see all of the pretty things. Everything is in tip-top condition, and it's all from the '40s, '50s and '60s. I purchased a mint-condition Better Homes and Gardens New Garden Book from the '60s for $24. I really wanted several of their alligator purses, but they were super pricey!
The Painted Lady - 2130 N. Damen Chicago, IL 60647 - Oh my goodness, I loved this store so much. Everything was so pretty, white and covered in ruffles. I saw tons of things that I would have gladly brought home with me if I had an unlimited budget and free shipping. I did end up buying a white eyelet bed skirt for $25. After a visit to The Painted Lady, I'm feeling inspired to buy a flea market mirror and paint/distress it. They have a website if you want to bask in some prettiness! :)
P.O.S.H. - This store is actually downtown Chicago (the first two were in Wicker Park and Bucktown respectively). Jonathan and I stumbled across it on our first day in the city, and after doing iPhone research throughout the rest of the trip, I learned it is one of the best shops for pretty European-inspired finds. We brought home two vintage-looking maps - one of Rome and one of London for $5 each! They have a great website, so you should definitely check it out!
The Art Institute of Chicago - 111 S. Michigan Avenue Chicago, IL 60603 - Wow. I spent an entire day here with an old friend, who moved to Chicago two years ago. There were so many great works to see! It was truly incredible, like reading my college art history book. My personal favorites were by Monet, Degas and Tiffany. I actually walked back to the Monets three different times. They were truly unbelievable. I think I could look at them every day....
Gino's East - 633 N. Wells Street Chicago, IL 60610 - We ate Chicago-style deep-dish pizza several times, but Gino's was my favorite. The pizza didn't have too much cheese, and the crust was really flaky and delicious. Yummy.
La Fonda Del Gusto - 1408 N. Milwaukee Chicago, IL 60642 - One complaint I had about Chicago - there were not enough Mexican restaurants (until we discovered this one in Wicker Park). The staff was really nice, and the food was really fresh and served in smaller portions, which was nice. I also had my first Paloma - a drink with tequila and grapefruit juice. It's similar to a margarita, but it's a little bit sweeter. We'll be making some of our own this summer. :)
I wish my list was longer, but the combination of wet weather and not enough time meant that we didn't get to see everything on our list. We did spend some quality time at Trader Joe's and Anthropologie (naturally!), and I'm happy to say that both of those stores are outstanding in Chicago!
I'm looking forward to visiting Chicago again someday to hopefully check out some of their antique markets.
What are your favorite Chicago spots?

Friday, March 5

Fashion Inspiration: Carolyn Bessette Kennedy

When thinking of fashionable women of the late twentieth century, few can compare to Carolyn Bessette Kennedy. This is not only because she was married America's version of royalty, but because she had a truly impeccable sense of style and a beautiful face. Yes, it's been done before - the long, platinum hair, the red lips and the black and camel wardrobe - but Carolyn made it look effortless while standing in the brightest of camera glares. She did not want the attention, but millions of women wanted to know what she was wearing and if her marriage would survive. Although she's been gone for more than ten years, her style is completely timeless and perfect for today.

Doesn't she make you want to go out and buy an entire closet filled with neutrals? Fortunately, if you were to do that, you could wear them forever. Since I started working four years ago, I've tried to model much of my work wardrobe after the second photo from the top. I love that outfit. It's so incredibly chic, and I don't have to update it unless I need a new pair of flats or a new black sweater. Then I add my own personal touches (usually gold jewelry and a colorful scarf) to make it "me." There are a million variations to this simple look, but it just works, doesn't it?

Thursday, March 4

Anthropologie Love

Today I found out that our long-awaited Anthropologie store is opening on March 19! You have no idea how long I've wished for Anthropologie to come to Memphis, and then when I found out it was opening, I had to wait (impatiently!) another eight months. Apparently it takes a long time to convert a cafe to an Anthropologie store, and I was so afraid they would change their minds before it was finished!

For the past few years, I have shopped at Anthropologie every time we travel. My poor, poor husband has seen Anthropologies in Nashville, Washington D.C., Atlanta and Los Angeles. I also made a solo trip to St. Louis for work and visited that Anthropologie store. Shockingly, there isn't an Anthropologie in Charleston, so no Anthro on that trip. Bummer!

My favorite thing about Anthropologie is its multitude of indie designers, but that also makes it impossible to me to shop on their web site. Sadly, I've been surviving on one or two Anthro trips a year (poor, poor me!), and then I wishing and hoping for it the rest of the time. Clearly my wish came true! Okay, Trader Joe's, you're next...

In honor of this exciting day, I am sharing a few of my current Anthropologie favorites. I will be trying them on very, very soon, and saving my pennies in the meantime! Haha.

So pretty...