a better you: friends

As my last "better you" post, I have to say the best of me comes out when I am with my friends (and the Hubs, of course.) They are always there when needed, no questions asked. They are always there to support me, even to fly a long way when I decide to get married in a different country. And they are honest with me, telling me when I am being ridiculous but there to stand by me when I have made a mistake.

We have our moments when we have our disagreements and moments of annoyance but everyone does. At the end of the day we have each other's backs.

I am a better person because I have them in my life. I am better because I have them as a part of my family.

Who are you grateful for in your life?

{image via here}


shopping and a birthday

I don't really have a post today. I am traveling for my job and yesterday, after finishing up some work, I went shopping and had dinner with friends which left very little time for typing up a post.

I bought myself a few things for my birthday. I got a pair of black ankle pants (which are going to be great for work) and I purchased a much-wanted white blazer. I am going to take back the dress I bought. I liked it a lot and it fit me well but I forgot my shopping rule: don't buy something unless you are absolutely in love. (I got seduced by the sale price.)

I also made my first Madewell purchase - a pair of blue suede flats that I talked about here. There were only two in the area left in my size and they were all sold out online. So I ordered them and they were shipped to my house for free!

And don't forget - tomorrow you can link up with a post for a better you.

What purchases have you made lately?


monday giveaway: sneak peeq

Today's giveaway is from SneakPeeq, a shopping site that offers members great deals on different products. The prices of the items are not shown right up front - you have to "peeq" to see the price and you only get a certain amount of peeqs per day. The more you interact with the site, the better deals you get. I found that it is really great to discover new products and brands.

SneakPeeq is giving away a $25 gift card to use on your favorite food, style, and home products. Plus, they are offering every la chapstick fanatique reader who enters the giveaway 20% off their next purchase.

You must be a US resident to enter and you must enter using the link in the Rafflecopter widget below. And only new SneakPeeq members are eligible. This giveaway ends in two weeks on March 11th. A winner will be chosen at random.


weekend: coming of age

at sobo's wine bistro . . . a pecan encrusted goat cheese salad . . . craft supplies . . . modge podged bottles . . . birthday cake . . . my outfit for the night . . . at brew river
On Friday night, only a few of my friends were supposed to come down and we were going to go out to dinner. We headed to Sobo's only for me to discover that many more of my friends were in town to celebrate my birthday. We shared small plates and salads. My friends presented me with a cookbook they had made for me with a recipe contributed by each of them. Considering I love to cook, it was the perfect present and I plan to share some of their recipes here at some point.

Saturday morning, we munched on bagels and I was told that the theme to this weekend was "coming of age." We hung out for the rest of the morning and did one of my favorite crafts from high school - modge podging wine bottles. I used to do it all the time and gift them to my friends when I was younger. It was great to chat and catch up while we listened to 90s pop. After that a few friends had to leave and then rest of us headed off to get manicures and pedicures. Then I went shopping with a few friends (I purchased a pair of green jeans) while everyone else went home to prepare tacos and margaritas for dinner. After dinner, we celebrated with cake and then went out for drinks and to meet up with the Hubs and some other friends.

Today, I packed my suitcase since I will be across the bridge for work most of this week. Then I headed to my parents in Silver Spring to have a birthday dinner with them. They took me to get Chinese and sushi from one of my fave local restaurants.

It was seriously a great weekend! My birthday is on Tuesday and I couldn't ask for a better way to start off 25.

How was your weekend?


francophile friday: style inspiration from emmanuelle alt

Rocker chic meets tomboy style with Emmanuelle Alt, Vogue Paris's editor-in-chief. I think she embodies stereotypical french style: finding a look that works for you and sticking with it. And can you believe she never goes to a hair salon? She just has the hair stylist at shoots trim if needed.

What look do you love best?

{images via here, here, here, here, and here}


a better you: soups

I think that it is so much easier during the summer to eat healthy. The farmer's markets have beautiful colorful bounties with endless possibilities for salads and the like. But during the winter, my go-to for healthy is soups. I love making a huge, healthy pot at the beginning of the week to eat for lunches and dinners.

Lately, the Hubs and I have been experimenting with different chicken soups. We have been taking short cuts by buying a rotisserie chicken and good pre-made chicken broth. But now I am chicken souped out.

Here are some recipes I want to try:

Have you tried any of the soups that I have made on here? If not, here are some of my favorites:

What is your go-to healthy fix?


crock pot pulled pork

This is super easy. As in so easy, I almost didn't post it on the blog. What? I don't always make my own barbeque sauce? Sometimes I just get it from a bottle? What?

But seriously, there are days when I don't have time to whip up a fab meal. The crockpot is a great appliance to have - I have had mine since college and it is still kicking. And pretty much anything I make in there tastes like I have been slaving all day.

Pulled pork is one of my favorite things so the Hubs and I decided to make this for dinner instead of fighting the crowds on Valentines Day. You would think after housing the pound of chocolate-covered strawberries that he had gotten me that I wouldn't want to eat anything else but you are wrong. This was so delicious, the Hubs and I pretty much ate all of it. (And it smelled so good, we attacked it without waiting to make sides.)

serves 6 sandwiches
recipe adapted from here

2 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
3 lb. bone in pork shoulder
2 onions, sliced
1 12 oz. bottle cola
barbeque sauce, to taste (I like Sweet Baby Ray's)
apple cider vinegar, to taste

1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Place pork in a glass dish. Rub spice mixture all over pork. Cover pork and refrigerate overnight.
2. Layer onion slices on bottom of crock pot. Place pork on top of onion slices. Pour in cola. Cover crock pot and set to low for 8 hours.
3. Remove meat from pot and let cool slightly. Pour out liquid and onions from pot and wipe clean. Once the meat is cool enough to handle, use a fork or your fingers to pull meat, discarding any bones or fat as you go. Put back in the warm crock pot.
4. Add barbeque sauce and apple cider vinegar to taste. Add a little bit at time and keep testing.
5. Serve on buns or as a platter with sides.



weekend: bistro poplar

tuna tatayki at the hyatt . . . duck confit with brussel sprouts, chorizo, and fingerling potatoes . . . dessert menu . . . outside the resto
a little inspiration for the coming week:

a cute tea tutorial

so excited for j.crew's fall collection

coffee art
Friday night, my mom was in town for an art exhibit for her art students so I stopped by for that and then we went to dinner at Brew River. Saturday, we had an open house at the university so I worked until the afternoon. Then the pup and I took a much needed nap. After that, the Hubs took me out for an early birthday dinner (even though it isn't until the 28th) since my friends are coming into town next weekend. We drove to Cambridge and had drinks and an appetizer at the Hyatt. Then we headed to Bistro Poplar for dinner. I had a mixed greens salad with warm goat cheese on top and duck confit. I hadn't had good duck confit since I lived in France and I was SO HAPPY! Then I got créme brulée for dessert. Today, we slept in and then I did some errands and straightened up the house. Tonight, the Hubs and I are going to watch Shameless.

What did you do this weekend?


francophile friday: an outfit for paris

I am linking up with {av} from {long distance loving} for Friday's Fancies. This week's theme is "let's fly away" where we choose a dream destination and share an outfit we would wear while there. Of course, for francophile friday, I had to choose Paris. I figured while I am there, I will be doing a lot walking while I visit vintage shops, people watch, and grab un café so I made sure my outfit was comfortable yet still stylish.

1. This Marc by Marc Jacobs Flap Pouchette is perfect for traveling. It is small so you can maneuver in small places but it also goes across your body so you can have your hands free to shop or snap pictures.
2. This Zara dress is pretty enough so not to look like a schlubby tourist but comfortable enough to do a lot of roaming. Plus, at the end of the day, you can throw on a pair of heels and some sparkly jewelry and be ready for dinner at le resto.
3. This J. Crew locket just steals my heart. I wrote about my obsession with lockets a long time ago here. I still don't have one...
4. I am obsessed with these suede boots. They are super slouchy and super stylish and, considering we are going to Paris, I couldn't resist something from Isabel Marant.

Where is your dream destination this weekend? What would you wear?

{café image from here}


better-for-you products, part 3

This is part three of my search for organic and natural beauty products. You can see other posts here and here.
1. Josie Maran GOGO Instant Natural Volume Argan Mascara: I have been on the search for a good organic or natural mascara (as I have said before.) This mascara is all-natural and goes on so smooth and gives nice volume. I have not been able to give myself clumps. And even better: for every mascara purchased, they will donate one mascara to a City of Hope cancer patient or survivor. They also donate $1 from the sale of each mascara to City of Hope for research, treatment, and education of women's cancers (through August 2012.) My only concern is that I do get a little bit of flaking by the end of the day but it is not nearly as bad as the mascara I wrote about here. So I guess I am still on the search.
2. Organic Salon Systems Power Build Shampoo and Conditioner: After my icky hair episode, my hair stylist and I decided it would be best to change my shampoo and conditioner just in case that was causing it. We were pretty sure it wasn't the DevaCurl shampoo I was using but since I started that at the same time as my conditioner, I stopped using them both. I really love how this gives my hair so much volume. This is great if your hair is fine or limp. (I actually have used the Status quo shampoo before as well.)
3. Josie Maran Argan Cleansing Oil: My skin can really get dry, especially in the summer. I definitely love using this to cleanse my skin. It was definitely strange to use at first - it feels weird rubbing oil on my skin but it is really nice and leaves my skin very smooth and hydrated.
4. Josie Maran Argan Bear Naked Wipes: I really wanted to love these. They would be great for traveling or using right after working out. The wipes are biodegradable and a portion of every package sold go to the Natural Resources Defense Council's Polar Bear SOS initiative. But I felt like the wipes were too dry. I needed to rub pretty hard to remove my makeup (which is not really great for skin and future wrinkles.)
5. Josie Maran Argan Lip Treatment: I love this lip balm. It makes my lips so smooth and is so great to use after exfoliating. I thought the price was a little high but I have had it for over a month now and I have barely put a dent in it. It goes on so smoothly you don't have to use much so it lasts forever.
6. Josie Maran Pure Argan Oil: I started out mixing this in with my moisturizer but I decided that I liked putting this on right after applying my moisturizer on the places on my face that tend to be dryer and staying away from the places that are usually more oily and tend to have blemishes. I really love how soft my skin feels when using this. It is also really great for keeping cuticles in check. This is 100% organic.

Have you found any good natural or organic beauty products lately? I will actually have a few more to share with you soon.


a better you: exercise

I now have been at my new job for six months and I am finally getting a hang of scheduling, in terms of my life outside of work. Before I had a job where the work day was pretty much done at 3:30 pm since they let me get in around 7:00 am. I could go to the gym and have dinner ready by the time the Hubs got home. And then I would still have time to clean, run errands, or relax for a few hours before bed. Not now.

So, for a while, exercising went out the window. I gained weight but what was worse is how I felt. I knew something had to change.

I started to make more of a commitment to go to the gym. But I knew I also had to be realistic. My schedule is different every week and is much more tiring. Sometimes I just want to go home. So I have done two things to help with exercising at home:

I actually started a board on Pinterest called Health & Fitness to pin exercises I can do at home. First, this is motivating to see every time I log on. But also, I am able catch up on a tv show or chat with the Hubs while I exercise.

The Library
I get bored easily with exercise DVDs. So, sometimes, buying them can be a waste of money. I have started to go to the library to check out one or two DVDs a week. In conjunction with going to the gym, this never gets boring.

How to you exercise? What challenges do you have with scheduling?

Feel free to link up with a "better you" post this week!


roasted acorn squash with pomegranate wild rice

This is from Goop. Gwyneth Paltrow is known to cleanse. In one post, she shares some recipes that will help you eat healthfully while cleansing. While I wasn't cleansing when I made this, I was looking for a filling vegan dish.

serves 6
recipe adapted from here

1 acorn squash, cut in half and seeds discarded
2 c. wild rice
2 Tbsp. EVOO
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. chili powder
sea salt, to taste
1/2 c. dry roasted pumpkin seeds
1 c. fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 c. pomegranate arils
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

1. Cook rice according to package directions. Set aside to cool. Once cool, mix in seeds, parsley, pomegranate arils, salt, and vinegar.
2. Preheat oven to 375º F. Cut squash into even wedges and place on baking sheet, skin side down. Cook until tender for about 25 minutes.



weekend: a dusting of snow

sometimes my fridays look like this . . . a cannoli for dessert last night . . . a light dusting of snow . . . homemade spaghetti and meatballs
a little inspiration for the coming week:

to soothe a cold

a southern parisian-inspired wedding

a valentine's music mix

if i could marry pants...
Friday night, I went to the fabric store with my coworker, Ledesa, to get some fabric to fix up my office. Then Peyton and I watched some tv and snuggled while the Hubs worked late. Saturday morning, the Hubs had to go to work so I slept in and then ran some errands. Then Peyton and I spent the day in bed. I wanted to be productive; I really did. But Peyton and I decided that our priority for the day should be snuggling. That evening, the Hubs and I attempted to venture out to Green Hill for dinner but the wind and snow were so bad we turned around and ended up at our favorite local Italian resto. Today, I cleaned up the house a bit, did a little bit of work, and caught up on blog reading.

How was your weekend?


francophile friday: bringing up bébé

Have you heard of the new book by Pamela Druckerman? It is a memoir that encourages American mothers to emulate the laissez-faire style of French parenting to bring up well-behaved, independent children while they still maintain a sense of curiosity and creativeness.

I have not read the book and even I have, I am not mom so, I really couldn't critique it well. But I not really keen on extreme generalities that say an entire culture does something better than another. (Oh and, just so you know, some French women are fat.)

But I think reading and finding what works for you (and what doesn't), won't hurt. (French children did seem very well-behaved while I lived there.)

I will probably pick it up at sometime even if it isn't until I am a parent. But maybe I will check it out of the library sooner rather than later because I am a francophile.

Mom or not, what do you think?


a bare office

Although I have been at my new job for over six months, my office still looks bare. I have not decorated it at all. Everyone else's offices have cute little touches while mine is pretty much ugly. I think it is time I put a little bit of effort in.

Obviously, there will not be any painting or buying of furniture but it would be nice to give my office a little bit of love. I think I am going to go for a navy and yellow color scheme which is very different from the neutrals of my home.

I do have a few obstacles. First, I am on the third floor of a house which means the top half of my walls are slanted. This makes it hard to hang any type of art. I also have a realtively big office. No I am not bragging - it actually makes it hard to make it comfy since there is so much extra space that isn't really used. I almost wish it was more compact.

I plan to lean a few pieces of art on shelves and cover my unsightly file cabinets with some fabric. I hate using my overhead light but the desk lamp that was provided is broken and doesn't really provide much light anyway.

{1, 2, 3, 4, 5}

How do you decorate your office at work? Any ideas for my space?


a better you

I am turning 25 in twenty days and I am kind of freaking out. I have never dreaded a birthday before so this is really weird for me. But there is just something about TWENTY-FIVE.

I don't know if it is the grey...
I found my first (two) grey hairs two New Years Eves ago and since then I have found a few everyone in awhile. There aren't enough that I need to color my hair but they are enough to freak me out.

I don't know if it is the number on the scale...
Confession: I am at my heaviest weight ever. I don't think I am the most out of shape I have ever been since I exercise pretty regularly and didn't really start doing that until a few years ago. But I just don't feel that great about my body. (I have been told your metabolism greatly slows down at 25, mine started a year early.)

I don't know if it is the old pictures...
I have been torturing myself with looking at old pictures lately, mostly from college. I just look so young. I don't think I look old exactly, I just don't look like I did in college (and it doesn't seem like it was that long ago.) And we were having so much fun!

I keep beating myself up since my concerns seem kind of vain but if they bother me, then they bother me.

But I refuse to let these things get me down. I made a decision the other day - I am going to make 25 awesome.

So I decided on a new feature for the blog, at least for the month of February: I want to do a post every Wednesday about creating a better me. And starting next week, if you would like, you can join in and link up with a post of your own. It can be beauty advice, something you are doing to make your life better, health tips, or anything you would like. And I will have a linking tool so we can all share our posts with each other.

{image via here}


my sugar addiction

I am pretty sure I am addicted to sugar. I need it all the time now. I don't feel satisfied after a meal without a cookie or candy or other sugary treat. I never used to be like this when I was younger - junk food and candy just weren't for me. But it got pretty bad over the past few months and even worst because of the holidays.

And seriously, "sugar addiction" is a real thing. I remember reading about it a few years back in Women's Health or something like that.

I think I am going to give up sugar for the rest of February to break it (fruit and natural sugars don't count.) I will only allow myself to eat treats during birthday related festivities (since my birthday is at the end of the month.) But then I wonder if it is smart to go cold turkey - I fear eating everything in sight just to satisfy my extreme cravings.

Does anyone know of a good way to break a sugar addiction? Is there a 12-step program?

{image from here}


weekend: oh so snuggly

lassi . . . indian carryout . . . peyton watching the puppy bowl
a little inspiration for the coming week:

cat facts

funny tip on naming your kids

for making a seating chart

i cannot stop laughing

Friday evening, I came back from a college fair from across the bridge, picked up Peyton from my MIL (since the Hubs is out of town), and stopped and picked up some Vietnamese. Peyton and I proceeded to clean up the house a little bit and fall asleep early. Saturday, my grandparents came to visit and we went to lunch at Brew River. After they left, I ran a few errands, picked up some Indian food and proceeded to watch the entire first season of Downton Abbey until after midnight. This morning, Peyton and I spent the day doing a little bit of laundry and snuggling in bed. We enjoyed watching the puppy bowl together. She would wake up every time one of the puppies barked. Now we are just watching the Super Bowl (and, of course, the commercials) and getting ready for the rest of the week. (And the Hubs and I are texting back and forth to share our favorite commercials. It is funny how are favorites are so similar.

How was your weekend?


francophile friday: french flower markets

Just a little bit of pretty for your Friday. I guess all this warm winter is making me think about spring.

Which flower would you choose?

{images via here, here, here, here, and here}


my spring style wish list

I stay inside a style box. I feel safe with my navy, grey, black, brown, tan, and cream outfits. My pieces fit well together and they are generally flattering. But, lately, I have been bored with my closet especially when I see the colorful pieces in J. Crew, Anthro, and different style blogs. It is time for me to stop feeling like I can't "pull it off" and try a few bright pieces on.

These are some pieces that I would like for spring and summer. You could even consider this my birthday wish list.

1. Colorblock Stripe Skirt from the LOFT: I have been searching for a striped skirt. At first I was looking for a pencil style since it almost always works with my body type. But then I saw this and I remembered how one of my favorite skirts is an a-line fit.
2. Short Sleeve Tee from American Apparel: I know this does not have color but everyone should have a basic white tee that goes with any color. I do not own one. I have yet to find one that fits well and is not see-through. Does anyone know how the American Apparel basics are? I have never actually bought anything there before.
3. Gibson Linen Blazer from Nordstrom: Again, I know this is white but everyone should invest in a white blazer for the spring and summer months. It is so versatile and goes with any color.
4. Dotted Pencil Skirt from Madewell: I love polka dots! One of my favorite pieces of clothing in high school was a black and white polka dotted skirt from Forever 21. I was obsessed with it (and I wore it with red lips.) This blue one from Madewell is so classic in a pattern that is forever in style.
5. The Suede Sidewalk Skimmer from Madewell: The only colorful place in my closet is where I keep my shoes. But I do not own a pair of blue shoes. I love this bright blue color. "But don't you step on my blue suede shoes." (Sorry I had to...)
6. Café Capri from J. Crew: I really want a pair of green pants. I love the color green. It is so fresh and perfect for spring.
7. Dee&Ray 'Celine' Colorblock Top: I think the colorblock tops are so cheery. This would be great to throw on with jeans but also tuck it into a skirt for work.

What is on your spring wish list?