Monthly Archives: November 2013

H54F Food And Nostaligia

November 29, 2013

TMI

Life is starting to feel more and more homey and real after a year of challenges including a few moves. What a wonderful Thanksgiving. Having the family over made our place feel so cozy and happy. I loved catching up with people and just sitting around with them. It reminded me of holidays growing up in my family.

Chris surprised us all by starting the “thankful” game. He picked up  a little, soft, reindeer ornament and started by saying what he was thankful for and then threw it to the next “victim.” We are a pretty sarcastic and light hearted group so this was really special to see what people were sincerely thankful for. 

Here are some highlights:

1. These two making a bit strip avatar for me. So cute! I loved it!

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2. Making three pies at once.

Holiday Pie Ingredients

3. The only way to eat cranberry sauce-homemade.Homemade cranberry sauce

4. This hopeful-for-turkey-or-any-scraps face.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

5. The breakfast casserole we kicked off the day with. Yes, those are hash browns on the bottom. OOOOOOOOOObreakfast casseroleI hope your day was amazing and peaceful. Enjoy your relaxing and shopping this weekend! I want to go see Catching Fire and get a lot of reading done!

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!!!

November 28, 2013

TMI / Uncategorized

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I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving! If you’re like me, then I wish you lots of OCD moments like labeling your trash cans for guests etc. Half the family is coming over around noon for brunch and then we’ll have everyone here for dinner. I brined the turkey this year and I’m SOOOO excited. We did it in a cooler! I’m really curious about how the chocolate-pumpkin tart came out….might have to do a private taste test before serving it. Luckily there are some other pies for back up. See you tomorrow! Be safe and take a walk today!

Label Trash Cans for Guests

P.S. I totally cheated on the muffins for brunch-used a Krusteaz box mix. WOW that is yummy stuff!

The Daily Habit This Fall

November 26, 2013

LIFESTYLE / Style / Uncategorized

It’s actually getting a bit cooler in Southern California and let’s get real-I am a uniform girl. I was comfortable wearing the same thing to work when I was in the Navy and even when I owned my own acupuncture practice, I wore the same thing every day-crisp white blouse and black slacks with Danskos (I didn’t like the white lab coat look nor did I want the Earth-Mother look). In my personal life I have always had those few go-to core basics to work around every season. Here’s the latest combo set I’m working with. I don’t necessarily wear it all together. These are my staples.Fall Uniform

 

 
 
1. Invest in a few really soft, form fitting under-clothing tops.
 
2. A great pair of leggings that keeps their shape for a couple of wears is invaluable! I like ones with a bit a spandex in them so they stay blacker longer and firm up a few saddle-haggish areas for me.
 
3. I am still into chambray. I have a polka-dotted one from J. Crew factory kind of like the one pictured.
 
4. My Trouve black blazer with faux leather shoulder accents is the edgiest, classic piece in my wardrobe. Even my celebrity stylist friend said she wanted it when we went out to dinner a couple of weeks ago. Victory!
 
5. OK, ya gotta get some ankle boots. These are totally in. Jen (again the celebrity stylist) took me shopping for some and picked out these. Normally I am NOT a fan of Rocket Dog nor am I a fan of this style but when I put them on, the wide top part made my legs look thinner because they weren’t tight at my ankles. They are SUPER comfortable and look put together but casual. I love the contrast with the black legging and I wear them with dark skinny jeans as well. 
 
6. Corso Como brown riding boots! Mine are from last season and very similar to these I found online now. I have let’s say…medium sized calves and these babies fit so well and make me look proportional. They look SO good with any tight pant. The color is so rich!

How To Buy A Diamond (Engagement Ring)

November 25, 2013

Favorites / How To / Uncategorized

engagement ring

I get super excited when someone starts talking about engagement rings! I think all of them are gorgeous and shopping for them is a total flea market-like hunt to me. Lots of searching, comparing, educating and then the big bang! I love to hear my friends’ stories about how they came to choose the setting and how they decided on the diamond. It’s also fun when their fiancés pick something out for them! I loved talking to Nancy (hand pictured above) about her rings! I even tried on the engagement ring (one of my favorite things to do).

We can’t all afford the Pink Star. No matter what kind of budget you (or your significant other) has, you certainly can buy a diamond for a very good value. Two very sweet women who know jewelry taught me some very different views about jewelry, specifically diamonds. They are what most of this information is based upon. They are pros and I appreciate the lessons!

**If you are reading this as a person who is buying a ring for their fiancé, you are so smart and in luck! 

One friend says, “When it comes to diamonds, guys are into quality and girls are into size.” For me, this is totally true-now. Here are the things I prioritized when looking for an engagement ring diamond and setting (or any diamonds):

1. Carat (the size)

2. Color (how bright white)

3. Clarity (flaws)

4. Cut (how sparkly) 

5. Shape (the shape)

Not all women choose their ring! I was very happy to! My husband proposed so romantically and then offered me the choice of choosing a ring of my liking. Yay! 

This takes some time and research to find out what is most important to you. It starts with daydreaming about what you envision on your pretty ring finger and then seeing what is out there that fits with your budget and lifestyle.

Consider:

  • Are you active and want a lower setting where the diamond is less likely to catch on things (people wearing gloves at work)
  • Do you want a wedding band to be able to fit with it?
  • Do you want a band alone and not a “big diamond” on a band?
  • Is there a family diamond you want to reset and make your own?
  • Who do you know who has purchased a ring recently and may have some good advise/a jeweler?
  • What is a timeless style that will be beautiful to you day in and day out?

Once you have the look/feeling of your ring (vintage, art deco, Tiffany solitaire) and if you are looking for the center stone, start surfing the web to see what these things cost. Look at the most perfect diamonds and the least, find the parameters you are comfortable with and then compare within your parameters. 

Great online sourcing for price comparisons for solitaires and/or single loose diamonds:

Blue Nile

Costco 

TRY TRY TRY:

PLEASE go to Tiffany & Co. or Neil Lane and see what the most expensive rings really look and feel like in the flesh. It’s FREE! Lots of people do it! You should compare the quality of high-end rings and rings from less expensive stores. 

***AN EXPERIENCED JEWELER CAN MAKE YOU ANYTHING YOU LIKE FOR A FRACTION OF THE COST OF ANY STORE. So, if you see something you like in a catalog or store, bring in a picture or link and see if it is something the jeweler can do. If it is a popular setting, then the jeweler has probably made it many times already. 

Diamond 101

  • Carats:

Think about the size you feel looks good on your finger, what feels comfortable with your style and what feels appropriate to your budget. If you want to make a stone appear bigger, look at halo settings where a ring of diamond encircles the center stone. 

**Say you are looking at a 1 carat ring. Consider looking at .92 carat rings. They can be considerably cheaper but appear the same size. They can appear even slightly bigger if cut differently and this is more noticeable as sizes go up.

When you go into a jeweler looking for diamonds, they love to show you how YELLOW a diamond looks by putting a colorless diamond next to a diamond that falls lower on the colorless chart (i.e. has a tint of yellow). When compared as bare stones (especially upside down) under a UV light, you would NEVER want that YELLOW diamond.

In reality, no one will ever be looking at your ring upside down under this ridiculous lighting, next to a perfect (super expensive) diamond. Remember, your diamond will also be in a setting. Take some time to look at rings and even ask people the color of their ring if you’re comfortable (bf’fs or your mom). 

D, E & F gradings are all colorless

G, H, & I and J are near colorless 

Below that you get into the faint yellow colors that are visible to the naked eye but D-I gives you a LOT of wiggle room when it comes to price tag here. Personaly I would recommend going J or above. 

  • How do you feel about clarity?

GIA diamond clarity grading scale
Category Flawless Internally Flawless Very Very Slightly Included Very Slightly Included Slightly Included Included
Grade FL IF VVS1 VVS2 VS1 VS2 SI1 SI2 I1 I2 I3 

A flawless diamond is exponentially more expensive than an Included one. 

The clarity chart above and the explanation below are from Wikipedia via GIA standards.

The GIA diamond grading scale is divided into six categories and eleven grades. The clarity categories and grades are:

  • Flawless category (FL) diamonds have no inclusions or blemishes visible under 10x magnification.
  • Internally Flawless category (IF) diamonds have no inclusions visible under 10x magnification, only small blemishes on the diamond surface.
  • Very, Very Slightly Included category (VVS) diamonds have minute inclusions that are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification. The VVS category is divided into two grades; VVS1 denotes a higher clarity grade than VVS2. Pinpoints and needles set the grade at VVS.
  • Very Slightly Included category (VS) diamonds have minor inclusions that are difficult to somewhat easy for a trained grader to see when viewed under 10x magnification. The VS category is divided into two grades; VS1 denotes a higher clarity grade than VS2. Typically the inclusions in VS diamonds are invisible without magnification, however infrequently some VS2 inclusions may still be visible. An example would be on a large emerald cut diamond which has a small inclusion under the corner of the table.
  • Slightly Included category (SI) diamonds have noticeable inclusions that are easy to very easy for a trained grader to see when viewed under 10x magnification. The SI category is divided into two grades; SI1 denotes a higher clarity grade than SI2. These may or may not be noticeable to the naked eye.
  • Included category (I) diamonds have obvious inclusions that are clearly visible to a trained grader under 10x magnification.Included diamonds have inclusions that are usually visible without magnification or have inclusions that threaten the durability of the stone. The I category is divided into three grades; I1 denotes a higher clarity grade than I2, which in turn is higher than I3. Inclusions in I1 diamonds often are seen to the unaided eye. I2 inclusions are easily seen, while I3 diamonds have large and extremely easy to see inclusions that typically impact the brilliance of the diamond, as well as having inclusions that are often likely to threaten the structure of the diamond.

SI 1 and SI 2 diamonds and above, in my humble opinion can be spectacular. I’m sure there are even some spectacular rings that are included. I have seen at SI 1 and SI 2, there are many stones that do not have anything you would EVER see, even if looking closely. I have known a couple people with rings that DID have very visible blemishes (not sure which clarity) but these blemishes were hidden by the setting of the ring-like under a prong for example. 

Also, rings that are in settings other than solitaire do not require as “perfect” as a diamond to look as wonderful.

  • Cut

Choose a cut that makes your diamond sparkle. Certain setting that let in lots of light are also great for maximizing sparkle. 

**Keep in mind the setting’s ability to be cleaned! If it has a nice open back then you can easily clean the ring back to perfection with a toothbrush and home jewelry cleaner. 

  • Consider different Shapes:

I have an oval shape. I told our jeweler the shapes that I was considering and he offered me the oval one at the best cost-for-size at that time. It depends on what is in stock etc. A round brilliant will always be most expensive though because more of the rough stone must be cut away in order to result in these dimensions. 

Keep in mind that with different shapes comes different things to look for. For example, with an oval shape, the “bow-tie effect” (where it looks like a black bow tie is in the ring as the light hits it) can be prominent or unnoticeable.  

Certification

Not all diamonds are graded equally. I would recommend a GIA or AGS graded diamond to ensure the standards are high and accurate. This will be good for resale if one day you should decide to upgrade (not in everyone’s taste, I know) too.

Alternativos (I heart Spanish):

Ebay

Estate Sales

Etsy

**Remember, stores mark up the cost of their diamond rings many times more than an individual jeweler. Feel free to ask for quotes and shop around. This is a big investment and choice and YOU’RE WORTH IT. 

(Pictured- my friend Nancy sports an enhanced classic with lots of bands to make it modern. I totally snuck this photo.) 

H54F: Housewarming

November 22, 2013

TMI / Uncategorized

Happy Happy Friday, little readers (I put “little” in front of everything I like). I’m kicking off the weekend with some Jen time at her house today and then a UCLA basketball game. So excited to be back on campus. I love that school! LA is SO basketball too so this is going to be a lot of fun. DATE NIGHT! What are you up to?????

Here are 5 FAVES of the week:

1. Paper Karma: A new app I learned about on TV this week. You can un-subscribe from junk mail by taking a photo of your address on the piece of mail. I’m going to try it out!

2. A little welcome coupon and holiday catalog from my “friends” at Pottery Barn. I fantasize about the next thing I want from here. I love to get “big” items from here and the rest from Home Goods. I probably look at their holiday catalog like 10 times-amazing since any other magazine/catalog may get a once-over. I’m training my “designer” muscle more lately.

Pottery Barn Catalog

3. Homemade organic tzatziki for our falafel. I put TONS of it on everything. We had the falafel along with rice and brocolini.

home made tzitziki

4. Discovering my new favorite plant and comparing prices from plant nurseries to Home Depot. I found this super tall (7-8 foot) Fiddle-leaf Fig tree at home depot while looking for a tabletop plant. I LOVE the look and I’ve seen them on lots of decorating blogs. 

Fiddlehead fig

fiddlehead figCheck out that price tag! OUCH..but wait…

fiddlehead fig home depot price

I was hoping to then find a small one but Home Depot no-have. 🙁 I stood in the plant department, Yelping nearby nurseries and came across Rolling Hills who said they had lots of ’em in differing sizes. THEY said they had these big ones for upwards of $400!!!! Off I went to find my mini version.

5. Backtrack-I found this pot at Home Depot (again-Jen and I saw it last week when we were shopping for living room plants and I loved it but didn’t need this size and wasn’t sure the colors would go). So happy the pot was still there! I know, totally posted this on instagram but had to tell you the “back” story triumph here.

fiddlehead figThe Fiddle-leaf I found at Rolling Hills (the mecca for plants) was $25. Totally worth it! It is GORGEOUS in our bedroom!

Have a wonderful weekend, lovelies!

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Discipline In Design, Life And Blogging

November 21, 2013

Blog Land / Uncategorized

Christmas tree skirt

I have successfully been disciplined in things like running or time management but when it comes to artistic discipline like decorating my house or even writing articles for my blog, discipline is very challenging. I have to remind myself that there is a connection between discipline and art. Discipline applies to everything! So, when I go shopping for things to decorate my home (think Home Goods), I have to really hold back from buying a super modern large piece of art or vase. It looks gorgeous in the store display and I love it there but when it comes into my fundamentally traditionally decorated home, it’s a bust and I’m disappointed.  I LOVE my traditional looking home. It grounds me and reminds me of my grandparents’ home. Fortunately, ANYTHING from Pottery Barn is going to look right but I don’t always want that big price tag so I’ve gotta put some work in.

The red tree skirt above is the one I chose. Here is one I was contemplating:

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They both would go in my home but I wanted to stick to my red/nostalgia theme. The neutral one was soooo tempting.OK, confession, I bought both and the neutral one is getting returned. 🙂 You can find these at TJ Maxx and Home Goods. 

This was a roundabout way to say that when creating your blog, brand or home decor, it is important to stay focused so your audience feels right when you bring in a new article, tweet or chachka. Find your balance: a repetitively decorated house many look completely coordinated but lacks personality. People enjoy predictability with slight variations. I read a blog (Penelope Trunk) where the author really writes about the same things in a million different ways. I still enjoy the message, each time I read a new variation. It validates how I think about some things.

I will always be a sucker for a white t-shirt. I want super thin, soft cotton in: carrying sleeve lengths, v-neck, crew neck, little collars etc. I probably buy 10 a year. It never gets old. We watch the SAME movie over and over with different actors and scenery. I love every 007. 

So for bloggers, keep in mind that people coming to your site will be consistent if you are consistent. Some people may seem to be all over the place but if you look closely, you will find a common thread and voice. As for decor, anchor your spaces with a theme and pickle with different aspects of yourself and family.