Thursday, June 28, 2012

Anniversary Dinner at Saigon Sisters

Last Saturday Matt and I snuck in an early anniversary celebration with dinner at Saigon Sisters.  I first heard about the downtown hotspot through Gilt City, and given that Matt and I had several special occasions coming up (both of our birthdays, anniversary, graduation, etc.), I figured we could spend one of them celebrating at Saigon Sisters.  I wasn't in the mood to lug Cameron around, so instead, I snapped pictures with the oh so adored Instagram.  Here is a peek into our fun night!

IMG 0712All smiles and ready to celebrate!

Jun 23 2012The restaurant itself was pretty small, with about ten tables total.  With tall ceilings, a chalkboard wall menu, and fabulous bar pendant lights, it was the perfect atmosphere.  Simple and special, yet not overdone.  A definite win for ambiance!

Jun 23 20121We did the chef's four course tasting menu, which was over the top delicious.  I felt a tad bit gluttonous, but looking back, I'm glad we were able to try a little of everything, since we don't eat Vietnamese food very often.  The first course was a green papaya salad with citrus shrimp, homemade five spice jerky, pork belly, fried shallots, peanuts, and thai basil.  The second course was pan-seared walleye over mustard greens and forbidden rice in a Kimchi butter broth.  So so good!

Jun 23 20122The third course was duck ramen soup with duck breast, poached eggs, bok choy, and eryngi mushrooms with a spicy sauce and lime on the side.  This was Matt's favorite course, though we were both so stuffed at this point, neither of us could finish our bowl!  The fourth course was chocolate ganache with a black pepper funnel cake and a housemade tea ice cream.  And though I was stuffed, you better believe I ate all of this last course :)

Jun 23 20123Our conversation at dinner might have been one of my most favorite conversations of ours.  It was just us two, thinking about where we've been and where we're going.  There was lots of talk of the future, which is always exciting!

IMG 0709And for those of you wanting outfit details...

Dress: Rebecca Taylor
Blazer: Tahari
Necklaces: Ann Taylor
Bracelet: Ann Taylor
Ring: David Yurman 

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It was such a fun night and probably my favorite anniversary celebration yet!  I'm so very blessed to share my life with such an incredible and supportive guy, and I am so grateful that God brought us together.  (PS: if you're new to the blog or curious about how Matt and I met, you can read about that here.)  A big thanks to all you sweet readers who wished us happy anniversary on Tuesday; each and every wish brought a smile my face!  Happy almost Friday, everyone!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Three Years

MG 5222

Today Matt and I are celebrating our anniversary, three years to be exact.  It's weird, because in some ways it seems like yesterday that we got married and were celebrating with friends and family, but in other ways, it feels like we've been married forever.  I'm sure that sounds super cliche, but like many cliches, it rings fairly true.  Three years doesn't seem like a long time, but a lot has happened during that time.  Matt and I both wrapped up our doctoral coursework, left Texas, and moved to Chicago.  Matt completed his Ph.D and got a sweet job; I got a great internship, moved two hours away, and am less than one month away from finishing my Ph.D.  That seems like a lot for three years, especially when I think about how stable our lives have remained.

Last year on our anniversary, I used the word "adventure" to describe our second year of marriage.  And though I don't want the pressure of always having to "name" each year of our marriage, I can't help but enjoy the opportunity to reflect on this year, noting threads that ran through it.  So as I think about this past year for Matt and me, I can't help but notice how much the word "partnership" keeps surfacing in my brain.  Matt is truly my partner in life, and I think we both learned a great deal this year about truly working together.  We made some big life decisions, and through all the stress and uncertainty, I always knew Matt was there.  Steady and constant, offering support and encouragement, as we worked together to make things happen.  One of the best things about a partnership is having someone who can help balance you out when you need it, and this year, more than ever, I felt that balancing act happen.  I feel so very blessed to have such a wonderful and true partner in this life, someone who loves me for my good and bad, someone who helps me find my center when I get off balance.  Three years ago today, we started this journey together, and three years later, I still wonder what I did to deserve such an amazing blessing and an amazing partner.  Cheers to three years...and many more!

PS: If you want to see more wedding pictures, you can find those here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Bucket List Check: Early Morning Breakfast

After posting my summer bucket list a few weeks ago, I can officially cross something off my list.  Though Matt and I brunch fairly often (it's a sport in Chicago, after all), we rarely make it there before 10:00 am.  This means we typically wait for a while and then feel semi-rushed through the meal, wanting to turn over our table to the sweet waitresses at our favorite spot.  So one of my summer bucket list items was so get up super early, head to breakfast, and enjoy a quiet, leisurely meal together, just the two of us.  And two Saturdays ago, that's just what we did!

6090887Every good breakfast starts with a hot cup of coffee, especially if the breakfast involved a 6:00 am wake up call.

6090890Who says breakfast dates aren't sexy? :)

6090894Though I love a fancy pants brunch as much as the next person, sometimes it's nice to just cut the fuss and have a true breakfast.  Whole wheat pancakes with fresh fruit, scrambled egg whites, and turkey sausage.  Not the least bit fancy, but oh so perfect!

6090891Also mandatory for early morning breakfasts...ponytails, bare minimum makeup, and a morning full of garage sales.  Check, check, and check!

One item done, eighteen to go!  I can already tell it's gonna be a great summer :)  PS: Congrats to the winner of my Misikko giveaway...Shana Russell!  Shoot me an email, and I'll get you connected with the team at Misikko!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Getting Back on the Health Wagon: Five Ways to Drink More Water

Water{via pinterest}

In January, I made a focused effort to get back on the health wagon, and as part of that effort, I really wanted to drink more water.  I have had a terrible lifelong habit of going days without drinking water.  No joke.  Days.  I would alternate between coffee, coke, juice, and maybe in the morning, a glass of milk.  But water, nope, nada.  Once it became a joke among my friends that I literally never drank water, I flirted with the concept, drinking one or two glasses a day.  (Hardly impressive, I realize.)  But in January, I realized that water is a miracle worker.  When you ask a doctor how to be healthier, they tell you to drink water.  If you ask your trainer to lose weight faster, they tell you to drink water.  If you ask your dermatologist how to improve your skin, or if you ask your dentist how to improve your teeth, the answer will still be water.  So after 27 years of leaving every fiber of my body dehydrated, I decided to get my stuff together and start drinking enough water.  But creating new, healthy habits is easier said than done.  So if you're one of the millions of people out there (like me) who have trouble getting the recommended 8 glasses of water a day, here's how I've been able to fully embrace the habit.

Have water with you.  Earthshattering, I know.  But if you want to drink water, you've got to actually have it with you at all times.  At work, in the car, next to the couch while you're watching tv.  I've taken this a step further by always having water visible.  Seeing my giant water bottle on my desk reminds me to take a drink.  Seeing it in the passenger seat reminds me to take a gulp while running errands.  Don't let your thirst be your cue to get some water, let seeing your water bottle be the cue to drink up.

Measure your bottle.  Find a water bottle that works for you, know how many ounces the bottle holds, and aim to drink the bottle as many times necessary to hit 64 ounces.  For example, my water bottle holds 33 ounces, so I know to drink one bottle in the morning and one bottle at night.  If it's 1:00 and I haven't made it through a full bottle, I know I need to get drinking.

Embrace the gulp.  You know those cute, perky women who seem to just sip water all day long from their pretty little water cup?  Well that's not me.  I don't sip water.  I tend to realize about once every hour that I haven't had a drink in a while.  (I typically realize this when I see my water bottle sitting on my desk: see point #1).  So I grab my bottle and take several long gulps.  It's not the least bit graceful, but it gets the job done.  If the sip doesn't work for you, just embrace the gulp.  This has helped my water intake tremendously.

Drop in a piece of fruit.  Once in a while, I want a little oomph in my water, and rather than reach for a sugary substitute, I just plop in a piece of fruit.  Whatever I have laying around the house works.  I keep bags of frozen fruit in my freezer for smoothies, so typically I'll pop open one of these bags, and drop in whatever my fingers find first.  Frozen strawberries, peaches, blueberries, pineapple, raspberries...literally, any fruit will work.  This helps break things up and add a little pizzazz to my water gulping.

Drink before you eat.  Water is one of the best ways to feel full, so before every meal and snack, I take several gulps of water.  It helps cleanse my mind a bit before eating, and of course, it has lots of health benefits.  So before you chow down on your veggie wrap or sandwich, have several gulps of water.  This is especially important if you're dining out, as portion sizes these days are huge.  Don't let your brain fool you into think it's starving when in reality, you're moderately hungry + really thirsty.

So there you have it, five ways to increase your daily water intake.  Surprisingly, since January, I've stayed on the bandwagon with this goal.  (Working out not so much, but that's another story.)  For those of yall who are regular water drinkers and read and this said, "Umm, duh Allison," excuse my ignorance and keep on rocking on with your water drinking.  But for those of you who are like me, I promise, these simple tips work!  And for an added bonus, I've found that the more water I drink, the less of the sugary stuff I crave.  Score!

Since January, I have noticed major differences, just from upping my water intake.  My skin is better, I have more energy, I feel fuller throughout the day, I have less headaches, and my overall mood is better.  So I guess all those people are right, water really is the miracle drug! :)

*I am not a medical doctor, so with anything health related, consult your physician before making major life changes.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

New Beauty Favorites

I'm not usually one to try a million different beauty products.  I'm a MAC girl through and through, and whenever I venture out to try one of the latest "it" products, I always find myself slightly disappointed, coming back to my favorites, and wondering why I every strayed in the first place.  However, in the past month I've stumbled upon two products that I've really, really loved!  And shockingly, neither of them are MAC products!



Maybelline Studio New York Master Precise Ink Pen Eyeliner: I have been wanting to get on the cat eye trend for ages, but everytime I attempted them, I looked like a five year old who got caught playing in her mom's make up.  Seriously, not pretty.  But when I read this post and heard this liner was perfect for cat eyes newbies, I knew I had to try it.  And guess what?  It is perfect for cat eye newbies!  The tip is more like a pen, as opposed to a brush, so there is less room for veering off of the eyeline.  (Read: there is less of a chance of looking like that overambitious five year old.)  I have also figured out another really important tip for mastering the cat eye.  Don't try to create the cat eye in one straight swoop.  Instead, use shorter, overlapping strokes of eyeliner to create the look, especially on the inner half of your eye.  It seems counterintuitive that multiple short strokes would create a smoother line, but that tip definitely helped me!  I have especially been loving the cat eye trend when paired with bright, summer lips!  (My new favorite, MAC Impassioned, seen here.)

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer: I've tried a primer before and wasn't particularly crazy with the results.  Instead of helping my foundation last, I found that it just made me shinier sooner.  But when I got this Smashbox primer as a part of a free gift with purchase, I thought I might as well give it a go.  And oh my goodness, I love it!  It gives me a nice extra glow, and overall really helps my makeup last throughout a long day at work.  I'll never forgot the first day I wore it.  I applied it early in the morning and came home ten hours later, after a long day at the work.  As I stood at the sick washing my hands, I caught a glimpse of myself, and did a double take.  My makeup looked just as it had ten hours earlier!  Rather than applying the primer prior to my foundation, I actually mix the two together, adding a pea sized amount of primer in with a dime sized amount of foundation.  I apply the combo using a MAC 187 brush.  After having such great luck with this primer, I thought about trying out the MAC equivalent, but then I realized, why mess with a good thing?

IMG 0656

PS: In other news, I cleaned out my bathroom cabinets this weekend, which included a serious makeup purge.  I am ashamed to say that I filled an entire Quaker Oats container with old MAC products.  I had a ridiculous amount of old and stashed away products that seriously needed to go.  I felt pretty guilt looking at all those products and thinking about how much money was spent them, but then I realized that with the MAC recycling program, the old products won't go completely to waste.  Every six will be a new MAC eyeshadow or lipstick, which means I'm set for the next nine seasons :)  PS: Wondering why I have a Quaker Oats container in my bathroom?  Click here to find out!

Anyone else have any new favorite beauty products to share?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Summer Bucket List

Ice cream{via pinterest}

Now that June is officially here, my mind is in full blown summer mode.  Perhaps it's a side effect of being a lifetime student, but come late May/early June, my brain switches to summertime.  And to help myself embrace the season to its fullest, I decided to create a Summer Bucket List, aka a few things I'm hoping to enjoy before Labor Day :)

Picnic with friends...
Hike through a local nature preserve...
Make fresh sangria...
Enjoy a day at the beach...
Embrace wearing shorts...
Go cherry picking...
Host a garage sale...
Make homemade ice cream...
Rock some bright lips...
Visit my grandparents in Ohio...
Take a jewelry making class...
Grill something delicious using foil packets...
Wear all white...
Keep up with my summer workout plan...
Send a postcard...
Rock a braid...
Wake up ridiculously early on a Saturday to dine at our favorite breakfast spot fairly undisturbed...
Roadtrip with my little brother...
Drink a Coke float...

I hope you'll notice that this list isn't extravagant or fancy, few things cost more than a few dollars, and few things require me traveling outside of a five mile home radius.  I wanted to keep this list simple and sweet, focusing on having moments and experiences, rather than having money or things.  I'm hopeful that list will encourage me to seize the beauty of summer, savoring the simplicity and joy of such a lovely season.

If people are interested, I'm happy to update you as I check things off my summer bucket list.  After all, the only thing better than making fabulous moments, is sharing them with fabulous people!

So now it's your turn, what's on your summer bucket list?