Thursday, March 31, 2011

Weekend Happenings

Its Thursday and I'm just now posting about my weekend.  Ugh, yes, its been one of those weeks.  And to top it off, Matt and I found out our rent is increasing by $100 per month.  Which means, you guessed it, we're moving.  Again.  More boxes, more packing, more lifting, more cramming to get all of our stuff to fit in a small place.  Oh how I love being a nomad :)  But on the brighter side, here's what I've been up to the past several days...

Brunch{we heart it}

The yummiest Saturday brunch at Yolk...
(Voted the best Eggs Benedict in Chicago!)
A Friday night sleepover with my friend Christie...
(Sometimes I still feel like we're back in third grade.)
Wine, cheese, and champagne flights at Whole Foods...
(Some people go for the organic produce, I go for the wine.)
Enjoying the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio tour with Matt...
(I think its cool how to me a wall is just a normal part of a room, but to an architect, its so much more.)
A delicious meal of Mexican food in Pilson...
(A Yelp success by Matt!)
A Sunday evening nap...
(Which made for a 2 am bedtime Sunday night, oops!)
Movie night with Matt
(Lincoln Lawyer = so good.)
A healthy homemade meal via Gina's Skinny Recipes...
(Who can say no to coconut crusted chicken?)
Loving the Top Chef finale...
(Even though I saw a FB spoiler, grrr.)
Enjoying a few sunny days in Chicago...
(and desperately wishing this city would get the whole SPRING memo!)

So that's whats new here, what's new with you?  I've missed you!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Jacket Lust and an OOTD

Even though Chicago is dragging winter out as long as possible (yes snow from last night, I'm looking at you) I am so excited about the pending arrival of spring.  I'm ready for sunshine, evening walks, picnics, bare legs, and raspberry lemonade.  I'm also so excited about all the spring fashion at my fingertips.  In Texas, spring is a bit of a relative term lol.  Texas gets about two weeks of spring before summer steals its thunder, ushering in sweltering heat and a desperation to wear as few layers as possible.  So this year, I am planning to soak up all things fashion that a "real" spring has to offer and at the top of that list is spring jackets.

I've always been a blazer lover, but this spring I am oogling the millions of lightweight jackets that find a happy medium between coat and tunic.  (And for the first time, I've living in a place where spring weather actually requires a light jacket.)  A few weeks ago, Chicago teased us with a few warm days, and being the naive Texan that I am, I thought this meant spring had sprung.  (Sigh...if only.)  So I started my hunt for spring jackets, with an olive colored one at the top of my list.  After several misses, I saw this olive lovely hanging on the rack at Gap.  I wasn't sure about the fit, but once I put it on and got the belt situated, I was in love.

DSCN4684Jacket: Gap {here}
Tee: Ann Taylor {similar here}
Jeans: J.Crew skinnies
Necklace: Kate Spade {similar here}
Bracelets: vintage and thrifted mix

I like that the jacket isn't too structured or form fitting, but it doesn't swallow me and make me look like a fluffy marshmallow either (no offense to my winter coats.)  I'm looking forward to wearing it different ways, trading the bow for leather belts and colorful scarves, and wearing it open with the bow tied in the back on sunny days.  And in my obsession for the perfect spring jacket, I found a few more that I might have to add to my closet.  I wouldn't want this olive pretty to be lonely :)

Spring jackets1. Burberry Brit Metallic Anorak {similar here}  2. Banana Republic Ruffle Nylon Jacket (on sale!)  3. J.Crew Matinee Trench 4. Anthropologie Singing in the Showers Slicker 5. Gap Floral Print Jacket (on sale!) 6. J.Crew Utility Jacket (on sale!)  7. Anthropologie Weather Report Cape  8. Rag & Bone Dinner Stripe Blazer 9. Aryn K. Stripe Blazer 10. Anthracite by Muse Boyfriend Jacket 11. Free People Suede Jacket 12. Elizabeth and James Codi Jacket 13. Ali Ro Completer Anorak

Is anyone else looking forward to spring jackets?  Got any favorites I should add to my growing collection? :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Black and Bling

Remember a few weeks ago when I went to Dallas for a quick weekend trip?  Though I ended up doing a million things and seeing a million people that weekend, the main point of the trip was my best friend's bachelorette party.  However, I haven't gotten around to posting the pictures until today, oopsie!  My dear friend (and fabulous photographer) Kendall was kind enough to bring her bad ass camera along to document the party.  (PS: If you live in the Dallas area and want pictures taken, you should totally check her out, she is AMAZING!)  Playing party planner for the evening was a bit stressful, but when it comes to your best friend, its worth it!  Here are some pictures from the party, courtesy of Kendall :)

004The theme for the evening was Black and Bling, fitting for Jordan, a rhinestone addict :)

006 2Preparty drinks at The Magnolia

050The bride-t0 be

011 2All smiles

010 2Jordan's pageant family

015 2Getting the champagne ready in the limo.  The limo was a last minute addition and a surprise for Jordan.

020 2All the girls!  Guests included high school friends, sorority sisters, college friends, pageant girls, and family members.  Such a fun group!

024 2Ready to party :)

036Drinks at Dish.

033 2Dish's menu was fabulous, so many yummy things to choose from!

037 2Happy Bachelorette Party to my best friend :)

038We are weird lol.

035 2Delicious.

040High school BFFs.  Its unreal how much I love these girls.

041 2Back in the limo for champagne refills.

049 2These two are always ready for fun :)

057 2Par-ty!  (That's the mother of the bride on the right, get it Dianne!)

058Smiles all around.

064 2Though we've been friends for over 12 years, sometimes it feels like we're still 16 and laughing over drill team and boyfriends.

053 2The beautiful bachelorette :)

The night was a definite success, and it was so fun to celebrate such a special person in my life.  And thanks again Kendall for the photos!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Chicago Visitors

Its been a week since I posted and so much has happened!  My brother and his friend have come and gone and I've been to Dallas and back for my best friend's wedding.  The weekend was incredible, and I'm certain I'm going to spend half of this week sorting through pictures.  But before I jump into my BFF's wedding weekend, I thought I'd post some of my favorite pictures from my brother's visit to Chicago.  We had a great time with the boys, here are a few highlights from their trip...

SANY2946Dinner at Sweetwater.

SANY2948Weekend brunching at Nookie's.

SANY2954Zoo strolling.

SANY2956Underwater viewing.

SANY2967Getting up close and personal with a few zoo stars.

SANY2969Public transit loving.


SANY2980Cheesing at the Bean.

SANY2991Sibling hugs and photos.

SANY2995Garrett's popcorn.

SANY3004Bulls tickets.

SANY3015Cheering with the guys.

SANY3000Cool non-touristy tees.

SANY3022Milkshakes and Chicago dogs at Portillos.

Playing hostess and big sister just doesn't get old to me, so I'm already counting down till Ryan's next visit to Chicago.  And my mission of persuading Michael to become a Sooner is still a work in progress.  That awful school in Austin has a way of capturing people's attention :)  Hope your Monday is fabulous!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Get Your Foodie On

The boys are at the movies for the evening (Battle LA just didn't look like my kind of movie), so I thought I'd steal a few minutes to post a few long overdue pictures.  Chicago's famed "Restaurant Week" took over the city a few weeks ago, and Matt and I were so excited to share in the foodie goodness.  Over 200 restaurants participated this year, so trying to nail down a restaurant was a bit overwhelming at first.  But with some quicking Googling (i.e. top resturants in Chicago, best restaurant week picks) we were able to pinpoint a few frontrunners.  And after cross refercing those choices with available reservation times and our crazy schedules, Naha was the clear winner.  And thank goodness, because it was incredible!

DSCN4634I've been in this city for over 9 months, and I still insist on train pictures.  Pretty sure people still think I'm a tourist lol.

DSCN4636Naha is an informal Mediterranean and California fusion restaurant.  It is consistently voted one of the top restaurants in Chicago by diners and food critics alike.  The Restaurant Week menu was of course a paired down version of their full dinner menu, and choosing a course was almost a painful decision because everything looked so yummy!

DSCN4637My first course was the "Tarte Tartin," a blend of apples, raisins, glazed onions, and goat cheese, drizzled with medjool date puree and red wine anise syrup.  When in doubt I usually ask the server what his or her favorite is and then go with that.  Our server didn't let me down with any of the courses, especially this one.  So freaking good.

DSCN4640Happy happy me :)  PS: See that guy on the far right of the picture, who you can only see about half of?  Its world-renowed chef and restauranteur, Rick Bayless!  About three minutes after Matt snapped this picture, he calmly and quietly said, "Rick Bayless is over your left shoulder."  "Yeah right," I said.  After a "no I swear" by Matt, I squeaked, "Oh my gosh really?!"  I tried to casually turn and look, and sure enough, it was Rick Bayless.  It was especially fun to spot the celebrity chef because we dined at his famous Frontera Grill the very next night!  (See that post here.)  Another fun fact, Rick Bayless graduated from OU, making me like him even more!  Boomer!

DSCN4642The finale of my meal was the rich chocolate mousse cake, complete with homemade Crackerjacks.  Pretty and delicious, a winner in my book!

DSCN4647Happy, full, and oh so thankful for train station heat lamps.  Restaurant week was a total success, and Matt and I decided to make it a tradition to go every year.  If you have a resturant week in your city, I would definitely reccomend taking advantage of it.  It's a great way to eat at some of the best places in the city for a reduced price.  And if you're in Chicago and missed restauruant week, don't worry.  The smaller and less known Chicago Chef Week starts next week which means you've got another chance to get your foodie on.  You better believe Matt and I already have our reservation :)

Does your city have a restaurant week?  Share in the comments and let me know your favorite foodie spot!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spring Break Visitors


IMG 3156 Edit{photo by Rachel Robinson}

Happy Saturday friends!

My Saturday is extra happy because this little dude is arriving in Chicago tonight to spend the first half of his spring break with me.  And few things make me happier than hanging out with my little bro, laughing till my side hurts, and giving him giant bear hugs as often as possible.  Blogging may be lighter than normal as I play tour guide, taxi, chef, hotel manager, bank teller, and best of all, big sister :)  And for an extra bonus, he is bringing one his best friends who is currently on the fence about where he's going to college.  He is deciding between OU and Texas (lame) which gives me 4 full days to brainwash him into the right choice (Boomer!)

However you're spending your weekend, I hope its fabulous!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Palm of His Hand

Palm{we heart it}

Several years ago, I heard someone talking about how God had watched over and protected them, how He had cared for them in their time of need.  I will never forget what they said, because it struck me as so sincere.  They said, "God had me in the palm of His hand."  It was a strange phrase at first, but as I've thought about it again and again over the years, its a phrase I've come to really love.  And the past two weeks, the phrase hasn't left my mind.  Maybe its because so many of Matt and I's "uncertains" have recently become sorta-certains.  Maybe its because Chicago is finally starting to feel like home.  Maybe its I'm getting older and really starting to reflect on the blessings surrounding me.  Whatever it is, I can't shake the phrase.  God has me in the palm of His hand.

The phrase itself is simple, nine words total.  But the idea of being held in the palm of someone's hand is so profound.  Think about the care and attention that goes into keeping something safe in the palm of your hand.  You have to shape your hand just right, cupped enough to be protective, yet open enough to allow breath and development.  When something is in the palm of your hand, you can't forget its there, its always on your mind.  Your arm may tire, you may encounter other things that need your attention, but you hold steady, tending to the small thing in the palm of your hand, with thought and unending care.

I've realized recently that's how God cares for me.  He has me in the palm of His hand.  Steady and certain, wrapped in unmistakable care.  Even when I thought He wasn't there, even when I didn't understand His plan, He had me.  Right there.  In the palm of His hand.

A year and a half ago, I faced a major obstacle at school that at the time, felt like it was the end of the world.  I was heartbroken and angry, and I was sure God has forgotten about me.  But now, on the other side of that obstacle, I see how wrong I was.  God was there, He didn't forget me.  He had me in the palm of His hand.  When Matt and I ventured out to a new city, knowing only two people, God took care of us.  He held us in His palm and taught us a lot about the strength and love of our marriage.  When I faced fear and rejection, He was present.  When I said this is hard, He was there.  When I said, "God, where are you?" he had me.  In the palm of His hand.

As I look back on the past year or so, I think of all the question marks, the doubt, the uncertainty.  I think of all the celebrations, the small victories, and the life lessons learned.  I think of how random and haphazard it seemed at the time.  But now, on the other side of it, I see it differently.  I see how I was cared for, with kindness and attention.  I see how I was thought about, with detail and wisdom.  I see how even when I wanted things my way, He knew better.  Hindsight is always easier, but this hindsight is different.  This hindsight is informing me of whats happening right now and what will continue happen each and every day of my life.  As I type, as I plan for the future, as I love my family and friends, as I struggle, as I celebrate, as I prepare for new beginnings.  God has me.  Safe and sound, wrapped in care, with His plan in mind.  And nothing is more comforting to know.

God has me in the palm of His hand.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

All About Hair: Favorites, My Routine, and the Power of Dry Shampoo

Hair Blog1. Aveda Brilliant Shampoo 2. Aveda Brilliant Conditioner 3. wide tooth comb  4. Aveda Damage Remedy Restructuring Shampoo 5. Aveda Damage Remedy Restructuring Conditioner 6. Hana Shine Shield 7. 1 inch curling iron  8. Corioliss Classic Pro flat iron 9. bobbies  10. claw clips  11.  Klorane dry shampoo 12. paddle brush  13. L'Oreal Elnett hairspray

A good portion of the questions I get on this little blog revolve around my hair.  While I don't think my hair is anything to write home about, many of you have left sweet comments about it and inquired about how I do it, what products I use, etc.  So after much procrastination (and disbelief that anyone actually wants their hair to look like mine) I'm finally putting together a semi-comprehensive hair post.

A few quick words about my hair: its thick, naturally curly, and has taken quite a bit of abuse over the years.  I started highlighting my hair in high school and have continued since.  I'm not quite sure what my natural color is, but judging by some kiddie pics, its probably in the middle of light brown/dirty blonde.  My haircare routine has changed significantly in the past two years, as I've finally listened to my stylist and stopped washing my hair so often.  That simple step has changed my life (more on that later...)

Ok, so first, a few words about some of my go-to products...

Aveda shampoo/conditioner (#1, 2, 4, 5): In my opinion, Aveda has the best of the best when it comes to hair care.  Their products are some of the only products that truly feel nourishing to my hair.  I alternate between the Brilliant line and the Damage Remedy line.  Aveda can get a little pricey, and I buy my shampoo/conditioner in their large liter sizes.  At purchase time, this is a little expensive, but over time, it evens out.  And because I wash my hair every 3ish days, the liter lasts me for quite some time.

Hana Shine Shield (#6): I started using this product back in July when Missiko approached me about doing a review/giveaway.  (You can read the full review here.)  The reviews for this product were raving, and now I completely understand why.  No product has gotten my hair so soft and so straight.  I also think this product does an incredible job at protecting my hair from heat damage.  In years past, I felt like my hair verged on "fried" and since I started using this product (and washing/drying my hair less) I haven't felt this way at all.

Klorane dry shampoo (#11): This is my absolute favorite beauty product to date.  Seriously, I love it.  It has changed my hair life.  My friend/old stylist Hannah tried to convince me for years that I was washing my hair too much.  The constant washing and drying were stripping my hair of its health and its color (which I pay a pretty for lol.)  I kept complaining that there was no way I could go more than a day or two because it got oily on top, blah blah.  Then I started using baby powder in pinch situations, which got to me wanting more out of a powder.  So I finally gave dry shampoo a try, and I haven't looked back.  I've tried about every dry shampoo out there, and this is my absolute favorite.  I prefer to use the non-aerosol version, as it distributes through my hair easier, giving me more uses than the aerosal.  (Many Sephoras don't carry the non-aerosol version in store, so I get it online.)  If I were stranded on a deserted island and could only take five things, this dry shampoo would be a serious contender.  No joke.

L'Oreal Elnett hairspray (#13): Best hairspray on the market, hands down.  It holds no problem, yet isn't sticky or stiff.  I'm from Dallas which makes me a born and bred hairspray connoisseur.  So if I like it, its good.

In the past two years, I have managed to not only nail down my favorite products, but I've also worked out a pretty sweet hair routine.  Yes, that's right, my hair is on a schedule lol.  A well thought out, consistent schedule designed to maximize hair health (as well as my wallet and time in the mornings!)  I won't get too detailed for the sake of sounding weird and creepy, but here is rundown of my routine..

Day 1: Shampoo and condition with Aveda products.  I let my conditioner stay on in the shower for five minutes and right before I rinse it, I run a wide tooth comb through the ends.  (Avoid the roots or they may look greasy later.)  After I towel dry my hair, I run another wide tooth comb through it.  This step has helped reduce frizziness, and on days I skip this step, I can always tell the difference after my hair is dry.  Apply Shine Shield then blow dry with a paddle brush.  Using claw clips to seperate hair, straighten hair in sections.  (I have a lot of hair, so I have to do three layers/sections, bottom, middle, top.)  Look in the mirror, smile, and done!

Allison 2{Day 1 hair at my BFF's engagement party}

Day 2: Clip hair up while in the shower, don't get wet.  Blast with blow dryer for a minute or two to freshen up and dry any bit that got wet in the shower.  (Obviously you're OUT of the shower for this part!)  Touch up straightening from the day before, using a less intense version of day one's technique.  Since my hair is naturally curly, its doesn't stay stick straight from day to day, unless I touch it up with a flat iron.  However, I usually do two sections instead of three on this day, and don't hold the straightener on my hair as long.  Smile, done, go!

DSCN3868{Day 2 hair at the apple orchard}

Day 3: Third day hair is always curly.  It helps hide the little bit of dirtiness and is easy and quick to get done.  Clip up, shower, blast with blow dryer.  Spritz/puff dry shampoo on roots, work in with fingers.  Let sit for a few minutes, then gently brush through.  (These directions are on the Klorane bottle.)  Divide hair into three sections (like other days.)  Spray each section with hair spray right before you curl it.  Curl hair using gold 1 inch curling iron.  I use a very similar technique to Tiffany at I Am Stylish.  She is much more precise then me, and I decided to spare yall a tutorial of me bumbling around in my bathroom lol.  See her video tutorial here (fast forward to 4 min-6 min for the main gist.)  After all three sections/layers are curled, spray, spray, spray to hold in place.  Then, I usually take the front little part and pin it back with two criss-crossing bobbies.  I just never like how the all-down and curled look looks on me.  Voila, day 3 hair!  (This is the day I seem to get a lot of blog comments on.)

DSCN4364{Day 3 hair at my little bro's bball game.  Check out that sweet pin lol}

Day 4: I'll often stretch my hair an extra day, especially if I don't have anything major going on.  I know for some people this seems crazy (or gross lol), but had to work my way up to this point before I learned the routine that works for me now.  This day is either a complete repeat of day 3 or a messy bun.  Either way, I use a touch of dry shampoo, but not as much as I did on day 3.

So, that is the not-so-short version of my hair routine lol.  If you are still reading this, I am beyond impressed.  I am kind of disgusted that I blabbed on about my hair for this long, but I wanted to do one thorough post about my hair, rather than break it up into several smaller ones.  For those of you who have emailed and commented with hair questions, I hope this helps.  And if you couldn't give a flip about my hair, lol, sorry.  If you have any additional questions, leave them in the comments, and I'll do my best to answer them.  Also, if you have a product or routine you love, share it in the comments.  I'm always looking for tweaks to add to my routine! :)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Don't Judge Me...

Girlscout{we heart it}

...that I ate my weight in Maggianos goodness this weekend.  Lord, I love that place.

...for not getting out of my sweats  yesterday.  The whole day.  It was incredible.

...if I squealed in delight over the rainy/snowy/slushy weather this weekend.  My new boots make that kinda weather instantly awesome.

...because I took out an entire box of Girl Scout cookies in one day.  I made the mistake of leaving the box open on the coffee table, so my "I'll just have one" approach, turned into a three hour marathon of "I'll just have one more."

...if I'm still sad about the break up of girl group, Danity Kane.  I still rock their jams and tearfully wish they'd reunite.  (Hint, hint, P. Diddy...I know you read my blog.)

...that I have the premiere date for Aubrey's new reality show on my calendar.  I can't help but root for pop-star comebacks, especially if there is any connection to the previously mentioned girl group.

...because I still say "You go girl" on a regular basis.  I know its totally 90s, but sometimes girls rock it, and I've gotta tell 'em.

...for being one of the six people on the planet that doesn't have or want an iPhone.  I swear, I sound like an 80-year-old woman texting on that thing.  "What the hell, why isn't this working, damn these new fangled fancy phone things!"

...that I know exactly how many hours till my little brother gets here on Saturday.  He and a friend are spending half of their Spring Break in Chicago and I can't wait, eek!

...that I'm so starved for a vacation I look through past vacation photos on a daily basis.  Positano, come back to me, I'm desperate.

...for listening to Brit Brit's Hold It Against Me twelve times in a row while working on this post.  She can do no wrong in my eyes.

...if the screaming child at the store this weekend set back my desire to have kids by at least 10 years.  I'm still shuddering thinking about that devil child (and the poor mannequin she broke into pieces after knocking it to the floor.)

...because I haven't done laundry in over a month...

...for wearing my bottom of the barrel clothes due to the just mentioned laundry issue.  I've been rocking some random getups lately.

...if I want you to add your own "don't judge me..." line in the comment section.  I need to know my Girl Scout cookie woofing, Danity Kane loving, random outfit wearing self isn't alone :)

Happy Monday!