Sunday, February 26, 2012

What's Baking? February: Valentine's Day Colors

This month our What's Baking? theme is very appropriately Valetine's Day colors, hosted by She Cooks and Bakes. I love color-themed holidays, so I was excited by this. I also got a little lucky, as we had our annual DAR Good Citizens awards meeting on the 25th, and those of us on the hospitality committee were requested to bring food for the tea that followed a Valentine's Day theme.

I assumed I'd make heart-shaped sugar cookies with pink and/or red icing, but as the month went on, I decided I'd made sugar cookies too often recently and I needed to do something different. I browsed tastespotting, but somehow I remembered a cupcake recipe Bird sent me well over a year ago- one that I couldn't wait to bake, but never ended up trying. I thought that might work. And wouldn't you know, I can't find her email with the link. But thanks to google, I found another recipe, and I'm really pleased with the results. Without further ado, my sweet in Valentine's Day colors....

Pink Grapefruit Cupcakes
recipe from Alida's Kitchen

(I doubled the original)
12T butter (1 and a half sticks), softened
1 and 1/3 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1t vanilla
1cup Greek yogurt (nonfat or low fat)
2 cups flour
1T baking powder
1/2t salt
zest from 1 or 2 medium-to-large grapefruits

Cream together butter and sugar, beat until fluffy. Beat in the eggs (1 or 2 at a time) until well-combined. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, and add half to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, then stir in the yogurt and then the remaining flour, stirring only just til combined. Stir in the grapefruit zest.

Fill cupcake cups 2/3 full and bake at 350F until done- I baked mini cupcakes and it took about 16-18 minutes, for regular cupcake it'll be a bit longer.

(I doubled the original)
1 8oz package 1/3 fat cream cheese, cold (take it out of the fridge and start the frosting immediately)
zest of 1 grapefruit
2T grapefruit juice
1t vanilla
4-6 cups powdered sugar
1t grapefruit zest, plus more for garnish

Beat together the cream cheese, juice, vanilla and 2 cups of powdered sugar until combined. Continue to add the sugar, 1 or 1/2 cup at a time, until the frosting is stiff, and stir in the zest. I piped using a large star tip, from my special giant tip collection my friend gave me for my 30th birthday- what a perfect present, right? She works in admissions at a culinary school so she knows where to get the good stuff!

The results: delicious!

I've never piped cream cheese frosting before, it's always been a little too runny. But I recently read on Annie's Eats about cc frosting and I followed her recommendation of using chilled cc instead of softened/room temp, and I'm not sure if that's solely the trick, but I was able to pipe this! I'm also used to having butter as well as cc, so maybe not having butter in this recipe helped. But even better, no butter and using low fat cc means it's low fat frosting! High in sugar, but hey, you can't have everything. The frosting is a little liquidy, but after a couple hours there's a nice, thin shell, which has a texture on the cupcakes I really enjoy.

The cake recipe is very similar to my old stand-by, the Magnolia Bakery vanilla cupcake recipe, but uses yogurt instead of milk. The result is a hardier but still light cupcake and I actually think I may like it better... I feel awful saying that! But maybe it's nice for winter, when you want more substantial food. We'll save the light and fluffy cupcakes for a hot July day!

Now, the grapefruit. I adore grapefruit. It's kind of crazy. Back in grad school, the grocery store would have a citrus case lot sale. 40 grapefruits would be around $20-27, depending on the year. I'd go and buy one.... and a week later, go and buy another. I actually used to be allergic to citrus (not like anaphalactic allergic) but I think I ate so many grapefruit my senior year that I simply overcame that allergy. Is that even possible? Even if not, grapefruit has no ill effects on me anymore, and I'll eat 3 or 4 in one sitting. So of course the idea of putting grapefruit in a cupcake just seems heavenly.

I would say that for these, you might want to go light on the zest. 1 and a half grapefruits worth of zest might be best, they can get a little bitter with too much zest. With that in mind (since I ate the batter before making the frosting), I went light on the frosting zest, but I did increase the juice in the frosting.

As for Valentine's Day colors, it's not obvious. This might be more of an interpretation of the theme. It's not day-glo pink or in-your-face red velvet. I actually intended to add some pink food coloring, but as I spooned the frosting into the piping bag, I realized I'd forgotten.... and left it at that. The grapefruit is pink, and the frosting has kind of a pink tinge... So I add the Valentine's sanding sugar to drive the point home. But however you choose to interpret this theme, I definitely recommend these cupcakes.

I'm also glad I made them mini, so I can just have one bite of grapefruity cream cheesey deliciousness a few times a day and not feel quite so guilty... I love mini cupcakes!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What I Wore

I've been feeling kind of down lately, so for the past few days I've taken a little more care with my attire. I can lift my spirits by being a little more purposeful about pairing this scarf with that tunic top, rather than just throwing on whatever shirt is at the top of the clean-but-not-yet-folded laundry pile (does anyone else hate putting laundry away like I do? really, it's just such a horrible chore, yet I don't quite understand why I hate it! It's not that hard). I have a health problem that is both a huge deal and not a huge deal. It's not life-threatening, I'm not going to die. Yet it's a chronic thing and I'm having trouble adjusting to that. I'm going to the doctor today to see what he can tell me, and then I'll probably try to make an appointment with a specialist in Boston. I feel like karma's really shortchanging me here. I mean, isn't it enough that I can't find a job, I have to have a big health issue too?

So I'll try to ignore and look as pretty as I can.

Here's what I wore 2 days ago. We went car shopping and out to dinner. And Pansy scampered by as Clint was about to take the photo, so I snatched her up and she agreed to pose.
Vivi top in Let's Get Gingky, recently acquired from PPR, size S. Yes, you read that right, Small. This runs HUGE. I plan to take out the elastic in the sleeve cuffs, but I'm not sure if I'll make them a full, open sleeve or just replace with looser elastic. I'm wearing Lilly jeans that I got on ebay in August but only just altered so that I can actually wear them- they were a bit big, but I didn't really want to get rid of them.

For Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day was chilly, so I had to do a lot of layering. Pink tissue Elsa (M), cashmere Shere sweater coat (L) and Serenity murfee, with my Key to My Heart necklace and my Tiffany's heart key necklace- normally I don't layer necklaces but I figured Valentine's Day is a good day to do it with my heart necklaces! The Shere was a gift from my mom, and it's heavenly. I don't think it's the most flattering thing ever on me, but it's cashmere and warm and ruffly so I don't care.

I can't remember exactly what I did this day... probably just boring, generic errands.
Bess mock turtleneck, Society cords in cameo white, and my new Shaken N' Stirred necklace. I also threw on a murfee because this was just too much solid neutral colors, but of course with my pink She's a Piston murfee you can't see the necklace! The pants are a bit big and definitely need to be hemmed, but you can't really tell here. I got the Bess on ebay for $11 and am very glad- what a simple but comfy and well-cut top!

I took this picture after returning from choir. Choir rehearsals tend to be a bit chilly, so I had to throw on this cardigan- Cassies aren't really made for New England winters, even mild ones like we're having now.
Navy cardigan (possibly a Paley) and Cassie top in starry blue Drama Queen, with Key to My Heart necklace. This Cassie is the XL I got and shrunk in the dryer. After another couple washes without going in the dryer, it's getting a little roomy again, but I really love this solution- especially since I'm worried we'll forget and accidentally throw one of the size L Cassies in and shrink it. Worn with jeans and docs.

This day I'm pretty sure I had no reason at all to spend time on my outfit, aside from the desire to do so.
Pink cotton Elsa, new Fornash fishy necklace and my mom's Take Me Away murfee. Worn with jeans and brown suede boots.

Today I have a doctor appointment and am wearing my navy Echelon tunic, pink She's a Piston murfee, and the Lilly jeans. This Echelon tunic is kind of funny, it's a rather heavy knit so you'd think it'd be warm, but it's really not! And the sleeves are so full that it's hard to find a sweater that can fit over it- I'm glad wrapping myself in murfees does a lot to stay warm.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Life-changing food

Do you ever go out to eat and what you're served is just so ridiculously good you're reduced to mumblings and incomprehensible vowel sounds for several minutes? I've had several such occasions. My waistline isn't too happy, but oh it's worth it.

One of the interesting things about these dishes is that they don't look all that impressive. The first (and best) I have to tell you about is graham cracker gelato, called Graham Central, from Treva in West Hartford, CT. It's times like this I wish I'd taken some classes about food so I knew the correct terms to use. Because really, I know what you're thinking. Graham cracker gelato? Bo-ring. I thought the same thing when my mom convinced me to go over there with her to get some as take out. We ordered 2 servings, and they came in those containers you'd get wonton soup from a Chinese restaurant in. Filled with gelato. I thought, oh geez, that's way too much.

And then I took a bite.

This stuff truly is mind-blowing gelato. Graham cracker? No, try cold creamy gelato with that warm honey taste. It's like eating a delicious cake but pureed and frozen and turned into ice cream. There are tiny little bits of chocolate-covered graham crackers, as well as a swirl of buttery graham cracker crumbs. This stuff puts Ben & Jerry's to shame.

So I ate that entire container. And for the whole rest of the day, I could still taste it, the memories were so sharp! But then came the true test of life-changing food: the second try. You know, you have some delicious meal at a restaurant, and then a few weeks later, you return and order the same thing, so eager for the same experience, but it's just never as good. It's so disappointing! Well, miracle of miracles, my second serving of graham cracker gelato was just as good- possibly even better. Whoa.

My second time at Treva was for an actual dinner, not just takeout containers of icy, creamy deliciousness. I ordered a pork chop. It came with brussels sprouts and polenta, and I do love polenta, but my mom raved about their polenta (and she's not such a polenta fan, so I knew it had to be good!). I figured, eh, pork chop, it'll go with this Nero d'Avola red wine that's the wine special and I've never heard of it (this is how I order red wine- have I ever had it before or even heard of it? No? Then I order it. Yeah, I'm such a wine connoisseur.) It came and was unlike any pork chop I'd seen before. I really wish I'd photographed it. (you can kind of see a photo in their gallery, it's the close-up of a hunk of bacony-looking meat with brussels sprouts on top)

First of all, it looked like a slab of fat. I was horrified! I thought, ew is this how real Italians eat their pork?! Like a side of bacon? oh god. But after cutting into it (my horrors being continued, no muscle can be this tender) and taking a bite, I realized it wasn't fat, it was meat, but oh what meat it was. You could probably feed this pork to someone with no teeth, I kid you not. Granted, there was a thick layer of fat around the edge, but not in the middle. Again I wish I had a picture, because then you would see how I could have thought what I did.

Mom was right and the polenta was amazing. It was creamy and smooth, the perfect comfort food. It had delicious flavors that I sadly couldn't identify- cheese? herbs? Times like this I wish I went to culinary school or had some sort of education for my palate. Now I'm really on a quest to find a delicious polenta recipe, mine is good but gloppy. I wish I'd asked how the brussels sprouts were prepared, because when I roast mine, they certainly don't turn out tender yet cripsy on the edges like these.

My own dessert that night was the honey pundingo- kind of like a honey flan. We had a huge disappointment, the dessert special of the day was profiteroles, 3 to an order, each filled with a different gelato. Seriously, we almost ordered dessert first. But alas, when the time came for dessert, they'd run out. Dad got the affogato (nice thing for my poor dad- his health now prevents him from drinking coffee (even decaf, and Coke as well) but somehow the affogato doesn't bother him. I still say he could drink coffee if he put milk in it, but he still says that's gross), Mom got the graham cracker gelato (boy their servings are generous!) and I got the pundingo. Ruodan, our excellent waiter (the kind of waiter you hope for in a restaurant, very professional but still friendly and personable, and he remembered my parents from one of their previous visits), said the pundingo came with the graham cracker gelato, so that made my decision.
It actually came with fig gelato. But like the graham cracker gelato, it was the kind of gelato that you taste and then are reduced to nonsense syllables while you try to wrap your mind around what you just ate. First of all, I didn't know it was fig, I could tell it wasn't graham cracker but it took me a while to figure out what it was! Seriously this was like eating a delicious gourmet fig newton, in ice cream form. I don't know what this restaurants adds to their gelato but it's something amazing. The honey flan thing was good, but honestly it kind of paled in comparison to the gelato. It had a lovely texture! And the slightly tart strawberries were a great addition to the very sweet pudding.

I can't wait to go back there.

My mouth is very lucky and had another delicious meal recently- not as life-altering as Treva, but definitely delicious and there were those nonsense syllables! Joey's Bar and Grille recently moved to a new location about 2 blocks from us (one of the reasons I love where we live, several good restaurants within walking distance!). We tried it out after Thanksgiving and were very pleasantly surprised- the atmosphere was nice, it was kind of fancy but in a casual way, they have very interesting wall decorations (tall and thin panels painted blue that get lighter towards the bottom, with a handful of silver plastic rhinestones scattered all over, like the night sky), and the food was good. Clint had fish and chips (excellent) and I had the beet salad (which was a salad, but a very good one). And their foccacia was quite good, I think we ended up with a second helping.

On Monday I had the pork chop. This is like the mother of all pork chops- a huge hunk of boneless pork loin, wrapped in bacon, topped in melty gorgonzola and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. Would you have ever thought of balsamic and bacon? I don't think I would have but it's ridiculous. I'm totally duplicating this delicious dinner at home.

I had bread pudding for dessert, and I have a weird relationship with bread pudding. It's good, but ugh sometimes it's just so heavy! You eat 2 bites and you have this giant rock in your stomach. Joey's bread pudding is made with brioche or some similarly light bread, with chocolate chunks and bananas baked in. Not heavy at all! I'm considering getting an order for take out the next time I see a certain bread pudding-lovin' friend.

But Clint had the raspberry sorbet. Check it out.
I know it's hard to see, but the raspberry sorbet is swirled with vanilla ice cream and encased in a shell of white chocolate. !! So simple but so delicious. I totally want to try serving sorbet this way... I wonder how hard it would be in my own kitchen.

So if you're ever in Worcester or West Hartford, you know of a good place to eat. And next time I'll be better about the photos!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Authentic, Americanized

I love Indian food. It's like spicy comfort food- creamy sauces, chewy, buttery bread, and all these delicious flavors I can't even identify. Unfortunately, I can't really make good Indian food. Oh, I've tried! Tried and tried. It's good, it's just not quite right. The curries I make are kind of thin and missing something. I follow the recipes, I have all the ingredients, so I don't know what's missing.

So I decided to turn to someone I thought would give me a good recipe- an authentic recipe, but one that fits an American kitchen with ingredients from American grocery stores- Aarti Paarty! I love her. She's so fun and cheerful and cooks these amazing things- not just Indian food, but all sorts of lovely and interesting things (like celery root with vanilla and black pepper... I'm very eager to cook that one, if I could ever remember to look for celery root at Big Y!)

Last night I made an Aarti dinner: chicken tikka masala, basmati rice, and naan. None of it tasted like what you'd get in an Indian restaurant, but it was much closer than any other recipe I'd used! The kitchen was a little frantic with 3 unfamiliar recipes, but I fit it all on the stove and everything was hot when we ate it. I call that a success!

Chicken Tikka Masala
Aarti Sequeira's recipe

1 cup yogurt (I used nonfat Greek)
1T freshly grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, pressed in a garlic press
salt and pepper
1lb of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I used 2lbs of bone-in thighs)

In a medium bowl, mix the yogurt, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper, and then add the chicken. Move the chicken around to coat it well on both sides with the yogurt mixture, and leave for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight in the fridge. I marinaded about 2 hours at room temp.

3T butter
2t olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
2-inch piece of ginger, grated
2 serrano pepper, minced (I used 3 sanaam chilis, which is all we had on hand)
2T tomato paste
2t paprika
1t garam masala
8 Roma tomatoes, diced (I used one can of tomatoes- I forgot how Clint devours tomatoes!)
1 1/2t salt
2 cups water
1T dried fenugreek leaves, optional (I used dried cilantro)
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used my favorite fat free 1/2&1/2!)

In a large skillet, melt the butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger and peppers and cook, stirring, until the mixture just begins to brown (about 5 minutes). Add the tomato paste and cook until it turns darker, about 3 minutes, then add in the paprika and garam masala and cook until fragrant- about 1 minute. Now add the tomatoes, salt and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, and simmer 20 minutes. Then remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Place in a blender and puree, then return to the skillet.

Meanwhile, heat up the broiler. Line a cookie sheet with foil for easy clean-up, and place the chicken on the foil. Broil for about 10 minutes, flip the thighs and broil for another 10.

Place the broiled chicken in the pureed sauce in the pan, and place over medium heat. Cook for about 15 minutes and then stir in the cream (or 1/2&1/2). Serve with naan and/or rice.

Aarti's recipe

1t active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (not too hot, around 100F is good)
2t sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1t fine sea salt
1/8t baking powder
3T plain yogurt (I used nonfat Greek again)
2T extra-virgin olive oil
melted butter, about 1-2T
sea salt
dried basil or cilantro, or other tasty herbs

In a cup or small bowl, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Let sit til the yeast wakes up, about 10 minutes. Stir in the yogurt and olive oil. In a larger bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the yeast/water mixture to the flour mixture. It's very, very sticky, but once all the dry ingredients are incorporated, start kneading with your hands- it'll get a little more elastic and will come together, although it'll still stay pretty sticky. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a dishtowel or plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 2-4 hours.

After the dough has risen, divide it into 6-8 equal-sized balls of dough. Get a small bowl of cool water to have on hand. Roll out on a floured surface into oval/teardrop shapes (teardrop is traditional, although I was doing too much at this point so honestly, just roll it out, it could be a parallelogram for all it really matters). Heat a large pan or griddle over high heat. Take one rolled-out piece of dough. Wet your hands in the bowl of water, flip-flop the dough between your hands to dampen, and then slap in the hot pan. Cook for one minute, then flip and then cover the pan and cook for an additional 30sec-1min. The naan will get a little charred but that's just how it is. Remove from the pan and brush with melted butter and sprinkle with salt and dried herbs (I used cilantro this time but I've also done basil in the past, both are good). Serve warm. These reheat fairly well.

And finally, I used Aarti's basmati rice recipe, which honestly wasn't all the great, but I attribute it more to my inability to make good rice and the fact that I used brown basmati instead of regular, than the recipe itself. It calls for rinsing the rice, something I don't think I've ever done before. It lenghtens the time it takes to make rice, which, if you ask me, is too long anyway. I want to get some regular basmati rice and try it again sometime.

And the results? Well I already told you about the rice. The naan was good. I didn't roll it out evenly, so some of the pieces had a very doughy edge, but that's ok. Brushing with butter and sprinkling with salt was quite tasty, as it is butter and salt. I'd never seen a naan recipe with baking powder, and I do think this was a better recipe than any of the others I'd used before. The chicken tikka masala wasn't quite authentic, but it was loads better than any of the other chicken tikka masala recipes I've tried before. And the kitchen smelled delicious.

One thing, though- I don't recommend a meal with 3 brand-new recipes, it's too hard to stay on top of things. I'd also intended to make some maple-roasted brussels sprouts, since Clint will eat them if they're roasted and we have a ton (thanks, BJ's! lol sometimes I love buying in crazy bulk sizes) but I actually forgot completely about that intention until the last naan was in the pan. oops!

So in the end, I highly approve of the chicken tikka masala and the naan. I'll give the rice another try next time. And there are no pictures because we were too eager to eat it all!

Today I meant to do a lot with yeast, but it didn't really happen- I'm making a bread with a sponge (I've never done this before!) and forgot I was going to bake it today- postponed til tomorrow! And I tried to make pizza crust.... but didn't realize I forgot to add the yeast until it'd been "rising" entirely unsuccessfully for almost 3 hours. d'oh! I sprinkled in yeast and kneaded some more, and we'll see what happens with that. It's such a shame though, I'd added all these fabulous herbs and spices to make the dough even more delicious! That'll teach me to email people while I'm cooking!

I made Aarti's tikka masala a second time and added brussels sprouts! I know, it was a weird idea, but it kind of worked. It's a relatively easy way to get some extra veggies.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Spring is in the air, part 2!

Tops and bottoms!

The fun did not stop with the shifts, oh no! I'd heard that the State of Mind Patch was available in Callahans, but little did I know, it's also available in Bermudas! I am not a callahans girl, I don't do short shorts (when I was a size 6 I did a bit, although to be honest, I mostly wore short skirts when I was a 6), so you can't imagine how happy I was when bermuda shorts started coming back. I feel like I should share a photo of me in my fave cut-offs from 1993, but aside from it being potentially embarrassing (you know that awkward phase all kids go through? yeah, it lasted til I was about 20, but age 13 was probably the height of the awkwardness), it's not digital and not in my house. But bermudas, love.

My favorites from this collection (i.e. stuff I do plan to buy, and possibly even (gasp!!) pay full price for:
State of Mind Bermudas
Via Tunic

I unfortunately didn't try on a huge number of Spring tops and bottoms. I think I got a little overwhelmed! I tried on stuff that had caught my eye, not really stuff that others might like to see on a non-model..... I guess I'll just have to go back for round 2!

Roslyn Skirt in Bloomin' Cocoonin', size 10
and a Roslyn skirt in State of Mind Patch, size 12

I love the little open latticework detail on the top one, so cute! I'm not sure what size skirt I'd need. I often size up so that it doesn't sit too high on the waist, but I think the size 10 looks better. They both felt fine- although since the bench was covered in clothes, I didn't do a sit-test. But really, I probably wouldn't buy either- I'm bad at skirts, I never know what top to wear with them, since tucking in tops looks awkward on my frame.

Bermudas in State of Mind Patch, size 10
Sorry for the blur! But I do love these. They fit like the bermudas I bought last summer. The material's thinner than the solid green beans ones I have, but not as thin as the green bean daisy print. Very comfortable and the rise is perfect for me. All around awesome.

I am also wearing the Via tunic in size L (... I think. ugh I knew I should have written it all down!) Well I love the Via tunic. It fits me like the cotton Elsa (which is why I think maybe it's a M), has cute cotton ruffles along the neck opening and 3/4 sleeves. Slub cotton. Love love love!

Alima tunic, size L
I really can't remember what size this is! Oh no! However, I didn't like it. The shoulders are VERY tight, in a really weird way- at my shoulder caps they're tight, not like across the shoulders their tight. It just felt really uncomfortable. I was disappointed!

Bella top, size L
I thought this would be like a Cassie with cute ruffles on the sleeves- like the Somerset is a ruffled sleeve Cassie. It may be the print, but I don't really love this top. It runs a little small, and it seems awfully long.

Allison top, size M

I grabbed a M because they didn't have a L, and I think it's just a hair tight. The L would definitely be too big. Aside from that (which is only a problem if I move around too much, anyway!) this is a super cute top!

The pants I'm wearing are the Elaina Cigarette pants, size 12. not in love. They're kind of baggy in the thigh but fit nicely in the waist. I didn't bother trying the 10s because I thought they would just annoy me. ;) I have to say, however, normally pants are too big in the waist and tight in the thigh. So this was just weird.

Ok, now some non-spring!

Joycee Tunic in Reef Me Up, size M
oh man, this made me sad. I was SOOO excited to try this on, finally. I see all these pictures of people in them, and they're so cute. But the upper arms/shoulders were ridiculously tight on me! I think the body fits me perfectly, so sizing up wouldn't fully make sense. I could wear it if I stretched out the arms and shoulders, and I do that that's a valid option, but after taking off the lovely and perfect Via tunic, the Joycee was a disappointment. I will still get one if I can find a M on sale, but I may just start hoping they come out with a printed Via.

Standing Ovation Roslyn, size 12
Oh it's so cute!! I totally would have gotten this if I could afford it. Even with 70% off, it was still more than I could realistically spend.

Silk Elsas, size M
Boy, I love the Follow the Pink Road print!
These were marked down to $47 each, so I got all excited. But... I just don't love them! I don't know. I felt like the sleeves were just too huge and they looked all balloony on me. But was I crazy or just tired from a long day of shopping? Because I loved the resort pintuck Elsa:
Maybe I was crazy. or maybe all the ruffles were just too much- even for this ruffle-lover!

Then I tried on a Connell Wrap sweater, size L
I'm on the hunt for this now! I loved it. But it was still $50, which, yes, is a good price, but not for me that day. It won't be great in winter, but in late spring it'll be perfect! I loved the drape and the fact that it just feels like an expensive sweater.

And last but not least, the item I actually took home with me :)
Cassie in Drama Queen, size XL
yes, it's too big, but it was also $19, and I've been looking for this print.

But here's something exciting:
I threw it in the dryer! And look, it's now the same size as my Thrill of the Chaise size L!
So now I'm on the hunt for an XL Cassie in Dress Rehearsal.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Spring is in the air! (part 1)

Exciting day today! my, my. I decided today was the day I was going to run over to E.A.Davis in Wellesley to see the new Lilly Pulitzer spring line for myself. I had a nagging fear in the back of my mind that they might not even have spring out yet... since it'd only debuted a few days ago. I was tempted to call and check, but then I decided there was still quite a bit of resort I hadn't tried out, so it wouldn't be a total loss.

Well. I walked in and spring was there! yippee! Straightaway I saw a rack with Ricci shifts in the new State of Mind print, so I immediately grabbed my size. A sales associate was standing there and said something along the lines of "well you know exactly what you want!" The people that work there are lovely, but they don't seem to understand the mind of a true Lilly Lover. She was flabbergasted when she saw all I wanted to bring into the fitting room- she actually said she wasn't sure it would fit! There were 3 hooks and a small bench, so she did have a point...

I'm doing this post in 2 parts... there's just far too much to say to fit into one post. Let's start with the dresses, and this weekend I'll tell you about the tops and bottoms.

Let's get started.

Oh first, here's what I wore yesterday: my Let's Get Gingky Jonah, purchased from RLL last fall. LOVE this print, I'd been searching high and low for a Blayney in it, but once I found the Jonah I was content (except... every so often I see a Vivi-like top in this print and I would very much love to have that! If you come across one in M or L, let me know!!) I'm also sporting my dear Not Just Fringe necklace, an ebay purchase, and my brown suede boots. I generally wear boots with this to try to winterize it- I worry that it's a little light for winter. Come April I'll pair some ballet flats with it.

Here's my dressing room... lots of clothes! And not that big!

In this trip, I didn't end up going back for round 2, the saleslady helping me was very confused by the amount of clothes I was trying on in round 1, and I just felt kind of awkward about it. Also, there were actually other customers in there, unlike the other times I've been for my try-on-clothes-for-my-blog trips.

Ditra, size L, in Shorely Blue Purring Jacquard. Resort 2011
I thought I'd hate this. I'm not wearing the belt because belts don't work on me (I should probably take a picture of me in a belt so everyone can see how ridiculous it looks), but I actually kind of liked this. It's a little roomy, but I like the little cap sleeves. It's a heavy knit. I won't buy it, I didn't like it that much.... well, unless it shows up on smartbargains or RLL for $30!

Another Resort dress, Jia, size L in Coral Siesta
Hmm. Kind of sad about this- the L is a little snug, and it requires spanx. It's definitely cute and flattering, I just wish it were looser. I think I may be between sizes! They didn't have an XL to try. But I'm definitely thinking about buying it- I can deal with spanx!

Here we go with some spring!
Whinnie, size L

oh love! This is so cute!! I'm not a huge fan of the Whitaker, I think the one long sleeve and one bare sleeve doesn't really work on me, but a one shoulder ruffle does. This reminds me of the Sondra, from my last trying-on-clothes post from VT, which I did like, but the ruffle was kind of huge and accentuated my broad shoulders. I thought this smaller, more delicate ruffle worked on me- sorry the picture doesn't show it better! I'm definitely trying for that big dressing room next time. This size L was just roomy enough, I think it's TTS. I'm not in love with this print though- I mean, it's pretty, but it's not very Lilly. However, I wouldn't mind owning this dress.

Allura, size 10

AHHHH LOOOVE!!!! The 10 is too small, but they didn't have a 12 :( You know, I used to hate these stupid little cap sleeves. I don't know if Lilly just does a better job or I've changed my mind, but I'm loving the little capped sleeves these day. I think this dress has a great structure- look, I have a waist! Granted, it's too small, but still. I would be very happy to own this- it's be awesome for DAR meetings!

Here comes my favorite style!!! Mariana, in Bright Navy Yum Yum.

size 12

and size 10This dress feels exactly like my Navy Look Lady Ricci- the fabric is the same, the dress fits the same, etc. Oh I love it. I was surprised at how it fit, however- the 12 wasn't huge, but for some reason I'd also grabbed a 10. I don't know why... ESP? The 10 was even a little roomy in the waist/hips but the bust was just barely right. Honestly I think I'd probably by the 10 and wear a different undergarment, rather than buy the 12 and take it in. But I'm not sure.

And that leads me to the next dress,
Mariana in State of Mind Patch, size 12
This is the one I hope to buy. You what's funny? I didn't look at a single price tag. I have no idea how much this costs- yes I know I can go on and look. (ok, $228). I wish I could wait til this is on sale, but I'm very afraid it won't stay in stock long enough to go on sale. So... I may tell everyone this is what I want for my birthday. I think this is a fab, very Lilly-like print (I think navy yum yum is Lilly-like too, although for some reason, caterpillars freak me out, and I don't think I could wear them. It's like bees, I can't wear anything with bees). Many people have been concerned about the length of Mariana. I'm 5'6, and I think it's a nice length. It's see-through up higher because of the lace, but for my, not *too* high.

And speaking of State of Mind patch, here's Ricci, size 12
I have to say, I don't much care for the neck of this Ricci. The whatever they are kind of looks like my upper chest is in jail. I do, however, love the little bow on the shoulder. And I did like it better on me than on other Lilly lovers, models and the hanger. I think you need broader shoulders to pull the jailbars look off.

And... I don't really remember how this fit, I was so focused on the jailbars! The 12 fit, I know that- in the picture it looked like it fit fine, so perhaps it's a tad smaller than last year's Ricci? I'm not sure.

Unfortunately, they didn't have any Adelsons in State of Mind, and I didn't notice that they had any at all until I was paying- so I couldn't finish the State of Mind shift trifecta. Hopefully next time!

Shailene, size 10
Going into the store, Shailene was at the top of my list. But I think I'm between sizes! This is a 10, and it just barely fits. I can zip it up fine (usually I have a problem zipping anything with sleeves, and then once it's on it's ok), but the hips are a little snug- which is rare for me. But I do love the placed floral print. Like other things this spring, the floral isn't super Lilly, but I think the placement is. They are very clever at creating these slimming lines! Geniuses.

Adelia Dress, size 12 (I think?)
Oh this one's so pretty! Pretty print, great structure and silhouette... only... SUPER low-cut V there. That dark thing you see in my cleavage is my Not Just Fringe necklace. My Not Just Fringe necklace should not be higher than my neckline. I'd probably need a plunge bra with this. Which means... not for me. (unless I wear a boob tube, I just bought a couple on Hautelook today! Thanks to McKenzie for announcing that sale was coming up!) Or I might just sew up that V, because oh man I do love this dress.

Somerset, size L
yech. Notice my pursed little mouth, I am not pleased with this dress. I was hopeful, because I love the little ruffled sleeves! But I will say, if you love the Cassie, you will love this dress. I hate the Cassie, I'd do better to wear a potato sack. I feel gross and fat in this. The Somerset is not for me.

Kariana Sweater Dress, size L
I don't love this enough to buy it, but I liked it far better than I expected to. It's so cute on the models! But I think it accents all the wrong things on me. It's also a bit tight, but I don't think tight enough to size up. It's a pull-on style and there's ribbing along the waist to nip in but still be stretchy.

And unfortunately, that's the end of spring. The remaining dresses are from Resort, and one from Fall I never tried on before. If you're only looking for Spring, stay tuned for my tops and bottoms post, which will hopefully pop up early next week. I'll post on Lilly Love when it does!

Resort Ricci, size 10 (i think? I knew I should have written this down!)
Cute!! I love this one. Hoping it goes on sale. You know, I think I am in a size 10 here, because the 12 would probably be looser.

Joy Knit Tunic, size L
Not in love. It's cute, but it looks like a beach coverup, not even like a run-to-the-grocery-store kind of dress. Perhaps I should have tried a M.

Kris dress, size L
I love the colorblock line on this one, but it's too tight! Size up, size up! They didn't have an XL, though. It seems like an easy dress to throw on in a hurry and still look cute for dinner.

And last but not least (well, kind of, because it didn't fit), .... Sage, size 10.
I've wanted to try this on ever since J bought it in the New Year Cheer sale and sent me a picture of her in it- she looks fabulous!! I look similarly fabulous, although not quite as much because I couldn't zip it at the waist. So now I'm on the hunt for a size 12.

Unfortunately, I didn't walk out of there with a dress, my budget couldn't handle it. But never fear, I did get a top! I'm even wearing it as I type this. Don't get too excited, it was on the 70% off rack so it's nothing new or exciting- well, I guess 70% off would make anything exciting.

So stay tuned for my Spring 2012 tops and bottoms report! I may need to visit another store after I compile a list from of all the other things I need to try. Such as Adelson, Parker, the white dresses, and I still have not tried on the Adriana from Resort.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Valentine's Day Prep

Last year I was super gung-ho on Valentine's Day decorations. I was in a better place a year ago, however: February 14th (aside from being the day my dear friend's son was born) was my last day at my horrible, terrible, no-good job. I was SO relieved to get out of there. I had many leads for new jobs, and I felt great. Valentine's Day was a wonderful day, and I was so inspired to decorate for it.

This year, Valentine's Day is the 1 year anniversary of my last day of a job. I'm still unemployed, and to say it's depressing is a huge understatement. But all the same, decorating for Valentine's Day is a jolly thing, so I'm trying to force myself into it. Because honestly, cute things cheer me up. Why do you think I wear Lilly every day?

Last year I made (and pinned on pinterest) these great little hearts. They're quick and easy and adorable. Today I'm thinking I'll make some with Lilly's White Zin wrapping paper and hang them from our dining room chandelier.

I also sewed some felt heart pillows, although honestly, I only finished one, the second still needs to be sewn together. And I feel silly for placing the "LOVE" on the right side so it curves backwards... I assure you, the first one I made, I did it properly.But this year... I'm still looking for more inspiration. I have a Valentine's scarf in my etsy shop (don't worry, I made one for myself, too!)

And I recently saw these adorable Valentine's Day gift tags from Preppy Paper Designs' etsy shop. Oh... and the best part? You can a pair of her notepads in Lindsey's blogoversary giveaway on Keep It Classy Alabama! Go, enter! Good luck!