Lovely Little Things: The Leather Edition

When stores start featuring their fall collections at the end of July, I just can’t get into it.  No matter how fabulous that sweater on the cover of the pre-fall J.Crew Style Guide is, I have absolutely no interest in it when it’s 95 degrees out. But now that it’s late September, the nights are chilly, and the leaves are starting to turn, I’m all in, coveting all of the fall trends and then some.

One trend I’m particularly glad to see return (and evolve) this fall is leather. Last year most of it felt too moto/biker chick for me but I’m loving how classy and tailored the pieces are this year.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Lovely Little Things Leather

1. Tassel Key Chain, russell+hazel  |  2. BB Dakota ‘Zane’ Leather Trim Blazer, South Moon Under  |  3. Brown Vegan Leather Tee, Piperlime  |  4. Double Trouble’ Knit & Faux Leather Leggings, Nordstrom  |  5. Leather Skirt, Kate Spade Saturday  |  6. Billie Boots, Madewell

Will you be my bridesmaid?

Now that summer is winding down, I’m returning from the unplanned ‘vacation’ that I took from blogging. I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been willingly sucked into a wedding planning frenzy. Although our wedding isn’t until July, every wedding “to do” list I’ve consulted has quite a lengthy list of tasks for 10-12 months out. A side note – I’ve learned that the initial gathering of ideas is slightly (and by slightly I mean significantly) more fun that actually learning what those ideas cost…

One of the hardest decisions we’ve had to make so far is selecting the wedding party. Admittedly, my number of bridesmaids is pretty high at nine (yes, nine) but I wasn’t willing to compromise. Kyle and I finally agreed that even if we ended up with more bridesmaids than groomsmen, I could keep my nine. (And come on, what groomsman isn’t going to prefer walking down the aisle with two girls instead of one?)

I loved the idea of sending out cards to the girls I wanted on my side and found a cute paper chain idea on OnceWed a few months ago. I shared it with one of our designers at work, Jill, who does some freelance on the side, and she agreed to create something similar for me. I was absolutely blown away by the final product. (Although I’m pretty sure I nearly gave her an early onset of arthritis with all of the cutting that was required). I was thrilled to mail them out to the girls last week. Pictures below!

Also, be sure to check out Jill’s Etsy shop here. Her stuff is adorable!

bridesmaid card

Image: Jill Brewer

Michelle_BridalCards1

Image: Jill Brewer

Cherry Icebox Pie

Summer is in full swing and I love it. Our weekends have been busy with summertime festivities – trips to the pool, cookouts with friends, and enjoying the sunshine. Kyle and I have even taken our Sunday dinner tradition outside for the summer, spending the evenings relaxing on the patio and grilling out.

No matter what we end up grilling, no Sunday meal is complete without the proper dessert. I recently recreated one from my childhood – an icebox pie with a filling of whipped cream and cherry gelatin blended then chilled inside a graham cracker crust. My mom used to make this all the time growing up and I  hadn’t had it since I was a kid. (I was surprised to learn she actually got the recipe on the top of a Cool Whip tub many years ago.) This refreshing twist on cherry pie is not only a fond memory of my childhood but an easy-to-make ending to dinner al fresco.

Scroll for recipe.

cherry icebox pie

Ingredients

  • 3 oz gelatin mix
  • 2/3 c boiling water
  • 2 c ice cubes
  • 8 oz whipped cream
  • 8″ or 9″ pre-made graham cracker crust

Directions

  1. Completely dissolve gelatin mix in boiling water, stirring about 3 minutes.
  2. Add ice cubes and stir constantly until gelatin is thickened, about 2 or 3 minutes.
  3. Remove any unmelted ice.
  4. Using wire whip, blend in whipped cream and stir until smooth.
  5. Chill for an hour and then spoon into pie crust.
  6. Chill for 3 hours and serve!

A Sunny Shower

It’s been awhile since my last post and I have lots to share in the next few weeks.  May was a busy month with an engagement (mine!!), a long-awaited trip to the beach, and preparing to help host a baby shower the first weekend in June.

The baby shower was for one of my closest friends, Andi, which I hosted last weekend with my mom and three other family friends, Kathy, Cindy, and Katie. Andi and her husband, Tony, opted not to find out the sex of the baby, so we stuck with a gender neutral theme of “you are my sunshine” to reflect the décor of her nursery.  The yellow-and-blue color scheme felt fun and summery – perfect for an early June afternoon. The menu was a compliment to the light mood with an assortment of tea sandwiches and salads; pineapple chicken salad on croissants, mango shrimp salad in cucumber cups, strawberry romaine salad, and fresh fruit.  For dessert, lemon squares and brownies sat next to a towering display of cupcakes – each topped with a fondant sunshine or cloud. Instead of favors, we opted for a candy bar. Apothecary jars and glass dishes held a variety of yellow candies for guests to fill treat bags with as they got ready to leave.

Throwing a shower is always fun but there’s an excitement and anticipation with baby showers, especially when the mommy-to-be is a close friend, that makes it all the more special. (Plus, as Katie put it, diaper cakes, toys, and tiny outfits are a lot more fun that blenders, towels, silverware.)

Invites

Invitations by Frilly Milly Events

Flower

Sunny flower arrangements by Kathy, one of the other hosts

onesies

Onesies clipped to a ribbon ‘clothesline’ decorated the fireplace.

name tags

Diaper-inspired name tags

fruit

Fruit, baby! (Made by Katie, one of the fellow hostesses)

cake

Sunshine and sugar

A swim in the sherbert punch...

A swim in the sherbert punch…

The mommy-to-be with her mommy.

The mommy-to-be with her mommy.

candy bar

Sunshine-inspired candy for guests to take home.

Mother’s Day Gift Picks

As I was thinking about Mother’s Day last week, I couldn’t help by reflect on how being a mother probably never gets easier, even as a child grows up. Sure, the challenges of motherhood may change over the course of a child’s life but a mother’s job is never done. Take my own mother for example – when my sister and I were babies (at the same time!), I imagine there was always a diaper to change, a mouth to feed, or a cry to soothe.  As we grew up, there were new challenges – juggling schedules, dealing with hormonal teenagers, the stress of sending two daughters off to college. Now that my sister and I are adults, we may not rely on her to care for us physically, but emotionally we often need her more than ever. She’s the first person we call when life feels too difficult to handle, or when we’re bursting at the seams with happy news. She’s no longer just our mother, but truly our friend.

There isn’t a material gift in the world that could ever properly thank mothers for what they do, here are a few small tokens of appreciation that might at least make her Sunday.

Mother's Day Gifts

1. English rose personalized stationery, Minted |  2. Mother’s Day pendant, Kate Spade  |  3. Koi fish printed scarf, Orange & Pear  |  4. The Shared Wisdom of Mothers and Daughters: The Timelessness of Simple Truths by Alexandra Stoddard, Anthropologie  |  5. Eco Throw Blanket  – Cerulean Trellis, Design Darling

DIY: April Showers Bring May Flowers

My newly married (and now domesticated) sister recently sent me a picture of a spring wreath that she wanted to buy for her front door. After seeing my last silk flower DIY, she asked me if I could make her a similar wreath. I agreed but having never decorated (or even owned) a wreath before, I advised her to keep her expectations low. Much to my surprise though, it ended up being an incredibly easy project that took only a little over an hour. At only about $15-$20 in material costs, it’s an affordable and fun way to spruce up your entryway for spring.

Scroll for step-by-step directions.

DIY Spring Flower WreathMaterials

  • 1 grapevine wreath
  • 2-3 bunches silk tulips
  • Hot glue gun
  • Scissors or wire cutters

Directions

  1. If silk flower stems can be pulled off wire, pull off and dispose of wire base. If stems do not pull of base, clip the stems near the base so that you have 5-6 inches of stem to work with. Remove leaves if possible. (The flowers I used had tubing around the bottom of the leaves that allowed me to slide them of the stem.)
  2. Begin decorating the wreath by tucking the stem of each flower into the wreath base so that it’s anchored between sections of the vines. Continue until wreath is covered to likeness.
  3. If you removed leaves, snip the tubing around the base so that you can easily add back onto stems.  Use hot glue gun to close tubing.
  4. Once your wreath is completely decorated, use a hot glue gun to secure stems into place.

Your Best Grilled Cheese: Winner

Thanks to all who participated in the “Your Best Grilled Cheese Contest.” I’m excited to announce that we have a winner! The Avocado Mac and Grilled Cheese, submitted by Michaela C. of Cincinnati, Ohio, won the hearts and taste buds of our judges. Warm macaroni and cheese, made with sharp white cheddar and infused with a subtle hint of avocado, sandwiched between two think slices of crusty, buttered ciabatta bread – it’s a unique and delicious combination of two favorite comfort foods. Michaela will receive a $50 gift certificate to Williams-Sonoma to help stock her kitchen for future grilled cheese experimentation. Looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next!

The Fried Cheese Melt, submitted by Mike C. of Columbus Ohio, was a close runner-up and sure to please even the most extreme cheese lover. This easy-to-make sandwich consists of mozzarella cheese sticks and lots of gooey American cheese melted between two pieces of sourdough bread and served with a side of marinara for dipping.

Celebrate National Grilled Cheese Month by trying these two amazing sandwiches for yourself. Scroll down for recipes.

grilled cheese winners

WINNER: Avocado Mac & Grilled Cheese

Submitted by: Michaela C. Cincinnati, Ohio

Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • 8 oz elbow pasta
  • 3/4 c skim milk
  • 1 fully ripened avocado from Mexico, halved pitted, peeled and mashed
  • 3/4 c diced sharp white cheddar cheese (about 4 oz)
  • 1-1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 slices Italian ciabatta bread

Directions

1. In a large sauce pot, cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, in small saucepan, heat milk until hot; remove from heat, set aside. When pasta is almost cooked, combine avocado, cheese and lemon juice in blender. Gradually add hot milk and blend until smooth.

3. Drain pasta; return to sauce pot. Stir in cheese sauce. Set aside.

4. Butter two slices of ciabatta bread and grill on a panini press until warm.

5. Add pasta avocado mac to one slice of bread, top with the other slice, and press in the panini press until hot.

RUNNER UP: Fried Cheese Melt (Adapted from a Denny’s favorite)

Submitted by: Mike C. Columbus, Ohio

Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • 2 slices sourdough bread
  • 2 tsp softened butter
  • 3-4 slices of American cheese
  • 3 frozen cheese sticks
  • 1/3 c marinara sauce

Directions

1. Prepare cheese sticks accordingly to package directions. Set aside.

2. Heat a skillet to medium heat. Butter one slice of bread, and place in skillet. Cover bread with cheese.

3. Space cooked cheese sticks out over the slice of bread. Top with remaining cheese and second slice of bread. Cook on both sides until golden brown.

4. Serve with a side of marina sauce for dipping.

Contest: Your Best Grilled Cheese

your best grilled cheese contest

April is National Grilled Cheese Month! And what better way to celebrate than on 4/20, when thousands of self-proclaimed grilled cheese connoisseurs will gather in Los Angeles for the 11th annual Grilled Cheese Invitational. The contest, open to 200 amateur and professional chefs, started in 2003 as a friendly competition between friends. Since then, it has not only grown tremendously in size but helped to inspire the national grilled cheese movement, with restaurants and food trucks popping up across the country.

In honor of this upcoming event (and since I’ve yet to get to Los Angeles for it…someday!) I’m hosting my own grilled cheese contest. Tell me your favorite twist on this nostalgic sandwich. Fig, prosciutto, and brie? Pear and whiskey cheddar? Our panel of judges will declare one winner to receive a $50 gift certificate to Williams Sonoma (to load up on grilled cheese-making supplies, of course.)

Rules:

  • All entries must be submitted to michelle@alittlemorelovely.com by Tuesday, April 9 11:59pm EST. The winner will be announced Thursday, April 18.
  • Entries must include first name, last initial, city, email address, ingredients, and directions. Photo(s) recommended. The winner will be notified by email, at which time an address will be requested for gift card fulfillment.
  • Ingredients must include bread and cheese. There are no restrictions around types of bread, cheese, or additional ingredients.

Happy Grilling!

Chicks on Sticks

I’ve seen so many cute Easter recipes and ideas lately. Quite frankly though, all of them seemed like a lot of work so rather than baking cupcakes or trying my luck at cake pops, I decided to start with something pre made (Oreo cookies!) and focus my efforts on only the decorating. The process was a little messy but definitely saved me a few hours in the kitchen and yielded tasty results (plus quite a few broken cookies – ALL of which I ate.)

Scroll down for directions. Happy Easter!oreo chicks on sticks

(Oreo) Chicks on Sticks

*Inspired by these super cute chick cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 2 12 oz bags of yellow Candy Melts (available at Michael’s or baking supply stores)
  • 24 lollipop sticks
  • 1 box Double Stuf Oreos
  • 1/2 c mini chocolate chips
  • White, yellow, orange icing
  • 1 bottle yellow sanding sugar

Directions

  1. Twist the top off an Oreo cookie. Using one of the sticks, make an indent in the filling.
  2. Melt the candy melts in the microwave and stir until smooth. Dip the stick into the chocolate and press into the indentation. Put the top of the cookie back on and gently press together.
  3. Repeat with remaining cookies.
  4. Reheat the chocolate if necessary. Holding onto the stick, lower a cookie into the melted chocolate. Spoon over sides if needed to cover the cookie completely. Let remaining icing drip off.
  5. Sprinkle the yellow sugar over the cookie until the top and sides are covered, holding over plate or bowl and gently shake off excess sugar.
  6. Lay the cookie onto parchment paper to harden. Immediately push two mini chocolate chips into the chocolate, flat side up for eyes.
  7. Repeat steps 4-6 until all cookies are coated with chocolate and sugar. Allow chocolate to harden for 5-10 minutes.
  8. Using the yellow icing, pipe wings onto the side of each cookie and coat with yellow sugar. Next, pipe a triangle beak and feet onto each cookie using the orange icing. Finally, add white icing dots to each chocolate chip.
  9. Place cookies into small cellophane treat bags and tie with a festive ribbon, then arrange in a basket using floral foam and grass.

Dining Room Inspiration

With most of the first floor renovations complete at Kyle’s house, he’s put me to work decorating. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Before living on my own, I always attributed decorating to being a bit like picking out an outfit – just dressing a space instead of myself. But I’ve learned it’s a lot harder, a LOT more expensive, and something most of us don’t get to practice very often. I mean seriously, besides interior decorators, most of us probably haven’t had the means to decorate more than one or two spaces, college dorms aside, before we’re thirty. Until now, furnishing a place, for me, has consisted mainly of hand-me-downs from my parents and a few IKEA purchases here and there.

That aside, we’re having some friends over for dinner in a few weeks so I’m focusing on the dining room first. Kyle’s one rule: No re-painting walls. (Disappointing but after eight months of renovations, I suppose I see why.) So to get my own creative juices flowing inside the sage green walls and before going crazy with Kyle’s credit card, I put together some ideas:

Dining Room Inspiration

1. Mirror, Z Gallerie (or my DIY version here)  |  2. Parsons Side Chairs, Overstock.com  |  3. Chandelier, Overstock.com  |  4. Paint, Cedar Grove 444, Benjamin Moore  |  5. Rug, Pottery Barn  |  6. Table, World Market