Lovely Little Things: The Monogram Edition

Monograms aren’t just for über preps anymore, although I think we can certainly thank them for their rise in popularity over recent years. Lisa Birnbach, author of The Official Preppy Handbook, writes “Preppies have known it for years: who needs LV or YSL when you can lay claim to a discreet EBW III. Monograms symbolize ownership, telling people that we’re proud of our names and heritage. Not to mention, they add a bit of classiness to the most ordinary of things. A canvas tote? Kind of boring. A monogrammed canvas tote? A whole different story.

However, there are a few (subjective) rules before heading to the monogram shop:

Less is more. Monograms should be understated in both size and number. Your monogrammed filigree necklace should not be worn with your monogrammed Jack Rogers and your monogrammed J.Crew oxford. Pick one. Monograms should also be limited in size. Keep them small. You don’t go around shouting your first, middle, and last name to everyone you meet. Your belongings shouldn’t either.

Just because it can be monogrammed, doesn’t mean it should. Avoid monogramming the windshield of your car, a mani/pedi, or your dog’s collar. If you’re under the age of 50 and live in the Midwest, avoid the belt buckle too…by all means.

And so while, yes, there are a few don’ts to keep in mind with monogramming, here are few pieces that are definite do’s in my book.

Monograms

1. Leather Tote, Mark and Graham  |  2. Monogrammed Sunglasses, The Pink Monogram  |  3. Greek Key Monogrammed Note Set, Design Darling  |  4. Monogrammed Vase, Maid of Clay  |  5. Monogrammed Lamp Shade, Shades of Light  |  6. Coasters, Haymarket Designs

 

Mirror Makeover

My boyfriend, Kyle, is finishing up some renovations to his house and asked me to help decorate. I was lusting after a silvery quatrefoil mirror from Z Gallerie; price tag = $499 (+$50 delivery and processing). While I swore there was no piece more perfect for the dining room wall than this mirror, there was just no way…

Z Gallerie Quatrefoil Mirror,

Z Gallerie Quatrefoil Mirror, $499

So when I ran across a similar mirror in black at Hobby Lobby for $70 on sale for 50% off, I was clearly ecstatic. A couple coats of paint and I had my dream mirror for a total investment of under $50.

Materials and instructions below.

Mirror Makeover

Materials:

  • Quatrefoil mirror, available at Hobby Lobby (in store only) or Lowes
  • Metallic paint
  • Primer
  • Scouring pad
  • Brush (I used a bristle paint brush; use a foam brush for a smoother finish)
  • Razor blade (or painter’s tape; however, if your mirror has rounded corners, it may be easier to scrape any paint off with a razor blade once the paint has dried)

Directions:

  1. Scuff surface with scouring pad.
  2. Prime and paint the frame according to can or bottle instructions.
  3. Let frame dry overnight.
  4. Use a razor blade to scrape any dried paint off the mirror (or remove tape).
  5. Voila! You’re done. Hang the mirror and enjoy.

Snowed In

I flew into Chicago yesterday for work and no sooner had I stepped off the plane when my phone rang with an automated call from the airline to inform me that my returning flight for today was cancelled due to several inches of snow and ice that were expected to hit the city.

While my initial reaction was frustration, I have to admit it was nice heading back to the hotel today after several hours of meetings instead of rushing to get to the airport in time for my flight. If I were flying home tonight as planned, my evening would be spent unpacking, going to the gym (maybe…), and getting organized to head back to the office tomorrow. I can honestly say that sometimes it’s nice being forced into situations like this. It’s a chance to take a break and enjoy some down time for a night.  (It doesn’t hurt that the hotel just sent a complimentary cheese tray up to my room for programming my room keys incorrectly). The snow is really coming down and I’m looking forward to a cozy evening in my room with some TV, room service, and a glass of wine. Chicago SnowImage: Flickr, swanksalot

Mozzarella Pesto Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese, without a doubt, is my favorite food. Imagine my excitement when my beloved sandwich gained popularity a few years ago! Now, with gourmet grilled cheese restaurants in nearly every city, food trucks, even competitive eating contests – my days of shamefully requesting a children’s menu at restaurants to get my fix are gone.

The grilled cheese craze has spurred creations such as grilled mac and cheese, a grilled cheese donut, even buffalo chicken grilled cheese. And while I might not be as adventurous in my love of grilled cheese as some, this new found popularly had inspired me to step outside my comfort zone and experiment with combinations such as apple with sharp cheddar and brie layered with fig jam. Most recently, I tried a mozzarella pesto combination that is sure to make many repeat appearances on my menu. Paired with a bowl of steaming tomato soup, it’s a grown up version of a classic that’s the perfect treat for a cozy night in.

Recipe below.

Mozzarella Pesto Grilled Cheese

Makes 1 sandwich

Ingredients

  • Crusty Italian bread (I used a Ready to Bake Tuscan bread)
  • 2 tbsp of pesto
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • Fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • Prepared tomato soup

Directions

  1. Preheat skillet over medium heat. Generously butter both sides of each slide of bread and lay into skillet. Grill one side until lightly browned.
  2. Flip both slices over in skillet. Place cheese on one slice; spread pesto on the other. Grill until lightly browned and cheese is melted. Place slice of bread with pesto face down on sandwich.
  3. Remove from heat, cut into halves, and serve with tomato soup. Enjoy!

I Love Your Style: Kristina

Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope your day is filled with the people you love most (and plenty of chocolate).

I’m back with a third segment of I Love Your Style featuring Kristina. I met Kristina our first day of class in college where I immediately envied her faint southern twang and laid back attitude courtesy of her Kentucky roots. But as I’ve grown to know Kristina better over the past several years, it’s her beauty, charm and style that make her stand out as a southern belle. As soon as I began thinking about starting my blog, I knew I had to feature her.

Kristina is one of those lucky few who can pull off a variety of looks very well – glam, casual, preppy – based on the occasion. From a fur-lined coat and curls for brunch (below), a pair of ballet flats and a scarf for weekend errands, or a wide-brimmed hat and sundress for that oh-so-famous Kentucky horse race, she looks natural and well put together in any situation.

No matter what look she’s going for though, there’s one thing she’s never seen without: her llama necklace, a sentimental gift from her boyfriend.

KristinaCoat: Victoria’s Secret  | Dress: Victoria’s Secret  |  Booties: Steve Madden (Sold out but similar here)  |  Necklace: Madewell  |  Bag: Louis Vuitton 

A New {Old} Valentine’s Tradition

When I was growing up, my dad put together a Valentine’s day scavenger hunt around our house every year for my sister and me. He would give us each a bag and a piece of paper containing our first of many clues and sent us on our way. The clues were always rhymes, which I loved, telling us something about the gift and then giving us a hint as to where we would find our next clue, leading us to places such as the lint trap in the dryer or the back seat of my mom’s minivan in the garage. This tradition made Valentine’s Day a favorite holiday in our house, one that we begged our dad to keep doing year after year (along with Easter egg hunts) until we were practically adults.

Because this tradition was so special to me, I decided to create my own scavenger hunt last year for my boyfriend, Kyle. I bought small gifts that I knew he liked (trail mix, Almond Joys, Kentucky Bourbon Ale, etc.) and then wrote short clues to accompany each gift. For his first gift, I hid the following clue with a bottle of Kentucky Bourbon Ale:

Enjoy a bottle of one of your favorite brews;  find your next clue in an old pair of shoes.          

I then tucked an Almond Joy and Mounds bar into a old pair of shoes in his closet with the following clue, leading him to his suitcase.

Coconut and chocolate is a delicious combination; your next clue is in something you take on  vacation.

And so forth. (I had 8 clues and gifts total.) His last clue led him to a dozen homemade (by me!) cream-cheese filled red velvet cupcakes and a card. The scavenger hunt marked Valentine’s Day a success – Kyle enjoyed the unique spin on gifts and I think I had just as much fun as he did recreating a tradition from my childhood.

Here are some ideas for creating your own scavenger hunt for someone special this Valentine’s Day –

Valentines Scavenger Hunt

1. Reese’s Peanut Butter Hearts, candy stores  |  2. Ted, Amazon.com  |  Kate Spade ‘Two of a Kind’ glasses, Nordstrom.com  |  4. Modern House Wines, swansonvineyards.com  |  5. Kentucky Bourbon Ale, most supermarkets  |  6. Chipotle gift card, chipotle.com  |  7. Floating heart boxers, jcrew.com

A Lovely Evening

Thursday evening, Katie and I attended a benefit for the Literacy Network, an organization I became involved with shortly after moving to Cincinnati six years ago.  The event, Handbags for Hope, was absolutely lovely – a ladies night out featuring a live and silent auction of designer and casual handbags, raffles, cocktails, food and entertainment. The event was held at The Cincinnati Club, a historic building downtown, where the elegant European-style rooms and decor were the perfect setting for an evening of style and substance.

The live auction included several designer handbags. Katie and I each had our eye on a (different) Kate Spade bag but the bags both went for more than either of us wanted to pay. The less expensive handbags were featured in the silent auction, many replica pieces as well as a Coach corner.  Even though we didn’t win, the competitive streak in both of us enjoyed the bidding.

We’d hoped to fare better in the raffles, buying tickets for a chance to win a Caribbean cruise, a Coach purse, and weekend Jaguar rental. My favorite though was the raffle hosted by a popular local bakery, Abby Girl Sweets. Instead of raffle tickets, guests bought cupcakes. The cupcakes were brought to our tables later in the evening where everyone took their first bite in unison. The winner was identified by hot pink filling inside her cupcake and then given her pick of diamond baubles from a local jeweler. No hot pink filling for me but I couldn’t complain – the red velvet cupcake was delicious. Definitely the sweetest raffle I’ve ever participated in!

The event raised $30,000 for the organization, 50% higher than last year’s total. While the event itself was lovely, knowing how the proceeds would benefit the organization and those struggling with basic literacy skills made the night even more meaningful.

Some highlights from the evening –

hand painted martini glasses

Handbags for Hope hand-painted martini glass

cupcakes

A tower of sweets

coach bag

I had my eye on this one

Bidding

The bidding begins!

cupcake

Hoping for the winning cupcake…

Super Bowl Snack: Mac and Beer Cheese Cups

I don’t watch the Super Bowl for the football. I don’t even watch it for the commercials. (By the second quarter, they’re all repeats.) Let’s face it, I watch it for the food. Pizza, beer, queso, potato skins – all in one sitting. Sure, I might indulge in a slice or two of pizza on a Friday night or share a bowl of queso at a Mexican restaurant but what other day of the year is it socially acceptable to pig out on all of these delicious delicacies in the same meal?

Naturally, I’ve put a lot of thought into what I’ll be feasting on during this year’s big game. My stomach immediately started growling when I ran across this recipe for macaroni and beer cheese. I tweaked the recipe a bit and then decided to bake snack-sized portions using a muffin tin. The result was delicious – rich and cheesy, infused with a slight malty flavor from the beer. This game-day twist on classic comfort food is definitely on the menu for Sunday’s festivities.

My adaptation of the recipe below.

Untitled

Serves 12

*Ingredients and steps 1, 2, 4, 6 adapted from livelovepasta.

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ c elbow macaroni
  • 10 oz grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz grated gouda cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 8 oz milk
  • 8 oz amber beer
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • pinch of chili powder
  • pinch of black pepper
  • ½ c Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 c grated Romano cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 ° F.
  2. Prepare water for pasta and boil according to package directions. Strain, return to pan, and remove from heat.
  3. Line a standard muffin tin with cupcake liners. If using foil liners, one should be enough. If using paper liners, use two.
  4. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over high heat. Whisk in flour to create a roux and cook about 2 minutes, until golden and bubbly. Add milk and beer into saucepan whisking constantly, then add gouda and cheddar cheeses and stir until melted. Reduce heat continue to stir until mixture thickens. Add pepper, paprika and nutmeg.
  5. Pour cheese over pasta, mixing until completely covered. Spoon macaroni and cheese into muffin tins.
  6. Top with Panko bread crumbs, pepper, and Romano cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden on top.

New York City

My sister, Suzanne, and I had a truly amazing girls’ weekend in New York City! We went for the surprise birthday party of one of our friends from college, Monica. The party was Friday night and definitely the highlight of the weekend. The birthday girl was thrilled to see everyone; she even started crying when she realized that so many of her out-of-town friends had made the journey. The rest of the weekend was filled with sightseeing, shopping, new friends, and great food. Here are some of my favorites from the trip –

The Vault at Pfaff’s – The surprise party was at The Vault at Pfaff’s in Greenwich Village. Originally a 19th century beer cellar made famous by Mark Twain and Walt Whitman, the re-imagined speakeasy is dark and intimate, with beautiful vintage décor, corset-laced waitresses and menus printed on newspapers. The cocktail names even pay homage to the 1850’s artistic culture of the city – Leaves of Grass, Bohemian, Smoking Revolver. I was easily transported into history…that is, until my bill came.  Definitely worth it though!

The Park – We ventured over to Chelsea on Saturday night for a late dinner at The Park.  Described as ingredient-based Mediterranean, the cuisine seemed more American to me but delicious, nonetheless. (I ordered potato gnocchi with arugula, pancetta, and pecorino.) While the food was great, the ambiance of the restaurant was even better. We sat in the Garden Room, which was a patio (covered in the winter) full of Japanese maple tress decorated with tiny orange lights and bird feeders. It all felt very New York.

Magnolia Bakery – Suzanne and I went on a bit of a cupcake binge, going to three different cupcakes shops in three days.  And while my sister would argue that Sprinkles was the best (although not truly a New York bakery) I thought Magnolia Bakery took the cake (get it?) The classic buttercream frosting that made the bakery a tourist mecca is to die for. I’d skip the red velvet next time though – without any cream cheese frosting, it clearly lacked the calories I was looking for.

Bloomingdale’s – From the first time I ever set foot in a Bloomingdale’s, I was in love. (The absence of Bloomingdale stores in Ohio has only made my heart grow fonder.) And the flagship store on Third Avenue is certainly worth the trip. I could spend all day browsing the displays of brightly colored baubles, handbags, and designer pieces (that I can’t afford). In terms of what I can afford – I adore the Aqua line, exclusive to Bloomingdale’s. The pieces are well made and reasonably priced.  My sister and I spent a few glorious hours there shortly after we arrived in the city on Friday. I didn’t end up buying anything – I wasn’t quite ready to indulge myself in the spring pieces when it was below 20 degrees outside but Suzanne got a gorgeous lime-colored Yumi Kim top that I most definitely will be borrowing.

Despite all of the celebrating, fun, and food, what really made my weekend was experiencing it all with my sister. We only live two hours apart, but our schedules don’t allow many visits, and it’s rarely just the two of us. This weekend gave us a much needed opportunity to spend some quality time and catch up. And even though our bank accounts are suffering the effects of the weekend, the sisterly bonding time was priceless.

Vault at Pfaff's

Vintage newspaper menu at the Vault at Pfaff’s

Cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery

Cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery

sisters

Suzanne (left) in her new shirt (!) and me at Pfaff’s

Ice skaters at Rockefeller Center

Ice skaters at Rockefeller Center

Girls’ Weekend

Short post today as I’m getting ready to head out for a girls’ weekend with my twin sister, Suzanne! She got married this summer (to a terrific guy) and still lives in Columbus so I don’t see her nearly as often as I’d like. Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to spending some quality time with her, as well as some of our other friends, this weekend. I’ll fill you in on the details, including our destination, when we return. Have a fabulous weekend!