Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Maraschino Cherry Fudge Brownies

Happy New Year!

I actually can't take credit for these brownies. My co-worker and friend, Jamie (who you've all read about before!), gave me a great cookbook for Christmas. It's called The Cookie Bible and though it is mostly awesome cookie recipes, it has some brownies and bars in it as well. I spotted this super easy brownie recipe and knew I'd have to make it for the holiday season. 

I ended up bringing them to my parents' house on Christmas Day. We always order piles and piles of Italian cookies from our favorite Italian bakery but we also needed something to put candles in to sing Happy Birthday to Cody and my grandmother. Yep, there two Christmas babies in my family!

I knew these brownies would be two things: easy and delicious. It's really just a brownie mix kicked up a notch with maraschino cherries and some yogurt. How can it get easier than that??

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Most ~Perfetto~ Italian Christmas Dress!


I know Christmas has come and gone and everyone has already taken down their stockings, lights, and trees but I am just not ready to see it go! It comes so fast and then - BOOM - it's gone. It's my favorite time of the year and this year, I feel like I got the shit end of the stick since I got sick two weeks before Christmas and it was one of those awful colds that JUST DON'T LET GO!

Oh well. I can't be bitter. I thankfully started to feel better the weekend before Christmas so I guess I can't be too upset. Still, I missed a couple parties and was just not as into the spirit as I usually am due to feeling so terrible. Ugh!

To make up for it, I am posting about this year's Christmas dress!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Memories in the Palm of Your Hand: Casetify!

So I love Casetify. What's Casetify? Well, it's a pretty rockin' place to customize cases for your phones, tablets, etc - WITH YOUR OWN PHOTOS! You can cover your iPhone/Android/whatever with your own photos or, if you're not photo-savvy, you can choose a funky layout they have created in their galleries. Not only are you protecting your device, you get to carry around your photos and memories. It's like a travel size photo album!

My new case for my new iPhone 6 with memories from 2014!
I LOVE that idea. I take a lot of photos (duh) and am an avid Instagrammer and love having them on display wherever I can. In my old apartment, I had a photo wall, which I covered in framed snapshots. That got to be too much. It's hard to display all your memories on your walls - so how about on your phone?

So, I started making Casetify cases for my phone (when I discovered them a year ago they were called Casetagram). I made one last year that included my favorite snapshots from the year. I decided to do it again this year as I eagerly awaited the delivery of my iPhone 6 (it FINALLY arrived over 3 weeks after ordering - phew! Talk about anticipation!).

Then I thought of something even BETTER. I knew I loved Casetify - I bet others would, too! I decided to make a bunch of my friends and loved ones a case for Christmas. Last year, I had made Red one for her birthday and she loved it. This year, I decided both my sisters and Cody's mom deserved one as well!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Purple Power!

What else could make me feel better when stuck with a never ending cough and stuffy nose but a beautiful new (to me) vintage dress? NOTHING else, that's what!

I got stuck with what people apparently call Travel Flu a couple weeks back. I traveled to Las Vegas (again, I know!) the first week of December for a conference EMC had a booth sponsorship with and upon my return got very sick! It was no fun! I had to cancel some of my holiday festivities and zombie'd my way through the others.

After being home sick for 2 1/2 days, wasting a perfectly good weekend on the couch with my tissues and chicken soup, and feeling oh-so-gross without being to the gym or yoga in 2 weeks (1 week due to traveling, 2nd due to sickness - yay!), I started to feel better.

I made it back into the office the following Monday and knew just what to wear to make me feel back to my normal self - my latest purchase from Capsule Vintage!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Super Easy Baby Weenies (aka Pigs in a Blanket)

If you're anything like me, you love and appreciate an easy recipe. Especially when I am hosting - from a typical Friday night hangout to a whopping dinner party - I look for easy, simple, time-saving recipes and ideas so that I can spend minimal time in the kitchen (getting frustrated with myself in the process) and more time with my guests (also more time EATING the food I just made).

With next week being Christmas (SO EXCITED!), I thought I'd share one of my go-to appetizers to make your parties a hit without all the time and effort! Pigs in a blanket are small, flaky, delicious, and perfect as a finger food or as a starter for your guests to munch on before the main course.

Whenever I see the dreaded "bring whatever you want!" on an invite to a party, I typically stick to one or two things: some kind of dip or these baby weenies!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I Want to Work for QVC: Gourmet Holiday

Have you guys ever watched an episode of Gourmet Holiday on the QVC? Now, I know QVC is known for their corny fashion shows catered to the stay-at-home moms and housewives of the world but have you ever tuned into the food side of QVC?

Well, I have.

I'm hooked.

Many a night this holiday season, Cody has come home to find me watching Gourmet Holiday. He just looks at the TV then back at me and asks, "Really, Sara? Really?"

I can't help it, you guys! I flip through the channels, pause when I see food, and suddenly I am sucked in! Even more so, I want their job.

Monday, December 15, 2014

14 from '14: My Top 14 from 2014

Like most people around me, I cannot believe it's December and that the year is already coming to a close. 2014 is over? Whaaaaat? This has definitely been one of the fastest passing years but as we all come to know, time moves faster and faster every year we get older. It's just a crazy concept to me. Some days it feels like we just got summer back and now we're prepping for Christmas. I don't mind that - this is my favorite time of year!

What I want to do today is highlight 14 of my favoite finds/moments/experiences/items from 2014 - get it? The 14 from '14? Sorry, that was my attempt at being clever.

They're in no particular order (no playing favorites now!) and some may be repetitive to other blog posts so I apologize in advance if you're thinking "OKAY SARA, WE GET IT!" with some of them. So without further ado, let's get this party started!

1. EMC World in Las Vegas, May 5-8
This trip was full of so many firsts for me. The only other time I have been on an airplane was when I was 7 so going to Vegas for this work event was CRAZY. Luckily, Cody came along. EMC employees usually bring spouses to Vegas for our annual conference. While we work, they get to play, but hey, it's a free hotel stay for them so why not? Cody had so much fun exploring (he sent me constant selfies on his adventures while I was stuck working our booth) and I learned SO MUCH. I conquered a lot of fears and was very proud of myself for accomplishing the whole thing: the airplane, embracing a new place and experience, all of it! Cody and I had a great time together as well. I did work for most of it but we explored at night. We are definitely looking forward to the next EMC World in 2015!

2. One Pot Pastas (aka Wonderpots)
One thing I made a lot of this year were one pot pastas. TELL ME you've heard about this concept. Google it and you can probably find a plethora of recipes. Basically, a one pot pasta is a recipe that makes it possible to cook EVERYTHING together in one pot: the pasta, the sauce, the add-ins, all of it. Insanity, right? I've made all kinds of one pot pastas: Italian, Alfredo, primavera, lo mein, chili mac, taco pasta, scampi, all the pasta you can name! I originally discovered the idea of a one pot pasta on BuzzFeed. They listed 21 recipes and I think I have made about half of them by now. They're just so easy and convenient and most only take 30 minutes, which makes weeknight meals super simple!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Our First Christmas Tree

Although this will be Cody's and my 4th Christmas together, it is our 1st holiday season living together. Shit, that seems crazy to think! 4 Christmas seasons? Holy Moses. I know that is small potatoes to some but that feels like such a long time!

Since moving in together this fall, one of the things I was super excited about was getting a Christmas tree and getting to decorate it with our own ornaments and memories. Other than my family trees growing up, I have never actually gotten a Christmas tree for myself. I've always either lived in too tiny of an apartment or been so busy that it seemed pointless to invest in a tree and ornaments. It is also the first for Cody. So we have been pretty excited about it (not so much about the whopping Target charge after we picked out a bunch of ornaments, garland, stockings, and decoration though!).

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies

Not sure about you, but to me, it is insane that it's already December! I feel like we all have a moment of disbelief when another month goes by quicker than the last but, I mean, my pumpkins are still on my front steps, alive and well. I pass them everyday and think that I should probably get rid of them but they're still there. Not sure what's holding me back. Is it just laziness? Or the sadness of saying goodbye to the fall? Hmm...

It's just WEIRD to be done with fall and into winter. Goodbye pumpkins, falling leaves, Thanksgiving, and apple cider! Hello gingerbread, snow, icy roads, and Christmas!

Don't get me wrong, I am PUMPED for Christmas and all that comes with it. A part of me is still clinging to that fall feeling, though. Feelings aside, my pantry is still in fall mode. I've still got a container of pumpkin pie spice, a bag of pumpkin spice chips, half a jug of apple cider (hmm, that should probably be tossed, now that I think of it...), and I bet there's still a can of pumpkin puree in there somewhere. What am I supposed to do with all those fall ingredients?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sara the Snowman Had a Very Jolly Soul!

Every year, EMC gets into the holiday spirit by giving to those in need. Every quarter my company sponsors a charitable activity (Charity Water in the summer, food drive in the fall, etc.) but my favorite one comes in the winter for the holidays - the Snowman Drive.

What's a Snowman Drive? Well, my friends, it's a way of bringing gifts to children in the area. Social workers provide EMC essentially with kids' wishlists and EMC employees play the role of Santa Claus. They print each child's name, age, clothing and shoe size down on a card along with some items they want for the holidays and the employees take as many as they want to shop for.

Wait - so I can shop AND do it for a great cause? Yes, please!

In my two winters with EMC I have taken two cards for each drive. Last year I shopped for a little girl and a little boy. This year, I selected two little girls - a two year old and a six year old. I tend to prefer selecting girls since I love buying feminine clothes, Barbie dolls, and all things girlie but it was fun picking out race cars and sneakers last year for the little boy I had as well.

Then comes the challenge - where can I go shopping for these little ladies? I wanted to get them AWESOME clothes that would be fashionable but would last them awhile. I also wanted to get a good deal and get more for my money. Hmm. Where oh where could I go? Does this kind of place exist in real life?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Old & the New: Why I Love Retro/Contemporary Style

If you've seen any of my previous blog posts or follow me on Instagram, you'd know that I love all things retro, vibrant, vintage, funky, quirky, feminine, and novelty print. I wouldn't say I am a total vintage lass or pinup baberoni but I'm definitely not a totally modern gal either. I'd like to think I combine the above to some sort of retro/contemporary style.

I love finding true vintage items and pretending I'm in a different decade, but even just ONE item that has vintage touches to it works for me. I just like unique items - a dress covered in cheeseburgers (someone design this STAT), a sweater with big cartoon buttons, shoes made to look like ice cream cones, shirts with a big bow on the collar, big voluminous skirts that will fit a petticoat underneath, you get the picture. With all this in mind, it can be a lot of fun to mix it all together. Throw in something old and throw in something new! It's like baking - only with your wardrobe!

I've got this thing with food, it seems - I wear food, I buy miniature food items like charms, magnets, or buttons, and now I'm make food/wardrobe analogies. Hmm...

I have collected quite a few old concert tees over the years. Real, vintage, falling apart tees taken out of my parents' attic - thanks for being slightly hoarder-ific, mom and pops! My dad was a scrawny thing when he was a young adult (thankfully for me!) and his old shirts fit me perfectly (I also have his old leather jacket!). I am pretty much my mother when she was my age (this becomes more true everyday!!) so hers fit me quite well also! I love throwing on one of these tees on the weekend with jeans and sneakers but the BEST is when I wear one of my tees and I style it with one of my louder skirts (with a petticoat, of course). Talk about a killer combo!

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!!

Oh, trust me. I know how cliché that title is. I can’t help it – I really am in my happy place between September and December. Once Halloween hits, stand back. I am in full-fledged Holiday prep mode! So much so that this year, I went and bought my Christmas tree at Home Depot on November 2nd.

I was informed immediately that it could NOT go up but that I could go ahead and get it. So it’s been sitting in our garage, weeping quietly inside its box.


But I cannot. I promised Cody I would hold back until December 6. It hurts a bit since growing up, we’d go get our tree on Black Friday and would spend the Thanksgiving weekend eating leftover pie for breakfast and trimming our tree to the tune of Mariah Carey’s Christmas album (is there any other holiday album worth playing? Let’s be honest…).  I don’t get why he is so against Christmas. His Birthday is on Christmas! Yep! Cody was born on Christmas Day. Although, maybe that’s WHY he’s being a Scrooge?

I know a lot of people hate my kind but I’m sorry, I just LOVE the holiday season. I get that it gets obnoxious for those who don’t particularly enjoy the season (cough GRINCHES cough) but it’s just a magical time of year.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Friendsgiving 2014

Last year, someone brought up the idea of having a Friendsgiving of our own. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, Friendsgiving is basically Thanksgiving only with friends. No family allowed! OK, that's a bit much, but you get the idea. For Cody and me, our friends are our family (well, our second family anyway) so we knew we wanted to host one. Then came the question of WHERE we'd have it.

We couldn't host last year due to our living arrangement (I was still renting 1BR apartments and he still lived in his tiny cottage that barely fit a futon in its living room) but we knew once someone had a big enough space, we'd have Friendsgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What I am Thankful For this Year

The thought of reciting what I am thankful for over dinner on Thanksgiving makes me want to gag. I know, I’ve got a cold heart. I just don’t care much for that kind of tradition on the holiday. I do understand and appreciate its purpose, though, so I thought I’d compile a list of what I am thankful for here, in my mini blogosphere.

I’ve written before about change and how it gives me anxiety but I am also amazed at how much change happens in a year. In the past 3-4 Thanksgivings, I have been in so many different places in life – literally, physically, and emotionally. It’s crazy when I think back to last Thanksgiving and then the year before and then the crazy heartbreaking one before that. How is it that so many life-changing events occur for me at this time every year? Oi vei!

I have learned a lot. A LOT. My heart was put through the ringer one year but then fluttering with excitement the next. How does life do that? WHAT IS THE MEANING OF IT ALL? We’ll never know.

That doesn’t matter, though. The why and how don’t mean a thing – it’s making sure we just appreciate what we have and being thankful for everything.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here is my list of what I am thankful for. Though it may be cliché (friends, family, etc.), it truly is what I cherish and what I appreciate having every day!

Monday, November 24, 2014

What's Sara Reading?: November Edition

Greetings from my reading nook! I don't really have a reading nook, but man, how cool would that be? Do you have an actual reading nook? And NO, I do NOT mean the electronic device. Sorry. Electronic readers are a sore spot for me. I prefer a real, live, actual, BOOK.

This is my second edition of "What's Sara Reading?" and I'm thinking this will be a fun monthly topic. Maybe not every month (these days I do not go through books fast enough) but certainly every quarter. Too business-y for you? Sorry.

I used to eat books like snacks. Sigh. Not literally. Jeeze, I can't win today. Starting in middle school, I absolutely fell in love with books. Mom and I would go to the library every two weeks to load up. I would leave there with a stack of 5-8 books (not even kidding!) and I'd devour them in that 2 week period (still not kidding!). This was also when I started writing so the two went hand in hand. The more I read, the more I wrote. The more I wrote, the more I read. I was hooked.

I just loved (and still love) getting SUCKED IN by a story, getting to know a character so well it ached when it was all over, and just falling in love with the words on the pages. Anyone else relate? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Cranberry Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

My dad makes a mean oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. In fact, he was always the "cookie guy" growing up. He'd often take the first day of school and last day of school off from work and we'd always come home to cookies waiting for us. Granted, they were frozen Mrs. Fields cookies but we LOVED them.

Whenever my high school A Capella Choir had a cabaret (which was held in the cafeteria for some reason), we all brought goodies and drinks for our audience to enjoy. Whenever this happened, the entire group requested my dad's oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. He sort of became famous for them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bruce! Bruce Will Keep Us Together!

Baby, we were born to ruuuuuuunnnnn!
I've been thinking about family lately. Maybe it's because Thanksgiving is right around the corner (gobble gobble what what?). It is the mother of all family holidays, after all.
Anyway, family. I know when I think of my family, I think of music. Do you play word association with your family? Seriously, though, I think of music when I think about my family. We're all music lovers. Growing up, my house was always full of music whether it was my mother playing Mariah Carey while we cleaned, baked, or decorated the tree (Always Be My Baby and All I Want for Christmas were the soundtrack of my childhood) or my father playing DJ after dinner (every night, like clockwork, he'd retire to the living room, load up discs into his 6 CD playing stereo and get the party started with Elton John, Billy Joel, Crash Test Dummies, Bruce Springsteen, Blind Melon, The Counting Crows, Stevie Wonder, and more - I know, eclectic taste, right?). 

This continued up until - wait, actually, it's continuING. What am I saying? It's still a major part of my family! My dad still plays DJ, my mom still gets that Mariah album on when we're decorating the tree, and my sisters and I are all extremely close with music. I've been singing since I was little but I also just have a great connection with music - it's wherever I go: the car, in my cube at work, when I take a shower, when I write, when I bake, everywhere! 

I love music that is sentimental (anytime I hear the songs I linked above, I get emotional thinking of my parents) and I love music that moves me. I love music I can relate to and I love music that packs a punch and hits you in the feels. It can be creepy when it happens, but I love music that takes you RIGHT back to a different time and place and you're so there that you smell whatever you smelled in that memory and can see what you saw then.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Discover New Blogs: The Liebster Awards

I was giddy and honored to see that Amanda over at Sans Scrubs nominated me to participate in the Liebster Awards! What are the Liebster Awards, you ask? Well I certainly had that question as well (being a bit new to the blogosphere)! The Liebster Awards is a way of getting to know your blogger friends or meet new blogger friends - like a fun summer camp game around the campfire. Kumbaya! 

That aside, there are some rules (don't worry, they're fun) and then there are some questions! The questions I am answering below were provided to me by my nominator, Amanda. How fun is this? 

The Rules!
1) Acknowledge the blog who nominated you 
2) Answer the 11 questions given to you from the blogger 
3) Give 11 random facts about yourself 
4) Nominate 11 blogs you think are deserving of the award (less than 200 followers) 
5) Let the bloggers know that you have nominated them 
6) Give 11 questions for them to answer 
7) Display the award photo in your post

My Questions!
1. What inspired you to start writing/blogging? 
I've been writing since I was in the 7th grade - I am talking full length novels! Yeah, I had no life. Then when I went to college and then started working, I wrote less and less and less. I hated it! I had written a blog before but it was more of a journal. I decided a couple months ago to start a new one in hopes to keep some type of writing in my life. I am loving it so far! Though I tend to blog about fashion, books, and food I make, it's a lifestyle blog, for sure.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Change Is Hard, I Should Know...

Any She & Him fans out there? No? Maybe? Well, if you don't know about She & Him, you need to. They're amazing. The band is a duo - Zooey Deschanel, who I admire and adore, and M. Ward, one apically awesome guitarist/songwriter. He is one of those musicians where if I hear him playing, I know immediately that it's him.

That's not the point of this blog post, though I immediately thought of their song when contemplating what to write, hence the title. It's such a good song and I love singing along to it when showering or driving. Another side note - showers and cars are the BEST performance spaces.

The only thing constant is change!
I wanted to sit you down, my children, and talk about change. Just the word makes me cringe. I don't know if you harbor the same bad vibes, but for me, change is tough. It's just brutal. I normally avoid change and cling to my routines with all of my being when I am able to (just ask Cody!).

Just a change in my morning schedule can throw me through a loop. For example, today I had an early call with a rep in Spain - meaning I had to get up earlier than I normally do so I could get to work by 7:30am. This change caused me to wake up almost every hour in anticipation of my earlier alarm!

Do you feel that way about change? Needless to say, it causes a lot of anxiety for me.

Recently, there's been a LOT of change that has been out of my control (another thing that makes me tick - when I am out of control of things. I know, control freak, right? I know it!) and while not all of it is bad (actually, hardly any of it is bad), it still takes a toll on my introverted delicate mind. Change is a lot of adjustment and it usually requires a lot of work. I tend to get overwhelmed - even if I know and prepare myself for the change, I am bound to feel overwhelmed and in need of a good cry.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Best Fall Treat That Can't Be Beat: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

I've been baking for years (if we really want to be specific, I've been baking almost all my life. Some of my best memories are standing on a kitchen chair that I pushed up to the counter so I could help my mom bake). In all these years, I've made a little bit of everything - with some succeeding and some failing. I tend to make things once without really considering making them again - which is why having a cookbook for me is POINTLESS. I never really think to open them!

Anyway, throughout my travels in the kitchen, I have definitely had my MEH moments but then there were the THIS IS AWESOME moments as well. I've collected a few foolproof goodies in my day that either rocked to make or rocked upon eating (I tend to use Cody's co-workers as my own personal taste testers - software engineers will eat anything but they also will tell you the truth about what it is they are eating) and will make them routinely since they just work. There are also items I turn to every year or every time I am invited somewhere and feel the need to bring treats.

So, what is one example of this? My pumpkin chocolate chip muffins! They are ridiculously easy to make, surprisingly simple, and pretty much scream fall when you shove them in your mouth. Sorry, not sorry, because that is what you'll want to do when they come out of the oven.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What's Sara Reading? (Funny Lady Memoir Edition)

One of the things I want to include in this blog is the occasional "What's Sara Reading?" roundup, where I write up my top 5 or so books that I've read and loved recently. Hopefully that isn't boring for everyone. Anyway, I have so many favorites on my book shelf from this year and last year I decided to start the series with a themed collection.

Calling all comediennes! In the past few years I've gravitated toward memoirs. I used to HATE non-fiction and memoirs. I've always been a fiction lover. I am actually very picky with my reading. I do not like fantasy or any kind of science fiction. I prefer stories that I can relate to or stories that are realistic and true to life. I used to be a strict YA reader (even when I was an adult!) but now it varies.

Lately though, my tastes have been changing. Now, I love me some funny gal writers who can make fun of themselves and share their amusing interactions and experiences in a book.

So without further ado, here are my 5 Favorite Funny Gal Titles thus far!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Finding a Diamond in the Rough: My (Awesome) eBay Experiences

I've always heard about eBay and it's wonderful-ness but never really considered it...until recent. As I have gotten more and more addicted to finding awesome vintage and vintage-style frocks, I have also gotten more and more curious into venues of finding them. Etsy was one (and through there I have found so many cute shops, some of which I feature here on the blog!).

Well now eBay is just one of my stops in the online shopping world. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not going bid crazy on every little thing just for the thrill of it, but I have found that every so often, you can really find a gem on eBay. 

Let me tell you, I never thought I'd be the person sitting at her PC while the last minute of an auction counted down, upping my highest bid because SOMEONE is DARING enough to outbid me in the last 30 seconds. OH I DON'T THINK SO, SIR!

One of my biggest successes on eBay has been with one of my favorite designers, Bernie Dexter. While I adore so much about her - the fit of her dresses, the quality, the quirky styles, the retro vibe - the prices of these darling items give me an anxiety attack.

Sometimes she has a sale on her website but it's never for very much - although, I did manage to grab one of her last two Paris short-sleeve blouses for $25, which rocked my socks. 

Then I discovered something fantastic - Bernie has an eBay page! I danced, I sang, I frolicked in the prairie - then I started bidding.  Bernie rocks eBay. She puts up a handful of items at a time. They're usually either samples or the "last one" and she starts most bids at a measly $55! Usually, that is not where the end price stays but it's a fabulous start.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

My two other halves

Happy Happy Halloween! Or if you're not so into Halloween - Happy Friday! See? There's always something to celebrate.

Halloween is a pretty cool holiday. It's not my top favorite (that's Christmas!!!!) but it is definitely in my top 5. Why? Well, lots of reasons! It kicks off the holiday season with a bang (Candy? Costumes? Cute kids in costumes?), you get to play dress up as an adult and it's acceptable, and you hopefully get to go to some parties!

OOOO! Quick joke! What comes before part B? Partaaaaaaaaayyyyyy!

Sorry. Actually, no I'm not, and those jokes aren't going anywhere. I am full of them!

Back to what I was saying - so Halloween usually comes with parties. Awesome parties! I never liked parties but now, as an adult, I have definitely gotten into CERTAIN parties. I love to host parties of the Birthday or dinner variety, and attending Halloween parties is certainly fun as well. These days, we tend to hit up the same parties.

My co-worker and close friend, Jamie, LOVES Halloween. She is the Halloween Queen to my Christmas Cookie. She throws a Halloween bash every year and when I say bash, I mean BASH! Now, I don't mean the parties rage on until the sun comes up (although, sometimes we're there pretty darn late!) or that the house gets so packed you can barely move. But Jamie has collected the solid group of awesome people and we all show up on Halloween to have a great time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Beautifully Bewitched: Engagement Session in Salem, MA!

This engagement session became one of my most fun and favorite session for a couple reasons - one was because we spent the day wandering around Salem, MA but also because the lovely lady in front of my camera was my cousin, Rachel! When she called me up to see if I would take her engagement photos with her now fiance, Cory, I immediately said, "yes, please!" I thought this would make a fitting blog as Halloween is this week!

First we headed to their alma mater, Salem State University, where they first met. I had been to the Salem State campus once before when looking at potential schools for my sister but definitely didn't get to see the spots Rachel and Cory haunted and wanted to revisit! We had a lot of fun using some of the classrooms and stairways as well as some outdoor spots! They even brought Brady, their little pup, along. He enjoyed the sights when not in front of the camera but I think he actually enjoyed posing right along with his mama and papa.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Repeat Offender: My Top 5 Wardrobe Essentials

Every girl's got 'em: the chosen few items in her wardrobe that she wears over and over and over and - okay, you get it.  We all fall in love with items - sometimes (most times for me) it's unexpected love. You pull on that pair of jeans at the store, they fit, so you buy them, no biggie. It's only 6 months later that you really feel like you found a magical pair of jeans because man, never ever before has a pair of jeans fit you this well. By then, it's been awhile since you bought them and now you're kicking yourself. You wish you knew months ago that these jeans were magical - you would have stocked up! Too late. It's no longer jeans season and they're nowhere in sight (or they changed their styles and even though you bought the SAME style and size, it just wasn't the same! This happened to me with Delias jeans)!

Yep! Those are the kind of essentials I'm talking about.  Here are my top 5 - straight out of my wardrobe!

1. Brown Leather Bow Belt (Target)
I've gone through two bow belts in the past year or so. The first I got at Ann Taylor Loft on sale but it didn't last long - the clasp was just a simple push pin sort of style and it quickly wore out the holes and stopped staying closed. I'd be at work and all it would take was me leaning the right way and POP - off goes the belt. Embarrassing. I found a replacement belt at Target and all is well in my world. I LOVE this belt. It goes with nearly everything and I wear it all the time. The Target belt, by Mossimo, is better quality than my previous one. It has much sturdier holes for the push pin piece behind the belt and I can tell it will last longer. The stitching helps (you can see it in the picture) and it is definitely made to last. Maybe it's the color - brown leather - or maybe it's just the cute bow. Either way, I wear this belt so much. It's one of the best belts I ever spent $15 on!

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Holt Family's Fall Portraits - Introducing Baby Daniel!

I've known Lori for years. She was one of the first friends I made in college my freshman year - we met when I joined Framingham State College's (now University) Right to Life League, a club for those who are pro-life and want to promote the message that every conceived baby deserves to live. It was a small club - hardly radical - and was mostly, a small group of loving people supporting each other. Lori was one of the members along with 4 or 5 others. Funny enough, I believe her husband, Sean, had been a member at some point as well! Obviously, they met in college as well. So meeting up with them to take some family photos along with newborn photos for their newest son was also like a little college reunion!

Lori and Sean have been the sort of friends that I don't get to see often but feel like they are very much a part of my life due to social media. Lori and I comment on each other's Facebook posts all the time and always seem to make sure we both know of each's other's friendship that way. While social media has its qualms, I do love that it keeps me connected to friends like Lori. She's not far away but we've both got busy lives. Things like Facebook help keep us connected for sure!

I have actually photographed Lori and Sean's daughter, Delaney, when she was a toddler and I still worked for a photography studio. Since then, Lori has always expressed interest in having me take their family portraits so I was so happy that we finally decided to do it upon Daniel's arrival and spend some time together with my camera.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Oh, My Vintage: Capsule Vintage

I discovered Capsule Vintage the same way I discover a lot of my favorite places on the interwebs - Instagram. I didn't lie before - I love me some Instagram! A friend on my feed had posted about Capsule Vintage's special sale to help raise money for an adorable puppy named Oliver to get an expensive surgery. So hold the phone - I can help a precious pup AND get an awesome vintage dress while doing so? Well, how could I say no to that?

I visited the shop soon after seeing the promo and was so glad I did. I immediately knew I was in trouble - puppy fundraiser or not -  because WOW! I've visited a handful of vintage shops online, in person, and at flea markets but have never been as impressed as I am with Capsule Vintage's quality of inventory!

Monday, October 20, 2014

The World's Tiniest Portions: Sucre Sucre Miniatures

It's not uncommon for me to stumble upon something adorable and literally squeal out of delight. Hopefully, it is when I am safely at home and not in public but there have been times when others around me have raised an eyebrow or two at my joyful reactions. What can I say? If it's cute, I get excited. It's the little things.

Speaking of literal little things, I want to share an adorably awesome Etsy shop with the world. I found Sucre Sucre Miniatures while perusing Instagram (where else would I be?) and the moment I saw the teeny tiny macaroni and cheese necklace, my infamous squeal left me.

RIGHT? Look at the detail! I was amazed, I was enthralled, I was hooked, I WAS BUYING IT!

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. A little about the shop! Sucre Sucre Miniatures is run by the lovely Chelsea. She is based in Carmel, California, and apparently has Barbie doll hands. Kidding! Her hands are most likely human adult sized. No matter what size they are, they are full of pure magic! Chelsea, are you a wizard? Anyway, her work is down right works of art - in the tiniest form!

Luckily, Chelsea was having an awesome sale when I decided I deserved to buy me some yummy treat jewelry. The moment I saw the sale, though, I decided I was gonna go a little crazy and buy the entire store! Okay, I'm exaggerating. I didn't buy the entire store.

But I did get myself the necklace, adorable little donut magnets, a charm bracelet for me, and a charm bracelet for Red! I decided to make my own version of best friends bracelets and made my charm bracelet sweet themed and Red's savory! Clever? I thought so.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Comfort Food isn't Meant to Be Pretty: Luchen Kugel

So I think it's actually Lokshen Kugel but I have always written it as Luchen and growing up we always said wrote Luchen so get all angry at all me all you want but that's just how it's gonna be. Let's just call it Kugel from here on out and be friends, all right?

I've been a big big fan of Kugel for as long as I can remember. In fact, I am pretty sure Kugel is one of the first things I can remember cooking in the kitchen with my mother. It was definitely one of the first things I cooked by myself. And it is DEFINITELY one of my favorite and ultimate comfort foods. This is going to be a funny post because as far as foods go, nothing is more hilariously gross sounding and gross looking as Kugel - at least the way I make it. I considered prettying it up, but that wouldn't be authentic, would it? And it's not real comfort food unless it's just as it is - as it has ALWAYS been. So consider this like an episode of Extreme Makeover: Comfort Food Edition. What started as kind of gross blossoms into something beautiful.

Getting excited for the final reveal yet?

Anyway, I make Kugel the same way my mother and Bubbie did so I don't really know how I'd pretty it up. There are TONS of various Kugel recipes online. Some are made with potato (what?), some are made to be sweet with tons of cinnamon and sugar (whaaaaat?), but the one I am used to and the one I crave when I need some comfort food is made with egg noodles and a lot of other ooey gooey buttery things.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Poppy England: Adorable Stories You Can Wear!

How, oh how, did I live for 26 years without knowing about Poppy England

I learned about Poppy England from one of my fellow Instagrammers - the adorably quirky and dress-loving Kat Pachniuk, or dictiocanary. I was scrolling through my feed one day on my lunch break, as I always do, when BAM! I spot her post promoting her latest blog post, featuring Poppy England. 

I owe my new obsession to you, Kat! Cheers, girl! Thank you for bringing Poppy England into my life! From Kat's post, I ventured to the Poppy England website, where I immediately fell in love. Over and over and over. This happened repeatedly the more I perused their website. 

So wait. They design and print their own fabrics in-house and their clothes are made to follow a story about a girl named Poppy and her little pup? Love! 

Image courtesy of the Poppy England website
Hold the phone. You get a little storybook with your order that goes with your items? LOVE!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

ModCloth: More Than Just an Online Store!

Hi, my name is Sara Lily and I’m a ModCloth addict. No duh, most would say to that declaration. What can I say? I love ModCloth. I visit the site constantly, have a lengthy love list, and often have those adorable periwinkle adorned boxes on my front steps when I arrive home at night.  I purchase from ModCloth often. Yes, they have clothes that are more up my alley than most department stores. But there is so much more to my love for ModCloth than that.

Customer Service
One of the things that stand out with ModCloth is their customer service. Sure, all online stores have customer service but there is just something about ModCloth’s customer service. Whether it is by chat, email, or phone, I have found the reps to be so fun, kind, and my experience has always been enjoyable. I may be upset when I call, but I always end up laughing and feeling better when I reach a rep – yes, an actual live person! Typically immediately upon dialing! Crazy, right? They’re just GOOD. I never hang up feeling more stressed than when I called. Trust me, have you ever tried calling your electric company? Mine has a recorded robot lady asking me questions and when I get THISCLOSE to being connected to a person, I cough accidentally and she starts over because she “does not understand my request.” NO! I just had a tickle in my throat! WAIT! Come back!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Anna's Senior Portraits at Ashland State Park

I met Anna and had her portrait submitted to her school all within 4 days. Right? It was a funny story, really! It was a Saturday morning when I got a call from her Mom, Sandra. Cody and I had finished breakfast, were hanging out on the couch, when my phone rang. Upon answering, I was greeted by the sweetest woman who was frantic. Her daughter's senior portrait was due to the yearbook and they hadn't gotten a chance to get them taken. Great, I thought, a possible new client!

"When can we meet and get to know each other to plan the session?" I asked, offering what I normally offer, which is to meet the client prior to them booking with me to get to know each other.

"The thing is," Sandra continued, laughing nervously, "the photo is due FRIDAY."

Well that changed things! Instead of meeting, we simply agreed on the details right then and there. Within an hour, we had a plan set and I would meet Anna the following morning for a couple hours to take her portraits.

"We just need ONE! We just need ONE photo to submit to the yearbook!" Sandra exclaimed. I could only imagine how nervous she felt, as the mother, about getting the right portrait of her daughter for the yearbook.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Awesomely for Autumn: Apple Cinnamon Muffins!

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As some of you might be aware - it's Fall here in New England! Gasp! Well, if you didn't know you sure do now. It's been 70 degrees and under for the past 3-4 weeks now. I think it's finally safe to say that summer has left the building! YES! I am definitely not a summer gal. I am more content in chillier climates with some sun, some clouds, some wind, and a lot less sweating.

I will miss dress weather. I have loved waking up and just choosing which dress to throw on. I mean, how could it get easier than that? Oh well! I suppose I will have to break out the wool thigh-highs, tights, and leggings to make it work. I will accept your challenge, New England Winter! I hear we have a doozy ahead of us.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's focus on the Fall. There are a lot of things folks love the fall here but some of the biggest are apple picking, pumpkin carving, boots, scarves, and, oh yeah, how can I forget those pumpkin lattes at Starbucks? I do not drink coffee so I have never experienced it but from what I hear it's "life." Oooookkkaaaayyy.

Anyway, last weekend my best friend Kaylyn (who I call Red and will probably call Red within this blog many times so get used to it!) succumbed to the Fall activity that is apple picking. We decided to find a new spot as a lot of the Massachusetts orchards are becoming quite the zoo and we've never been fond of crowds. A co-worker recommended a smaller orchard called Carver Hill Orchard. It's sandwiched between all the other popular orchards in Stowe, but has yet to get crazy. I love the Stowe area in Fall. It's like Las Vegas's strip, only for apple orchards. No strippers here, though, folks! Just apple cider donuts, which, in my opinion, are way sexier.

Inside Carver's adorable shop (photo courtesy of their website)