Thursday, December 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, John!

Happy birthday, John! Your manliness is an excellent balance to my love of pink and sparkly things.

And your faith and love of family inspire me to be a better person.

Here's to another great year with my favorite guy! 29 definitely has good things in store for us.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Inspired by Peppermint Mocha

Peppermint mocha cupcakes, gingerbread cake, cookies

With Christmas right around the corner, you know I'll be baking up a storm over the next few days. We're staying in Chicago for Christmas and have a mini Christmas with John's siblings this weekend. I'm thinking about baking a peppermint mocha cake, which inspired this Friday's outfit:

Gap striped dress, GiftShopBrooklyn red velvet and sequin clutch,
Elephantine earrings, Tory Burch Eddie bow ballet flats

Maybe a little dressy for sibling Christmas, but still festive. I mean, who can resist a little sparkle around this time of year?

If I don't talk with you before Tuesday, have a very merry Christmas!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

DIY Glitter Animals

With less than a week to go before Christmas, I'm scurrying to finish the last minute details. If you're like me and looking for last-minute decorations or hostess gifts, why not whip up a few glitter animals? I shared the sparkle-fying of my favorite animal last year and it's definitely worth sharing again.

  • Plastic animals found near the kids crafting section. Mine were $5.99 and $2.99.
  • Martha Stewart glittering glue: $3.99
  • Martha Stewart glitter in yellow gold: $4.99
Total (with tax): $19.12. Would have been less had I remembered to bring a coupon.

By the way, Martha has glitter available in every color under the sun! Don't feel limited to silver or gold!

Once you've covered your work area in newspapers or an old J. Crew LL Bean catalog, brush on a smooth, even coat of glittering glue. (The Martha Stewart glittering glue came with a brush.) I worked in small areas to make sure the glue didn't dry before glittering. You could also apply glue to the entire animal, except where you are holding it.

Liberally pour glitter over the entire animal, making sure to cover every area that has been brushed with glue.

Shake the excess onto your paper.

Once the rest of the animal is dry, brush glue over the remaining part of the animal and glitter away!

Pour the excess glitter back into the bottle for future projects.

You now have some budget-friendly and festive decorations to add to your mantle, tablescapes, and shelves. If you'd like to make them into Christmas tree ornaments, simply screw small eyelets into the top of the animal. These are also perfect for last minute hostess gifts or small Christmas presents.

Note: I've noticed some excess glitter still falling off my penguins, so I might look into getting some glitter sealer. A can of Krylon Glitter Blast sealer is about $5.
2012 update: I have yet to seal the glitter. There are a few spots where the glitter has come off, mainly the tips of the tail and beak, but overall it stuck pretty well.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

A Little Sparkle and Plaid

J. Crew handknit popcorn sweater and plaid scarf, Kate Spade small square studs,
ShoeMint Koko flats, Lands' End Canvas sequin skirt

Although I'm attending a tacky Christmas sweater party and bringing these cookies this weekend, I'm more excited about breaking out my sequin skirt for the Christmas season. I included it in no less than three posts last December and January, so why not create an outfit around the Lands' End Canvas sequin skirt?

Pinned Image

After a little searching with my friend Pinterest, I landed on this perfectly cozy look as my inspiration. Warm and practical with a lambswool sweater, but also festive with the sequin skirt and suede flats.

Have a fantastic Friday and weekend!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mini Stockings are Here!

Remember the Marimekko mini stockings I made for the holiday bazaar? They're now available in my Etsy shop in sets of 2 and 4 mini stockings!

They're perfect to decorate the Christmas tree:

Marimekko Mini Christmas Stocking Ornament - silver, gold, white polka dot - set of 2
Or decorate your table. They also function as silverware holders:

Marimekko Mini Christmas Stocking Ornament - red and gold - set of 4

You can also give these lovelies as a party favor, decorate a gift, or hang from your mantel as a pet stocking.
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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Inspired by Lasagna

Madewell scallop lace top, Free People party plaid skirt, Urbanite Jewelry Chicago, IL earrings,
Tilly Maison confetti lucite tray, J. Crew Lula glitter ballet flats

It's been a while since I shared a Friday's Fancies outfit, so why not do it up right with some sparkle? This outfit is perfect for a personal or work Christmas party. And that gorgeous tray? Fill it with Christmas cookies, of course! I just baked these peppermint mocha cookies for a work birthday and will definitely bake them again.

As for savory baking, I recently made a batch of lasagna, which partially inspired this outfit. The ruffled edges of lasagna noodles hint at the scallops in the lace top. And red is an obvious choice with the pasta sauce.

This ingredient picture is a little misleading because I ended up using the better portion of three bags (about 5 cups) of shredded mozzarella and about 1.5 jars of pasta sauce (about 48 oz. total). The more cheese and sauce, the merrier!
Classic Lasagna
Lasagna noodles (9), cooked.
  • Keep in water until you use them or they'll stick together. Dry with paper towel before assembly.
40 to 48 oz. jar of pasta sauce (Prego is one of my favorites)
1.5 to 2 pounds of lean ground beef, cooked and drained
16 oz. container of ricotta cheese
Mozzarella cheese (at least 1 pound, I used about 5 cups shredded)
Preheat oven to 350*

Mix the cooked ground beef with the ricotta cheese.

In a glass 9x13 dish, start layering your ingredients:
  • Sauce. Not too much, this is so the noodles don't burn.
  • Noodles (3 strips/layer).
  • Half of the ground beef and ricotta cheese mixture.
  • Mozzarella cheese (don't be skimpy).
  • Sauce.
  • Noodles.
  • The other half of the ground beef and ricotta cheese mixture.
  • Mozzarella cheese.
  • Sauce.
  • Noodles.
  • Sauce.
  • Mozzarella cheese.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. It's best to place a cookie sheet below the lasagna to catch any drips.

The lasagna is ready when the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted and browned a little on the top.


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Monday, December 3, 2012

Moms are the Best

Even though I just saw my family over Thanksgiving, I was really excited for my Mom to visit this past weekend. There's something about having your mom around that's really comforting. One reason for her visit was my church's holiday bazaar.

We decided to get a table again this year and of course she owned it with the alpaca yarn, hats, and scarves. Our biggest takeaway from this year is that accepting credit cards is a must! We closed several sales after saying we accepted credit cards. My Mom used the Square reader and app with her iPhone and it worked like a charm.

It was also a bit of a "girl's weekend."  Friday night was spent enjoying her tasty beef tips over rice while gabbing with John, prepping for the bazaar, and sewing these adorable Marimekko mini stocking ornaments. I still have a bunch from the bazaar, so a few have made their way to our Christmas tree. Others should be popping up on Etsy soon.

After the bazaar on Saturday, we ventured downtown with John to pick up coffee from our favorite place ever and go to dinner at the Walnut Room. The wait for a table was rediculous, so we snapped a picture of the Great Tree and headed over to Petterino's on John's suggestion. This was an excellent idea for multiple reasons: the wait was much shorter, we were able to walk around the Christkindlmarket (and see another gorgous tree and snack on cinnamon sugar roasted almonds), and I had some amazing parmesan crusted sea scallops for dinner. If I see scallops on a menu, there's a 90% chance I'll be ordering them.

Winter Shirt Dress tutorial from Elle Apparel

Sunday was spent debating interior decorating ideas over Amaretto coffee, going to Mass, and making a trip to Joann's. We found some gorgeous jersey and knit fabrics, but the patterns were less than inspiring. Good thing Pinterest had some much better options.

How was your weekend?
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Favorites

Hi! Long time, no chat! I hope those of you in the States enjoyed your Thanksgiving. I sure did! To ease back into things, I thought I would share my brief encounters with some of my favorite bloggers.

Two of the first blogs I ever started reading were Young House Love and Smitten Kitchen. (I think they were these respective posts, if you're curious.) And they're still two of my favorites.

As luck would have it, both of their book tours brought them to Chicago. I felt like a mediocre fan driving from down the street compared to the super-fans that drove hundreds of miles and waited hours before the event even started. Regardless, it was fun meeting John, Sherry, and Deb.

First up was meeting John and Sherry of Young House Love. They were at the West Elm in Lincoln Park and I naively thought I'd be able to see them and do a little shopping while John was playing a basketball game. While in line, I kept thinking about what I would say to them. It's almost like waiting in line for Santa. Trying to think of the perfect thing to say and rehearsing it in your head to make sure it sounds just right. Three hours later (!!!) it was my turn.

Of course, they were friendly and perfectly charming. Sherry complemented me on my Bean necklace and blog name. I, on the other hand, blurted out how much I love them and use their spray painting tutorials and am currently building an upholstered coffee table/ottoman and like shiny things (in response to Sherry's complement of my necklace). Yes, I had a slight case of word vomit.

So when it was time to meet Deb of Smitten Kitchen the following weekend, I was prepared. Her book signing was in Lincoln Square at The Book Cellar, a local bookstore with a cafe. This time, I went with my sister-in-law and we made sure to leave early. This book signing was extremely organized in that we were assigned a numbered letter and only had to be back when our letter was called. That gave us the opportunity to walk around Lincoln Square, get some gelato, and pop into the many shops.

Meeting Deb was also super-quick and of course she was just a normal person that writes a blog with millions of readers and now has a book. I warned my sister-in-law of my word vomiting ways, so it's no surprise that I blurted out how much we love Deb's son and think he's the cutest kid ever. At least I restrained myself enough to keep from saying she and her husband should have another baby soon!

Have you ever met a celebrity or big-name blogger before? Tell me I'm not the only one that blurts out random things while talking with them!

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Mom's Apple Pie

Thanksgiving is this week and I can't wait for all the homemade goodies! The turkey! The stuffing (who cares if I like Stove Top)! The side dishes! And the pies! Oh, the pies!

For my extended family holidays, my parents always host Thanksgiving. Which meant the weekend before and week of Thanksgiving was a flurry of cleaning and preparations. Most years, the apple and pumpkin pies were made from scratch (minus the crust). If my Mom ran out of time and bought pies from the store, we were sorely disappointed.

First, because homemade pies are superior.

And second, so we could sneak some of the cinnamon sugar apples. My Mom always made extra apples for the filling knowing a portion of them would never make it into the pie.

Which is why this recipe calls for heaps of apples. A few slices go to "quality control" and a few more are snacked on by John and me.

I may have cut a few corners by using Pillsbury pie crust, but nobody was complaining.

And the pie still looks homemade because I haven't mastered my crust fluting skills yet.

Plus, it's what's inside that really counts :)

Mom's Apple Pie
Note: See my Mom's extra tips in the comments.

Crust (for a 9.5 inch 2-crust pie)
I cheated and used Pillsbury. A box of 2 rolled pastry crusts can be found in the cooler near the cans of cresent rolls and biscuits. I don't like using the crust that already comes in the pan.

If you have more time on your hands, you can use Joy the Baker's or Smitten Kitchen's recipes.

Apple Pie Filling
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
9 to 12 cups of thinly sliced pared tart apples* (McIntosh, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Honeycrisp, etc.)
3 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes

Preheat oven to 425*.

Prepare the crust (or just roll it out from the box). I like to use a glass pie pan.

Stir together the sugar, flour, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Mix well with the apples, trying not to snack on too many of them ;)

Pour the apples into the pie crust and dot with the cubes of butter.

Cover the apples with the top crust. Seal and flute the edges of the crust. And cut 3 or so slits into the top.

Cover the edge with a 2- to 3- inch strip of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning; removing the foil during the last 15 minutes of baking.

Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in the crust. Place the pie pan on a cookie sheet while baking to catch any drips.

* - One pound of apples equals 3 medium apples or 3 cups sliced apples

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fiscally Chic Fashion: Rent the Runway

As I wrote in a previous Friday's Fancies post and briefly shared, I rented my first dress and necklace from Rent the Runway. Let me tell you something, ladies. It's A.MAZING! RTR is something I wish I thought of first. John has rented all sorts of tuxes for weddings, so it's about time we have the same option!

As I suspected, the convenience was one of the biggest perks. I didn't have to worry about packing a dress, let alone two sizes of the same dress. I scheduled the dresses and necklace to arrive on a Friday and they arrived at the hotel on that Wednesday. And let's not forget the ease of dropping everything in a mailbox when I was done wearing them.

Another perk of RTR is the option of two dress sizes. I tend to shy away from online shopping because I like to try things on in person. I have a short torso and longer legs, so that makes things nice and interesting. Fortunately, past renters leave reviews of the dress's fit on RTR to help you pick out the proper size.

Of course you should know that the dress itself came in perfect condition. And I loved wearing it! I received several complements and got a kick out of sharing my secret that I rented it :)

If the dress needed a little help staying in place, RTR included a little "fit kit" with some Hollywood Tape. And if neither size worked, RTR has a great risk-free policy where I could return both dresses within 24 hours for a full merchandise credit (less shipping).

For those curious about how much renting a dress and necklace costs, 4-day dress rentals currently run from $40 up to $400. Some of the $400 dresses can totally pass as wedding dresses if you don't want to buy your wedding dress. For the cost breakdown of my order:
  • Dress (in 2 sizes, retails for $325) - $50
  • Insurance on dress - $5
  • Necklace (retails for $125) - $25
  • Insurance on necklace - $3
  • Shipping and handling (includes return shipping) - $9.95
  • Sales tax - $2.70
  • Grand total - $95.65

Yes, RTR includes a small insurance policy with each rental. No need to worry about spilling wine on your dress. And yes, dry cleaning is also included.

Would I do it again? Most definitely! Rent the Runway is perfect for a change in fashion pace.

PS - This isn't a sponsored post, I just really like RTR. And if you sign up through my Rent the Runway referral link, we'll both get $20 off our next orders. Sound cool?

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Getting into the Holiday Spirit

Kate Spade jewel bar stud earrings, Great Lakes Brewing Company Christmas Ale,
Marc by Marc Jacobs mouse slippers, Gap flannel shirt and cords

Now that Halloween has passed, I'm looking forward to the granddaddies of holiday baking: Thanksgiving and Christmas. Anything that includes cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves are fair game. Though I won't turn down chocolate :)

To get into the holiday spirit, I'd love to hunt down my absolute favorite craft beer: Great Lakes Brewing Company Christmas Ale. The cinnamon, honey, and all around Christmas cheer can't be beat! It was released at the beginning of November, which tells me I'm not far off in my holiday musings. Good thing Great Lakes has a handy Beer Finder on their website!

As for my Friday's Fancies finery, I'd love to cozy up to a roaring fireplace wearing this outfit and with a frosty Christmas Ale in hand. And those mouse slippers? A touch on the pricey side, but too cute not to include!

Have a cozy weekend!

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Where I've Been

Hi, friends! As I return to reality after a fantastic long weekend in Denver (yes, that's the dress!), I thought I would share where Fiscally Chic has been recently:

Last week, Lisa of Elembee brought back her "At the Moment" series. There I share what I'm crushing on, dreaming about, and currently up to.

Back in July, I won the MintLife Home Economics Sweepstakes. I recently wrote a few guest posts for MintLife about the experience. The first post has all sorts of before's and after's of our room. And the second post shares tips and tricks to making your DIY home makeover a success.

Finally, hot off the presses is a tip I shared with the Bank of America Small Business Community about selling on Etsy. Many of the tips are applicable to businesses selling products online (not just Etsy) so swing by if you're looking to learn a little something new. [And to give credit where credit is due, Jeff of Sustainable Life Blog sent me the Help a Reporter Out query.]
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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

$2 Chipotle Boo-ritos

Happy Halloween! For the finance and accounting types out there, I hope you enjoy performing a physical inventory of your candy tonight :)

For those who don't plan on meticulously documenting their treats, Chipotle has other plans for you! Simply wear a costume to your nearest Chipotle between 4pm and close on Halloween and a burrito, bowl, salad, or order of tacos is yours for $2!

What's even better is that they're donating the proceeds, up to $1,000,000 to The Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, their non-profit organization committed to creating a more sustainable and healthful food supply and to raising awareness concerning food issues.

And yes, that was my Halloween costume at work this year. I was a blinged out "precious metals hedge" and my coworker was a "Canadian foreign exchange rate hedge." If you chuckled at that, I salute you!
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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Huggable Investment

Me and Rumm Pudding

Ready for a random fact that I haven't shared with you recently? My family owns alpacas, between 30 and 35 of them. And this past weekend, my Dad was showing four of them in the Chicagoland area. Since John has never been to an alpaca show (I've been to one) and it's always nice to see family, we made the trek to the Lake County Fairgrounds to check things out.

Alpacas are related to llamas, and I like to think they're a smaller, nicer version of llamas. It's been a while since I've seen the alpacas, and I forgot how cute and fuzzy they are.

Perfect Rumm
My Dad (and technically Magical Farms, where these alpacas are boarded) brought Rumm Pudding, Perfect Rumm, Pale Ale, and Midnight Delight to show. By the time we got there, Perfect Rumm had already won Reserve Color Champion in his color class. That means he took second overall for true black male huacaya alpacas. Midnight Delight also won a blue ribbon.

Pale Ale

We did get to see Pale Ale strut his stuff. He took 3rd in his age and color class. The first and second place winners in his class ended up being first and second overall for their color, so he clearly had some stiff competition.

Midnight Delight and Rumm Pudding
What possessed my parents to "get into" alpacas? To be frank, for the tax benefits. Then there's the side benefit of the fleece, which my Mom and sister use to knit hats, scarves, mittens, and blankets. We also have to amazing woven alpaca rugs in our bedroom. And, of course, an alpaca is much cuter than a bar of gold. Sure, a bar of gold doesn't need to be fed or cared for, but where's the fun in that?

Will John and I ever get into the alpaca biz? Definitely not in the near future. Though it's fun to hear updates from my parents and help them pick names for any newborn alpacas.

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