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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Recent Thrifty Finds

I try to visit our Habitat ReStore every few months (wish I went more frequently actually) just to see what they have in the way of furniture, etc. and I always look at the books because our store has a great selection of books. The last time I was in there I saw this cookbook which I had on my wish list for awhile after seeing Pioneer Woman praise it. I was honestly surprised to see it in the ReStore and snatched it up in a hurry for less than $5. And not I cannot wait to have friends over for dinner and make something from this book.

During waaaay after Christmas shopping, like basically New Year's shopping with my mom I found this snowflake burlap table runner in HomeGoods on clearance that would be great for Christmas and/or the winter season. I could make something like this fairly easily but not for $4.

I have been wanting a polka dot sweater and I happened upon one on a recent trip to the outlet mall at Banana Republic Outlet. It was marked down to $55 but the whole store was 50% off, score!

I also found an orange long-sleeved top... my current one was starting to look sort of worn out. This isn't as Clemson orange as the photo/computer makes it look but it will work, especially for $12 and then 50% off.. yes that's right a $6 shirt!

I've been painting my nails more frequently now that I figured out how to make them last at least a week without chipping (I'll post about that at some point). I bought some nail polish recently at Marshall's and TJMaxx to expand my collection because they sell OPI and Essie and Sephora brands for $2.99-$4.99 instead of the $8-$9 (but selection is limited so I just make a habit of looking whenever I am there) these are in stores so you can get a nicer quality nail polish for the same cost of a cheaper brand.

Have any of you savvy shoppers found anything super thrifty lately?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What I Wore

What I wore to work. I created another outfit with my new winter black and white skirt that I was very happy with by going monochromatic with the top/scarf combo. I continue to love my target booties too.

Dark magenta sweater: Target, similarsimilar, similar $12, similar also $12
Black and white skirt: Loft Outlet, similarsimilar - really cheap, similar - polka dot, similarsimilarsimilar
Tan ankle booties: Target- sold out, very similar Target optionsimilar, similar
Fleece lined black leggings: Marshalls, very similarvery similar - this is the brand I have my fleece tights in, similar not fleece-lined - I have these too!
Pink scarf: shop in London, similar, similar
Pink earrings: PickYourPlum, similar, similar

Apparently when wearing monochromatic I tend toward these two colors together as you can see from this previous outfit post.

Linking up to: What I Wore WednesdayWhat I Wore to WorkBecause Shanna Said So

Monday, February 24, 2014

Grilled Pepper and Onion Pasta with Spinach

In honor of Meatless Monday this is a wonderful healthy meatless dish. Of course if you don't want it meatless, you could easily add chicken or steak or fish to it... such a versatile dish! I had written rigatoni pasta on the grocery list and Eric came home with rotini pasta by mistake, obviously very similar. I'm sure it doesn't really matter but next time I'll use rigatoni to see. I upped the spinach to try to have about as much spinach as pasta to even out the carbs :)

Grilled Pepper and Onion Pasta with Spinach
Adapted from Real Simple
Serves 4-5 as a main dish or more if you add chicken or eat it as a side dish

- 12oz box of rigatoni or rotini pasta (or whatever pasta you like)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- ground pepper to taste
- 2 medium red onions, sliced into rings
- 2 large red peppers, chopped into bite size pieces
- 8oz baby spinach leaves (we used a little more than half of a bag that was 15oz)
- 1 cup of fresh grated parmesan
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
- garlic powder to taste
- crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine red peppers, red onions, olive oil and ground pepper in large bowl and mix. Season pasta water with salt and cook pasta according to directions. You will need to reserve 1-1 1/2 cups of pasta water when it is done.

Meanwhile, heat grill or grill pan on medium heat and pour the bowl of peppers/onions onto the pan. Grill for about 10 minutes or until there are nice grill marks and charred bits. You need to keep an eye on them and turn pretty frequently. This step totally reminded me of the smell fajitas have when they are brought out at a restaurant. Make sure the onions are grilled and softened to your liking (less grilled/crisper onions will be more potent so I like mine well grilled). When vegetables are nice a grilled, pour them onto a cutting board to give some of the bigger onion rings a chop until everything is bite size.

After pasta is done, return it and a cup of the reserved pasta water to the pot. Add the grilled veggies, spinach leaves, 1/3 cup of the parmesan cheese(the rest of the parm is used for topping), garlic powder, ground pepper and crushed red pepper (if desired). Mix well and add more pasta water if needed and adjust seasoning to taste.

Serve with basil and parmesan cheese on top.

ready to be grilled

mixing the components

I think this would also be delicious with grilled chicken or steak. Let me know what you think if you try it!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

What I Wore

What I wore to work on a very chilly day. I am no stranger to bright orange and usually when I am wearing anything orange it is paired with white or with purple but it also goes great with one of my favorite colors, turquoise. I bought this coat in the winter of 2007/2008 and it has been wonderful to have such a long warm dressier coat on very cold days. I took it with me on a 2+ week work trip to London in January 2008 and wore it every day into work.

Turquoise sweater dress: Target, very similarsimilar, similar, plus size
Tan wool coat: Ann Taylor Outlet, similar, similarsimilar
Navy fleece leggings: Marshalls, similar
Cognac boots: Bornsimilarsimilarsimilar
Orange chandelier earrings: Towne & Reese, similar
Orange nails: Revlon ColorStay Marmalade

Close up of the leggings and boots so here you can actually see the navy color of the leggings

Linking up to: What I Wore WednesdayWhat I Wore to WorkBecause Shanna Said So

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dining Room Progress: A Sideboard

As I mentioned when I revealed our new glass bottle chandelier, we recently purchased a new sideboard. Well it is new to us but it certainly not new... it's an antique which is exactly what I wanted.

I fell in love with this sideboard/buffet on our visit to FL over Thanksgiving on while shopping at the Vintage Warehouse. It was exactly the type of sideboard I had been looking for and the right size and at a price of $260 I was sold on it immediately. Well I didn't buy it then because I knew there was no way we could fit it in our vehicle. I even took this picture of it with my phone to show Eric that this is exactly the kind of sideboard I wanted to find for our dining room.

Well a few weeks later it dawned on me that my parents who were coming up after Christmas could get it and bring it with them. So I convinced begged them to haul it up to Charlotte for us and of course they did and actually got the price to $250! I have seen similar ones on Craigslist that aren't even as nice for $500 so I am just thrilled at the deal we got on this piece of furniture.

I thought about painting it but I kinda like it just the way it is... all rustic and a little beat up and a great color stain already. (Yes I need to give it a good dusting.. just keeping it real) I may try stain the parts where the wood has been chipped off so it looks more uniform with the rest of the piece but I haven't figured out how to go about doing that so the stain would match. If anyone has any ideas I'm all ears :)

It was hard to get a shot of the full room with my fixed 35mm lens but this gives you an idea. The rustic chic dining room is coming together piece by piece! Next up is new paint on the walls!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What I Wore

This is what I wore out to dinner and a HomeGoods trip one weekend in January. We went to the Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar for the first time. It is the only pizza place on a list of top 25 Charlotte restaurants, so we thought we'd give it a try and it was really delicious (although the baby kale salad was too spicy for my liking). It is fancier individual pizza in a rustic setting and a change from our favorite casual pizza place, Tony's.

Clearly I am really loving this scarf and finding many outfits to incorporate it into... not too hard when you love turquoise/teal! I had never owned a sweater material cardigan before but it has been super cozy and a very popular clothing item this year... hopefully this trend sticks around. It would also be great paired with leggings and tunic length tank or top. I found it at Target in Florida of all places. I couldn't find it online but found some affordable similar options in the links below.

Black and white long sweater cardigan: Target, similar, similar, similar, similar , similar
Black long sleeve crew neck shirt: Old Navy, similar, v-neck option  - all on sale
Gray skinny jeans: Old Navy Rockstar Super Skinny, similar, similar
Cognac boots: Born, similar, similar, similar
Turquoise scarf: shop in London, similar, similar
Silver filigree earrings: The Limited - seriously get a pair of these.. they are so fun and lightweight AND on sale (they also come in gold), similar

On our HomeGoods outing we found this awesome full length mirror (instagram photo below) I wanted for our master bedroom. Sadly it ended up having some imperfections in it which I thought was dirt in the store. I have yet to find a replacement but hopefully will soon.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Winter & Valentines Mantle

After Christmas when all those decorations are put away, everything feels so bare. I especially miss the twinkling tree and garland lights for a few weeks after. It is hard to figure out what to use to decorate for winter plus then there is also Valentine's Day thrown in there before you get to Spring decor. It would be so much easier if it was just Spring after Christmas!

As I mentioned when I shared my Christmas mantle, I decided to leave out the wooden deer as winter decor. I snatched up these mercury glass candle sticks on Christmas clearance from World Market even though they aren't really Christmas specific... they would work for any season honestly. I picked up turquoise candles to go on top at HomeGoods. I'm sure I'll leave these out into Spring and Summer perhaps as they are the accent colors I want for our family room.

at night
The coral LOVE block is what I added for a Valentine's touch. I haven't decided if it will stay up past February or not but since it's coral instead of straight up pink or red I feel it has that possibility if I want. It is from Pick Your Plum. It was advertised as a "wooden block" but is more like MDF or heavy cardboard. It actually arrived damaged (which I was able to cover up with the coral craft paint fairly well) so I got a refund on it which is great since I don't think I would have bought it if I had known it wasn't actually wood as advertised.

late afternoon

Of course the heart pillow I'm very proud of made an appearance at the end of January and will stay out through the end of February as well as the Love pillow and frame (made by my mom). I keep it pretty simple as far as Valentine's Day decor goes.

Once March gets here, I can't wait to start figuring out some Spring decor! Ready for winter to be over!

Friday, February 14, 2014

What I Wore

Another what I wore to work. A coworker of mine was surprised this top came from Target. They really have stepped up their game with certain pieces of clothing so it's worthwhile to search every so often for gems. I bought it last year in May I believe and didn't have a chance to wear it/sort of forgot about it until now. I'm not sure if this was was in stores, it might have just been online but there is a nearly identical version this season here (I'm tempted to get the turquoise color). This is a hard color to photograph... in person it's a vivid red coral and I am not usually one to wear red much so trust me it's not red. It looks great with black and light gray but I also can't wait to pair it just with skinny jeans for the spring (it's long-sleeved and fairly thin but not see-through thin) and I love that it is longer... almost long enough to be a tunic on someone short like me.

Coral-red blouse: Target, Target practically identicalvery similar in black, similar, similar
Gray cardigan: Gap Outlet, similar - on sale for $13, similar - another for $13, similar
Black straight dress pants: Loft, similar, similar, similar
Gray flats: Anne Klein, similar, similar
Cobalt earrings: Towne and Reese, similar

Better photo of the earrings below. Love them.

Eric wasn't available to take my photos this time so I had to try to do them myself with a mirror or balancing my phone on our kitchen island.

Linking up to: What I Wore WednesdayWhat I Wore to WorkBecause Shanna Said So

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Crock Pot Thai Chicken and Vegetables

I love it when I can dump a few ingredients into the crock pot for a great meal and one of those is not condensed soup. Not that I don't make a crock pot meal with that every so often but I prefer more fresh ingredients. An previous manager of mine told me she made chicken in the crock pot by just pouring a bottle of the Trader Joe's Red Thai Curry sauce over it and it was great. We often swap slow cooker recipes and both like to eat healthy. I have never cooked with Thai curry sauce but decided to trust her and further expand upon that into a whole meal.

Crock Pot Thai Chicken and Vegetables
serves 4-5

-11 oz bottle of Trader Joe's Red Thai Curry sauce
-1 package of boneless skinless chicken breasts (1.65 oz)
-1 russet potato, chopped
-4-5 carrots, chopped
-1 yellow onion, chopped
-1 red bell pepper, chopped
-Fresh ground pepper
-3-4 green onions, chopped for topping

To make it easy to start the crock pot before we go to work, we chop the vegetables the night before and put them in a tupperware filled with water nothing turns brown and they are all crisp in the morning. Place the chicken in the bottom of the crock pot and spread the vegetables (minus the green onions) out over top. Season generously with the fresh ground pepper. Pour the entire bottle of Red Thai Curry sauce over the vegetables and chicken. Set the crock pot on low for 8 hours (or high for 4 hours). Shred the chicken with a spoon or spatula and stir everything together.

before shredding chicken

after shredding chicken

Serve over brown rice (we like the 90 second microwaveable Uncle Ben's brown rice pouches) and top with chopped green onions. If you want it to be more saucy, you can buy an extra bottle of the curry sauce and top it with a little of that (we did not do this but might next time).

This is what the sauce looks like.

We really liked this dish and it was very easy to prepare. The flavors sort of reminded me of chicken paprika which we haven't made in awhile. We will definitely make this again. If we decided we wanted more of a stew/soup consistency, I have seen the curry sauce paired with coconut milk so we could add that to the crock pot for a soupier version.

There is also a Trader Joe's yellow curry sauce that I am interested to try. Anyone made anything great using any of the TJ's curry sauces? Please share!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What I Wore

This is an outfit I wore to work. I warned you that you would see this awesome blazer some more and here it is in this black, brown and gray outfit with a couple pops of color. This is also another example pairing two of the three colors (turquoise, coral, cobalt) I love together by having accessories in turquoise and coral.

At first owning a black long sleeves sweater dress seemed so plain but it has been wonderful to throw on in the winter (with fleece leggings of course!) and style with different accessories and jackets. There are several very affordable (many on sale) black sweater dress options in the links below.

Black and white striped blazer: Target, similar
Black sweater dress: Old Navy, very similar, similar, similar, plus size option
Gray fleece lined leggings: Marshall's, very similar, similar not fleece-lined - I have these too!
Turquoise scarf: Pashmina from London (not an infinity scarf but I styled it that way), similar, similar
Cognac belt: Old Navy, similar, similar
Cognac boots: Born Sage, similar
Coral earrings: Groopdealz, similar, similar

Linking up to: What I Wore WednesdayWhat I Wore to WorkBecause Shanna Said So, Get Pinspired

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dining Room Progress: Wine bottle chandelier

I have big plans for this dining room.... a rustic chic style. The first step towards that was a new light fixture. I had my sights set on a glass bottle chandelier after seeing one on HGTV's The High Low Project but let me tell you it was not easy finding one that was affordable but after much searching I spotted one on Amazon for what I considered a reasonable price for a statement piece. You can see it is about a third of the price of the Anthropologie soda bottle chandelier. It has silver colored metal instead of oil rubbed bronze/copper metal like its more expensive counterparts and doesn't have the glass ball at the bottom but that was okay with me. I just can't justify spending thousands of dollars on a light fixture.

Below is the before/after photo from The High Low Project starting my quest for a glass bottle chandelier.

 Once the chandelier arrived from Amazon in a very beaten up box we discovered that 3 of the wine bottles were broken. Thank you UPS. So we submitted the issue and were sent a replacement and they paid for us to ship the broken one back of course. We then took down our current chandelier and put together the new chandelier minus putting the glass bottles on it. Once we had it hung how we wanted it (we didn't need all the chain it came with) and confirmed the fixture box was secured to a stud (thank goodness for all the construction photos we took), we added the 40 wine bottles feeling confident it wouldn't come crashing down. Note that these wine bottles are a tad smaller than a normal wine bottle although if you had a way to make your own frame and use regular wine bottles that would be a great DIY option.

It has been up for about two months now and we love it. We did have a bit of trial and error with the lightbulbs as the online description said one type of bulb (which did not work) and then a sticker on the metal where the lightbulb is screwed in said a different type of bulb (which ended up working). At the beginning of this year Eric and my dad installed a dimmer switch in the dining room and in our kitchen for the recessed lights. I wish I had dimmer switches in almost every room, they are fabulous! Our dining room gets a lot of natural light during the day so if we were using it then I would want the light to be on low.

I plan to sell our practically new chandelier that came in the dining room when the house was built which retails at over $400. If anyone local is interested in getting a great deal on a really nice brushed nickel 9 light fixture, let me know.

Next up for this room is a sideboard (recently purchased - post coming soon), new paint... thinking a medium gray, and eventually a farmhouse table and different chairs. Oh and maybe some curtains and/or a rug... not sure about that yet though. I really can't wait to get rid of the builder beige in there though!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What I Wore

What I wore to a Saturday night date night. We went to a delicious restaurant for Charlotte restaurant week that we hadn't been to before, Bistro La Bon. Highly recommend and can't wait to go back!

I am getting a ton of use out of this awesome striped knit blazer. Love it! I have some upcoming outfits wearing it as well so you will be seeing even more of it!

Black and white striped blazer: Targetsimilar
Magenta sweater: Banana Republic Outlet, similar, similar
Gray skinny jeans: Old Navy Rockstar Super Skinnysimilarsimilar
Cognac boots: Born Sagesimilar
Cobalt necklace: Towne and Reese, similar
Blue and pink earrings: Towne and Reese they are out of blue/pink but have blue/green and yellow/teal; similar

Linking up to: What I Wore WednesdayWhat I Wore to WorkBecause Shanna Said So

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The best carry-on luggage {The Aeronaut Bag}

So many different places claim to have "the best" of something. The best french fries. The best customer service. The best wine. Of course "the best" can really depend on personal preference and everyone may not agree. All that aside, I feel confident in proclaiming this to be the best carry-on bag and hopefully many of you will agree if you have one or buy one.

As you may have so cleverly figured out from the title, this fabulous bag is call The Aeronaut. It is made by Tom Bihn, a company based out of Seattle that makes travel bags, laptop bags, etc. Yes these bags are made right here in the USA.

 Here is why I think this bag is a perfect carry-on and why I purchased one
  • It's a backpack and a duffel bag all in one so you can choose how you want to carry it although I recommend it as a backpack. 
  • It is comfortable to carry as a backpack. The shoulder straps are adjustable and well padded (they have a compartment they can zip into when not being used). There is a sternum strap and you have the option to get a waist strap to further secure the bag and distribute weight. I didn't originally get the waist strap but I plan to.
  • It's lightweight at 3lbs 1oz. I am a small person so this was a big selling point to me. Your stuff is already going to have weight so why have a heavy bag on top of that.
  • It has 3 main compartments to organize your stuff - the big middle compartment has tie down straps which are great to keep clothes from shifting and the two end compartments ensure even more stability for the middle compartment and still fit a lot.
  • At 22" x 14" x 9" it is a maximum size airline carry on so you aren't settling for some small bag
  • You can easily maneuver through the airport, planes, trains, crowds, etc. since you are wearing your luggage on your back and not wheeling it behind you. You can take the stairs while everyone is waiting for the elevator or escalator.
  • It easily and quickly fits in the overhead compartment since it is a duffel type bag and not a suitcase with hard edges. As a last resort on short trips where they run out of overhead room and others have to check their bags, it could fit under your seat.
  • The grab handles make it easy to pull down from an overhead compartment.
  • It is really well made. You can easily tell it was constructed with great materials meant to last a very long time (that you can read all about on their website). The fabric and zippers are even water resistant. It is not a cheap bag at $250, it's a long term investment. And a really great investment for someone who travels.  
  • It comes in a great selection of colors. After talking with the very helpful customer service person I decided on Aubergine. I wanted to make sure it wasn't a Barney purple but it is a lovely eggplant color.  It's a great color if you don't want a basic color but also don't want it to stand out in a crowd with a bright red bag or something. My second choice would have been Steel, the gray color.

The first time I carried this bag was on our 2 week trip to Europe last summer and it was amazing. I only brought this bag and a fabric shoulder bag as my luggage and everything fit (see picture below)! I am going to do another post sometime on everything I brought and how I packed it. It was wonderful being able to walk from the apartments we stayed in to and from the train stations and through the trains and buses without dragging anything behind me.

I so wish I had this bag when we went to Italy in 2011. I also took the bag on a weekend trip to Chicago and lent it to my SIL for a 6 day trip she took to Maryland. Even if you are not someone that thinks this can be your only bag on a long trip, it is much better to carry this on your back and only wheel one suitcase instead of two.

The inside of my bag is the Wasabi color. Is this a color I would ever wear? No. Is this a color I would paint a wall in my house? Probably not. Is it easy to see the contents inside my bag? Yes!
I was planning to go with the Aubergine/Ultraviolet combo until the customer service person said the Aubergine/Wasabi was the most popular combination because it was a great contrasting color and made things easy to find. Sold! It is completely true and although it's not a color I usually like, it doesn't matter because it is not on the outside of the bag anywhere.

Steel with Ultraviolet would also be a good combination or the Navy or Black with Wasabi.

If you still don't believe me that this is the best travel bag around, you can read all the glowing independent reviews on the Tom Bihn website. I cannot wait for all the future trips with this bag! If anyone else has the Aeronaut or buys one I would love to hear what you think!

 By the way, these are all my personal opinions. I am not being compensated in any way. Tom Bihn has no idea who I am  :) 

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