Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Things that make me happy: October chic list

Recently I've been making a conscious effort to view my life through rose-tinted glasses, to see my glass always half-full and enjoy and purposefully seek out the little pleasures that make my life more beautiful. Starting today, I will write a monthly feature, sharing the things that make me happy, inspired and optimistic. So without further ado, these are things that were rocking my world in October:

Wearing: Cable knit sweaters. Flowy skirts and lightweight dresses are forgotten for now and the time for opaque tights, winter boots and warm coats is here. I tend to rely heavily on cable knits in winter, and these H&M numbers in cherry and mint have been on constant rotation for the past few weeks.

Eating: Hokkaido soup. I would never have believed that after my first disastrous attempt (which you may remember reading about here), I would become such a huge fan of Hokkaido pumpkin soup. I'm pretty sure that in the upcoming winter months I'll eat it at least once a week, until I get completely fed up with it (and maybe then I'll move on to something else).

Watching: Revenge. In my opinion, this is the very best and the most riveting TV show right now. I await Sunday evenings (or, in my case, early Monday mornings) to discover what interesting turns of events are happening in the Hamptons. Emily Thorne and the Graysons never disappoint!

Drinking: Herbal tea. I'm the biggest water drinker around here. I can go through 2-liter bottle like it's nothing. But as the temperatures drop (and the heating company seems quite reluctant to send some hot water into the pipes), I've switched to various herbal concoctions. My favorite so far: tea-tree, rose-mallow and guarana mix.

Reading: Emily Schuman's Cupcakes and Cashmere. I may be a tiny bit obsessed with Emily and her wildly successful blog, and now I'm equally in love with her adorable book. Emily stays true to her style, aesthetic and voice. I love how she provides her personal tips on defining your style, entertaining (her Oscar party seems so easy and fun!) and looking your best. Yes, there are some pictures that I've already seen on her blog, and some of the advice come out of the common sense, but it's still pretty amazing to have everything in one place, constantly on hand on my nightstand.

Listening to: Overexposed by Maroon 5. This one album single handedly got me through my break-up. I can't even tell how many times I've listened to it (and I've had Payphone on repeat for the best part of the past 3 months). I don't know whether it's the optimistic, upbeat music, or honest and touching lyrics (or maybe the combination of them), but there's something about this album that makes me genuinely happy, and I simply can't get enough of that feeling!

Doing: Creatively made home e-course. I've already had a home decor e-course on my 101 in 1001 list, so when I learned about this wonderful course created by 5 incredibly talented ladies, I jumped at the opportunity straight away. Jeanne, Tracey, Kimberly, Jennifer and Sara share insights into their own home decor history and interesting stories about defining and refining their own personal style. The course is packed with tons of helpful tips, inspiring videos and easy and impressive DIY projects.  I'm utterly hooked.

Visiting: Ikea. My obsession with the home accessories department of Ikea is no secret to anyone (last documented here). So when the Swedish giant recently reopened its biggest store in Central Europe in Bratislava, I simply had to be there. And as usual, I left with my car full to the brim with candles, candle holders, flower pots and linens, and a great dose of inspiration.

Buying: Vintage brooches. Recently I've always been a costume jewelry hoarder (seriously, my collection is getting completely out of control!), and recently I've found myself drawn to pieces with a unique personal story. Nothing makes me dream and imagine beautiful  stories like a wonderful piece of vintage jewelry. These two brooches are my most recent acquisitions, and I'm already counting down the days until my December trip to Paris, where I'll be able to scour the famous Marché aux Puces (the biggest flea market), little vintage shops in Marais and bouquinist stalls along the Seine (those little green boxes packed with old books, sepia prints and various little treasures). Tres chic!

Loving: Asos Oui and Non bracelets Anything with French inscription makes me instantly happy. These delicate bracelets are currently the highlights of my wrist-adornment collection. They are beautiful, sparkly, original and timeless and they add a touch of fun to any outfit I put together.

Coveting: L'Ombre dans l'Eau perfume by Diptyque. Diptyque is such an iconic brand: their candles are among those little luxuries you can actually afford from time to time, which make your life that much more beautiful. But it's not only candles that make Diptique special. They have an ever growing collection of perfumes that echo their most iconic scents, and they make me swoon quite regularly. This beautiful perfume, inspired by one of their most successful candles, Baies, has been on my wishlist forever, and I'm planning to finally make it mine on Christmas.

Now tell me, what are the things that made you happy in October? Do you keep your own list of things that make your life more beautiful, enjoyable and fun? I would love to read about your suggestions!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

From my kitchen: Brioche aux pralines, first attempt

I know that it may not seem like that here on the blog, but even I can occasionally mess up a great recipe like it's nobody's business. Despite my best efforts, my macarons still refuse to rise on their feet (maybe it's because I've changed oven three times this year?). The last time I made chicken breasts for lunch, I completely forgot about them, and ended up with a dried, messy stuff that went directly to trash. And this, my friends, is my latest culinary experiment gone bad. I've been planning to make a brioche aux pralines for ages, ever since I discovered the one made by my ex's mom. I checked out numerous recipes, trying to figure out what my perfect one should be. I thought I had it all well made, until I put the brioche in the oven and realized almost immediately that something had gone amiss. The brioche didn't rise. At all. And it took me only one second glance at the recipe to realize that I'd forgotten to add sugar to the dough. Huge bummer. It comes as no surprise that the end product was closer to Italian cantuccini than a true soft and fluffy brioche.

I am by no means an accomplished chef (I still have a long way to go), but I certainly don't have a problem making fun of my occasional kitchen fail. And since I'm always trying to learn from my mistakes and I'm always wishing to do better next time, I promise you to give this brioche another try and share it with you. Sugar included.

Monday, October 29, 2012

My style: Monochromatic

Cable knit sweater: H&M, Pleated skirt: H&M, Pumps: Deichmann, Clutch: H&M, Belt: Dorothy Perkins, Necklace: Forever 21, Bracelets and rings: Asos

Do you ever get the feeling that the workdays drag by so slowly and the weekend always flies away too fast? That's exactly how I'm feeling this morning. And the fact that we switched to winter time (and thus gained one hour of sleep on Sunday) doesn't change a thing.

Over the weekend I tried to cram in as much reading as possible (trying to finish my October reading list), and I finally finished reading Joy's book Blog Inc (while munching on my homemade apple chips). Although there were many things I knew already from my own experience, it still gave me a bunch of useful tips on how to take my blog to next level. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is new to blog world and is willing to learn and grow.

On a fashion note, we saw the very first snow of this year and since the time for flowy skirts and nude pumps is almost over (they gradually leave the stage to winter coats and riding boots), I enjoyed them together one last time (sans tights) in this monochromatic outfit. How did you enjoyed this past weekend?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Brunch with a blogger: Nico of Satin and Salt

Ever since I started this blog, I've had the chance to get to know some of the most wonderful and inspiring women in the world. Even if I've never met most of them in person, I still call them my friends, because we share the same passions and obsess over the same things. And since I love sharing the most fabulous things and finds with you, it feels only appropriate to introduce you to these fabulous ladies, while having a virtual Sunday brunch with them. 
Today, meet Nico Saich, the author of very inspiring Satin and Salt:

Nico has an amazing chic and classy style and she definitely has a knack for styling colors and patterns. She can pull off sequins like it's nobody's business, and she has an incredible talent for bargain hunting (she just scored a Michael Kors dress for $10, see what I mean?). And the fact that she looks like a supermodel doesn't hurt either.

When it comes to cooking, this lady grows her own vegetables and herbs in her garden, and then turns them into delicious and mouthwatering recipes. Decorating cakes is one of Nico's favorite pastimes, and as you can see here and here, the results are simply breathtaking! Plus, she can take an unassuming flea market find and turn it into something glamorous and unique: these chairs and this chandelier are my personal favorites. 

Let's discover the things that are rocking Nico's world right now, and then be sure to hop over to her blog, Satin and Salt, to get some serious dose of inspiration:

My favorite fashion accessory: Handbags... especially of the leather variety. They make me swoon.

Always in my closet: Denim!

My favorite magazine: Cook's Illustrated. Perhaps the only magazine subscribe too because the individual mags are up to $8 a pop! For good reason too, they are FULL of utterly perfect recipes and extremely helpful culinary tips! A must read if you are into food periodicals!

Guilty pleasure: Skeet Ulrich. He's a dream boat.

My favorite scent: MAC's Turquatic, smells like anemone and lotus flowers at an ocean shore. I have been wearing this perfume since 19 and have gotten so many compliments that I have never felt the needs to find another. Only $20 for 6 ml too!

The first web I check in the morning: My home page is and each morning I read the word of the day!

My ultimate style icon: Grace Jones. Her clothing reflected her strong personality so well. 

One thing I simply can't live without: I guess it would be a toss up between bacon and butter my two favorite ingredients to cook with!

My favorite book: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, the world is at war with an alien race and this is the tale of a 6 year old genius who's compassion is as strong as his will to protect his planet (and all the people he loves) from destruction. Ender is taken into battle school in space and is quickly accelerated thru the program. A book I have read dozens of times that never fails to move me.

My favorite song: The Notorious B.I.G.- "Juicy"      ...Nothing puts me in a better mood than Biggie.

My favorite movie scene: Jack in As Good As It Gets giving Helen Hunt a compliment is easily a favorite

My life mantra: Hope for the best but expect the worst.

Thing I am most proud of: Being myself at every moment of each day!

Best blogging advice I've ever received: Post as often as you are inspired!

My style in 3 words: Classic meets eclectic

Thank you, Nico, for taking time to share your favorite things with us!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

From my kitchen: Apple chips

I think I've already mentioned that my parents have a ginormous garden in the country. Thanks to my father we almost never have to buy potatoes, tomatoes or onions. He has a bunch of apple trees as well, some of them older than I am. And while it is true that I'm not a big fan of working in the garden, apple picking is something I almost never miss. I simply love that moment when I can devour an apple picked straight from the tree. And when it comes to perfect fall snacks, there's nothing that beats homemade apple chips. They are extremely easy to make: just wash the apples, remove their cores, cut in slices and let them dry in the oven (or, like me in a food dehydrator) until they're crispy. Come fall, I always need to have a bowl of them next to my computer, as a healthy alternative to chocolate and candy.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

DIY: Memory box

For all my life, I've been battling my hoarding tendencies (see an example here): I've always had a hard time getting rid of things. Magazines, books, jewelry, name it, I have it. But recently, I've been trying to get things under control and learn to edit. Funny enough, I have no problem editing my closet several times a year, and throwing away (or more often donating) things that I don't wear and love anymore. But I still have a long way to go before I can call my place streamlined and decluttered. 

There is one thing however that I will never ever get rid of: my souvenirs. I had one shelf in my closet, packed with boxes of various sizes, full of photos, old letters (yeah, I once lived in a world without email, crazy, I know!), theater tickets and museum brochures. My own memory can be fickle, and I love the fact that I can get lost in my souvenirs any time, and remember the beautiful and funny things that happened to me. 

However, the way I used to  store these souvenirs was neither practical, nor systematic. That's where this easy DIY project came handy. I found the biggest shoe box possible and used the same technique as here to cover it with beautiful pink wrapping paper. And since I wanted its purpose to be easily recognizable, I chose a bunch of vintage postcards from Paris (that I buy in stacks every time I'm in my favorite city in the world) and secured them on the lid with a tape. Not only are all my memories stored neatly in one place now, they are in a lovely box that never fails to put a smile on my face when I get a glimpse of it in my closet.

Do you have a special way of storing photos and other souvenirs? Do you even keep things like that or do you throw them away without a second glance?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Beauty: My fall beauty essentials

Pumpkin spice lattes, changing leaves, warm color palettes, brisk mornings, weekends spent soaking up the last rays of sunshine...these are just a few things I love most about fall. But it's not only nature that undergoes the transformation. With changing seasons, I love to shake my beauty routines a little bit as well. Besides trying on new beauty trends fresh from the runway, I have a few staples that make a reappearance in my bathroom as soon as October begins.

It may be surprising, but even in fall, I'm drawn to bright pink lipsticks and lip glosses (my signature color), since browns have a tendency to wash me out, and I still haven't found my perfect shade of red. My nails go from bright neon tones to more subdued reds (like oxblood) and metallics. When it comes to my face, I rely on my beloved BB cream and a touch of bronzer to give myself a healthy glow. Purple smoky eyeshadows are my signature (they make my brown-green eyes really stand out), and I never leave the house without a coat (or two) of my favorite mascara.

After some experimenting with peroxide, I recently went back to my natural warm brown color. But my hair is still weak from all the coloring, so I show it an extra love with targeted shampoo and conditioner (Pantene is my fave right now) and at least once a week I give it an extra boost with deep conditioning hair mask.

Comes September, there is always a scented candle (or three) burning in my house. I've been in love with Fleur d'oranger ever since I discovered this perfume, and I'm already looking forward on splurging on this Diptyque candle on my upcoming trip to Paris.

Does your beauty routine tend to change with switching seasons? Do you have any seasonal products you only use in certain months? I'd love to hear about your fall beauty secrets, so don't hesitate to share!

8. Pantene Pro V Color Hair Solutions shampoo $8.99 and shine conditioner $6.99

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

From my kitchen: Hokkaido soup

Until recently, pumpkins definitely weren't part of my fall traditions. Truth be told, I literally hated the very first pumpkin soup I tasted (and the fact that I was the one who made it definitely didn't help). To my defense, at the time I was working as an au pair in France, and the father of the family was a huge proponent of healthy cooking. And by healthy he meant no salt, no butter, and very often, no taste. Since I was the one making food for kids, I was bound to follow his general instruction. So, my very first pumpkin soup was made with olive oil, pure water, low-fat cream and no salt. And that, my friends, is a recipe for disaster! Even those poor kids refused to eat it, and I certainly couldn't blame them.

I think I've come a long way since (at least when it comes to cooking), and when I stumbled upon a gorgeous Hokkaido pumpkin at my local farmers market, I decided to give the pumpkin soup another shot. I swapped olive oil for delicious farmers butter, low-fat cream for regular one, clear water for rich bouillon and I added a pinch of herb salt. And voila! A scrumptious fall soup was born, and has since become one of my favorite dishes, to the point where I make it at least once a week and even bring it to my office for lunch.

Do you have your own favorite fall dish? Have you ever had a similar hate/love relationship with any special ingredient? I would love to know!

Hokkaido soup

You'll need:

* 1 Hokkaido pumpkin
* 3-4 onions
* 4 garlic cloves
* 20g butter
* 900ml chicken broth (you can also use vegetable one)
* 200ml cream (I prefer the whipping one to cooking cream, because it's thicker and creamier)
* herb salt

1. Peel the onions and garlic. Chop them into small pieces.
2. In a large pot, melt the butter and throw in the onions and garlic. Roast until they are slightly glassy.
3. In the meantime, wash the Hokkaido pumpkin thoroughly (no need to peel it). and cut it into cubes. Reserve the seeds for later. Add the cubes to the pot with onions and garlic.
4. Roast for 5-10 minutes, then add the boiling bouillon. Cook on low heat for 30 minutes.
5. Use the submersible blender to liquidize the soup.
6. Add the cream and bring to the boil one more time. 
7. In a frying pan, roast the pumpkin seeds until they're golden.
8. Serve the soup with a dollop of sour cream and a few roasted pumpkin seeds.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Trend report: Baroque'n'Roll

Images via

As much as I once wanted to, I've never been one to follow trends religiously. Of course, I enjoy living vicariously through editorials in my favorite fashion magazines and following daily outfits of my favorite bloggers. But I have neither funds, nor willingness to become the next trendy girl with the latest It bag dangling on my forearm. Instead, I'm trying to define and create my own unique personal style, that is true to my personality and my aesthetic.

But even if swapping my entire closet every six months is definitely not an option, I still enjoy hugely every single fashion week, dreaming about one day seeing the mayhem for myself. And every season there is at least one trend that catches my eye and makes me wonder about ways to incorporate it into my own style.

This fall, baroque colors, prints and fabrics are winners in my book. Baroque trend may be lavish and opulent, maybe even overly theatrical, and it can be tricky to pull off in everyday life. You don't want to look too costumey, but if you opt for good quality pieces that won't look cheap, it can be incredibly chic and glamorous. Always pair baroque pieces with more subdued wardrobe essentials: tailored jackets, elegant coats, classy black or nude pumps, crisp white button-downs, black or blush silk blouses, form-hugging pencil skirts.

Keep your styling simple and toned down: pair black & gold baroque pants with black cashmere sweater and black suede ankle booties. Or throw a black tuxedo jacket over the grey baroque dress and add classy nude patent leather pumps in the mix.But if you don't feel bold enough to go all dramatic, opt for baroque-inspired jewelry that will add just the right amount of edge to an otherwise understated outfit. When it comes to colors, black and gold is the most evident choice, but if you feel like experimenting, opt for cream, white grey or purple.

Now tell, me, are you going to try this dramatic new trend? Would you be bold enough to rock a baroque-print dress or a pencil skirt, or would you try a necklace or a pair of earrings first?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Brunch with a blogger: Amber of The Girly Bird

I'm here with the third installment of my weekly Brunch with a blogger. Amber, the fabulous author of The Girly Bird is my guest today.

I have discovered Amber's blog, The Girly Bird, last year, and I've been hooked on her unique style and witty writing ever since. There's nothing I love more than inspiring photos combined with interesting and funny text, and Amber's blog has it all.
She has such a lovely and inspiring personal style, made of pretty girly dresses, rich colors and timeless classic pieces. She has a hubby Kevin, who always makes her look awesome in pictures. Amber loves good music, and is generous enough to share: every week she makes me discover another fabulous singer or band that make her weak in the knees

I could go on and on about what I love about her blog, but I think her own blog introduction says it best: My name is Amber, my friends call me Amber. I'm a native Texan recently transported to Connecticut where I live with my husband and ever chubby pup Oliver. I laugh at my own jokes and think I'm pretty awesome. This is my personal style blog intertwined with my thoughts on all things that make me weak in the knees. Thanks for checking my blog out, you have just earned ten cool points for doing so.

Now let's discover the things that are rocking Amber's world right now:

My favorite book: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I've read this book numerous times and have seen every film adaptation. I am something of a Jane Eyre addict.

One thing I simply can't live without: Music. There is nothing better.

Favorite scent: Lauren by Ralph Lauren. My mom used to spritz this on herself just before she left for work and now I do the same thing. I guess I really have turned into my mother.

Always in my closet: A crisp white button down blouse.

My ultimate style icon: Charlotte Gainsbourg. She is one part French chic and one part rock star "I don't give a damn" style. I heart her in a big way.

My favorite magazine: Lucky!

My favorite song: Picking my all time favorite song is impossible, but the number one track on my current playlist is Don't move by Phantogram.

My guilty pleasure: I've seen every Teen Mom episode that's ever aired. I'm not proud of this.

My favorite blog / the first website I read in the morning: Well my blog is the first one I read in the morning because I clearly have issues. But after that I check out The City Birds Nest to see what my blogger buddy cb is up to.

My favorite fashion accessory: I am just starting to get into sunglasses. They give me an air of mystery while always camouflaging the fact that every other picture I take I tend to be blinking in.

My favorite movie scene: "You jump, I jump, right?" Yes, I am talking about Titanic. In particular the scene where Leo DiCaprio's character puts Kate Winslet on the boat and she is being lowered to the water where she will be safe and wait for rescue but she looks longingly at Leo while that Irish lady is ooooing in the background and then Kate jumps BACK onto the Titanic and races to find Leo who is already running to find her and then they embrace and he keeps asking her why she did that and they're kissing and hugging and then she finally says "You jump, I jump, right?" Oh god, I'm crying now. I need a moment to myself.

My life mantra: Life's short, eat the chocolate.

Thing I am most proud of: I'm just a small town gal from Texas who somehow managed to survive and flourish in Manhattan for six years. I'm pretty proud of that.

My style in 3 words: Better. Than. Yours.
(That's a joke. My head isn't really that big.......yet)

Thank you so much, Amber, for having this virtual brunch with me, and for your witty and honest answers! I love every single one of them!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

DIY: Revamped magazine holders

As much as I was looking forward to a quiet, relaxed weekend, spent drinking tea and flipping through the stack of stylish books that arrived on my doorstep on Friday, I once again proved myself incapable to sit quietly for more than just an hour or two. Not only did I empty my entire closet, wondering about justification of certain purchases, but I also attacked the immense pile of magazines that's been lying all around my apartment, threatening to bury me alive. 

I've been generally known as the biggest magazine hoarder around. I have such a great weakness for glamorous fashion spreads (oh, Vogue, how I love thee!), witty and intelligent writing (I went to bed half past midnight on Sunday evening, just because I couldn't pull myself away from the September issue of Vanity Fair, thus my dark circles and generally baffled expression at 6am on Monday morning), and all sorts of beauty advice and culinary inspiration. As my father never misses to point out, I have a fortune invested in magazines (it's a pity that I can't earn some interests from them).

But that's not what it's all about, right? The point is, I had disorganized piles of magazines scattered all over the place, and I needed to fix that. Immediately. I had a bunch of magazine holders from Ikea lying around (it seems that there are too many things lying around me these days). They had seen better days (as you can see on the "Before" picture), and I decided to turn them into something much more pretty and stylish. And I think that with a little help from lovely wrapping paper and some adhesive tape, I managed to get the most out of them. Now they are proudly sitting in my bookshelf, holding all the magazine wisdom I possess.

There's only one little issue left: As they are already full to the brim (and there are 7 of them!), they won't be able to hold all the mags I'm going to buy this month, and the next, and the, can you tell I have a serious magazine hoarding problem?

Monday, October 15, 2012

My style: Toned down neons

Dress: Asos, Coat: Custom made, Shoes: Dorothy Perkins, Bag: Dorothy Perkins, Chevron rings: Asos, Rose drop earrings: Asos, Belt: Vintage, Nail polish: Essie "French Affair"

Recently I've been thinking a lot about my personal style and my shopping habits. I've always had a soft spot for beautiful things, dreamy and feminine dresses, sharp blazers and classy coats. But over the years, I've also indulged in one too many fast fashion pieces: tops that loose their shape after second washing (fortunately, they are great for house cleaning afterwards - talk about recycling), skirts that are way shorter than they appeared on models (I'm talking about you, Topshop, and your skater dresses that hardly cover the backside), and sweaters that gets lumpy even before the first wear. I really think it's time for me to make a conscious decision to avoid this kind of expendable pieces, and focus instead on classic wardrobe basics in the best quality I can afford. As I'm getting older (and hopefully wiser, too), I find myself drawn to those legendary basic pieces that have withstood the test of time and that will be forever classy.

I've had this coat for longer than I dare to admit, and it's most definitely the item I've worn most over the years. It's custom made and despite the fact that I've worn it really everywhere, from my college classes in Paris, through smoky pubs, to a dinner with the vice-president of the European Commission (for whom I was working); it still retained the same shape and there is not a single damage to the fabric. And believe me when I say that I stuffed it into the washing machine more than once (the poor thing has never seen a dry cleaner in its life!).

I find myself reaching out for it over and over again, when I need a classic cover up for a date night, cocktails with girlfriends or a quick shopping trip. It's the epitome of timeless, and it inspires me daily to seek out quality over quantity, and to prefer considerate purchases over impulsive buys. I'm pretty sure I'll still be wearing it in five (maybe even ten) years, and it will never look cheap or out of place.

Now tell me, what is the one item in your closet that gets the most of your attention?

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