Monday, December 27, 2010

The New Year Resolution

It's that time of year again...we all want to better ourselves: lose weight, eat better, sleep better, exercise more, spend less, find that perfect job, the list can go on and on. Every year I make the same resolution, to do one load of laundry a day so I stay caught up. Seriously. Last year I also had some exercise resolutions that didn't happen but I try not to dwell on them.

In keeping with this, I went back to the gym today. It was too cold to run outside so I got in three miles on the dreadmill. Ugh. When I was done, I came home to eat, drink, and be merry and instead found myself making my own sports drink. See, I love Gatorade. I drink tons of it when I am training, from the time I wake up until I go to bed. My stomach loves it. It helps me to not get run down when I am halfway through my runs. It also helps me avoid runners gut which can be miserable. Here's what I don't love about it: high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, citric acid, artificial flavor, monopotassium phosphate, calcium silicate, food starch, artificial color. Cal me crazy but I am not thrilled about eating or drinking a bunch of stuff I can't pronounce.

So I brewed my own concoction this afternoon. It has five ingredients: water, organic salt, organic sugar, fresh squeezed orange and lemon juice. I know exactly what I am putting into my body which I like. An 8 ounce serving has 50 calories, 110 mg of sodium, and about 12 grams of carbohydrates. Just what I need to keep me moving. My resolution will be the same as stay on top of laundry! I would also like to:

Run a half marathon in under two hours
Run a rock-n-roll half marathon somewhere great (San Antonio, Nashville, or Philly)
Run a 5k in under 25 minutes
Run a 10k in under 50 minutes
Finish 2 sprint triathlons in a decent time

Guess I need to get off the computer and get to working out! Good luck on keeping your resolutions!

Rachel :)
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Birthchrismakkah!

December can get a little crazy around here. Brainy Smurf turned 9 on the 18th. We celebrated by having a spend the night party for him and his 9 best friends. It was exhaustingly fun and everyone survived! Because of weeks of partying for Birthday/Christmas/Hanukkah the gift giving gets out of control! There wasn't much I could do when Smurfette told me she wanted to get Brainy Smurf this for his birthday:
Product Image Dairy Queen Blizzard Maker

That's's a Dairy Queen Blizzard Maker...what every kid wants! I would normally say, "NO!" but Smurfette talked about it for weeks before Brainy's birthday and she was so excited about giving it to him. Mr. T and I looked it up, researched it a little bit, and went out to find a Blizzard Maker for Brainy. I must be honest, I was dreading this gift. Smurfette had super high expectations and the reviews were terrible. Many of them stated that it made slush, had to be churned for 30 or more minutes (directions say 10), and was pretty much just cr@p. Oh well!

The birthday came and Smurfette was over the top excited! Brainy Smurf didn't seem that pleased. Looking back I should have realized that perhaps the little sister wanted it more for herself than her big brother! So, after dinner on Saturday night we set it up to make a few Oreo Blizzards...turns out, this little toy can churn up some pretty good vanilla ice cream in a few minutes. Each kids churned for 5 minutes and after 10, we had about 4 oz of vanilla ice cream to mix some Oreos in! I know 4 oz isn't a whopping amount, but it was just enough to satisfy these two kiddos and give them a little something sweet before bedtime.

Rachel :)
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

The root of my love

I was having a conversation with two friends at a cocktail party last night.  One friend, whom I will call W., was robbed last week.  Not just a little robbed, but A LOT!  She travels to Asia frequently and does a lot of shopping and had just returned from a trip with a bunch of goodies.  She also loves jewelry as much as I do and, I'll call a spade a spade, she's a compulsive shopper.  Needless to say, the thief hit the mother load when he broke into her house in the middle of the day last week.  Understandably, it has completely ruined the holidays for her and not only does she feel violated, she's just plain bummed.

Yesterday W decided to go to the mall to shop and hopefully get into the holiday spirit while lifting her own.  She started trying on clothes and her mood just got worse.  She said she felt fat and bloated (she is the furthest thing from either of those) and trying on clothes accentuated those feelings when they didn't fit quite right.  My jaw dropped upon hearing this tale...

If you only learn one thing from this blog (well, my portion anyway) let that lesson be that under NO circumstances should you ever shop for clothing when you are depressed. Accessories are the answer for that!  My love for accessories doesn't just stem from the fact that you can transform an outfit from "blah" to "fabulous" with the right shoes but from the simple fact that accessories ALWAYS FIT!  When was the last time you tried on a pair of earrings that made you look fat?  Of course, there are earrings that don't look good with your face shape or hair style, but made you look fat and ugly-No Way!  The quickest way to feel petite is to go buy a handbag of giant proportions.  All of a sudden you are Tinkerbell's size.  Want your legs to look long and lean?  Buy (or as J would say, just put on one of the 300 pairs you already own) a pair of 4 inch stilletos. 

W. was shocked when I started shrieking, "WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU TRY ON CLOTHES WHEN YOU ARE TRYING TO MAKE YOURSELF FEEL BETTER?"  I took it for granted that all women knew this but just didn't talk about it.  When I explained my logic, W looked as if I had given her the answer to a life-long question.  If by writing this blog I save even one woman from the heartbreak that W. felt on Saturday, then I consider my civic duty done.

I always say shopping is cheaper than a psychiatrist ~ Tammy Faye Baker

I couldn't agree more!


And yes, those are my drool-worthy, pink satin, ankle-tie Chanel pumps, circa Fall 2001, that I was supposed to be wearing when I got engaged.  Instead I was wearing J's ratty KA Old South t-shirt and flannel pajama pants.  I guess he didn't get the memo. Pin It

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wintertime Blues

I have got a case of the wintertime blues today. I only have one more day until the kids are out of school. I am not done shopping, which really bothers me. Still haven't done holiday cards yet. (This has been a struggle for me because all of these cards have got to be filling up our landfills...right?) I have oodles and boodles of money to count for the American Heart Association that was raised by the kids school. Tomorrow Brainy Smurf is having a spend the night party with 9 of his closest Smurf friends. His birthday is Saturday and I still don't have a birthday present for him. He has requested an Atlanta Braves jersey cake which I need to make. I have holiday parties tomorrow at school and it's my Meals on Wheels day. On top of all this I have 5 more scarves to monogram for teacher gifts and my mommy chores to do like this:

The worst thing about this old house is that I don't have a laundry room...
so the kitchen gets turned into one.
A few years ago I was having a conservation with a good friend (who also happens to be a mom of three) about laundry. I couldn't figure out why I never could stay caught up with the laundry that my family of four produces. She looked at me and said..."Rachel, winter clothes are bigger therefore they take up more room in the washing machine." Huh?!? Such a simple concept really. Jeans are bigger than shorts; fleeces and long sleeve shirts are bigger than the tanks and t's we wear in the summer. If you are somewhat fashionable, you wear lots and lots of layers, creating lots and lots of laundry. I never really thought of it that way. Turns out, it wasn't my imagine and I wasn't going crazy! We really do produce more dirty clothes in the winter which take up more room in the washing machine which leads to more laundry. Lots of it!!!

So...keep up, stay organized, and do laundry everyday! Everyone likes clean clothes!

Rachel :)

P.S. Do as I say, not as I do...
P.P.S. I would love suggestions on how to get Mr. T, Brainy Smurf, and Smurfette to turn their socks right side out!
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Here's the Beef!

If you read my earlier post about vegetarian chili, I am totally making up for the lack of meat with this super easy, really yummy recipe for vegetable beef soup. Even though I pick the meat out, this is one of my most favorite winter soups. It's a favorite of the entire family and it makes a TON!!!

Vegetable Beef Soup
1 BIG can of V8 juice (46-48oz)
6 cups of water
1 small chopped onion
4 tsp salt
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 tsp chili powder
2 bay leaves
1-2 cups of sliced celery
1-2 cups of slice carrots
1 lb of beef stew meat

Mix all of the above ingredients in a huge pot. Simmer for 2 hours.

Add the following ingredients:
1 bag of frozen corn
1 bag of frozen baby lima beans
1 baking potato cubed
1 can of Italian diced tomatoes
1 bag of frozen cut okra (add last)

Simmer for 30 more minutes.

I love to serve this with hot buttery cornbread...enjoy and stay warm!

Rachel :)

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The real cost of a vacation

This year, we decided that instead of buying the boys 8 presents each for Hanukkah we would take a family vacation.  Jake REALLY wanted to go to the Nickelodeon Hotel after seeing the commercial (he really wants a Shark floor steamer after seeing that commercial, too, but that would just create work for me).

We went this weekend with my other best friend, Malinda, and her husband and two boys.  I budgeted perfectly and everyone had a blast.  We ate a ton, drank a ton, and did not sleep a ton.  There was one unexpected cost that I incurred before we left town that I didn't predict, though...

While packing on Thursday I started looking at my handbag that I have been carrying.  It's a black leather bag that I've had for years and is good for pulling out of the closet while I am looking for "the one" each season.  The thing it's not good for is piling a camera, camcorder, diaper, sippy cups, hand sanitizer, and a wallet into.  I knew that I would need to consolidate my handbag, diaper bag, and Paula Rogers* (see footnote)  paraphernalia for this trip.

I went to Nordstrom on Thursday at lunch and found the perfect bag.  It held everything I mentioned above and then some.  It is also, stylish, light-weight, and the softest leather imaginable.  Here is a picture:

You can't tell, but it has studs on the handles and the hardware is pretty cool, too.  The one and only drawback is that it doesn't have outside pockets, but it opens up so wide that I don't really care.  It has a few well-positioned pockets on the inside that I am learning to live with.  I didn't plan on this vacation expense, but it turned out to be worth every penny (in my defense, I did have $20 in Nordstrom bucks!). I really hate buying myself expensive things around Hanukkah and Christmas, but sometimes a girl's gotta do what she's gotta do!  I'm sure I even ended up saving us some money along the way because of all of the snacks I was able to stowe in the bag.  If you ever need justification for anything, just shoot me and email, I'm happy to help!

*Paula Rogers is the mother of some girl J dated in high school.  She apparently followed her children around everywhere with a camera and whenever I pull mine out J yells, "Everybody smile, Paula is here!" I must say, though, Paula managed to capture a wonderful picture of her daughter in a polka dot dress and my husband in a matching polka dot tie!

Leatherly yours,

Marlene Pin It

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Home for the Holidays Part II...Kitchens

I saw this picture in Southern Living a few years ago and have used it as inspiration ever since. It is my absolute favorite and I get loads of compliments every year.

Don't Forget the Kitchen

The first year I did it I used a fresh wreath with ivy topiaries which were a lot fuller than my Charlie Brown topiaries. I have turned to artificial since Brainy Smurf has allergies. Here is the 2010 version...

After looking at this picture, I might add a burlap bow or tie on the wreath and...gasp...a little more color. It's looking a little boring this year.

Rachel :)
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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Home for the Holidays Part I...The Tree Skirt

The past few years I have really started to enjoy decorating for the holidays. The main reason is because I have finally figured out that your home decor can be about you and what you enjoy. I enjoy decorating more for the season. I love candles, greenery, and simple items. When I came across this linen tree skirt at Ballard Designs, I knew it was perfect. Simple, plain, and waiting for a big single letter monogram it was just what I had been looking for. Sadly, it was a bit overpriced at $199. After a quick trip to Hancock Fabrics, I came up with my version for $24.

The best part about this picture is the price tag on the birdhouse ornament...nothing says classy like a price tag hanging off the Christmas tree...

Rachel :) Pin It

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fit for a princess

I'm normally a diamond girl.  I don't really gravitate towards colored stones because I see jewelry as a seasonal thing and it's too expensive to have a fine jewelry wardrobe for each season (although I would absolutely love it!  Ooohhh-blog idea!).  Diamonds go with everything, though. The one exception to my color rule is sapphires. My favorite color is blue and I wear it in varying hues year round.  I just came across this ring in our files and I love it.  It is a 4.48 carat sapphire center stone with half-moon diamonds on the sides and diamonds in the band.  We custom-made it for a client several years ago.

I would wear this on my right hand all of the time.  I love the color of the sapphire and the mounting is amazing! 

Another style I like is this's not as dramatic, but still gorgeous!

When Prince William proposed to his girlfriend Kate (who now wants to be known as Catherine) with his mother's 18 carat sapphire ring a couple of weeks ago we saw a huge spike in interest in sapphires from our clients at Ascot. Apparently the same thing happened when Prince Charles proposed to Diana with the ring originally. 

Anywhooo, I'm rambling...I don't know why, but I find it funny that Americans are so interested in and influenced by the British Royal family when we fought so hard to be independent from them.  Hello, 4th of July!

If you had a diamond only rule, what would be the one stone that could make you break the rule?

Happy Hanukkah! 


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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hidden Office

For the last two years we have struggled with having a designated space in our house for our home office. Mr. T works from home and was in need of his own area. Besides the sofa, lamps, and armoire; what else do you see in this picture?

Surprise...It's our home office! Instead of a sofa table with lamps and useless decorative items, we opted for a desk with space to spread out. The armoire, which held blankets and kids toys for years, is now a part of this great home office. Just what Mr. T wanted.

Good luck in carving out a great space in your home!

Rachel :) Pin It

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The best accessory...

The best accessory a girl can have is a computer that works!  I'm back in business, though!  With Thanksgiving upon us, I really have the urge to dig out my old maternity clothes and prepare for the feast.  Not so attractive.  Fighting that longing was tough, but here is what I decided to wear:

Charcoal tunic by Lole

Grey leggings by David Lerner

Naot Illusion boot in black pearl.  The picture doesn't do them justice.  It is an amazing color between black, grey and pewter.  J says I look like I should be in KISS when I wear them.  What does he know?

I just added up the cost of this casual little ensemble. You can do the math your self.  Actually, the boots were an early Hanukkah present from my dad!  Yay!  If I had time, I would run out and try to find this cute scarf to add some color.  Fittingly, I am in charge of the dressing this year...unfortunately it's of the "turkey and " variety.  No time to shop for scarves!  Happy Thanksgiving!  Hope you wear your most stylish stretchy pants!

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Perfection in the Kitchen

It's that time of year...I feel like I live in the kitchen these days. This year is different because I finally caved in and bought a bar pan. Only the best invention ever, it makes cooking brownies and bar treats quick and easy! Not to mention perfectly cut :)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars
Happy Baking!

Rachel :) Pin It

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Feeling Good

I know whenever I have on something cute and stylish because when I get dressed in the morning the first thing Mr. T says is, "You look like Marlene today." That's about the biggest compliment I can get. Half of my wardrobe is from Marlene's closet, which I love! However, after her post on layering, I was inspired to put something together on my own. I went to the GAP and here's what I came up with...

of course I also wore these:
1.52 diamond studs 150x150 Diamond Studs Go With More Than Your Little Black Dress

and i can't forget this...

So, I was feeling pretty cute....had a few compliments...overall a good day! I'm hardly ever in style, unless Marlene has parted with something prematurely, but I picked these out all by myself (except the jewelry:)) so I was feeling good! Fast forward a week...I had worn my new jean leggings quite a few times and had paired them with some longer tanks and sweaters. I'm into flats these days, so I had worn the new ones almost everyday by now. I was having another cute day when the school called at 11am to let me know Smurfette was sick. After getting her home and settled I spent some time straitening the house and putting things away. As I was doing this I had a thought that went something like this..."My new flats slide all over the hardwood floors..." Random, I know, but it slowly occurred to me that the cute new flats from the GAP I had been sporting all around town weren't flats at all...THEY WERE SLIPPERS!!! And yes, that's how cool I am.

Rachel :)
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A grand total of $93.80 (without sales tax)!!!

Early in our friendship, Rachel and I went shopping at Kmart.  I'm not sure what we were shopping for, but we ended up in the women's clothing department.  After looking around, I made the comment, "There is no reason poor people shouldn't dress well!  There are really cute things here!"  Admittedly, I sound like a Paris Hilton-sized snob.  I guess in my naivete`, I was assuming everyone had good taste but just couldn't afford to dress the part.  Ah, sweet youth.  In honor of my youthful outlook on life, I have put together an entire outfit from Wal Mart and Forever 21 for under $100!  And by entire, I mean a sweater, jeans, boots, bracelet, and puffer jacket!
Here is the look:

This sweater has cute and very fashionable studs at the neck and on the sleeves and is $12.99 at Wal mart.

I just love skinny jeans.  I don't care if bell bottoms come back in style again.  I'm sticking with the skinnies.  These are $14.00 from Wal Mart.

These boots rock.  They are over the knee with a cute little tie.  They are a whopping $27.00 at Wal Mart.

 This is one cute puffer jacket.  It has a detachable hood with faux fur trim. 
 How cute and politically correct is that?  It's $27.00.

Since this outfit is almost entirely in black, I figured I needed some sparkle.  This bracelet is $10.80 at Forever 21.  I bought one that is almost identical at Madewell for $68.00. 
I've worn it so much that I really do think I've gotten my money out of it.  If I had
paid $10.80 I would feel like I had made money on the deal!

My mother didn't like the fact that I said "poor people" and wanted me to substitute those words for something kinder.  The fact is, though, that's what I said.  Luckily, I have matured.  I now realize that it's not just "financially challenged" people (that better, Mom?) shopping at Kmart, Wal Mart, or Target.  It's fashion savvy  people who know how to mix high and low and come away with a look that's all their own!

Marlene Pin It

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Come On In

As promised in an earlier blog, here is an inside peek in my 1950's closet. My family lives in a 60 yr old brick ranch that I absolutely love! I've lived in new houses before and I'll take an old house and its problems any day! We have plaster walls, plaster ceilings and beautiful hardwood floors you can't get today. I love, love, love the character that this house has. This being said, old houses are known for small closets and small bathrooms and this house is no exception! Our master bedroom closet measures a whopping 4 feet deep by 3 1/2 feet wide. Not exactly what someone thinks of when they think of a walk in closet...but I can walk in mine! It helps that Mr. T uses a closet in the hall for all his clothes, so thankfully I have this one all to myself.

A double hook mounted on the inside of the door helps me keep my scarves (for layering of course) in order. I have a 4 inch plastic circle that is big enough for me to hang them on. Keeps them neat, wrinkle free, and makes it super easy for me to find which one I am looking for!

I keep all of my tops together, organized by sleeve length (yes, I was kidding when I said they were organized by color...I'm not that OCD!). I start with spaghetti straps and work my way down to long easy!

Pants, skirts, and jeans are at the bottom. I rotate them depending on the season and keep the current seasons bottoms towards the front.

Shoes that I wear a lot are kept on my shoe rack. Other treasures (like my wonderful Vanellis) are kept in their boxes lined along the bottom of the closet.

This is my favorite! It's a two-plate plate rack that i mounted and use for bags and some jewelry...notice I don't have very much of either...I'm pretty simple!

Have fun making your space more usable!


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Friday, November 12, 2010

Marlene CAN be organized!

Teal Card Cubby Large

Most of my life is organized chaos.  I rarely lose things, but an outsider would probably wonder how I make it out the door with two shoes that match.  About 6 months ago I left the "exciting" world of commercial real estate for the literally exciting world of private jewelry sales. In order to do this our family had to make some lifestyle changes.  I started doing something I've never done before...

CLIPPING AND SAVING COUPONS!  Yes, this is Marlene blogging today, not Rachel.

I happened to have a conversation with a friend (I'm sure it wasn't about clipping coupons or how to save money with a family of four-he's a 27 year old single male) and he told me something life changing.  His mother invented the Card Cubby.  It is this great little wallet/organizer with alphabetized dividers for keeping coupons, gift cards, store credits, whatever!  It organizes all of the things that will cause you to lose money if you lose them!

How many times have you had a store credit that expired because you either couldn't find the reciept or put it in a drawer and forgot about it?  Now that I have my Card Cubby, that doesn't happen.  Anytime I get a coupon in the mail, a gift card, or a receipt with a store credit, it all gets filed in my CC.  The best thing is that when it's time to present my coupon to the clerk and the Munchkins are running in circles around me, all I have to do is reach for my CC, look under T for Target, and VOILA! No digging around my handbag in frustration and then saying, "Oh, just &^%$#*@ forget it, I can't find it".  Cha-ching!

The most thoughtful gift I think I have ever received involved the Card Cubby.   I talked about the Card Cubby until I was blue in the face after my conversation with 27 Year Old Male.  When I left my old company, my co-workers filled my CC as a going away present.  They gave me a gift card or memento for every letter of the alphabet.  A gift card for cupcakes under "C", a certificate for a pedicure under "P", a picture of Nancye and Kate filed under "N" and "K" respectively.  You get the idea. 

This really has been a life saver.  Now I use gift cards and credits down to the last penny.  Have a great weekend!

Marlene Pin It

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Best Thanksgiving Accessory

When you get done taking off all of those layers that Marlene has you wearing, throw on an apron and try making one of these to accessorize your Thanksgiving table. I love a good pumpkin roll. I got into them a year ago after a lunch date with a dear friend. It was the Friday before Thanksgiving and we went to our favorite lunch spot down the block. (Whenever you can walk to a restaurant it immediately gets rave reviews!) After lunch we sampled their pumpkin yummy, but at $45 a roll it didn't exactly work into our lunch budget. It was then I began a quest for the perfect pumpkin roll recipe.
Here it is...

ingredients for Pumpkin Roll
1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin
1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 375*. Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan; line with wax paper. Grease and flour paper. Sprinkle towel with powdered sugar.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in small bowl. Beat eggs and sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack with the seam of the roll facing down.

Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract in small mixer bowl until smooth.

Carefully unroll cake; remove towel. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake.

Reroll cake. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate at least one hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.

Tomorrow is Freaky Friday...stay tuned for a post from Marlene!

Rachel :)

Cast Party Wednesday

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