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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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Art of Layering: Vince - Fall 2010

I love layering.  As you can see from previous posts, sweaters and tanks are my staples.  I stumbled upon this video on Shop Bop.  I enjoyed it and hope you do,too!   Of course, the model is missing some really sparkly jewelry, but that's not what they're selling, now is it? 

Marlene Pin It

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Big Blank Wall

I am constantly getting decorating ideas from friends, magazines, blogs, and any place I can find inspiration. We have a wall in our house, at the end of a hallway, that I have never known quite what to do with. A big blank canvas, I have tried a few pieces the past few years that have never worked quite the way I wanted them to. Several months ago I was browsing through one of my favorite catalogs when I came across this ledge. I loved, loved, loved it...its price just didn't love me back. The small ledge was the perfect size, but I wanted two for this wonderfully blank wall and at $145 a piece that just wasn't going to happen.

What's a girl to do?...make your own!

With the help of a friend, I was able to make not one...but two shelves for a total of $52! Primed wood was used, and I had enough paint left over to paint them the same color as the hall walls. After the paint dried I roughed them up with a little sandpaper, took some brown stain and gave them a little rub. Today, I have a great place to display my favorite artwork given to me my Brainy Smurf and Smurfette. I got exactly what I wanted and was able to save tons of $ in the process...good luck to all of you in making your decorating wishes come true!

Rachel :) Pin It

Monday, November 8, 2010

The only one in the world...

I am happy in my J Crew t-shirts, Ann Taylor Loft cardigans and skinny jeans (o.k., so these aren't so cheap.  I have a weird body...regular jeans don't fit me).  Wearing this outfit, I could be any girl woman in America.  Do I want to be just ANY woman in America?  NO!  How do I transform this perfectly blah combination and set myself apart from the rest of the pack? Say it with me...ACCESSORIES! 

I spend hours and hours on the internet at the beginning of each season searching for the perfect handbag.  I'm not one of these people who buy 5 cheap handbags a season and swap them out constantly.  I usually buy a really nice leather bag and use it day in and day out until it's begging for mercy.  When my search begins, I almost always have a look in mind.  Am I going for tough, street chic this season?  Will I be a sweet bohemian hippie (not likely)?  Perhaps I am playing the lady for a few months.  My one constant requirement no matter the season or persona is an outside pocket for quick key and cell phone access. I really don't like buying well known brand bags because that is a guarantee that you will see your twin walking around the mall. Most of the time the image in my head never turns into reality and I have to settle for a bag that is close to what I have in mind.

Settle no more!  My father is generally on fashion's cusp.  A while back he discovered a line of handbags called Atalla.  They are made in Brooklyn by Sami Atalla (henceforth to be known as My New Best Friend).  It seems that My New Best Friend can bang out a high quality CUSTOM leather handbag literally overnight-if he likes you, which apparently he likes my dad.  I hope he likes me. 

When my dad sent me the Atalla catalog it had about 20 different bag styles and 30 leather swatches.  You could select gold or silver hardware.  These bags are fully customizable!  I have a dream that goes something like this:

MG:  Sami, it's that time again.  I'm thinking about my bag for next season.
SA:   Marlene!  It's so good to hear from you.  What can I create for you today?
MG:  Well, Sami, I'm thinking black.  Go figure, huh?  Hahahahaha.  I just adore the black herringbone leather swatch you sent.  I want one strap this season.  No wait, go ahead and make it two.  I'm feeling chunky silver hardware.  A little slouchy, not too much structure this go-around.  Definitely an outside zipper pocket.
SA:  A pocket?  You want a pocket?  How about TWO pockets?  One on each side!
MG:  Sami, you know how to make a girl happy.  Do you think you could make a tassel to go on the outside pocket zipper?  I really love tassels right now!
SA:  Can do, princess.  I'm going to stay up all night tonight and crank this baby out. 
MG:  Great! I'll have my husband fly me up to NY tomorrow to pick it up....

Oh, wait, that veers off into a totally different dream.  The one I was having was realistic.

I tried and tried to find a photograph of these bags to accompany my wordy post, but that's the beauty.  Close your eyes and imagine your dream bag.  Yep, that's what they look like.

Atalla bags are available at Shoe Visions .  And did I mention that they are totally affordable?

Ta Ta for now...

Marlene Pin It

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lobsters Mate for Life

The only thing better than having a best friend that's a private jeweler...wait a really doesn't get better than having a best friend that's a jeweler. A few months ago I was reading Skinny Runner when she posted a blog with a picture of her jewelry box. As soon as I saw it, I fell in love with her watch. I didn't know what kind it was, all I had was a somewhat small picture of this random watch to go by. I called Marlene, told her to look, and right away she says...

Skinny Runner's jewelry box...compliments of Skinny Runner

"Oh, that's a Michele watch."
I mean seriously, how does she know this stuff? I had tried to enlarge the picture, search for it online, pretty much everything except call in the FBI and she takes a quick glance at it and knows right away...Turns out she hearts Michele as much as I do, and she's known about them forever while I've known about them for about a nanosecond.

Fast forward to September...Mr. T and I are celebrating 12 years of marriage. The watch he had given me for my 21st birthday (it really wasn't that long ago) has seen better days, like when it would actually tell time, and he would like for me to have a new one. Being the wonderfully awesome husband he is, he calls my #1 BFF to get her input. I am pretty sure when he told Marlene what he wanted to buy she gave her deep Dr. Evil laugh because she knew just what to do.

The bad news is that on the morning of our anniversary Mr. T was out of town at a conference. The good news is that minutes after I opened my eyes, Brainy Smurf brought me this note:

Turns out Mr. T does listen when I ramble on and on about randomness. Did you know that when lobsters mate, they mate for life? I lobster this watch. And Mr. T.

Rachel :)
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Where's the Beef?

Fall is great...the weather is cooler, the days are shorter, and for a bit things slow down and we are able to spend more time together as a family. I'm big on family dinners. Every night we sit down, bless our food, and discuss our highs and lows of the day while we eat dinner together. I would love to say I cook 7 nights a week, but life happens, so I aim to squeeze in 5 or 6 homemade meals a week. In order to do this, once a week I refer to the best recipe book ever and write down everything I need to give my family some yummy meals! The key to this is organization. I make a weekly schedule of all our meals and EVERYTHING I will need to make them. I go through the pantry, fridge, and freezer to see what I have and what I need. Doing this it ensures that I will not be in the middle of cooking and realize I am missing a main ingredient.

Soups and stews are great this time of year. They generally require one pot and are great to get in some much needed vegetables and protein. If you are lucky you will have some yummy leftovers for a weekend lunch or to freeze for another meal. My favorite thing to make when the temperature drops is vegetarian chili. It's so thick and packed full of beans you don't miss the meat at all! I love to serve it over yellow rice, top it with shredded cheese and black olives and serve it with scoops. Here's the recipe...

ingredients for vegetarian chili

Vegetarian Chili
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon oil
2 14.5 oz cans tomatoes
12 oz beer
1 cup water
8 oz can tomato sauce
3-4 teaspoons chilli powder
1 teaspoon dried crushed oregano
1 tablespoon mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon pepper
15 oz pinto beans
15 oz light red kidney beans
15 oz dark red kidney beans
1.5 cups corn
1.5 chopped zuchini

In a 4 quart pot cook garlic in hot oil for 30 seconds.

Stir in the undrained tomatoes, beer, water, tomato sauce, chili powder, organo, mustard, cumin, and pepper. Stir in drained and rinsed beans.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in corn and zucchini.

Simmer, covered 10 more minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Serve with your favorite toppings.

finished product

Tomorrow is FREAKY FRIDAY! Marlene and I are going to attempt to switch places...she'll be around writing about something boring and i get to discuss things that!

Rachel :)

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

As promised...repurposing old jewelry!

According to a National Retail Federation consumer poll, 23% of people will ask for jewelry as Hanukkah (or Christmas, or Kwanzaa) gifts this year.  That's up 10% from last year.  Now, that number doesn't tell us how many people will actually RECEIVE jewelry as a gift!  I, for one, am part of the asking group.  J, I BETTER BE PART OF THE RECEIVING GROUP!  I want diamond earring jackets.  I don't have real diamond studs (shhhhh.....) but someday I will (2 carat total weight is all I need).  In the meantime, I want jackets to put around my cz's.

Ascot Diamonds earring jackets

So, back to my original point.  23% of consumers asking for jewelry leaves 77% that either don't want it, or don't think they can afford it.  Here is where the repurposing comes in.  Here are a few ideas for getting "new" jewelry without having to re-finance the house.

1. Upgrade- don't like your current earring, necklace, or ring setting?  Pick out a new one.  This can still be expensive, though.  Is some of your jewelry yellow gold and you are now a white gold gal?  Rhodium Plating to the rescue!  For about $50, you can turn your yellow gold into white through a process called rhodium plating.  Depending on your body chemistry and other environmental factors, it will have to be re-plated a couple of times a year, so it's an ongoing expense.

2. Get a new stone- Do you have a ring with a peridot in it but you aren't feeling green anymore?  How about replacing it with a sapphire? or an Amethyst? Or a blue topaz?  Semi precious stones can be found pretty inexpensively.

3.Sell your gold- If you have old gold jewelry that you don't wear anymore (and will never miss), sell it!  You can make some good money to put toward a new piece of jewelry.  Many jewelers will also buy stones, too.

I think the only piece of jewelry that I wear that wasn't made from family stones or from old jewelry that I had re-set is my wedding band.  My collection isn't growing, it's just evolving!

Hope these ideas spark some creativity!


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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"The One with the Secret Closet"

Do you remember this FRIENDS episode...

Chandler discovers Monica has a secret closet which is always locked. When he finally gets it open, he discovers a terrible, messy pile of junk...
Chandler: He-he-he-he-he. You're messy.
Monica: No, you weren't supposed to see this!
Chandler: I married Fred Sanford!

Do we have any Monicas in the house? Who out there has a catch all closet? You know...the place where everything that doesn't have a place lands? My catch all closet is the closet in our den. There are no shelves, no clothing bar...nothing. It was just an empty space when we moved into this house two years ago and it didn't take long to fill it up. Holiday decorations, boxes that I never unpacked, books, art projects from the name it; it was in there. I always had great intentions of cleaning and organizing it, but it never seemed to happen...until last summer...

The kids were gone for a few days, so Mr. T and I took it apart. Unloaded everything. Unpacked everything. Threw everything some things away. Then repacked what needed to stay and put the rest where it needed to go. Mr. T took measurements and we were off to the hardware store. You don't need mad carpentry skills to build a great space, just a few ideas, a little bit of $, and the ability to put it all together! Who needs an expensive, name-brand closet company when you can build one yourself! After the wonderful employees at the hardware store cut our wood we were on our way!

I wish I had taken a before was pretty much like Monica's secret closet. I now have a fabulous closet/office/sewing nook that holds everything from fabric to art supplies to computer cables to wrapping paper. It rocks my socks!

Mr. T did such an awesome job putting it all together...I am happy because I have a place to sew and get creative. He's happy because I'm not pulling out stuff and tossing it everywhere. Smurfette is happy because now it takes me no time to whip up a cute costume like this:

No worries for all you "frou frou" girls out there...Marlene will be back tomorrow to talk about things that sparkle...

Rachel :) Pin It