Monday, February 27, 2012

Animal Print to Work? Yes, Yes You Can.

It's a common misconception (at least in my opinion) that animal print has no place in the professional/semi-professional setting.  I believe that it most certainly can be done, if you pick the right prints and class it up a bit.  Observe:

Of course, the use of animal print is all within reason.  Would [this] fly in my work setting?

As cute and fun as that is... no, it would not work.  The key is in picking the right animal print - stick with natural, more neutral tones (neon cheetah isn't going to cut it) in a flowy, blousier fabric/style to soften the print even further.  Here's an example currently [available] from The Limited:

For my outfit, I chose to belt my top and wear it with skinny black dress pants from Banana Republic.  To bring out some of the other tones in the top, I wore gray flannel low pumps with a shiny black heel from Nine West and grabbed a gray and black bag.  My necklace is actually a long single strand, but I twisted it like the pearl bead necklace from [yesterday's post].  Put it all together and you've got a sleek look with a touch of wild, a touch of shine, and all class for a day at work.

Top: The Limited
Belt: The Limited
Pants: Banana Republic
Shoes: Nine West [buy here - on sale for only $31.60!]
Bracelet/necklace/earrings: All old, unsure

Sunday, February 26, 2012

From Blah to Ooh-Ahh: Temporarily Transform a Long Single-Strand Necklace

I don't know about you, but I'm never quite sure what to do with a long single-strand beaded necklace.  Sometimes they work fine on their own, but they usually just end up looking too long or too plain to me.  I'll knot them at the bottom sometimes, but if the beads are too large, it just ends up looking awkward.  More often than not, I end up putting the necklace back on the hook and going with something else.

I was absentmindedly playing around with one of my necklaces the other night, and came up with a quick temporary solution to the drab single strand.  I'm sure people probably do this all the time, but it was new to me.  The solution?  Twist!

- Hook your fingers in each end of the necklace and twist in opposite directions until you have a fairly tight twist.

- Drape the twisted strand around your neck and hold the ends in front of you.  Transfer both ends to one hand (you should have little loops at the end to hang on to).

-With your other hand, grab a safety pin.  Yes, a safety pin.  I'm sure there's a more attractive way to do this, but this was on the fly - if you're hair is down, nobody will notice anyway.  Fasten the safety pin through both loops - it should be able to tuck in between beads so it'll close.

- Rearrange the necklace so your temporary clasp is in the back, and you have a brand new necklace that looks nothing like how it started!  When you're done wearing it this way, it goes right back to its former self so you can wear it however you want.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Kiss the Cook: Crash Hot Potatoes [via Pinterest]

Clearly, the lack of work outfit posts has continued - given that I was out sick at the end of the week, I have good reason!  So, I decided now would be a good time for my first recipe post.

I'm sure most people have heard of [Pinterest] by now - it's a great resource of inspiration for crafts, food, style, and more.  One of the first recipes I saw was for "Crash Hot Potatoes" - a delicious-looking take on small red potatoes.  I did try these once before and they didn't turn out quite like I hoped, but that gave me a few ideas of how to make it better this time, and it worked!  The initial recipe is from [The Pioneer Woman], and what you'll find here is my version.  (Note: my version is less healthy, I'm sure...)

Crash Hot Potatoes: Michele's Parmesan, Garlic, and Dill Edition

You will need:
-Small/medium red potatoes
-Olive oil
-Salt and pepper (coarse-ground is best)
-Garlic powder
-Grated parmesan cheese

First, prepare the preparations.  [Ludo reference... 10 points if you even know what I'm talking about.]  There are extra herbs here because I didn't know what I wanted to use at first.

Next, boil your desired number of potatoes with the skins on.  You will need to boil them until they are extremely tender, or the subsequent smashing step will not work out so well.  (I learned this the first time.)  I failed to keep track of how long I boiled mine, but a fork should go into them easily and the skin should be starting to split.

You'll want to prepare your pan by drizzling a good coating of olive oil.  I'm sure Pam or something would work too, but I went with what the original recipe recommended.  Meanwhile, melt some butter in a small dish.  I used about half a stick.  Also, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

When the potatoes are done boiling, transfer them to the pan and SMASH THEM (gently) with a potato masher until they're somewhat flattened.  This, unfortunately, is not as easy as it sounds and took me a few tries to get right.  You want the potato to stay together, roughly.  I started by smushing them gently, a little bit at a time, and rotating the potato masher with each smush.  This broke apart the potatoes too much, however, so I found that if you score an "X" into the top of the potato (no more than halfway down the side), it helps them mash down more easily.  I also removed a bit of extra skin off the top of each potato to give a rougher surface area for seasoning to stick to.

Once you've smushed your potatoes, brush a good amount of olive oil over the top of them.  I also brushed a bit of melted butter on at this point.  (High five, Paula Deen.)  Next, generously salt and pepper each potato.  I use the kind with the built-in grinders, so you get a good coarse-ground helping of each.  Sprinkle on your herb of choice - I used dill this time.  Place the pan in the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes.  (Make sure the oven is good and hot - it's necessary to get these crispy enough.)

When one of my coworkers made these, she said they turned out too dry.  With that in mind, I subbed in this next step to try to prevent that - more butter.  This is why they're less healthy, of course.  Mix some garlic salt in with the remainder of your melted butter.  Take the potatoes out and drizzle/brush/dump/pour your garlic butter mixture over each potato.  I also sprinkled on a generous helping of parmesan cheese at this point, then placed them back in the over for another 15 minutes (25 minutes total oven time).

When they come out, they should be nice and golden brown and sizzling, and your parmesan cheese should be forming a bit of a crust.  Let them sit a few minute to finish crisping up, and also so you don't immediately torch your mouth like I did.  There you have it!  

They're a great side dish, or if you're like me and cooking for one... a meal.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream, and you're done!

For next time, I might try to flatten the potatoes out a bit more for maximum overall crispiness (they were quite soft in the middle), and possibly add more garlic (the flavor was a bit too subtle) but I'm fairly happy with how they turned out!  If anyone makes these or their own variation, let me know how they go!

Monday, February 20, 2012

MUTEMATH Music Video Monday

On Friday, I had the absolute pleasure of seeing one of my all-time favorite bands, Mutemath, play a show at the House of Blues here in Chicago.  It was my eighth time seeing them, but this tour takes their already powerful stage presence and skyrockets it into a new dimension.

They just released a new music video today for their song "Allies", which is one of my favorites from their new album entitled Odd Soul.  It uses footage from the current tour, so you can see elements of their dynamic performance that brought the house down on Friday.

I was lucky enough to get to say hello to the guys prior to the show.  They remembered me and my family from our attendance at multiple shows on past tours even though it's been a few years, which is always a nice feeling.  Paul, Roy, Darren, and Todd (who is new) are all extremely kind and talented gentlemen, and each show I go to is better than the one before it.

[FYI: Shirt, jeans, earrings, and necklace are all from The Limited]

I was also able to test out my new camera from our front row spots (I'm telling you, we mean business when it comes to seeing this band).  I've posted a few of my favorite shots below.

Photos taken with Canon PowerShot SX230 HS

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Lunch with Friends

And we're back!

As it turns out, I picked a bad month to start this blog, so posts may continue to be a bit sporadic due to lack of time.  However, today I took a nice break and had lunch in Oak Park with my friends Sam and Chelsey - thanks to Sam for taking the photos of me today!

It was nice and sunny today, but still only in the 30s, so I decided to stay warm in a big fuzzy cowlneck sweater.  You can always dress up a big sweater a bit by cinching in the waist with a belt - I just used a woven fringey one I've had for quite some time and let the end hang down.  Add skinny jeans and boots, and you're pulled together and still comfortable.

I always tend to pair my neutral light-colored tops with dark browns - I like the contrast, and it all fits within the same earthy palette.

I also threw in a few one-of-a-kind pieces I picked up on previous travels to Los Angeles.  My earrings were purchased from an artist at a farmer's market in Silverlake who recycles bits of old jewelry with other materials to make new pieces.  Also, my purse is by [De La Luna Designs] from LA-based Virginia Ayala, who takes vintage purses and applies fabric designs to them.

Sweater and Jeans: The Limited
Belt and Necklace: Both old, not sure...
Boots: BareTraps from DSW
Earrings: Silverlake (CA) farmer's market
Purse: De La Luna Designs (CA)

Hopefully I'll have time for some work outfits this week.  Til next time... stay cool.

(Sunglasses: Tory Burch)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sweet Deal: Kristin Hassan Jewelry 40% off for Valentine's Day!

Periodically, I'm going to post sales and specials I hear about (and/or have taken advantage of myself) to share the disturbing joy I experience from getting a great deal on something fabulous.  I'm aware I currently have a readership of maybe two people, but with any luck that will eventually change, and this will actually be a useful function for someone!

Anyway: I have recently become enamored with the bracelets of Chicagoland designer Kristin Hassan.  (Especially her hinged bangles.  Hinged bangles are the bracelet savior of small-wristed women.  If you've ever had a bangle bracelet just fall off your hand, you know what I mean.)  Her wrist wraps are also of stunning design, blending leather or faux leather with metals, studs, and sparkling stones.  While I'm certainly not a seasoned or legit style blogger like the others who tout her designs, you can still take my word for it: you'll love them.

Now for the good news:  Through February 14th, Kristin is having a Valentine's Day special.  See her image below for details, and head over to her online store right [here].  Of note, she ships fast!

I have two of her pieces at the present time - the Single Wrist Wrap (on the left in the picture below) and the Exit-52 hinged bangle (on the right).  Both of these are available in several more colors.  I also have my eye on her Watch Wrist Wrap, but unfortunately I think that will have to wait until a later time.  However, you should immediately go check out her site and take advantage of this great deal!

A Free Tune for Your Friday

As I anticipated, work got a little out of hand this week!  I'll be back with outfits later this weekend or at the beginning of next week.

In the meantime, I have free music for you!  My friends in the Chicago band Super Happy Fun Club just released their new song "Way Back (The Conflict)" and you can download it [here] without paying a dime.  What are you waiting for?

These guys have been having a fabulous year, from packed shows in Chicago to developing a devoted European fanbase during their tour across the pond with Madina Lake.  I'm extremely proud of them for everything they've accomplished, and I truly love their music.  They're a little crazy, but they wouldn't be the Super Happy Fun Club if they weren't.  Please take a minute to check out everything else they've done.  I do have another request, though - just don't take your fashion advice from them...

Photos courtesy of the [SHFC Facebook page]

P.S. - They do clean up okay.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Color and Stripes

Today's outfit was actually inspired by what seems to be a current trend - pairing different pieces, including solids and patterns, within the same bold color palette.  I've been walking a few blocks down Michigan Avenue every day to get to my current job location from the train station, and I've been noticing all the bright colors in the store windows.  (Particularly in Neiman Marcus and Anthropologie.)  Red/pink/salmon seems to be particularly prominent.  I've also noticed a lot of stripes lately, and my choice above is my version of these looks from The Limited:

Given that my work environment would probably frown upon day-glo pants, I opted for slim-leg black slacks which I got on clearance quite some time ago.  With the cardigan, it resulted in more of a preppy feel than a bootcut or flare pant would have.  (A pair of dark skinny jeans would transition this to casual.)

I initially struggled with the type of jewelry I wanted to use.  I had a chunky matte gold chain I had never worn and decided to give it a try - with the stripes, I thought it looked almost nautical, which worked with the preppy undertones I was going for.  Simple twisted matte gold teardrop hoops, a wide gold bangle, black flats with dark gold accents, and a red ruffle clutch finished it out.  (Naturally, I don't carry a clutch around at work all day - but I admittedly grabbed it for a coffee run to show it off.)

The best part?  The entire outfit consisted of items I already had, and I was able to put together a look that's current without spending a dime.  There are plenty of bright colors and stripes out there right now, but odds are you can find the same look already in your closet!

Striped top, pants, necklace, bracelet, earrings, and purse: The Limited
Cardigan: Mossimo from Target
Flats: xhilaration from Target