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Our buffet set up last Spring around the time of our anniversary in our wedding colors. It looks so lovely looking back on it. This is why I love decorating. You change up the decor and it changes the feel of the room.


I love shopping, particularly for dresses, jewelry, and home decor, because I like to create an experience, to cultivate a space or create an outfit with a particular theme and that sets a particular mood.  I think it's why I love F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Francesca Lia Block's writing so much: they use such vivid imagery and color and visual symbolism that you're sucked into the world of the story.  They're transportative.  I think an outfit or a really great gift or a well-decorated room should transport the wearer and the receipient and the people who enter that room.  And as I'm planning for my 15% off birthday purchases from Anthro, I want to go in there with a focus.  Because if I don't, I will impulse buy whatever catches my eye.  And when that happens, I leave with buyer's remorse.  But when I focus my buying around a particular theme, I leave with things that collectively create that experience or mood I was talking about.  And that makes me happy and gives my purchases more meaning and value.  

My, that was quite a romanticized reflection on my (unhealthy) love of shopping...

On to the goods! 

The Theme: Luxurious Blossoms
Grown Under Glass Bubble Bath - $48

I love bubble baths and usually use bubble bars from LUSH or Lollia's bubble bath.  But, in the spirit of roses and my 15% off birthday coupon, this one might be worth trying out.  The fragrance profile is described as a, "rich, expanding floral, deeply layered with notes of dry, yet sparkling woods; comforting and beautiful."  

Illume Boulangerie Jar - $16 

To make the bubble bath experience that much more luxurious, why not light a scented candle for ambiance?  Not sure how well the two fragrances would meld, but separately they both sound like they'd smell heavenly.  This Coconut Macaroon candle is described as having the following scents: "sweet cream, pink sugar and coconut blended with vanilla and a hint of almond."   

Taschen Guide Box Set - $60 

This is an item I'm really excited about.  I love flipping through magazines and coffee table books: fashion, food and wine, home decor, gardening (not that I garden; I just like looking at other people's handiwork), traveling, cookbooks, etc.  "The cities of Berlin, Paris, London and New York are covered in three books apiece, featuring the best shops, hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes that each has to offer."  Love it!  A good read for the bubble bath or to curl up on the couch with.

Sparkling Fete Bobbies - $24

Fresh out of the bath, let the oils from the bubble bath linger while you pin up your hair with these adorable bobbies.  They are versatile enough to look really feminine and romantic or quirky and bohemian.

Ineke Floral Curiousities Perfume - $68

This sounds like a really complex and interesting perfume.  It's not that typical, cheap, musky, rose perfume that every place sells but nobody buys.  It also can't be (hopefully) sickly sweet with bitter, spice, and patchouli fragrance in it.  It sounds more like a dark, romantic, seductive rose than a sweet, girlish one.  I look forward to smelling it.  Many of the Ineke fragrances have interesting scent profiles, so hopefully the Birmingham Anthro has them in stock so I can compare them.  

Tied Calla Kitten Heels - $79.95

So sweet and feminine and vintage-y.  Plus I love the little ruffly frills peeking through like flower petals.  Slip on these shoes and head out for an afternoon of antiquing and tea or an evening of dancing at a local jazz club.  



An extra luxurious indulgence to top off all this would be some gourmet cupcakes or cream puffs with a sparkling rose.  Can't wait for my Anthro shopping day!
 
 
I should know better than reading a Zingerman's catalog cover-to-cover.  And I should definitely know better than to follow up with a thorough surfing of their site online.  I was looking through their gift baskets, and many of them are so crafty and crave-able.  Reuben sandwich kits, pasta dinner for two, starving college student snacks, tapas...tapas!  I was inspired.  Lots of briny, salty jarred fish and shellfish and vegetables in a gift basket.  It sounded like a fun challenge: to make my own tapas "goodie box" that could function as dinner for two for Kyle and I for a date at home.  Tapas on the deck with a dry white wine or bold red to stand up to the flavorful fishes and brine flavor.  Head inside to watch "Vicki Christina Barcelona" while we snack on the almond-sea salt-chocolate bar.  Perfecto!  So I shopped around on Zingerman's site and compiled the following wish-I-could-afford-it-all goodie box.  I'm sure I can find similar substitutes at the grocery store for most of the stuff, but I'd still want to invest in a few of the items from Zingerman's.  While their goods are expensive, they're known for their excellent quality and service even more.  I'd splurge on the berberechos and the farmhouse mahon cheese.
Product Descriptions from Zingermans.com:

Marcona Almonds from Spain


Dense, meaty, sweet and about ten times more flavorful than almonds we grow in the States. Naturally sweeter than American almonds, the Spaniards kick up the flavor of marconas by skinning the almonds, lightly frying them in oil and then sprinkling with sea salt.

Artisanal Manchego from Spain

Manchega milk is very fatty, which results in a rich, full flavored, fragrant cheese with a subtle, salty, tang on the finish.
Manchego is delicious simply cut into wedges and eaten as is. It's also a plus in the kitchen. You can grate it on to casseroles, soups or salads. It will bring a taste of the Spanish heartland and a swirl of Spain's colorful cuisine to your table.
The wheels we're currently cutting into are very buttery and rich, with a meaty-rich finish. An excellent sheep's milk cheese. 

Berberechos

Galician Cockles--berberechos, in Spanish—are tiny, coveted clams, hand shucked and tinned in simple brine. The amount of handwork to get this done is extraordinary, and the care taken is evident as soon as you open the tin. The placement of each clam, the wonderful sweet sea aroma and the flavor and texture—ocean sweet, meaty, tender and succulent—are clearly a labor of love.  Just open the tin and serve, like it's done at the best Barcelona tapas bars.

Farmhouse Mahon

Smooth, sweet, with wonderful fruity high notes, this is an easy cheese to like. It's great if you're looking for something simple to set against a bunch of complex, intense foods.  Big and fruity flavors.  There's a srong umami-like savoriness in the finish. 

Chorizo Salami

This is spicy, rich, smoky salami. It's made with natural casing, pure pork and plenty of Spanish paprika and garlic. It's hung from rafters to cure in a room dried by the smoke of a smoldering fire.  Try it as is, with some good cheese. Slice some in a paella. Add chunks to a pan of roasted potatoes. One of my favorite dishes is an omelet made by softly scrambling a few eggs with a handful of diced chorizo sweated in the sauté pan.  

Zamorano

Fruity, flaky and distinctly nutty, Zamorano has a slight saltiness in the finish that leaves your lips smacking for more. It's the kind of cheese you want to flank with complements. I recommend a dry Fino sherry and some exceptional Portuguese quince spread.  The wheels we are currently cutting into have a juicy mouth feel with big, buttery, tangy notes and a smooth creamy finish.

Tuna Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

The Ortiz family's great bonito tuna, stuffed in smoked piquillo peppers, doused in a bit of tomato sauce. A classic Catalan tapa, as delicious as you’re imagining right now, ready to eat right out of the tin.

Piparra Peppers

Traditional peppers of the Basque region, piparras are yellowish green in color with a mild, half-pickled flavor. They look a little like almost-ripe string beans but they taste like a slightly spicy sour pepper.  My favorite way to eat them is like they do at pinxos tapas bars in Basque country, skewered in a U shape with an anchovy. They're great as a Spanish antipasto with olives, cheese and some chorizo. You can also sneak them into martinis or Bloody Marys.  

Rustic Bakery Sourdough Flatbreads

Rustic Bakery's flatbreads look like crackers—flat, crispy, crackly—but the comparisons stop when it comes to flavor. Made from sourdough bread leavened with wild yeasts for eight hours, a practice rarely taken with most crackers, they are far more flavorful.  Olive oil & sel gris (grey salt) are the simpler crackers, seasoned with sea salt.  Two-seed lavosh is sprinkled with white and black sesame seeds and has nutty tones.


And for dessert...



Barcelona Chocolate Bar from Vosges

Here’s your ticket to Spain. Not literally—this chocolate bar is made in Chicago—but it’s about as close as I’ve come recently.
Milk chocolate, hickory smoked almonds, a bit of sea salt. Each bite is slightly salty, a little crunchy and ends, achingly, with a long, silky smooth finish as it melts its way across your tongue.

Making this tapas meal we can eat out of a basket is on my summer to-do list.  Also on the list is to do it for cheaper than the $134 it would cost to buy all of products above.  Quite manageable, I think!
 
 
In an effort to derail my online shopping, Kyle took me resale shopping yesterday.  We pulled $50 out of the ATM and set to work.  Four hours later with the $50 spend and an additional $20 put on the debit card, I could appreciate the allure of resale.  I used to love going resale shopping in high school when I was broke and working 12 hours a week at a shop, but I traded in resale for retail during college.  I don't have the patience for TJ Maxx and Marshall's and the like.  Show me a well-dressed mannequin or well laid-out floorplan, and I'm good to go.  Easy shopping.  The sales associates have done most of the work for me.  I sound terrible saying that.  I must lack creativity and vision.

But yesterday I was patient.  Rifling through the racks at three different stores.  It's an interesting mix...wardrobe staples like tees and jeans, lots of shoulder pads, a few good laughs, some cute trendy pieces, and - my favorite - a few vintage lovelies stuffed in there.

I ended the day with a pair of beige pointy-toe heels, lots of pink and black tops, a denim circle skirt, and a vintage pink dress with matching lace cardi and pink belt (shown below).  Too bad the fit of the dress is awful.  I'm going to take it to my seamstress and see if there's anything that can be done with it.  For the $3.80 that the dress, lace cardi, and belt cost, plus the ensemble being 1/2 off, I'd be willing to invest a bit more to see if I can save the dress.

Pictured below are two of my new items: the pink and black printed top and the pink belt.  Wearing some old and some new(ish), Kyle and I met another couple for din-din at our fave local restaurant, Inverness Inn.  After dinner, it was karaoke time.  Lots of sad country songs, oldies, and some real talent.  Resale shopping + dancing to "Bridge Over Troubled Water" with other townies = a pretty sweet Saturday.      
Top - Resale
Wrap Skirt - Lane Bryant
Pink Belt - Resale
Cut-out Flats - Calvin Klein
Vintage Bracelet - Gift
Earrings - Avon (gift from a student :-))
 
 
I love that every month or so copies of Country Living, Better Homes and Gardens, Bon Appetit, and Fine Cooking show up in my mailbox.  They're great cooking, decorating, and even fashion and beauty inspiration.
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And I've gotta tell ya...Betters Homes and Gardens has been kicking out some solid recipes the past few issues.  The great thing about their recipes is that they use fresh, seasonal ingredients and they're fast and easy.  The July issue has a watermelon feature and three different recipes using watermelon.  I've already made one this week and I'm making the other in the next couple of days.  They also have a corn feature with several recipes using fresh corn, from corn soup, to corn cakes, to corn salad.  Just thought I'd list a few of the recipes and show the end products.  The magazine is still on shelves, and it's worth the $4 just for the recipes.

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Fine Cooking has a monthly feature for seasonal ingredients in simple recipes.  They list a few seasonal ingredients, this month being canteloupe, spinach, berries, asparagus, and arugula, and cherries, and then offer a simple easy recipe to use each. 

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The spinach recipe was for a BLT Salad that I made a few nights ago.  I sauteed some mushrooms that needed to be used up and also fried an egg to put on top for more protein and to make the salad more filling.  We ate this as an entree in and of itself.  We drank some freshly squeezed juice made from watermelon, canteloupe, apples, cucumber, and celery.  I tossed a few mint springs into the juice to infuse it with more flavor, not that it was necessary, but because our mint plant is growing out of control, and I'm trying to throw mint in wherever I can.  

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I also made both the corn soup and a watermelon-avocado salad from the BHG July issue.  The salad was alright.  I've made better watermelon salads with spring greens, avocado, red onion, ricotta cheese, and a lemon balsalmic-olive oil dressing.  But the soup...amazing.  I made a corn soup from Bon Appetit a couple of years ago, and this one was much easier and quicker with essentially the same results.  I also made us each a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to go with our soup and salad.  We never eat them, so it was actually kind of nice.  We paired the meal with Grand Traverse Select sweet Reisling.

As a side note and a recipe not from BHG or Fine Cooking...I mentioned above our very healthy mint plant.  We bought mint thinking we'd made mojitos.  Because we suck at gardening and have a difficult time getting even herbs to grow in pots, we assumed the plant would die after a few cuttings or at least would experience a stunt in its growth, meaning we never expected a healthy, growing plant.  Well...surprise!  I hate to see the mint go to waste, so a few days ago I read through some threads about how to use mint in savory recipes.  Not a ton of options, but there was one option that was simple and sounded amazing.  Toss a handful of cherry tomatoes into a small casserole dish.  Throw in some garlic (I used minced out of a jar) and a fistful of mint leaves.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake until the cherry tomatoes start to burst.  And I did.  Although next time I'll set the oven at a higher temp than 350 degrees, because it took nearly an hour for the tomatoes to split.  I spread the mixture on baguette slices and coupled it with a few thin slices of fresh mozzerella sprinkled with sea salt.  Divine.  And no, it didn't taste minty.  The mint takes on a savory flavor that could work as an alternative to parsley or basil.  I might be making the same thing for lunch today.  :-)

 
 
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I ordered this sweet little dress from Simply Be after seeing it on blogger What Laura Loves (see left).  Simply Be offered 30% off and free shipping.  Worth a shot, right?  It was my first ever purchase with Simply Be, and while the dress is going back, it won't be my last purchase with Simply Be.  They have too many other cute things, and now that I have a feel for their sizing, I'll be able to purchase with more confidence in the future.  Hopefully the sleeves are both the same length though...  


So anyways, I ordered the dress in a size 16 even though I've heard their sizes usually run large.  The dress was a good fit, maybe a little roomy.  The color was a pretty peach, the beading was super cute...on the hanger, it was everything I wanted it to be.  When I tried it on, I noticed it was really comfy but also a bit short and little girlish.  I like cutesy, feminine clothes, but this looked too Cupie dollish on me.  Sad, since it doesn't look that way on the model or on What Laura Loves.  The biggest problem was that one sleeve was more than an inch shorter than the other.  I'm not a fan of cap sleeves anyways, but I thought the ruffly sleeve on the dress would make up for it.  Sadly, not so.  So I took off the dress, disappointed, unsure of whether I wanted to simply return it or swap it out for another one.

The next day, I straightened my hair and put on a little bit of makeup to see if it helped to improve the dress.  I really should learn not to try on clothes with my hair in a messy bun and no makeup on.  No matter what I wear, it's going to look crap under those conditions.  So, looking a tad more presentable, I tried the dress on again.  Better, but still not good enough.  I don't think solid pastels are for me.  Maybe a pastel print?  The peach was too close to the color of my skin.  It really is a darling dress, which is why I'm so sad, but it just isn't darling on me.  Back to Simply Be it goes with "defective" on the return slip so no other young lady receives a dress with one sleeve shorter than the other.


And instead, this Evans dress I've been drooling over is on its way.  It was half off plus a 10% off coupon.  Evans is another company I've only recently heard about, so this is my first order with them as well, so hopefully the fit is good.  I love the print, although the color combo is a bit "unique."  I think that's part of the appeal though.   
Also...I just received my "Happy Birthday To You!" coupon from Anthropologie for the month of July, so these adorable little shoes are on my mind.  They'll match the Evans dress and nothing else in my closet, so, you know, they're very practical.  But adorable nonetheless.
And while I'm fantasizing about birthday purchases, I'm going to put together a little wishlist collage for Anthro.  Gotta love that 15% off bday coupon!     
Rosy Plumes Dress - $228
Beryl Skirt - $128
Kahakai Skirt - $68
Kelwa Dress - $298
Golden Age Earrings - $48
Vintage Cocktails - $50
Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi - $35
Porch Parties: Cocktail Recipes and Easy Ideas for Outdoor Entertaining - $16.95
Sparkling Fete Bobbies - $24
 
 
This past weekend Kyle and I hosted an engagement party for his sister, Megan, and her fiance, TJ.  We chose a 1920s theme in a black, white, silver, and gold scheme.  Below I've posted the party details, from the invites to the menu to the DIY decorations.  
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This is the invite that went out to all of the guests except the guests of honor, Megan and TJ. I wrote it to try and convey the theme, dress, and atmosphere. It's a bit hokey but still sweet. I made it using Publisher and FotoFlexer online.
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This is the invite that went out to Megan and TJ with slightly different wording to make it specific to them.
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For food, we did all small bites, no silverware required. We replenished the plates three times throughout the evening so that the food wouldn't go bad sitting out all night. Everything was served room temperature with the exception of #7 and #8 which I kept warm in a heated serving tray.
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We set up a poker table inside which was a good place to get people to congregate and mingle. Some played texas hold 'em while others played euchre.
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I set up several tables and chairs outside on the deck and in the yard. I bought black plastic tablecloths from the dollar store along with a ton of white and ivory taper candles. Four 8" candles for a buck isn't a bad deal. I decorated these tables with things I already owned. I put away any decor in the house that wasn't in the color scheme of black, white, silver, or gold. I also re-used ribbon from other events and borrowed chairs from family members.
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We served drinks in an old washtub that I borrowed from my mom. I put all drinks into wine bottles with cork stoppers that I bought for $2 at World Market. We had a selection of cocktails, sparkling wines, Shirley Temples, water, PBR, and iced tea. I set out short plastic cups and sharpies so people could write their name or design their cup and hold onto it. The short glasses are a good plan if you have stronger drinks.
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I dragged a shabby chic toy chest out onto the deck for additional seating. I also moved the chandelier from over the living room table out onto the deck. They're battery operated taper candles so no worries about setting the roof on fire. We had a playlist of 20s music mixed with other oldies.
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In the yard, we set up tables and chairs for mingling along with corn hole which can anywhere from 2-8 people can play at a time. We also set up a high top table in the yard for people to set their drinks and appetizers while they played. We have woods behind us, so bugs are a problem. We sprayed the yard twice and put out citronella tiki torches and candles.
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We strung white icicle lights from the deck and bought "congrats" garlands from the dollar store and hung a couple outside and inside the house.
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The deck sat 8 people and is also where we set out all of the drinks. We kept the food inside to keep it cooler.
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We set up a banquet table for people to sit and chat and snack. I often use empty wine bottles for vases. I go through my scrapbooking paper or pick up a few sheets at JoAnn's and wrap the bottles, cut shapes and letters out and paste them on, stick in a single long-stem flower, and voila!
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We set up a photo booth and bought a ton of props from the dollar store: party hats, masks, wands, glasses, pistols, etc. We just bought the Polaroid Z340 which is a digital camera that allows you to edit right on the camera and offers you the option of which pictures you want to print on-the-spot. We bought Megan and TJ a blank scrapbook as their gift and had people take pictures, paste them into the book, and write little notes alongside the photos.
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These are the two photo backdrops. The one on the left is a banner I made from cardstock using double-sided tape and then taping along strings of white ribbon. The one on the right is made of streams and ribbon looped around and hanging from a sturdy ribbon.
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This is my giant magnet board that Kyle made me a few years ago for my bday. It's covered in pink printed fabric that you can see on the edges. For holidays and events like this, I just post sheets of scrapbook paper to make a quilted background in whatever colors I want. Megan and TJ are both University of Michigan grads, so I posted vintage U of M football programs, 1920s sheet music, and family photos with Megan and TJ in them. The magnet board is great because I can always change it up for the occasion.
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Welcome! I realize it's not black, white, silver, and gold, but I made it for my Alice in Wonderland Party last year and wanted to use it again.
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The food spread. I love and definitely recommend getting warming trays. They keep cooked food hot and you can keep it on low heat for hours. I used it to warm mushroom crescents and quiche, but I've used it in the past for cook-outs to warm hot dogs and burgers and baked beans. If you've never tried making cake bon-bons, they're delish but time consuming. Bake a cake in a pan, crumble it up and mix in almost an entire jar of frosting, freeze, dip in melted chocolate or white chocolate, and drizzle with melted chocolate and sprinkle with coconut, nuts, and candy sprinkles. They're always a big hit!
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The hors d'oeuvres buffet. I thought the little shrimp martinis were adorable. They're mini martini glasses with a dollop of cocktail sauce, teaspoonful of horseradish in the middle, and three shrimp around the edge of the glass. Fancy and fun!
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For drinks, I covered the label of wine bottles, re-labeled the drink, mixed up the drinks in pitchers and used the funnel to pour them into the bottles, and used cork stoppers to seal them. I used packing tape to cover them and keep them from getting soaked in the tub of ice, and the tape held up for at least a little while...We made three signature cocktails: the favorite being The Zelda Fitzgerald (French Martini) with Chambord, raspberry vodka, and pineapple juice; The Ernest Hemingway (Campari Royal with ginger ale) with Campari, Grand Marnier, Vernor's, and orange juice; and The Jay Gatsby (Tom Collins) with Tanqueray, lime juice, and club soda.
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We stocked up in paper products from the dollar store in gold, silver, and white to go against the black tablecloths.
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I bought these cute little numbered toothpicks from my favorite shop in Downtown Chelsea, The Potting Shed. They were $12 for a set of 10, so I plan on reusing them. I placed a numbered pick next to each dish and printed and posted a numbered menu so guests could match the items on the menu to the dishes on the buffet by the numbered toothpick. Probably unnecessary, but I thought it was a cute touch. To prop them up and make them reusable, I stuck them into corks.
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The "vases" are wine bottles wrapped in and decorated with cardstock in the party's color scheme. The branches are from the dollar store and were labeled as Christmas decor. They're a bit gaudy and blingin', but perfect I think for a glitzy Gatsby party. Plus, at $1 apiece, I don't feel bad pitching them after the fact.

Party Pics!

 
 
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A friend of mine posted a picture of this dress on facebook a couple of months ago, asking people if they could find out where it was from.  I checked Kiyonna and googled other plus size fashion companies to no avail.  I was checking to assist my friend, of course....but I was also going to have that dress!  Muahahaha.  

I'd nearly given up when I was browsing through Lane Bryant's website when I recognized a model as the same one wearing "the" dress.  LB was featuring a few select items from Igigi, so I went to Igigi's website, and lo and behold, there it was.

I considered the dress for days and days.  I searched online to see if I could find reviews of it anywhere or pictures of anyone else wearing the dress.  I came across a post on blogger Nicole's A Well Rounded Venture, where she talks about visiting Igigi and trying on the Naomi dress along with several other Igigi dresses.  There's a photo of her below modeling the gown, and you can read more about her experience with Igigi here.



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Blogger Nicole from A Well Rounded Venture modeling Igigi's "Naomi" dress
As I considered the dress, I kept getting stuck on the price.  At $275, that's a lotta money.  I even tried to get Kyle to talk me out of it, but he was strangely accepting of my love for the dress and said if I already had my heart set on it to just go ahead and order it.  I found a 20% off coupon online to bring down the price, though shipping costs brought it back up some.  I will never order anything online without checking for coupons first.  There's almost always at least a 15% off coupon out there.

The dress came four days later, and as I opened the package, I couldn't believe the quality of the sequin embroidery.  Beautiful.  I hung the dress on my closet door and realized the dress was made for women much taller than I.  At 5'4". with four inch heels on, no go.  But I wanted to be able to wear this thing with flats.

So I stood wearing the dress staring at myself in the mirror, wondering if I wanted to invest even more money into this thing.  Because alterations to shorten this dress was not going to be easy.  You can't just cut it at the bottom because it has beautiful lace scallops.  So instead, you have to shorten it at the empire waist, and the fabric is gathered and folded along the waistline. Not going to be a cheap alteration...

So I had to weigh my pros and cons.  Pros: super high quality.  Looks vintage from the early 1900's meaning it'll still look vintage in a few years or in many years, so I should get wear out of the dress in the years to come.  Very special, unique, and from a limited collection, meaning I won't likely see anyone wearing the same dress - ever.  It has cap sleeves (con), but I find that the focus is so much on the skirt or waistline, that I don't really notice or feel self-conscious about my arms in it.  I feel really pretty and feminine and dramatic in it.  I imagine myself doing glamorous things in it, so it wins points for appealing to my imagination.  Cons: price.  I can't get the stupid (but lovely) sash to stay in place.  Um...that it's maybe too much?  Too much money, too much drama, too much fancy-schmancy-ness.  But then, I also like it for its too-much-ness.
And so to get it altered I went.  To Sue's Custom Sewing in Dexter.  Knowing nothing about sewing, I felt like the dress was high quality, but who really knows.  Well, I knew for sure after Sue circled around the dress like a hunter, trying to find a weak spot to make for an easy alteration.  She stressed to me how high quality the dress is, and told me - without asking how much I paid for it - that she assumed I paid a pretty penny and that it was completely worth it because the dress was both stunning and of the highest quality.

Two weeks later, my dress shortened and bust tacked, I donned it for a roaring 20's theme party my husband and I hosted to toast the engagement of his sister.  We asked that everyone come dressed up or in costume for a cocktail party in our backyard.  I wore the dress with 1/2" wedges through the grass and up and down the deck steps, and it came out just fine.  Good thing it's a dark color on bottom. 
I did notice that there are little thread pulls in the mesh skirt, but the embroidery pops so much, that it's not noticeable.  The pulls are bound to happen; I'm just glad that the rest of the detailing on the skirt distracts from it. 
All-in-all, a glorious dress that I can't wait for an occasion to wear again.  I received so many compliments, and most importantly, I felt awesome in it.  We have lots of friends and family members getting married in the next couple of years, so the dress should get wear then.  Company holiday parties.  Going to the opera house and a super-fancy dinner.  

And because of the great quality and fit, I'll be ordering from Igigi again.  Something more practical this time...perhaps a dress that I can double for wearing to work and wearing out...  :-)     
 
 
Yesterday the temperature reached 90 degrees, and to avoid roasting in our non-air-conditioned house, we decided to spend the afternoon checking out three wineries on the Pioneer Wine Trail.  We frequently visit the wineries near Jackson - Chateau Aeronautique and Sandhill Crane are our favorites - because they're so close, but now there are three within close proximity of each other near Adrian, and so we set off.  We packed a picnic basket stocked with food and hit the road.
Our first stop was Flying Otter winery - the newest on the trail.  It's a family-owned winery and much of the family was in the tasting room chatting with us and telling us about their wines.  They were very friendly and welcoming.  You stand at a counter and taste, and they had cheese and crackers out to snack on, the cheese from Boulevard Market in Tecumseh that we stopped at later during the day.  The star wine at Flying Otter that both Kyle and I really loved was a dry red, called Noiret, with strong peppery flavors.  It would pair really well with steak or grilled foods like burgers.  They also had an excellent cherry wine blended with a white wine, so it was light and tart as opposed to cloying and syrupy.  They'll also let you picnic on the grounds overlooking the vineyard.  It was Kyle's favorite winery of the three, and we plan on returning later this summer, picnic basket and blanket and a cardgame at the ready, to enjoy an afternoon at Flying Otter. 
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Photo: http://www.flyingotter.com/
The second stop on our trip was J. Trees, another newer winery that we hadn't yet been to.  The tasting room is a tiny little cottage in downtown Blissfield with a few seats so you can get comfy while you taste.  They have an awesome rose, off-dry bursting with strawberry and berry flavor.  Really refreshing - a great summer wine.  Good for a picnic, fried chicken, or burgers and hot dogs.  They also had two super-sweet dessert wines, both of which we purchased.  The first is their "Fuji Cider" with sweet apple flavor.  It was a little syrupy but also really bright and full of flavor.  It would make for a great sipping wine or paired with cheeses for dessert.  The second is their ice wine, with sweet pineapple/peach flavor.  I loved it and was willing to pay the $35 price tag because it's the perfect romantic evening wine.  Open a chilled bottle of ice wine, pair it with some fruit and cheese, and sit around the firepit on the deck.  My fave winery of the day!  
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Photo from: www.wineries.findthebest.com
After our tasting at J. Trees, we walked down the block to the train boarding station, sat on a bench, and enjoyed our picnic.  We had two smoked trout spreads with Triscuits that we made earlier in the morning.  One had cream cheese, toasted fennel seeds, sauteed onions and celery, and salt and pepper.  The other had cream cheese, fresh dill, lemon juice, and sea salt.  They were a pretty close tie, but we liked the fennel one a bit more because it was more flavorful.  We also had veggies with ranch dressing: carrots, celery, mushrooms, and green beans.  And for sweetness, we had chunked cantaloupe and mango.  After our picnic lunch, we were recharged and ready to hit our last stop.


The third winery we visited was Pentamere Winery in downtown Tecumseh.  We'd been there once before a couple of years ago.  They - like J. Trees - also had a really nice apple wine.  But unlike J. Trees, Pentamere's apple wine was much lighter, crisper, more refreshing, and not necessarily a dessert wine.  We picked up a bottle of the apple wine along with another wine they were bottling while we were there, a peach wine.  I expected it to be syrupy and sweet and taste like the syrup in canned peaches, but it was actually much drier with a muted peach flavor.   
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Photo from: http://www.pentamerewinery.com/
The last stop of our day was not planned, but because Flying Otter's cheese samples were so delicious, and because they were from Boulevard Market in Tecumseh which was just across the street from Pentamere, we stopped into the market for some cheese.  The staff were really friendly and offered us samples of whatever we wanted to try.  We tried a few different cheeses and picked up 1/4 pound of each.  The first was a merlot cheddar, the same one we sampled at Flying Otter.  The second Kyle picked out, mimolette, which I can't remember much about besides it being bright orange and tasty.  The third is called seahive and is flavored with seasalt and honey.  

We'll be indulging in our cheese and icewine for a lunch out on the deck today.  Cheers!   
 
 

It was the night before we needed to go shopping at the grocery store...and we didn't have a meal planned out for din-din.  And so we tore through the freezer and pantry and fridge to put something together.  And the result was glorious.  I love those sorts of meals.  Where you don't have a plan and you have to make what you've got work, experiment with different spices to flavor the food, and hope it all comes together.  And it did!  It just would have been better if it was December and not a warm early summer night.  

The Menu:
Whole roasted duck rubbed in curry, ground mustard, cinnamon, paprika, salt, and pepper
Stuffed with bread, raisin, duck liver, and onion dressing
Roasted alongside a sauce of fruit, chicken broth, and cherry wine
Served over black pepper mashed potatoes
With a side of sauteed brussels sprouts
And paired with a Michigan cherry wine
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The spice blend for rubbing down the duck.
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The duck all prepped and stuck in the oven, ready to roast.
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Duck mid-roast. I did baste it, even though you don't have to because it's so fatty, because I wanted the fruity glaze to coat the bird.
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While the duck was cooking, I boiled peeled russet potatoes. They're mashed with milk, butter, salt, and lots and lots of black pepper.
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I took a bag of frozen brussels sprouts and poured them into a pan with a little bit of water. Once they thawed and the water evaporated, I added butter, salt, and pepper to brown them and crisp them up.
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Done! Brown and crispy and smelling delicious!
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I wasn't thrilled with the sauce. It was grayish-brown and really fatty. We ended up using the fruit but not much of the liquid. It tasted good because the spice rub melted off the duck as it cooked and helped to flavor the fruit sauce. Then I'd baste the duck with the fruit sauce, glazing it with the seasoned fruit. Yum.
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The stuffing turned out pretty well. It's seasoned with poultry seasoning, sauteed onions, dried parsley, raisins, and the duck liver. I didn't want to throw out the duck innards, so I used the neck to help flavor the sauce and cut up the liver for the stuffing. The liver meat is a little tough, so next time I'll sautee it with the onions for longer or boil it to soften it.
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A complete meal! The duck was just cooked through, tender, and had a nice, crispy, flavorful skin. It paired together well, but again, for a winter meal.
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Zoomed in because I like all of the color and the browned sprouts.
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We paired the meal with the same wine that we used to help make the fruit sauce. It's a dark cherry wine, tart but not very sweet. A little syrupy and a great winter wine. So all-in-all, a perfect meal to try again once the snow falls.
 
 
Just ordered this peachy-keen little number from Simply Be.  It's my first order placed through Simply Be, so I hope it fits!  I also hope that it looks peachier and darker like it does on Laura than the soft pink on the model.  The soft pink would just blend in with my skin.  Not a good look, I'm afraid.  Then I fantasized about some neutral heeled sandals that I could wear with the dress and tons of other summer clothes in my closet.  I hope it comes early next week - I can't wait to try it on!