Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer Hostess Gift

It seems like we're always in party-mode during the summer.  Sunny days are now to be spent drinking an adult beverage, basking in the sun light and cooling off in a large body of water. Be it lakeside, poolside or seaside, someone is always hosting a fun fete. What's the right way to say "you're the best, thanks for letting me mooch" to your boat, pool, or condo friend? A small, but thoughtful gift shows you care that they cleaned their guest bath and put out the 'good' towels.

Bestie Jody from college invited me and DH to spend a relaxing long weekend with she and her husband in Grapevine. Since we've been friends for 15 years now, I pretty much know what to expect when visiting.

Jody cooks for us, makes up a comfy guest bedroom and generally allows the stay to unfold naturally.  It's always a fun and relaxing time at Jody's house and I wanted to find a way to tell her thank you.
I love coming up with personalized gifts for my friends and family, so I usually take some time to brainstorm something special.  Where to begin? Lots of thinking about Jody!

Jody loves a good margarita.  Some of my earliest memories of our friendship include drinking 99-cent frozen margaritas on Tuesday nights at our local hangout. Jody is also a very talented artist and paints nurseries, children's rooms and doctor's offices in her spare time, so she appreciates handmade items. Combining the two, I came up with a Margarita Gift Basket.  I spotted these beautiful, hand painted margarita glasses at Pier 1 and scooped them up for my basket.

I loved the artistic detail, all the way to the bottom of the glasses.

Since Jody is an active girl and always trying to stay in shape, I thought some Skinnygirl margaritas would be tasty, but not a regrettable splurge.

I'm picturing Jody sitting on her deck and sipping away while enjoying her weekend.

To make the gift feel even more special, I placed the glasses and bottle in a grass-green basket, wrapped it in cellophane and tied with a grosgrain, striped bow.

I always try to devise a gift that will be unique, personal and indicative of my special relationship with the recipient.  Happy summer playing and don't forget to say 'thanks'!

Monday, February 17, 2014

These Boots are made for Rodeo!

It's Stock Show and Rodeo time here in San Antonio, spurring much of Texas to show off their finest western wear. Growing up on a farm and ranch, I got my first pair of boots when I was very young.  They were actually hand-me-downs from a friend of the family.  My dad painted them pink and I wore them with white tights, a blue jean skirt and a white ruffled top.  In my mind, they were pretty cool.  Over the years, I wore various pairs of boots, including lace-ups, which were all the rage in the 90's.  Unfortunately, the boots of the 90's were pretty boring.  Mostly gray, black, navy or saddle, they never stood out like my first pink pair.  About 8 years ago, I decided I needed a new pair, and I wanted them to be fun and glamorous.

A shopping trip to Lucchese revealed the most beautiful boots I'd ever seen. 

Pink leather tops with stitching detail and chocolate overlays reminded me of my first pair, but with the volume turned way up.

The pointed toes felt more Rock Star than Wrangler.

The boots are made with three different types of leather - goat, calf and shark.  I particularly love the riding heel and that they were made specifically for my feet by the craftsman at Lucchese.  A special thanks to DH for shining them up like new!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Chocolate Dipped Heart Cookies

There is no better way to say "I love you", "I care about you", "We're friends", or  "Hey, look at me, I'm baking" than with a homemade treat.

These shortbread cookies were fairly easy to make and when dipped in chocolate, quite delish!

I found that a combination of dipping and using a spoon to ladle the chocolate over the cookie helped make a neater line.

Individually packaged and ready for my Valentines.

Happy Valentine's Day Baking!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Southern Reading

I love reading books that are set in places I want to visit.   Experiencing the destination through the eyes and voice of a great author stimulates both your senses as well as your imagination. When you finally walk on the fabled streets or see a building from the book, the story as well as the area become alive with magic and mystery. The novel's story helps you explore the area from a different perspective, one that can be filled with intrigue, excitement or even darkness.

The first book I remember reading right before taking a trip was South of Broad by Pat Conroy.  Recommended to me by friend and South Carolina native, Jenny, it takes place in dreamy Charleston. Conroy's description of Charleston is truly romantic and provides a peek into the lives of its inhabitants.

Feelings of nostalgia overcame me upon walking in downtown Charleston. I was experiencing the Holy City through the eyes of the book's main character. I had learned about his childhood, about his daddy cooking Low Country oysters.  I had kept pace with him on his daily runs through the Battery. I lived with him in his house on Tradd Street, just South of Broad (street).

The cobblestone paths held more than beauty for me. They danced in my memory and my imagination.

The description of the photo of Rainbow Row hanging in a character's bathroom had special meaning when seeing the glorious pastel buildings in person.

The gorgeous historical homes facing Charleston Harbor ignited in me both curiosity and insight. I felt like I knew the Charlestonians living inside these incredible residences.  They dressed well, wore bow ties and drank gin & tonics while enjoying the sea breeze on the porch. The priceless antiques inside showed signs of wear because in Charleston, it would be considered tacky to restore or refinish them.

Oak trees dripping with moss and vine-covered brick walls seemed both like the stuff of my own life as well as a life I wished I could live.

When you begin to plan your next vacation, be it to a city, beach, vineyard, mountain range or wilderness, consider reading a book staged in that locale.  It will heighten your experience in ways you never expected.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Sustaining Your Motivation

January is over and February is here.  Have you made progress with your 'New Year's Resolutions'?  If you have, congratulations!  If you haven't, let's get started!  Wherever you are at in your journey, be sure not let your annual goals slip in February.  For some, it's easy to begin that gym routine or focus on gratitude.  Continuing the new good habits can be a challenge for many of us.  We don't see our progress quickly enough.  We get lazy and prefer to hit snooze rather than get up early to meditate.  We decide to buy that new handbag instead of saving for the trip to Maui.
Commitment, determination and motivation can be difficult to sustain.  A supportive friend, inspirational book or even an uplifting story on TV can help renew and strengthen our resolve to reach our goals.

I want to share with you some of the various things that inspire me.

Listening to Joel during my daily commute is truly a Godsend.  His messages provide divine encouragement - God wants to help us be our very best.  He wants to shower us with blessings and we need to be prepared to receive them.

When you see what these people are capable of, it blows your mind.  If they can run on a treadmill at 400lbs, I can certainly succeed at challenging workouts as well.

Oprah magazine Feb 2014

My favorite part of O Magazine are the monthly 'Live Your Best Life' features.  The pages are packed with expert advice on self-improvement and how to make the most of your life.

An oldie, but a goodie! I pick it up from time to time to refresh my determination. Peale taught me the importance of repeating 'mantras', even if he doesn't call it that.

There are many more, but these are some of my go-to's. I'd love to hear what helps to motivate and inspire you!

Photos via The FabSpot Blog/ Biggest Loser/O Magazine/Amazon

Monday, February 3, 2014

My Valentine's Day Wish List

My Darling Husband (DH) stresses out when it comes time to buy me a gift.  In an effort to be thoughtful, considerate and to ease his anxiety, I've decided to put together my Valentine's Day Wish List.

Nothing says love like a nice piece of jewelry that lasts forever.  Isn't DH lucky I've made shopping so easy for him?


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Paris Photo Shoot de Moi

When DH and I decided to jet set to London and Paris in December, I had a couple of important decisions to make.
#1. What clothes to buy/pack/wear
#2. Whether or not to bring the 'good' camera

I decided not to bring the 'good' aka heavy-ass camera because I wanted to experience everything without being a slave to photos AND I didn't want to carry the damn thing all over Europe.

I'm not a pro-photog. I could buy incredible scenic and iconic photos that are much more expertly composed than I could attempt.  I realized that what I really wanted was photos of myself and my husband enjoying our memorable vacation in the most romantic city in the world.

Why not schedule a photo shoot of us in Paris?

I can't think of a better way to celebrate our 11th anniversary.

I love the carousels in Paris.

Christmas tree in front of Notre Dame - it was a VERY windy and cold day.

Behind Notre Dame - this is one of my favorite photos.

The photo shoot was such a fun experience and I love that we have a special way to remember our time together in Paris.  My absolute FAVORITE souvenir.

Photo shoot by Lindsey Kent of Pictours Paris.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Queen of Impulse Shopping

I am crowning myself as the Queen of Impulse Shopping, not to be confused with my other titles, Countess of Clothes Shopping, Duchess of Handbag Shopping or Empress of Shoe Shopping. I think makeup has to be one of my worst shopping traps, second only to magazines.  I can spend $150 at the MAC counter in two shakes of a lamb's tail.  I can grab three OPI nail lacquers in colors similar to what I already own in a blink of the eye. Lip gloss?  Don't even get me started.  I have a makeup bag in my purse that holds nothing but lip glosses I mindlessly tossed into by bag at Sephora.  As long as I stay out of grocery stores, department stores, Target and other makeup shopping traps, I am under control.  That's why I was shocked when faced with the ultimate challenge of impulse buys at...the Dallas-Fort-Worth Airport.

I had wisely avoided DFW's various boutique shops and even stayed away from the incidentals stores.  I walked along, seemingly safe from making a frivolous purchase.  Reaching my terminal, I searched for a good seat to read my e-book.  That's when I spotted it - a PINK make up VENDING MACHINE.  And not just any make up, it was Benefit cosmetics makeup.  The best word to describe this makeup line is 'cute', although it is marketed to women, not girls.  With product names like 'Confessions of a Concealaholic', 'Dr. Feelgood' and 'They're Real' mascara, you can't help but treat yourself. 

Back to the situation at hand.  Stuck. At. The. Airport. For. Six. Hours.
Can't. Take. It. Any. Longer.
I bought the mascara and I loooooooove it!

The Queen of Impulse Shopping

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Broadway Across America - Ghost: The Musical

Last night I took my mother to see Ghost at the Majestic Theater in San Antonio.  This was my Christmas gift to her and seeing shows together has become a bit of a tradition with us for the past few years. Thank goodness for the Broadway Across America series which facilitates tours of popular Broadway revues!

Broadway in San Antonio hosted the musical at the Majestic Theater downtown and as always, the theater is a pleasure for the eyes.

Please excuse the dark photos, but I do love how you can see the theater's lit architecture.

As you may have guessed, Ghost: The Musical is adapted from the screenplay Ghost with Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg from 1990.

At first it was hard for me to accept the stage actors as the characters because I've seen the movie so many times.  My resistance didn't last long and I eventually gave in to Steven Grant Douglas as Sam Wheat and Katie Postotnik as Molly Jenson.

They got pretty steamy in the beginning, which made me a wee bit uncomfortable sitting with my mother (but not as uncomfortable as watching La Cage aux Folles).

The director, video/projection designer and illusionist did a fantastic job creating boundaries between the two worlds portrayed in the musical - life and afterlife.  Lighting and sound effects helped create the separation between character Sam Wheat, who is stuck somewhere in between life and Heaven, and Molly Jenson, who is very much alive and grieving his death.

Steven Grant Douglas and Katie Postotnik, Ghost The Musical Tour. © Joan Marcus 2013.

But did the musical create the same romantic sadness of a love that transcends life and death?
It does, but the angst and sorrow are not as acute as in the movie. Don't worry, you'll still get that tightness in your chest when they work together at the pottery wheel to the tune of Unchained Melody. 

Katie Postotnik and Steven Grant Douglas, Ghost The Musical Tour. © Joan Marcus 2013.

And when it's time for Sam to go to Heaven, you'll definitely be fighting back tears.

You'll laugh at the quips of Carla Stewart as pyshic Oda Mae Brown and mourn at the tragedy of the untimely death that forever splits a loving couple.

To see the tour schedule, visit Ghost: The Musical.

Images of actors, source: Joan Marcus via Ghost on Tour.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sex & Greeting Cards by Hallmark

Hallmark just launched a fashionable new collection by Sarah Jessica Parker (SJP) of Sex & the City fame! Rocking high fashion and setting trends is just a part of Sarah Jessica Parker's life.  Now the oh-so-chic actress is designing greeting cards available exclusively in Hallmark Gold Crown stores.

I decided to check out the new Sarah Jessica Parker collection in person, which includes more than 70 cards for all types of occasions.

I instantly loved the display featuring lots of pink!

What a beautiful way to stay Congratulations or Happy Birthday!

Many of the cards are embellished with tiny pearls, gems and ribbon.

The designs are ultra-femme and just the right way to make your girlfriends feel special on their important day.  Hallmark used fine paper, rich images and darling sentiments.

This card was my favorite with the varying shades of pink and those shoes with the bows!  It's very 'Carrie Bradshaw' circa 2000.

The collection also includes adorable boxes, gift bags, stationery sets and journals/notebooks.

The Sarah Jessica Parker Collection is available at Hallmark Gold Crown stores this month. Hallmark plans to include SJP designs in their 2014 holiday collections, but this assortment will be available for a limited time.  Prices for the cards range from $3.99-$6.99, which are comparable to other higher-end card lines. I stocked up on a few for special girly-friends who loved Carrie and the girls of Sex & the City. I'd love to hear what you think of them!

To hear Sarah Jessica talk about her new line, check out

Photo of Sarah Jessica Parker provided by PR Newswire via

Friday, January 17, 2014

New Year, New Vision Board

If you still haven't made your New Year's resolutions or if you aren't a resolutions kind of person, you're in luck!  Resolutions tend to make us focus on improving on our shortcomings - i.e. 'I will sweep the house morning and night' or 'I will lose 50lbs' or 'I'll give up sugar'.  While many of these plans are healthy for us, they tend to feel like boot camp.

Instead of focusing on boot-camp-style plans, why not focus on our dreams instead? Plan for some fun, relaxing or peaceful moments in the New Year and beyond. Travel to Maui? Take painting classes? Make those photo books you haven't gotten to?

A great way to capture these goals is to make a Vision Board.

I've been making Vision Boards for about three years now and find that they help inspire me every day. Regularly focusing on images has been proven to motivate people to replicate the images in their lives. To learn how to make your very own, check out my original Vision Board Post.

You can style your board any way you like, let your imagination flow freely.

I also like to cut out quotes and powerful affirmations to help me start my day.

You can guess at some of my dreams - one is to spend more time with my doggies.

You can also use any images that speak to you, although you may not necessarily know why.

If you have a hard time finding an image in a magazine that represents an important dream, simply find it on the internet and print it out.

It's fun to get together with a friend to make your Vision Board.  This is my friend Stephanie's creation. Among many goals, she wants to travel, eat healthy and paint.

I hope I've inspired you to think of your 'resolutions' in a different way.  Even if you want to include those 'boot camp' goals, representing them with an image is more motivating than self-deprecation.  I chose images of healthy girls working out and boxing to inspire me.

Start your New Year with a fabulous Vision Board!