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!



Yours,
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 http://www.multivu.com/mnr/65163-hallmark-cards-sarah-jessica-parker-collection


Photo of Sarah Jessica Parker provided by PR Newswire via multivu.com

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!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thank Heavens, I'm not the only one!

Confession: unlike all of you busy-bee-over-achiever-types, I still haven't taken down all of my Christmas decor.  Laziness combined with a reluctance to 'end the season' has thwarted all my attempts at productivity.  I realize that I am opening myself up for a lot of judgment.

HOWEVER...

North Star Mall is behind in taking down their Christmas decorations too.  Behold the giant boots still lit up.


I don't want to take the Christmas decor down - I love it so much.  It makes me happy to look at the twinkling lights and I know the room will feel empty and sad once they are gone.  Christmas brings so much cheer and warmth that is exclusive to just one time a year.  That's why when I drove by North Star and saw the big boots still shining bright, I had to snap a photo and smile.


Thank you North Star Mall for dragging out the Christmas holidays as long as possible!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winter's Dark Hues

I love going dark during the winter - dark hair, dark nails, dark handbag.  I suppose it's because the sun goes down earlier in the day and our mood reflects the season.  We feel cozy in our warm clothes and down blankets, preferring to stay inside and out of the biting cold.
I tend to wear more black in the winter although I naturally gravitate toward color. As I pointed out in my blog yesterday, French women wear mostly black and they look ultra chic. That little black dress can help you find that confidence to emphasize your feminine shape and transform you into a femme fatale.
The dark hue was a favorite of Coco Chanel, perhaps the queen of French chic.
I think it's fun to embrace the colors of the season, so long as we don't get stuck in a rut with them. Once, in college, I opened up my closet and quickly realized that every item of clothing was either red or purple! We all go through phases and can tend to get in a comfort zone, purchasing clothes or colors that are 'safe'. Try to kick your tush out of that rut and embrace the colors of the season!
I'm rocking deep shades of purple, green and garnet and having lots of fun doing it, but come spring, I will be ready for some pink.
Nail Color - OPI Lincoln Park After Dark
Handbag - Michael Kors

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tips for Americans Traveling to London & Paris



I have shared all the great parts of my travels with you and now I think it's only fair to provide you with the wisdom of my European travel experience (aka some of my 'lessons learned').

Disclaimer - this was my first trip to Europe so if you have already been, some of these tips may not be new to you.

Tips for London & Paris
1. No matter how cheap frugal you are, take a cab or shuttle to your hotel from the airport.  Do not think that you can carry 50lb bags up and down the subway stairs over and over again and still be in a good mood/ready for an awesome vacay when you finally get to your hotel.  Shell out the damn money - trust me.



2. If you've never traveled on a subway before, take deep breaths, read the maps, uncross your eyes and read them again.  Try to follow the colored squiggly lines to get nearest to your destination.  Make sure you get on the train going in the right direction.  Don't go by your internal compass - North, South, East, West.  You are BELOW ground, not driving in the suburbs.



3. Do not worry about how you 'look like a tourist' by reading maps in public.  It's better than wandering around for an hour and getting lost.  You have no directional instincts in another country and don't try to tell me that you do.  You DON'T.

Photo credit: James Crowley

4. If you are from the U.S., you're kidding yourself if you think you might be able to pass yourself off as a Parisian. DH's observation on the subway - "French girls are plain."  They don't dye or style their hair, they wear invisible makeup and they don the color black from head to toe.  As a Texas girl, I stuck out like a sore thumb!  American girls go for glam.  Parisian style is very I-don't-care-chic.


5. Plan your bathroom breaks for when you are in cafes, museums and restaurants.  Otherwise, you will have to pay to go in a public bathroom and just because you pay doesn't mean it's clean.  You can also pop into a pub or cafe to use the restroom, but be prepared to order a beer or coffee.  Bottom line, you've got to pay to pee, one way or another.


6. Everything is expensive, just plan for it (save your money) and don't stress about how much a beer costs - 8 Euro.


7. European hotel rooms are expensive and small.  We are spoiled with lots of space in the U.S.  Just squeeze yourself into that shoe box and fling your crap on every surface you can find, because there is no chest of drawers to neatly store even your smallest Victoria's Secret unmentionables.

Superior room BEST WESTERN PREMIER Louvre Saint Honore

8. Resolve that you may have to re-wear certain clothing items and shoes because 8-10 days of clothes and makeup supplies reach the 50lb suitcase weight limit pretty quickly. Forget doing multiple outfit changes in a day, unless you're Rachel Zoe and willing to pay for an extra suitcase for $125 each way.


9. Don't try to see everything in 10 days in two cities - you'll wear yourself out.  Schedule some free time to wander around and explore the city on foot.  Be prepared to change your plans while you're there and prioritize attractions and experiences that are most important to you.




10. Unless you are on your feet on a regular basis, be prepared to feel the impulse to cut them off.  You will walk and walk and walk until you just can't anymore.  Bring padded insoles for your shoes as well as moleskin in case of blisters.  Please, please don't wear tennis shoes.  Shop for fashionable, comfortable shoes before your trip and put gel insoles inside. Also, don't wear the same shoes two days in a row so you aren't putting pressure on the exact same spots on your feet day after day.  Get a shoe plan, trust me, your feet will thank you.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Palaces & Pastries - Day Five in Paris

After an 'adventurous' ride on the Metro and RER train, we finally made it to Versailles.  The entrance is ostentatious, but perfect for a king.

I especially loved the crown detail at the top of the gate.

Gorgeous gilding.  Why stop at the upper windows and roof line? 
I say gild everything!


If I were a Queen on a budget, I guess these windows and mouldings would do just fine.

Chapel inside Versailles.

There were arched doorways, statues, marble, gilding, painted ceilings, chandeliers, mirrors, feathers, busts, sumptuous fabrics and priceless antiques - overwhelming luxury.

The craftsmanship of the carved and gilded details on the doors is amazing.

The king's bed. Shhhhhh!  He's asleep, hence the drawn curtains.  This pink and gold seemed a little feminine for a king, so the Louis-men must have been confident in their manhood.

Ta da!  The Hall of Mirrors.  It was dazzling to see in person.  I wish I could have attended a party here, just think of the gambling, dancing and drinking in those fine clothes and super-high wigs adorned in feathers!


My, the diamonds and other jewels must have been enormous to compete for attention with the extravagance in this room.

Confession: when I stepped into Marie Antoinette's room, I let out an audible gasp and squeal!  I turned around to look at DH with a huge smile.  I almost jumped up and down, but regained control.  The only way to describe this bed - 'fit for a queen'.

Marie Antoinette's headboard.  Look at that fabulous embroidery and monogram.  The gilding is out of control and I'm obsessed!  How could you NOT feel like a queen sleeping here?  If you forgot while you were asleep, you'd immediately remember your own 'highness' after waking up.

Bed canopy and stunning ceiling.

Marie Antoinette's bust and me - can you believe I am standing in her room?  I can't!

Portrait of the queen and her children.

The king and queen's dining room.  Nobles and their families could walk by and view the royal couple eating their dinner as if they were a part of some kind of art installation or zoo.  Marie Antoinette actually hated this practice and put a stop to it as soon as she became queen.

Large corridor filled with paintings of the great battles of France.

The architects/interior designers of Versailles embellished all surfaces in the palace.
Versailles was the first palace I have explored.  As little girls, we are immersed in fairy tales and Disney princesses.  We put on costumes, wear tiaras and dream of our prince charming.  After seeing the Palace of Versailles as an adult, I'm dreaming of French architecture and interior design.

We popped in the cafe Angelina at Versailles for lunch and their storied hot chocolate.  DH said it tasted like a melted Hershey's bar.

When we returned from Paris, I stopped at Lauduree again for some goodies to take home.


Pastries galore! In Sophia Coppola's 'Marie Antoinette', Kirsten Dunst eats lots of pretty confections just like these.

And walking back to the hotel, we spotted a Tiffany & Company horse drawn carriage!

Tiffany's is an American company and I think they sought out this American girl in Paris.  I hope those blue packages are for me!

Tiffany treats in front of the Louvre.

We had a great dinner at Le Fumoir.  My seat had a lovely view of this beautiful church and DH had a view of the Louvre.  
Only in Paris.
By the way, DH ate frog's legs here.

As we walked back to the hotel, we cherished our time spent together on this dream vacation in London and Paris.  Why oh why didn't we stay for another week...month...forever?
I feel so blessed to have been able to take this vacation.
Au revoir Paris!