Monday, April 23, 2012

dinner party - tita style

over the past several months we have somehow managed to coordinate and sustain an ongoing dinner club with two of my favorite couples.  last night erin & ryan had us over for some delicious southern food.  here's a little sampling of what took place:

ecstatic hostess welcomes us (*please note her adorable apron was a gift from jeff and me.  this is a great gift idea, as you rarely think to shell out the money on an apron. anthropologie has the best ones)

the food was amazing.  i have never heard of peppadews before and for those of you who don't know they are these little deiciously sweet piquante peppers. stuff with them goat cheese and you will thank me.

gorgonzola and balsamic green beans, jalapeno cornbread and dr. pepper ribs

fancy water to hydrate us while we drank several bottles of wine

ryan embraced his role as bartender

everyone was happy

marcia and eric brought cupcake popcorn - yes, cupcake popcorn with sprinkles

i was in denial that i had to go home and pack after dinner and be up at 6 am to leave for my flight

then we played some games. we started out with jeff doing a little mind reading

the crowd was captivated

erin was in shock that jeff guessed her word and read her mind

we took a little break for dessert

then we ended the evening with six hilarious and intense rounds of celebrity. if you've never played it before it's great for a party.  basically, everyone individually writes down ten celebrity names, folds them up and puts them in a bowl.  you break into two teams and you have to get your teammates to guess the celebrity by giving them random clues (you can pretty much do or say anything, except use the person's name).  ryan gets points for being able to describe any character with two phrases. they often started with "big boobs" - answers ranged from kim kardashian to christina aguilera. although ryan also flooded the bowl with lots of jon hamm and kim kardashians.  so everyone just said "hot guy/mad men" and you knew instantly who that was.

it was such a fun evening that i didn't mind getting home at 12:30 and having to pack.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

krispy kreme

donuts are one of my many weaknesses.  i mean what is better than treating yourself to dessert in the morning? it feels so decadent to get out of bed on a lazy sunday, bypass the oatmeal and go straight to fluffy fried dough.  am i right?

oddly enough, los angeles has a ton of donut shops.  i mean they are practically on every corner, just down the block from all of the burger joints.  it's not what you'd expect from this super fit southern california city, but it's true.  i guess the logic is if you indulge in too many fatty foods, you can just have it lipoed off, or go on a juice cleanse for a week?

i'm always up to try out a new place, but i'm rarely impressed.  once after hearing matthew weiner talk at a writer's bloc event about his local donut shop, jeff and i hunted down sk donuts and became sunday regulars.  we were so happy to find a place in hancock park that was actually good.  yes, that's the takeaway i got from listening to the creator of mad men speak for a couple of hours -- a great place to go for donuts on the weekend.  i have my priorities.

although there have been some good places (sk and alex donut), i am a north carolina girl after all and my heart will always belong to krispy kreme. lucky for me (or bad for me now that bikini season is right around the corner) there is one right near my office.  their iconic red and green logo peppered with polka dots just makes me happy and there is nothing like the welcome sight of the flashing "hot" sign, signaling fried dough that literally melts in your mouth. whenever the light is on, you simply have to an original glazed!

i was in an especially good mood yesterday morning, so i decided to stop off at krispy kreme and order my favorite: a chocolate iced cream filled donut.  it most definitely is a thing that i love and made my day so much better!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

discovering new books

{photo by alison frank}

about a month ago i was watching the today show (as i do every morning) when the topic of the controversial new book "fifty shades of grey" came up.  usually my morning routine is rushed, due to my unwillingness to get out of bed when my alarm first goes off, so i'm often just listening to the today show from the other room while i am curling my barely-there eyelashes.   but once i heard them talking about a new york times best selling book and then the words "women are obsessed," (that one always gets my attention) "guilty pleasure," "sexual dominance"  --  sexual dominance?  well, that made it pretty easy to drop my mascara and find out more.

british author e l james (and mother of two) has written a trilogy of books centered around college graduate anastasia steele and her erotic relationship with entrepreneur and control freak christian grey.  from what i heard on the today show, this book has become a polarizing topic, as many women view it as an indulgent fantasy and others are 100% mortified that this book is being celebrated by women, as they suggest it condones violence towards women, especially since christian grey is an older man exerting his dominance over this naive girl.

i should state that i have never once read a romance novel and am no way interested in erotic literature, but i was curious what all of the drama was about.  for research purposes only, i decided i should read this book while on vacation.  of course, since i was reading it while on a disney cruise i chose to buy the kindle edition, as it isn't really the book you want to be seen reading poolside.

my conclusion?  while this is most definitely a page turner, the writing leaves a lot to be desired and if i never read the words "my inner goddess" again i will be one happy lady.  i think what intrigued me most was the build up and having no idea what exactly was going to take place here--- just what were they going to do?  could i handle it?  the critics had placed a lot of emphasis on the age discrepancy between the lovers, which to me would have made the disparaging feedback more understandable.  they describe mr. grey as a much older man, but as it turns out she's 22 and i believe he's only 28.  that just seemed odd to me.  what i found most annoying though was that she tricks you in the end, setting the last page to roll directly into the second book, "fifty shades darker."  all that being said, i've already purchased the second book for my kindle so i'll keep you posted on how that one goes.

would you read this book?  have you?  ***please note, i am working on getting comments on my blog and i'd love your help.  my goal is to get ten comments today. let's make it happen!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

studio froyo

my love for froyo began when i was a little girl in louisiana.  whenever we were visiting my grandparents, i would take a daily afternoon drive with nonny and poppy.  my nonny suffered from alzheimer's and she didn't always know where she was so routine was important.  my grandfather was such a devoted partner to her that he made sure that they had a routine of a daily drive - and that often consisted of a stop for frozen yogurt.  of course, for me it was a no brainer to join them - chocolate, absolutely!  some of my favorite memories with the two of them were driving in their lincoln continental.  i loved climbing into the back seat, giggling with my sister and listening to him sing for the entire ride.  at some point, we'd inevitably stop at this local frozen yogurt shop and i'd always get a turtle sundae.  i didn't really think of it before i started writing this post, but i suppose that's part of why i love it so much.  it makes me think of them.

now that you know my addiction started at such an early age, you understand why i consider myself to be a froyo connoisseur.  i only feel it's fair to let the la peeps know about the best one around:  studio yogurt.  the pinkberry craze created a new interest in frozen yogurt and after that, the self serve froyo shops started popping up all around town.  don't get me wrong, there's definitely a time and place for them, but my heart will always belong to studio yogurt.  why, you ask?

it's what frozen yogurt is all about.  every time i go in, there is always a line of people waiting to taste a sample of their ten different yogurts and the ladies there have a very efficient system for this.  they know to put the toppings on the bottom and then again on the top of the yogurt.  and the yogurt is so creamy, so much better than the stuff they serve at yogurtland.  the list of yogurt is often changing, and they also have a board where you can request flavors.  my favorite is the grasshopper mint, but it isn't always there (reason for the suggestion board) so my usual is just plain chocolate with reese's peanut butter cups on top.

you can sample as much as you like, they only take cash and they are beyond generous, packing copious amounts of froyo that spills out of a 6 oz cup.  their clientele ranges from working actors (i've seen jason bateman there more than once and most recently sally kellerman -- for the bad 80s movies lovers, she was in "back to school"), couples stopping by after dinner, girlfriends bonding,  and the super skinny girls bordering on anorexia who walk out with their dinner of yogurt piled above their heads -- but those girls have a strict no topping policy.

speaking of the toppings, that is one of their biggest selling points.  as my friend leah pointed out, if you get a topping on the side, they pack a rather large cup full of your favorite sweet, then you can just share it with your friend - everybody wins. 

even yelp agrees with me:

Monday, April 16, 2012

date night

last week i was saying to jeff that it felt like it had been forever since we went out on a date, just the two of us.  and i don't mean just randomly going to a restaurant because we had to eat dinner.  i wanted to get dressed up, put on heels and throw on some red lipstick. unfortunately for me, i left my purse and all seven of my favorite lip glosses at work on friday, so i didn't have the finishing touch but you get the point.  i wanted romance.

i love that when i sit across the table from him i still feel those butterflies and even though we are no longer newlyweds (technically, maybe we are?),  i love flirting with jeff.  i love that some nights when we go out, he quickly slips the waiter his credit card before he has a chance to look at the bill, rather than one of us pulling out our card and making it so transactional.  yes, it's still coming from the same pot, but it feels different.  it feels like i'm being courted again.  i think it's important to make that a priority in our marriage.  when we first started dating i remember being mortified at the thought of him seeing me without any makeup and i strategically planned out all of my date outfits for months.  now he's much more likely to see me sitting on the couch in my comfy sweats with my hair pulled back into a ponytail when he gets home from work.   so ladies out there, i encourage you to put in that tiny bit of effort this week, even if you don't feel like it.  it can literally be as simple as greeting him at the door with a kiss.  you'll be surprised at the response you get.

so this saturday night we went to dinner at a classic pasadena resaturant, the parkway grill.  it is very old school, and by that i mean that we were definitely one of the younger couples there, which is part of what i like about it.  you don't always find that at the trendy restaurants in la.  it was nice to look around and see 60-year-old couples to the right of us enjoying their martinis at 9 pm (and that was just their starter cocktail).  i like to think we will be one of those couples one day.  the other reason i liked it is because i used to wait tables there when i was pursuing acting and i haven't been back since.  i felt nostalgic walking in and seeing the enormous vases of fresh flowers, sitting in the upholstered dining chairs and looking up at the tin roof while listening to the live piano. i remember at the time, wondering when my life was going to pull itself together.  would i ever meet someone? would i ever actually have a career? would i ever not live paycheck-to-paycheck?  it was sort of a trip down memory lane.  not to mention, it's one of the few restaurants that i've worked at where i would actually dine.  that says something, people. 

we started off with cocktails (mine was the classic vodka martini with blue cheese stuffed olives, so that makes jeff's the pink one)

then moved onto tuna tartare

i was feeling rather carnivorous, so i ordered the filet with smoked mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus

jeff went with his staple -  short ribs

we ordered the lava cake, but it wasn't warm and gooey inside

so they brought us chocolate bread pudding with espresso ice cream

Friday, April 13, 2012

i'm thankful for ... (fashion edition)

flight-of-swans dress

way back in the wedding days when i was planning what to wear at our rehearsal dinner,  i became obsessed with this one dress called the flight-of-swans.  i was kicking myself for not having bought it when i had eyed it at anthropologie months before.  i loved the attention to detail -- how the delicate gold polka dots peeked out over the pleated bodice. and the swans.  oh the swans.

for those of you who don't know, my maiden name is schwanhausser.  the story my grandfather always told was that when my ancestors were working on the land (yes, that's truly how the story began), the kaiser came down and asked them what they did.  when they responded with "we tend to the swans."  he said "then your name shall be schwanhausser," meaning house of swans.  i don't really know that that ever happened, but i still liked hearing it.  so now you can see why this dress became a full-on obsession for me.  i simply had to find it, as it was too perfect that for my last night as a schwanhausser i would wear this dress -- the swans were taking flight.  i would finally be saying goodbye to that 13-letter german name that no one in the south could ever pronounce.

i tracked one down in san francisco, but it was too small.  i stalked every anthropologie i knew, but there were none left.  then, finally i called the design house (twinkle by wenlan) directly in nyc and they just so happened to have received a return, but there was one problem: it had a light red lipstick stain.  i told them to send it anyway, and once i applied a tide white pen, it was as good as new.

**photos on left are from twinkle's website

bright coral jeans

i know erin posted about the bargain version of these a few weeks ago when i was away, but i finally broke down and bought a pair at j crew.  i had to convince myself that they were definitely worth the $125 price tag and after a making a panicked call to tita from the dressing room i got the reassurance i needed - the only question left was "should i get the spearmint or the coral?"  the girls at the store were heavily pushing the spearmint, because it would bring me into fall, but erin yelled from the phone "no, coral is your color."  she was right.  i ultimately left with a brand new pair of neon rose toothpick jeans that would bring me into spring fashion.  and i love them.  i'm not gonna lie, i have stared at these neon jeans in the mirror thinking "are they too much?" but ultimately you have to take risks in fashion and the bright hue just makes me happy.

**photo on top is from j crew
marshall's bargain

i always remember spending saturday afternoons shopping with my mom at marshall's, tj maxx and loehmann's.  i loved finding that perfect bag that was on sale from the already marked down price, or the pair of designer shoes that you couldn't believe were stashed on the shelf.  as i got older, it became a tradition that i had with my girlfriends -- especially while living in dc.   i was always on a budget (and not by choice), but loved shopping at loehmann's with nedra and rita stella.  now in la, it's still a tradition that i carry on, as there is nothing like getting a good bargain.  am i right ladies?

so last saturday while out running errands i decided to stop by marshall's to see if i could find a dress for our dinner that night with jenny and jorge.  i was multitasking, listening to my friend marleine's story (and if you know marleine you know those aren't short) while browsing the aisles searching for something cute.  and then i ran across this aqua blue sundress for $19.99.  i told marleine i had to go and immediately headed to the dressing room.  after trying it on i was sold.  it's perfect for a relaxed day in the sun or dressed up with heels for a night out.

fighting eel maxi dress

before jeff and i went to hawaii (which turned out to be our engagement trip), jeff had found an article on a new boutique that had opened in honolulu, called fighting eel.  yes, ladies, i do have a husband who actually considers these things when preparing for a trip, as he knows shopping is near and dear to my heart.  every time i travel i like to buy something to remind me of our vacation.  so when i stepped in fighting eel, i was happy to find all of these moderately priced jersey knit maxi dresses.  the dress below is one of my favorite ones to bring when we travel, as it feels like pajamas, but is super sexy and fun.

**top photos are provided by fighting eel.  the dress on the top left is my dress in white.  the dress on the right is another one i want.  the bottom is how us non-models wear dresses.
marc jacobs bag

rita stella always gives me fabulous gifts every year for my birthday and last year was no exception.  when i opened the package i was beyond thrilled to see this adorable teal bag staring back at me.  it is my go-to bag when traveling, as it has a long strap that makes it easy to cross over your body and it fits nicely into a carry-on bag - not to mention the fact that i love the vibrant colors.  

**pictures on right are from marc by marc jacobs

Thursday, April 12, 2012

my nespresso machine

i actually feel pretty bad that i haven't mentioned this one before, as my nespresso machine is one of the few things that gets me out of bed in the morning.  the fact that it comes with a stand alone frother, well that is simply genius.  and since the easter bunny was so thoughtful to put my favorite caramel syrup into my basket, mornings are even better.  one pump caramel flat white is definitely a thing that i love.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

impromptu guitar sessions

last night when jeff came home i actually had dinner ready, cleaned the house, and wrapped our niece's ninth birthday present.  getting this much accomplished on a week day happens once every blue moon, or on days when i work from home.  today, i worked from home.  it's amazing what you can do with that hour and a half that you aren't sitting in traffic.

after dinner, he pulled out his guitar, we opened a bottle of wine, grabbed the leftover easter candy and we sang (not while eating the candy).

at first, it started out like the kristen wiig skit on snl, with me saying "don't make me sing!" even though it was my idea.  then i needed help on actually knowing when to come in which then led to many sessions of "okay, tell me when to come in. wait, when do i come in?"
but, eventually i got the hang of it and it was a really fun evening.  way better than sitting on the couch and watching hours of bad tv.

click on the image below to watch the video.  i promise it will make you laugh:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

spring break

about a month ago, jeff and i went on a cruise to st martin, st thomas and castaway cay.  jamie, carrie and the girls also went. because of jeff and jamie's work we got to go on this trip a few weeks before the new ship, the disney fantasy, actually launched.  think of it as a final test run for the crew and cast members to make sure everything is just right before they officially open to the public.

before we went i had this sinking feeling that spending days at sea might not be the best way of travel for me.  pretty soon after we arrived (maybe 48 hours later) i succumbed to seasickness and it stayed with me for the rest of the week. no matter what i tried i still felt queasy.  the bonine didn't work.  the sea bands didn't work.  nothing really seemed to help.  i guess it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

that being said, the ship was beautiful, the state rooms were very comfortable (trust me, as i spent the majority of the trip in bed feeling nauseated), and the spa treatments were amazing.  i had an 80 minute hot stone massage looking out onto the open water and they also have these incredible ridiculously warm ceramic beds that you can lay on and read for hours. if you have kids who love disney it is definitely a great travel option.  every parent there seemed to be thrilled to have time alone with their partner while their kids were beyond ecstatic to get to spend copious amounts of time at the oceaneer's club, soaking in all of the disney magic.

thankfully, on the last day i was feeling better and we went kayaking and parasailing while we were in castaway cay.  even though i am terrified of flying, i absolutely love to parasail.  it's so peaceful being way up in the air, soaring ever so slightly through the sky.  if you have never done it i strongly recommend it.  jeff and i actually did a tandem parasail, which meant that i ended up hanging from him like a baby bjourn.  definitely odd, but it was so wonderful to be the only two people way up in the sky for those five minutes.

as always, jeff is our family photographer and does a phenomenal job at capturing all of our travel moments.  so below are a few snapshots from our trip:

in the beginning, everything seemed to be going so well

 and then it happened

while stuck in bed, i read a lot

i mean a lot

while i was lounging in bed, jeff was relaxing and having a great time. thank god jamie, carrie and the girls were there. (but i should note that he was very concerned about me, but who wants to be stuck with a sickie all day?  i had to push him out of the room, assuring him i was fine.   again, great husband.)

every once in a while i peeked out onto our veranda and got this lovely view

and we had the sweetest housekeeper who insisted that "jessica, you need monkey to cheer you up" when i was having a rough day

we rented a car in st martin

and for some reason, this guy's campaign made me happy, so jeff made me happy and took a photo.  after all, he cares. (*i need to follow up and see who won the election)

and running across little moments of beauty like this make you forget about feeling terrible. this is one of my favorite photos jeff took. we were crossing under a bridge on the beach and he stopped to notice this.

i didn't last very long on our day at st thomas, but here's a great view of the island

back on the ship, we did have some great meals

and emma and addie were loving every minute

thankfully i was better for our planned adventure day of kayaking and parasailing on castaway cay

and then when i was feeling better, my goofy side came out. (for the record, someone once told me i looked like a seahorse. i had thought it was time to put that to rest.)

i have to admit the morning we arrived at port canaveral, i was super happy to be getting back on land