Saturday, March 30, 2013

baking and blogging: Easter cinnamon sweet bread

Easter sweet bread, sweet bread recipe

Growing up, Easter meant that my uncle (the baker) would bring over sweet bread, one of my favorite parts of the day. His were intricately braided versions with dyed eggs placed around the bread, and it would take us days to finish. Sweet, sugary, and full of carbs? Sign me up.

You'll need the following ingredients:
2 eggs
1/3 cup butter, warmed
1 1/4 cup milk, warmed (30 seconds in the microwave)
pack of dry yeast
4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix together the eggs, butter, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and yeast in a bowl. Add in the flour, stirring as you go. You should have a sticky dough when you're done. I used my KitchenAid mixer to do the combining. Knead the dough for a few minutes, and then cover and let it sit for an hour to rise.

Make 12" strands of dough by rolling it between your hands. Then braid, twist, or roll the strands together to make three breads. For this I made 2 breads with 3 strands each and then one bread with 4 strands.

Once your breads are formed, place them on wax paper on a cookie sheet and cover with a damp cloth. Let them sit for an hour to rise.

Beat an egg in a bowl and brush it onto the breads. (This will give them a nice golden brown look.) Preheat the oven to 350, remove the wax paper from the cookie sheet, and bake the breads for about 20 minutes, or until slightly browned.

While they're baking, put 2-3 teaspoons of sugar into a small container and add 2 drops of food coloring. Put the cover onto the container and shake until you have dyed sugar.

Once the breads are out of the oven, mix together confectioners sugar and water and glaze, then top with the colored sugar. They look cute with a dyed Easter egg nested in the middle. If you'd like to serve them as the bread with your meal, make smaller breads and skip the sugar glaze. Individual breads would be cute for a dinner party!

Friday, March 29, 2013

what I wore: beautiful blue day

I always have a much better day when I love the outfit I'm in. It definitely boosts my confidence, especially when I'm heading into a long day of meetings or stressful conversations. 

Here's what I wore yesterday, including my white power blazer, a fun necklace, new skinnies, and my must-wear MK watch. Oh, and leopard print heels. Everyone needs a good pair of leopard heels. Trust me, they put an extra oomph in your step.

Lucky Brand skinnies // white blazer // MK watch // blue tee // leopard heels // necklace (old, from ModCloth)

Have a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

closet clean out: where to sell your clothes & accessories

So you're cleaning out your closet using the tips I talked about back in January, and then you stand back and stare at the huge pile of stuff you don't need or want anymore:  Now, what do you do with it? In order to do some research on how to get the most for your time and effort (while cleaning out my own closet), I used a few different platforms for getting rid of gently used items.

The contenders

how to use ebay
 Probably the most familiar to you is ebay, where you can post items for a "buy it now" price or at an auction for a set number of days (usually 7).
how to use Poshmark
 Poshmark is an online community, similar to Pinterest in view-style, where you can list items for sale. You can take part in "parties", which highlight specific types of items, and others can "share" or "like" your items.

how to use Klury
 With Klury you upload photos of your items and they send you a quote, at which point you can decide to sell it to them or decline. It is free to ship the item to them.
how to use Twice
At Twice you let them know what items you will be sending and then ship it to them for free. They inspect everything and send you a check.

My thoughts

If you are looking for ease of use, Twice is what you want. Making sure that your items are within their approved brands, with a few clicks of your mouse you can print out a packing slip and send those items on their way.
Cons: They price the items for you, and you won't get top dollar. For example, a pair of Express shorts will get you around $2.

If you have a vintage item or something unique, or something that does not fall into the approved brands of other sellers, head over to ebay. You can list any item, start it at any price you desire, and if it doesn't sell, you only pay a small listing fee.
Cons: You pay a listing fee, though it is small. Your item has the best chance of selling if you start it at less than $1 with no "reserve price" (that is, a price you will not sell below); however, if you do this you are not guaranteed to get as much as you want for the item.

Klury allows you to get a quote on designer items prior to sending them anywhere.
Cons: You have to take time to take photos of each item and upload them, along with a description. They are very selective about items accepted.

is an interesting platform. It is definitely time-consuming to follow up on questions from other users regarding each item in your "closet". Depending on how many users you follow, your newsfeed will rapidly change, so items disappear from view quickly:  It is best to join the "parties" and share your items there so that they get enough exposure to sell. On the plus side, you get to price your items, and buyers will negotiate with you within the platform.
Cons: Items disappear from users' view quickly based on how many items are uploaded. It is time consuming to use this platform.

Did I miss any major online hubs for buying and selling gently used clothing and accessories? Have you used any of these? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kate Spade Saturday launch

Great news, ladies- Kate Spade has launched its new, lower-priced line, Kate Spade Saturday. Prices are a much more budget-friendly $180 for the below striped dress vs. $448 for the Kate Spade version. Everything on the Saturday site, including the dotted background and models' smiles, looks like a younger version of Kate Spade. Go take a look if you haven't already!

Kate Spade, Kate Spade Saturday, Saturday launch, striped dress, floral skirt
Kate Spade dress ($448), skirt ($268)
Kate Spade Saturday dress ($180), skirt ($85)

Also check out this shift dress, this ponte dress, the days of the week pencils, and desk calendar.

splurge vs. save: modern nautical home decor

I've been noticing a trend among home decor, available everywhere from West Elm to Homegoods to Neiman Marcus, in glass knots.

Which one costs $230 and which is just $12?

splurge ($230) // save ($19.95) // save a little more ($12)
in order, as shown above: save a little more, save, splurge

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

on trend: denim vests

I'm excited to start a new series, on trend, to talk about recent trends and how to do them right.

Lately, I've noticed a frightening number of jean vests available in various stores, and that frightens me a little bit. 

When I think jean vest I think back to the 1980s' love of denim paired with neon patterns that carried into the early 1990s. Please, ladies, do the world a favor and stay away from this combo of big hair and neon patterns so you don't end up looking like something out of an episode of Saved by the Bell (or, in Kim Cattrall's case, the "before" from SATC).

Saved by the Bell, Lisa, denim vest, 1990s denim vestKim Cattrall, Sex and the City 2, 1980s denim vest
images via 1, 2

Here are a few ladies who have done the denim thing right recently.

Khloe Kardashian denim jacket, maxi and denim
image via

Khloe Kardashian Odom wore a maxi, casual sandals, and relaxed hair with aviators and a pop of pattern.

image via

Kendi layered a tee, jean vest, and statement necklace. The necklace softens the vest, and the pastel skirt gives the outfit an extra girly flair.

white dress, denim vest
image via

Scalloped hem, neutrals, ponytail, and vest = fab casual look.

ruffle dress, mint bag, denim vest, neutral wedges, neutral scarf, how to wear a denim vest
dress // scarf (similar at a budget price) // denim vest // mint bag // wedges

Monday, March 25, 2013

organize your Monday: prioritization tool

I wanted to introduce some organization tips, starting with life organization. I like to think of my life as "organized chaos"- there is a lot going on, but somehow (for the most part), everything gets done.

This is a tool that has helped me in working full-time, going to school part-time, and living life the rest of the time. The importance/urgency matrix is helpful in prioritizing and learning helpful time-management skills. If you work in a corporate environment, this concept is not going to be new to you. But it's not only for the workplace- bringing it into your personal life can work wonders!

The upper left quadrant is for items of the highest importance and highest urgency. These are items that you must do today (or this week, or this month- whatever time frame you are looking at), such as "go to the grocery store to shop for tonight's dinner party" (because it's 3PM and you haven't done that yet). As you move to the right (upper right quadrant), these are items that are of high urgency but low importance. This might be responding to emails that are filling up your inbox.

The lower right quadrant contains items you should delegate to others because they are of the lowest importance and lowest urgency. They're those things you think you should do, but there is no time frame necessary- so often they don't get done. For me this is something like "clean the oven". And the quadrant on the lower left is items of high importance but low urgency. Often these are important tasks that somehow slip through the cracks and don't get done.

I start in the upper left quadrant, then prioritize between the upper right and lower left, and then delegate tasks on the lower right or cross them off the list altogether.

Hopefully, this will help you in creating a better sense of time management. And with this system, rather than thinking, "I have fifteen minutes, so I guess I'll go on Facebook," you'll be more likely to think, "I have fifteen minutes, so I'll tackle something important". Good luck!

Friday, March 22, 2013

weekend must-do: how to clean a flat iron

how to clean a flat iron, how to clean a curling iron

I often use hair spray and a flat iron together, which is probably not recommended by your favorite hair stylist. And it leaves a nasty residue on the plates, which then makes the bathroom smell like... well, burning hairspray (not on Yankee Candle's list of potential fragrances, I'm sure).

After trying some methods that didn't work so well, I finally found one that cleans off all of the hairspray gunk! Make sure your flat iron is fully cooled prior to doing this- and, of course, unplug it.

1. Mix about 1/4 cup of baking soda with hydrogen peroxide until you have a paste to work with. 
2. Use some elbow grease to rub it into the plates, making sure that you aren't getting it into the straightener itself. 
3. Wipe down with a wet cloth. 
4. Repeat as necessary.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

witty stationery with a discount

One of my weaknesses is really great stationery, like these designs from Colette Paperie.

I have at least 4 boxes of stationery at all times- some monogrammed, some busy, some really simple, and some witty. While some people may go straight to email for everything, there is nothing like getting a handwritten note in the mail.

I bought this in a card, but I really wish this card came in a larger print so I could hang it on my wall. (My grandmother was from the south, which is probably where I got my love of big hair.)

Go get yourself some fab stationery - Colette Paperie is giving 25% off with code SPRINGFLING2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cancun vacation recap

Cancun vacation, Excellence Riviera Cancun, beach

I am back from one of the most relaxing trips I have ever taken. T and I spent 5 days at an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, just south of Cancun. I'm still not moving at my normal Boston pace, and I am savoring this last vacation day before going back to work tomorrow.

The view from our room was fabulous. The sun rose over the water, and it was such a nice way to wake up each morning.

I loved having a pool lounger that was in the water, and I'm trying to convince T that we need to build a similar ledge into our pool at home.

A bronzed goddess I am not, but I managed to only get a small patch of sunburn - success! I had some grand plans for outfits, but I spent the majority of the time in a swimsuit, so that plan didn't work out. 

Frozen mudslides and poolside cabanas... sigh.

We came back to a snowstorm and 30 degree temperatures. Okay, Boston, let's get some sun and warmer temps going. I need weekends at the Cape with a view like this:

Photos were taken at Excellence Riviera Cancun, Porto Morelos, Mexico.

guest post: fruit and caviar trends with a NYC Buyer

Today's guest post is from my sister, Amanda, who is a buyer at WiNK in New York City. She is one of the most fabulous people I know, so I asked her to bring some of the NYC flavor to my little Boston-based blog.


The new Spring trend is fruits and they are all around. 

This past weekend I took a trip to a friend's children's clothing store, My Little Sunshine, that houses some of these fancy Italian fleece duds (you can visit them in the ever-popular Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan). Don't you wish they made these in adult sizes? 

Bobo Chose, kids clothes, lemon kids clothes, My Little Sunshine NYC
items above by Bobo Chose available at My Little Sunshine NYC

I recently bought a strawberry short suit from LF Stores in NYC (but don't worry, they're in Boston too!) and cannot wait to wear it as soon as the weather turns nice.

strawberry romper

The next item on trends is the caviar manicure, originally started in the UK and slowly making its way to us in the States. I had my first experience while in Miami and now I'm addicted. 

caviar manicure, red and black manicure

You can get your very own Ciate Caviar manicure in Sephora, Bloomingdale's or Nordstrom. My suggestion- order the mini bar online and experience all sorts of caviars at home. 

caviar manicure, yellow manicure

Be light and don't take yourself too seriously this Spring!

Monday, March 18, 2013

guest post: Alana from Cheap Chic Traveler

Hello! I am Alana and I write the blog Cheap Chic Traveler about all the things I love about my life in Boston.  Given the cold winter we have had in Boston, I am very ready for all of the snow to melt and for Spring to get here!  Spring is one of my favorite times of the year, as I enjoy that we get rid of the dreary days of winter and the sun makes a return. Spring is a time when I begin to enjoy being outside again and so my fiancé and I make it point find new and fun things to do on the weekends.  This an outfit that I am itching to wear once the weather warms up a little more and Spring has officially sprung! 

Friday, March 15, 2013

guest post: wedding tips from Mary Costa of Mary Costa Photography

Hi there! I'm Mary Costa, one of Alyssa's BFFs from high school, and I'm super excited to be guest blogging for her! I'm a wedding/portrait photographer based in Los Angeles. Wedding season is kicking into full swing for me, plus it seems like every day my Facebook feed is flooded with new engagement announcements from friends (yay!!). 

Weddings are awesome, but they can definitely be overwhelming to plan. Here are six tips for brides from the standpoint of a wedding photographer!

wedding tips from a photographer, bridal planning, weddings

1. Choose a nice getting-ready location: Try to choose a spot with good light and decor for those first photos. If it's somewhere you've been staying for awhile, have your room clean when your photographer arrives. (Photo credit: Andria Lindquist)

2. Have nice hangers: It's always wonderful to get a shot of that gorgeous dress hanging...but not quite so nice on a bad hanger! A pretty hanger makes a world of difference in the photos. This bride made individualized name tags for all of her bridesmaids, making the photos that much more special! (Photo credit: Style Me Pretty/Bloom Photography).

3. Make contact: Wedding photographers LOVE when couples opt to do a first look - it's not only a gorgeous moment, but it usually makes your day-of schedule way less stressful. That said, some couples prefer to keep things traditional and wait until the wedding to see each other. But just because you can't see each other doesn't mean you can't touch! This couple opted to pray together before the wedding and hold hands without looking at one another. If you want to keep things traditional, try something like this to capture a special memory with your partner before your wedding.

4. Involve your guests: Giving confetti, sunglasses, bubbles, umbrellas, or other fun props/details to your guests can add a lot of personality to your day! (Photo credit: Our Labor Of Love)

5. Plan for portraits around sunset: It's soooo important to take light into account when you're planning your wedding schedule. Be sure to check the sunset time for your day and try to plan for portraits around this time. Photographing in the middle of the day often leaves you with bright light, harsh shadows, and squinting portraits. I love shooting during the last hour of the day. If that much time isn't feasible in your schedule, at the very least try to grab 20 minutes of private couple portraits before the sun sets, even if you have to duck out of dinner briefly! (Photo credit: This Modern Romance)

6. Be adventurous: It's true that you paid a lot for that dress, and you're probably going to be tired come portrait time... but don't let that stop you from having some fun! Don't be afraid to trample through the woods, run in a field, or sit down in the sand. Take advantage of the time you have in your dress and make some awesome images (and memories) in the process. (Photo credit: Tyler Branch)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

dog-themed accessories

Every so often a product comes across my inbox and makes me laugh. And then I buy it. But seriously, how great are these pillows and sign from One Bella Casa, and this t-shirt from The Mountain. Thank you, ideeli and Fab, for making my day by highlighting these great products.

dog t-shirt, dog pillow, dog home items

(Not going to lie- I did buy this t-shirt, mostly because it resembles Sprout- but I bought it for my nephew who is just over a year old. Sadly, you won't see me in this anytime soon.)

Monday, March 11, 2013

reality TV + why we care

Normally, I leave my guilty pleasure shows where they belong - on the DVR until I am at home by myself and can watch them in peace without color commentary from T. Tonight, though, I am wondering (and, obviously, sharing with you):  Why do we get so invested in the lives of these women we have never met?

Spoiler alert...

Bachelor, Bachelor Season 17, Sean
image via

If you look on Twitter, there is tweet after tweet of #TeamLindsay or #TeamCatherine, ladies calling Sean an idiot for his choice, and speculating if Lindsay will be the next Bachelorette. 

But why do we care?

It's the same for every reality show I watch:  Week after week I peek into their lives for just an hour of television time, forming an opinion of who they are and what they should do or not do. I talk to my friends as if I know these people. Sometimes I even yell at the TV.

On some level you relate to those you watch. Why else would you care? Whether you are like them or want to be like them, if they remind you of people you know or would rather not know, you feel some connection to who they are for that hour every week.

And that, my friends, is why I am so annoyed at the TV right now. Do you get upset at your favorite shows?

weekend wedding recap

This weekend we went to a fabulous wedding in downtown Boston for one of T's close friends. It went by so fast that it made me think about the months and months that go into planning (in this case, almost a year) for a jam-packed 48 hours of family, friends, and fun to celebrate a couple. 

This Ali Ro dress is unlike anything else in my closet for semi-formal events, and due to a snowstorm on Friday, I decided to pair it with black tights. I fully appreciated that one of T's friend's dads noticed that my purple shoes matched his tie and pocket square. Color blocking success.

A few details this weekend that I loved (aside from the view from cocktail hour of Boston Harbor, which I tweeted on Saturday)...

Some tables had tall centerpieces, but the flowers were atop clear vases so you could see who was across from you. The accompanying short arrangements were gorgeous as well and made an appearance the next day at brunch- and one is now sitting on my bar cart at home.

white wedding flowers, wedding reception flowers, white flower centerpiece

Every other table had a short centerpiece, which I fully appreciated. We were sitting at a table of good friends (when we weren't on the dance floor), so it was nice to be able to talk and take photos across the table. And a short centerpiece was not by any means less elegant than the tall arrangements. The gorgeous roses and hydrangeas looked incredible.

rose centerpiece, wedding reception flowers, roses and hydrangeas, white hydrangeas

Shout out to the Sultans of Swing, who had everyone on the dance floor from the bride and groom's first dance to after "one last song". Erika (a Top 10 American Idol contestant from Season 11) rocked everything from Celine Dion to Carly Rae Jepsen.

Friday, March 8, 2013

wedding registry event at Crate & Barrel

Last weekend I attended a registry event with my sister at Crate & Barrel since her fiancé was on a business trip and couldn't be there. It was great to have a store tour guide take us around at the beginning, and the espresso station was calling to me the entire 3 hours we were there.

Crate & Barrel wine glasses, wedding registry at Crate & Barrel, Crate & Barrel wedding registry
so many choices...

Our mom kept wandering away to the yummy cheese spread while Britt and I debated different styles of wine glasses. Honestly, most of them looked the same to me. (Clearly, I am no wine expert.)

Crate & Barrel flatware

I would definitely recommend attending a registry event at whichever store you are going to use for your wedding registry. Not only do you get to really see everything for which you are registering, but it's kind of hilarious to watch the fiancés who want nothing more than to lay down on one of the nearby couches to escape choosing which spatula is better.

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