Embracing the Animal Print Trend: 2 Ways

Animal print has been big for a while, and chances are, it's not going anywhere anytime soon.  So, if you have yet to embrace this trend, what are you waiting for?  You can find pieces at any price point, so don't let a minuscule budget stand in the way.  Also, you can rock animal print in a way that's as conservative or flamboyant as you please.  Now tell me I've convinced you, oh ye of little faith.  If you're still unsure, here are two decidedly different ways to incorporate animal print into your Fall wardrobe.

 Look #1, Animal Print at Work:  Start with a leopard print dress, then add a denim jacket and red pumps or flats.  Choose simple accessories, such as gold hoops, a gold necklace, and a brown leather satchel.  By keeping the rest of the look fairly classic, the animal print stands out in a way that is tasteful and office-appropriate.  


Roger Vivier at ShopStyle

Look #2, Animal Print at Night:  This time, it's the shoes that add a dose of animal print.  Start with a pair of platform pumps or cut-out ankle booties, and add a pair of skinny jeans and a loose fitting button up shirt in teal.  Then pile on the accessories--a gold pendant, earrings that dangle, and a bold ring.  Finish the look with a brown embellished clutch.  It may seem like a lot going on for one outfit, but somehow it works fabulously.  


Kenneth Jay Lane at ShopStyle

How To: Transition a Spring Skirt into Fall

The dilemma:  a wardrobe full of new Fall clothes you just can't wait to break out, but weather that is less willing to commit to the new season.

The solution:  adding a few Fall pieces to your standbys from Spring and Summer.

The Spring pieces:  an a-line or full black and white print skirt that served you well in the warmer months and a pair of chunky, platform sandals in a bright color


The Fall update:  to the skirt and sandals, add a cardigan in a saturated color (try eggplant or a deep teal), a slightly rugged leather belt, a necklace or earrings in the same color family as the sandals, a simple black cross-body style bag, and add black tights as the weather gets cooler. 


Nine West at ShopStyle

Daydreamer

While I should be putting my efforts toward work, I can't seem to stop daydreaming.  How can I help it?  Despite the calendar's technicalities, I already feel fall's presence.  I recently made a few purchases for the new season, but for the most part, I bought basics.  So now I can't keep my mind from wandering toward more fun, less practical, items for Fall.  Here are the five I think about the most:

1. A Bib Neckace.  With one quick clasp or tie around the neck, the volume is turned up dramatically on an otherwise quiet outfit.  I love the ladylike yet edgy feel of this mixed metallic one from Anthropologie.

2. Ankle Booties.  I actually already have a pair of these, but I would really like another.  Specifically, a pair with some interesting detail, that will make a "night on the town" look really stand out.  I love these from Aldo--they would add some edge to an otherwise demure dress. 


3. A Top with a Touch of Lace.  I love how one detail, such as lace, can add so much to a top or dress.  It can be romantic or sexy, depending on the style, but it can never be boring.  I love this top by Torn by Ronny Kobo from Shopbop.com because of it's versatility.  With a quick change of accessories, it goes from work to evening in a flash.  


4. A Bright Coat.  For the last few years, I've invested in classic coats in neutral hues.  They have served me well; I'm not complaining.  But this year I'm ready for a bright pop of color to cheer me up during winter's cold, dreary days.  This pink one from Guess (at Nordstrom) definitely fits the bill!


5. A Chambray Shirt.  I know, I know, this piece doesn't scream "fun and excitement" but for some reason, I've really been wanting one.  Stylebakery.com did an article on the chambray shirt, taking it from work to play, and since I read it, I can't stop thinking that I must get one.  I like this one from the Gap; it's a little bit preppy, a little bit relaxed.  


So, there you have it, my shopping daydreams.  Hopefully they will become reality soon...

Chicken Kicker

I'm all for finding new ways to cook up the oh-so-reliable, but occasionally boring bonleless skinless chicken breast.  Tonight, I decided to try an oven-fried version with dry Ranch dressing mix in the breading.  I was not expecting a big difference, but my husband and I were pleasantly surprised with the chicken's slightly tangy flavor.

To add some Ranchy flavor to your chicken, just add a packet of dry dressing mix to the flour on your breading station (flour, eggs, breadcrumbs) the next time you decide to oven or pan-fry.  

Basic Profile: The White Shirt

A classic white button-up shirt is a versatile wardrobe piece that, unfortunately, is often overlooked in the morning get-ready rush.  Just as often, I've seen too many women hide it under a dark suit, not taking advantage of the canvas it creates for an array of beautiful accessories.  

If you already have this classic, that's great.  Start having fun mixing and matching it with unexpected pants and skirts.  Are you thinking of buying a new white button-up?  Look for one with feminine detailing, such as ruffles or pleats.  

Look option #1:  Mix a ruffled white button up with menswear-inspired pieces, a sweater vest, and a roomy suede bag for a pretty, polished work look.  (Button-up shirt, Ann Taylor)



DSquared at ShopStyle

Look option #2:  Pair a classic white button-up with distressed denim for a relaxed yet un-scruffy weekend look.  Add a bold, bright necklace as a finishing touch.  (Button-up shirt, C&C California)


RJ Graziano at ShopStyle

Essential Accessory: the Belt

The belt has been a must-have accessory for the past few seasons, and this Fall it's still going strong.  And while you can shell out the big bucks for a designer's latest waist-cincher, you don't have to.  Depending on what you're looking for, you can get away with spending next to nothing. 

If you want to add a trendy belt to your wardrobe, go to a store like Forever 21 or Target to find maximum style for minimum cost.  This season, look for belts embellished with harware or studs, like the one pictured from Forever 21.  Or, if you want to add some day-glow color into your wardrobe without being mistaken for a sno-cone, pick up a bright belt.  This one from Target is a steal for $12.99. 

If you want a classic belt that will outlive the trends, consider investing a little more money.  A skinny belt in a neutral hue is a great go-to piece to dress up a cardigan or change the silouhette of a dress.  Similarly, a wide belt can give shape to a tunic or accentuate your curves when worn over a pencil skirt.  The belts pictured are from J.Crew and Ann Taylor, and both are under $60, which is a great deal considering how much use they'll get. 

Punch Up Your Weeknight Meals with Pesto


Pesto is a traditional Italian sauce made with basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil.  It goes great on pasta, but it also has a variety of other uses.  Here are 5 different ways to incorporate pesto into your meals, giving them extra flavor and freshness. 

1. Use pesto as a spread for an Italian-style turkey or chicken sandwich.

2. Mix pesto into mashed potatoes for a new spin on an old favorite.

3. When roasting skin-on whole chickens or chicken pieces, stuff pesto between the skin and the flesh.  (This is easy to do, just find a place where the skin lifts easily, and stuff away.)

4. Buy pre-made pizza crusts (usually in the Italian foods section at the grocery store) and use pesto in place of traditional pizza sauce.  Top with your favorite cheeses and toppings.

5. Forget the ketchup and top your burger with pesto instead.  For an added twist, use ground turkey instead of beef, and melt mozzarella cheese on top.  Yum!

In summer, when basil is in season, try making your own pesto.  Using a food processor or blender makes it fast and easy.  There are thousands of recipes out there, here's a good one from Martha Stewart Everyday Food.  To change it up, try using something other than pine nuts (like walnuts or pistachios...mmmm). In the cooler months, when basil is more expensive and harder to come by, (or when you're just too wiped out to make an effort) take some help from the store.  You can usually find pesto in the dairy section, next to the refrigerated ravioli and other pastas.  To freshen up store-bought pesto, just add a little lemon zest and juice.  Everyone will think you whipped it up yourself.  And why should you tell them anything different? 

Style Craving: Navy Blazer

Whether you go to school, have kids in school, or teach school (or happen to be superwoman and do all three) it's hard to miss that Fall is just around the corner. For me, this time of year used to mean pouring through my Seventeen magazine, going to the mall, and spending my parents' money like it was my job. Now that those days are far behind, I have to be a bit more judicious about what buy each season. Not that this is easy. I'm still a sucker for a big fat September issue (although no longer of Seventeen), and after reading "12,347 Must Haves for Fall" I'm convinced that I absolutely cannot live without a new pair of boots...or a statement necklace...or a bright leather tote...or a sequin-embellished dress...or.... you get the idea. Eventually, after a gentle reminder from my husband about the definition of the word "need", I pare down my shopping list.

One item that made this month's list is a classic navy blue blazer. It may not be as exiting as neon pink platform pumps, but unlike the latter, I will still want to wear it several years from now. Blazers are an excellent way to look put together, to define your waist, and to add some structure to loose, flowy tops or dresses. Also, they're a simple way to transition lightweight, summery clothes into Fall. I chose navy blue because it's a bit softer than black, and because it's a neutral, it goes with everything. Here are a few of my favorites:


Gap at ShopStyle


Clockwise from top left: Silence & Noise at Urban Outfitters $78, (center) Gap $98, Mango $59.90, Mink Pink at Revolve Clothing $75, Level 99 at Dillards $55

Recipe: Italian Sausage Bites


I was at a get-together this weekend, and my friend made a delicious appetizer of bacon-wrapped little smokies cooked in brown sugar. They were so good, I decided to try my own spin on her recipe. I chose to do an Italian version, because I can't seem to get enough Italian food, but feel free to change it up any way you'd like.


Serves: 4-6


Ingredients:

1 package (5 links) mild or hot Italian sausage

15 thin slices Prosciutto

3/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup sugar

toothpicks


Directions:

First, preheat the oven to 350. Then, boil water in a medium saucepan or deep skillet. When the water is boiling, drop in the sausage links. Cook the sausage for 10-12 minutes*. While the sausage is cooking, cut the prosciutto slices in half length-wise. When the sausages are finished cooking, place them on a paper towel lined plate to drain off any excess water. Let them cool enough to handle.


Set the toothpicks out (you will need 30 for this recipe) so that you will have them ready to go when you're done wrapping. Once the sausages have cooled, cut each one into 6 pieces. (Watch out, they squirt!) Don't worry if they're a little pink in the center; they will finish cooking in the oven. Wrap a half slice of prosciutto around each piece of sausage and secure with a toothpick. Place them in a 9X13 baking dish (you may want to spray it with cooking spray to prevent sticking). Cover with foil, and bake for 15 minutes.


Meanwhile, make the balsamic vinegar glaze. In a small saucepan, bring the balsamic vinegar and sugar to a boil, then simmer until it reduces to a syrupy consistency (it should coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes or so). When the sausages come out of the oven, pour the balsamic glaze over them. Return them to the oven for another 10 minutes so the glaze can flavor the sausage and prosciutto. Enjoy!


*If you don't want to bother cooking the sausage, use kielbasa or chorizo cut into bitesize pieces.

Bang For Your Buck: Scarves

If you don't have a scarf already, please, I beg you, go buy one. And before you even mention the word "recession", take note that you can find several fabulous versions (like this one) at Target.

Here are my top 5 reasons to drop what you're doing, and go buy a scarf. If you already have one, well, go buy another. You know you want to.

1. You will find countless uses for a scarf, as it is no longer just for the winter months.
2. You can find one to suit you whether your style is Jackie O classic or Rihanna edgy.
3. Adding a scarf to your look takes no time, and it adds instant sophistication. Take a basic tee and jeans for instance. Add a bright scarf, and you no longer fade into the background.
4. There are endless affordable options available (see the link to Target above).
5. Finally, as the look below demonstrates, you can wear one for both work and play!


Linea Pelle at ShopStyle

Style Tip: Updating the LBD


The classic, little black dress. Your go-to piece for both work and play. You wear it so much you wonder if people are starting to think it's sewn on. I can hear it screaming, "Please! Update me! Give me some fashion valium so I can wake up!" Whether your LBD has been going strong for years or you have yet to purchase one (try this affordble option from JCPenney), it takes minimal effort to add a little spice to this blank canvas.


Update for Fall 09: Toughen up





For a great night out look (or if you work in a creative environment), start with your trusty LBD. Then add a denim jacket, ankle booties, and some layered metallic bangles. If your LBD has some feminine detailing, like the ruffles on the Banana Republic dress pictured , even better. Juxtaposing the masculine and the feminine is oh so chic. If you can't get enough of the hardware, add a chain strap handbag. If you would prefer not to set off any metal detectors, just grab a simple clutch in a solid color.


Introduction

I created this blog as an exuse to prattle on about my two loves, food and fashion. Also, I wanted every girl to know that making delicious food and looking fabulous are NOT unattainable goals. I know how trite it is to say that if I can do it, anyone can do it, but honestly it's so. I am not a professional chef. It was a combination of my mom and Rachael Ray who taught me to cook, and if I've learned anything from these two incredible women it's that cooking is not rocket science. Rather, it's something to have fun and relax with. When I've had an unbearably long day, I love escaping to the kitchen and letting the soothing aromas (and maybe a glass of wine or two) calm my soul.

As far as looking fabulous goes, I'm not saying that Marc Jacobs is going to use me as his next muse, but I do understand the importance of putting my chicest self forward every day. Most importantly, I want people to know that having style does not require a model's tall thin frame or a bottomless wallet. While I wouldn't be human if I didn't wish for both sometimes, I know that it's all about accepting the body that you have, keeping it healthy, and dressing to bring out its best features. The recipe for looking chic and modern does not require going out and buying every "must have" of the season. Instead, building a classic base wardrobe and accenting it with fun, trendy pieces results in a closet full of clothes that will stand the test of time.