Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Review // Mini Pebbled Signature Tote (Ann Taylor)

After looking for a classic black handbag for months, I finally found the right one at Ann Taylor.  I stumbled across this Mini Pebbled Signature Tote after seeing Jean with the full sized version.  After hearing some good things about it from Jess, I decided to take the plunge.  Of course this was an easy decision with a 50% holiday promo and $40 credit reward; patience pays off!  It's definitely a departure from the large tote bag style I usually wear, but it's good to have some variety for different occasions.  It's much more spacious than I expected, easily fitting my wallet, planner, cosmetic bag, a mini bottle of water, and a book.  While it doesn't have a top zipper I feel safe enough carrying it with it's magnetic closure and the fact that it can be worn close as a crossbody bag.  I've seen so many handbags with non-removable crossbody straps, but I think that defeats the purpose of having the strap if you can't wear it both ways.  Luckily this bag does feature a removable strap, giving you versatility.  While it is not genuine leather, the texture is very rich.  The quality makes it among the better faux leather bags I've seen.  It also has two sets of functional zippers that allow you to play with a more trendy shape, or you can leave them zipped and enjoy a more classic style.
This bag also fulfills both the classic handbag as well as the crossbody bag picks on my list of accessory staples.  If you're looking for a more affordable option (at full-price) this crossbody bag from Old Navy has some good reviews and comes in a few colors, although you can never go wrong with black. 
Overall I really like this bag and see myself keeping it for a while.  It's simple with just enough detail to keep it from being boring, and I like the functionality of it with the removable strap.  It's been really great for weekends and times when I've had too little for a full sized tote yet too much for a clutch.  Especially if you can get it on sale like I did (the Ann Taylor promotions are frequent), I recommend it. 

What's your go-to handbag style?


Sunday, January 18, 2015

the Continental // Crunchy Brioche French Toast

I haven't always liked French toast, but over the past few years it's become my favorite breakfast dish.  Whether it's making my own overnight baked French toast or ordering it at restaurants, I have it as often as I can.  I've also been keeping a mental list ranking my favorites.  Little did I know that when J suggested we go to Continental on Saturday that I'd find my number one.

This is the best French toast I've ever had.  In no way do I mean to sound dramatic, but this Crunchy Brioche French Toast is on that level.  I've had the good, the bad, and the average, but this is by far the best.  A new standard has been set.  Made with a huge slice of brioche over an inch thick, it was crispy on the outside yet soft on the inside.  It gets major points because I didn't taste the slightest bit of egg, which is a huge turnoff.  J also approved; he had a little taste and described it as having almost a custard like consistency.  Topped with apple compote and drizzled with a mulled cider reduction, it had just enough sweetness without going overboard.  Since I don't use syrup I typically have to ask for copious amounts of fresh fruit to cover my breakfast breads.  This French toast, however, was rich, moist, and flavorful with no other toppings needed.  This is major.  The swirl of fresh whipped cream and single sliced strawberry just sent it over the edge.  Perfect in every way.   I would have finished it all had I not ordered a side of potatoes and apple smoked bacon.  I had a decision to make between taking the last two bites and making it out the restaurant alive.  If ordered alone, the serving would have been just enough, perfectly filling without being stuffed.  Not too little, not too much.

J also enjoyed his selection, The Big Bang, a great choice for a hungry man or woman.  It consists of a very large shortstack, eggs, turkey sausage, apple smoked bacon, potatoes, and toast.  The portions were large, and J thought it was worth the $15 he paid.  As much as I don't like breakfast sausage I tried a piece from J's order and thought that was good too as were the potatoes; they had a nice crisp.  

I remember dining at the Continental years ago, ordering a stack of delicious pumpkin pancakes, but when I returned to order them I found they were only a seasonal dish.  Disappointed I think I ended up settling for either oatmeal or a burger, either way a much less memorable pick.  Luckily I listened to J's suggestion because I would have seriously missed out on rediscovering this place.  I'm also glad we went close to opening, since the restaurant quickly filled for lunch as we were leaving.

So, is it the world's best French toast?  I don't know, I haven't tried them all yet; however, I will say it easily takes my number one spot and is worth many reorders.  Challengers you are welcome, but the bar has been set high.

Find out more about their menu and location here, and let me know what you try! 
What's your favorite breakfast spot?  Always open to suggestions :-)    


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Recipe // Kale & Apple Salad

As much as I try to eat in and pack lunch to save, I just wasn't in the mood for cooking Friday night.  Instead I treated myself to takeout, and I'm glad I did because I ordered the most delicious salad that I just had to recreate for myself---or at least tried to.  The original salad came with cubes of butternut squash, which I took out because the flavor combination didn't work for me.  Other than that all the other ingredients worked really well together.  Unfortunately, I swapped the Red Delicious apple for a Granny Smith I already had; after trying it, I much preferred the original choice of apple.  Because I didn't have turkey bacon, I used some crumbled pork bacon I had around.  Again, it didn't stand up to the taste of the turkey bacon in the salad I ordered.  Sometimes my kitchen improv works, I've been known to whip up some pretty good things with the random assortment of ingredients I already have.  In this case, not so much.  Moral of the story: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  The ingredients matter; stick to the original recipe.

A bunch of Kale
Cubed Red Delicious Apple
Crumbled Goat Cheese
Crumbled Turkey Bacon
Balsamic Dressing
What are some of your favorite salad combinations?
*You may also notice, I didn't use just kale.  At the time I went to the store they didn't have any, so I had to buy a premixed salad mix with kale and some other leafy greens.  This was another problem with my attempt at recreating the original, but I assure you the original as listed was delicious, so I'll be giving it another shot.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Style Staples // Accessories

Quality not quantity.  One of my goals for the new year is to edit my wardrobe, keeping this in mind.  This year I want to dress well with less for less.  Over the last year or two I've become more comfortable with parting with items that I don't wear, that are damaged, and ill fitting.  As I continue my editing, I've found that I don't need as much variety as I once thought.  It's not how much you have, it's how you use what you have.  Keeping this is mind there are certain timeless pieces that will give you more versatility than others.  When it comes to achieving certain looks and dressing for certain occasions, some things will give you more bang for your buck.  Over the next...(however long it takes!), I'll be sharing my picks as well as some styling inspiration starting with accessory basics!   

Black + Solid Color
Leopard + Striped
Plaid + Patterned

Pearls - Studs - Hoops - Colored - Personalized
Watch - Cuff - Statement Necklace - Simple Necklace

Casual Tote + Dress Tote
Casual Clutch + Formal Clutch
Straw Bag + Weekender
"Transport" Tote
Cross-body Bag
Classic Handbag
Colored Bag

Neutrals: pumps and flats in black and nude
Ballet Flats: red + leopard print
 Boots: riding boot, ankle boot, dress boot
Wild Cards: metallic + brogues
Sandals: casual + formal + espadrilles 
Sneakers: gym + casual
Weather: rain, snow, cold

Belts + Cap + Fedora
 As I get older my style is definitely becoming more about dressing well with less for less, although sometimes that involves spending a little more at first for quality pieces that will last.  What are some of your style goals?  What are your "go to" accessories, any favorites?

Leopard Scarf // J. Crew
Solid Scarf // Wet Seal 
Striped Scarf // Forever21

Friday, January 2, 2015

She Believed She Could So She Did

The new year is always a great time to reflect on the past and to consider what changes you want to make in the future.  Here's a few of my goals for this year:

Work.  As much as it's a struggle having other interests and priorities, my full-time job is medical school.  I definitely want to be a better student, so that I can be a great physician.  Academic improvement is definitely a goal for this year.  I've learned a huge part of this is time management and active studying.  It's not how much you study, it's how you study.  It's also important to focus on the big picture, the necessary, the essential.  I like the details; they're important too but useless without something to hang them onto.  Becoming a better student will definitely help me lay the foundation for being a competent physician, an excellent healthcare provider, and all that comes before and between like passing exams and the boards.

Serve.  I want to serve.  I'm not completely sure how I'll do this, but this has definitely been a void over the last few months.  Yes I've volunteered a couple of times throughout first term, and I'll be doing plenty of this throughout my career--but what can I do now?  Last year before starting school I volunteered as a preschool Sunday school teacher, and the time I spent teaching and listening to the little nuggets made my heart full.  But what's next?  There are tons of opportunities to help other people, but I want to find something I'm truly passionate about.  I want to do some volunteer work promoting healthy lifestyle choices and preventative medicine, but how exactly should I do this?  I love working with children, but I also want to help people of all ages.  This is definitely something I'm praying and thinking about.  I want this to be a year where I serve like never before because I've definitely found that life isn't as full or joyful as when you're helping others.

Blog.  Post more regularly.  I've said this before, I have more ideas than time.  This doesn't even include the spontaneous, spur of the moment posts I come up with.  I have a tendency to want to wait for large chunks of time when I can work uninterrupted, but this isn't practical.  I've learn that it's cumulative effort that builds results.  Use the little bits of time, they really add up.

Health and Beauty.  Learning about just some of the many things that can go wrong with the body, definitely makes me value my health much more.  Continuing to eat well and prep meals to save money, I also want to increase my physical activity to benefit my long term health.  In the past I've only exercised sporadically.  I want to try different modes of physical activity to find some things that I like and that fit with my lifestyle.  One thing I've done to help keep myself on track is buy a small calendar to record the things I try and my progress.  I also want to work on building a hair and skin regimen, since I don't really have either, to improve the health of both. 

Make.  Over the years I've collected a couple thousand pins (who's with me?!), and I want to actually use some of them.  Recipes, DIY projects, and all kinds of fun tips.  Somehow amongst everything else I've listed, I want to make time to do a few of these. 

Style.  Building and remixing my wardrobe to minimize purchases through weekly outfit planning, keeping track of and sharing new combinations and ways to style existing pieces.
What are some of your hopes and goals for the year? 
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