Monday, December 24, 2012


My favorite spot to relax in the evening

Our puppies personalized ornaments

I could sit here for hours...and I do!
Adorable gingerbread house at the Governor's Mansion tour

 One of the many trees at the Governor's Mansion tour

How cute is my wreath?

Still working on my tree collection...I think I need to hit the after-Christmas sales! 

My dining room table 

A sweet needlepoint Santa pillow 
Believe it or not, we found this in the garage of the home we bought. I think it was home-made and love it! 

A 1950's Mrs. Claus store display that I picked up at an antique market. She is majorly cute! 

A mini tree/rosemary plant with rustic ornaments. 
Our neighbor's house:
A decorator suggested that I put Christmas balls at the top of my lamps. I think she was right. 
My little sugars:



Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Unique Way to Wrap A Gift

I absolutely love wrapping Christmas gifts! I want each present to be wrapped in the same paper so my living room has a uniform look. If something is too large to wrap and I have to use a bag to wrap it, I try to make sure that the bag matches the rest of the paper. I know, I have issues ;)

With that said, sometimes I will come across a gift that is odd-shaped or too heavy for a bag. That was the case this week. The example I am showing is actually not a Christmas gift so don't let the black wrapping paper throw you. If you pick up a floral arrangement from a super-fancy florist, you'll see them using this same notion of a using box to wrap something with the gift sticking out at the top. Check it out!

Start with a recycled box

Cut the edges off of it
So it looks like this

Overwrap the entire box with wrapping paper

Cut the paper at each corner to the end

Fold the wrapping paper over the edges & secure with tape

The completed box will look like this

Place bubble wrap or thick stuffing in the bottom to help secure the item

This is a heavy piece of garden art that I am giving to a friend for a housewarming gift. Every bag I tried to put it in looked terrible. I think it turned out pretty cute.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

J's Favorite Things: BEAUTY PRODUCTS

I love, love, love trying new beauty products. I have tried so many things that it is baffling to me as to why I do not look 19.... ;) Many things I try are very expensive like laser hair removal (ouch!), VelaShape (ouch again, and didn't work for me), and acupuncture (seriously, why does it all have to hurt?).
In addition to various procedures, I love to research the latest & greatest products and select which ones to try. I know you have visions of a very junk-filled bathroom but, no worries, I have a very good habit of tossing anything that I dislike.
In keeping with my usual theme of cost-effectiveness and ease of use, I have selected my top 5 favorite beauty products of 2012 that will get you looking your best this holiday season, without breaking the bank. Enjoy!
Top 5 Beauty Products of 2012
  1. Just For Men Beard Dye
  2. CoverGirl Clear mascara
  3. Sally Hansen wax strips
  4. Lip gloss
  5. Amlactin
Just For Men Beard Dye
While waiting on a friend for lunch one day in Birmingham, I popped into a salon to get a quick brow wax. The lady asked if she could dye my brows a tiny little bit. My features are very light so I was hesitant but I thought "why not?" What resulted was a very natural enhancement of my brows that made them look even shapelier. She didn't charge me for this but I am sure it isn't particularly cheap. I asked her about maintnance & she told me to try men's beard dye, Just For Men, specifically, and the kind that doesn't treat gray hair. A box costs $7.99 at CVS or Target and lasts 6-8 dyes. I dye mine once or twice a month. You are just going to have to trust me on this one & try it!
CoverGirl Clear Mascara
Again in the brow category, apply clear mascara before walking out the door & people will think you have perfectly groomed brows. It also helps identify which little hairs need to be trimmed. A tube costs $5.99 at CVS or Target & lasts several months. It is my absolute favorite product, right after lip gloss :)

CoverGirl Professional Natural Lash No Color Mascara Clear Neutral 800
Sally Hansen Wax Strips
Do you think I have an obsession with my eyebrows yet? You are correct! While being treated at a medspa for melasma (icky brown patches typically caused by hormones), my esthetician told me that the patches above my brows were being exacerbated by my frequent waxing. She suggested switching to these strip because they remove less skin, but ultimately leave my brows virtually hair free and without the pricey cost of a salon or those embarrassing, irritating red marks. They sell for $5.99 at any drugstore. A little tip: trim them into the shape of your brow before waxing to avoid removing hairs that you want to leave in place.

Hair Remover Wax Strip Kit, for Body, Legs, Arms & Bikini

Lip Gloss
Like many ladies, I have tried every lip gloss known to man. While MAC is consistently in my arsenal, my suggestion for the best value is L'Oreal 6 Hour Lip Gloss. One tube costs $9.99 but I often find buy one get one half off deals at CVS. I have pretty much every single color they make. This lip gloss have enough color but not too much (which is my issue with MAC sometimes), and it definitely lasts. If you have ever tired MAC's line of "stay-put" lip gloss, you know that you have to use an oil-based remover to get it off, and it cracks once your lips are dry. The L'Oreal brand fades naturally and comes in a variety of great colors. Truffle & Sangria are my top two, with Fiery in at a close 3rd! 

Have you ever tried a product containing Alpha Hydroxy acid? Did it not transform your skin? I love this ingredient and use the Obagi C line, which contains AHA, among other great things. In reading Lucky Magazine, I came across a body lotion that contains AHA called Amlactin. It is sold at CVS for $15.99 and is beyond fabulous. In the spirit of honesty, my sister in law tried it & disliked the smell. I don't think it has much of a scent but, if you are used to using raspberry scented lotion, for example, you will be disappointed. I generally dislike lotions with added fragrance anyway as I think they should serve a purpose. For about 15 minutes, your skin will feel a bit sticky but, hang in there, once it absorbs & starts to work, you will be amazed.

Honorable Mention: Creme de la Mer
Honorable mention goes go Creme de la Mer. I was given this as a birthday gift, and thank goodness because the price tag is hefty at $150 a jar. A friend of mine mentioned that she disliked this cream because it was too thick. Since I have ultra-dry skin, her comment made me think that this would be the perfect drink for my skin this winter as a night-cream. And it is. Hopefully I can switch back to Creme d'Elegence by Kiehl's for the summertime so I don't go broke!
Crème de la Mer

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

J's Favorite Things: HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE

$5 Gift Idea- LE PEN
You may remember my post last year about a great stocking stuffer called Le Pen. I decided to mention it again because I am still loving these little things. They come in a wide array of colors and are so inexpensive at $1.99. A friend of mine, Mary Susan, gave me a bouquet of Le Pens for my birthday this year. How clever and what an appropriate gift. I promptly wrote her a thank you note in a hot orange pen!

Available at my FAVORITE place to on-line shop:

Recently, as I was spending time with my three year old nephew, he impressed me by how far he could count in Spanish. My five year old nephew then told me he could count to 100 in Spanish. Seriously? I didn't learn Spanish until high school. They start kids so young these days don't they? While shopping at Target on Black Friday, I came across a whole section of books that were in both English and Spanish, including an old favorite "The Hungry Caterpillar". None of them were over $10 so I scooped up quite a few. You should expect to see these as Christmas & birthday gifts for a few years from me. Feliz Navidad! :)

Available at:

We all have been switching to stemless wine glasses for a few years now and I think these are the next trend. Often times we think of champagne as a luxurious or celebratory drink. However, the selection of champagne in the grocery store, as well as by the glass in restaurants is becoming wider and wider. While I do still generally opt for wine, I absolutely love a glass of champagne for a change. Most stemware, especially champagne flutes, is very fancy. These glasses are ultra-sleek, a little bit funky and casual enough to pull out when your girlfriends come over for book club. They are $80 for a set of six so I split them into three sets: two were gifts & one was for me. Splitting them up made them roughly $25 a pair, which I think is a great price point for a gift. My only problem was deciding which style to give which person. I ultimately decided that it didn't matter since I will likely be using them at my friend's homes anyway. :)

Available at:

You know the saying everything old is new again? Well, I think these fit into this category. I can remember being in college & wanting every cutesy holiday platter monogrammed with my initials. My monogramming phase passed along with my love of Patagonia shorts, (you know you rocked these even though they were WAY too short), but now they are making a comeback for me. I recently purchased this platter from The Preppy Ladybug for a family member. I hope she likes it. Roll Tide! Order by December 6th for Christmas delivery!

Available at:

About every other year, I go on a girl's trip in December to NYC with my mother in law & sister in laws. On our 1st trip there together years ago, I came across this adorable jewelry store in The Pond called Lucid NY. I bought this fabulous necklace and loved it so much that, when I lost it, I ordered another one.....and the earrings to match...and have ordered or purchased in person so many adorable things from them since! You have to check them out:

Available at:

I mean that just sounds yummy doesn't it? After many years of sleeping on an OLD mattress, my husband & I finally bit the bullet & bought a new mattress set. Mattress shopping is actually quite boring and rather stressful so, after two stores, I was ready to make the big purchase. We had the nicest, most knowledgable salesperson you could imagine. The truth is that we may actually take them up on their happiness guarantee & exchange our new mattress for another one. Maybe our bodies aren't used to all the fluffy softness that is now being bestowed upon us, ha ha! Regardless, our second choice of a mattress was called Coconut Bliss & is the Mattress Firm brand. I wasn't sold on memory foam, or its outrageous price, but my husband loved it & decided to treat himself to a Coconut Bliss foam pillow. The foam has holes in it so it is very breathable and it isn't dense like Tempurpedic. In other words, it forms to the shape of your head but quickly can adjust to a new position, again unlike Tempurpedic. Needless to say, I am really hoping that one of these is under the tree with my name on it this year! Treat yourself or your loved one to this luxurious pillow and they will thank you profusely! The price on the website is $129 but I think we got a sweet deal at $99 since we bought the new mattress set.

Available at:

A Gift Idea for the person who has everything: CUSTOM BUILT BIRD HOUSE
I am always on the search for a unique gift that will wow the recipient. Sometimes I give safe or somewhat boring gifts but I really do try to think outside the box. Being a lover of bird houses myself, I was delighted to come across a website that can make a custom bird house. I contacted the company a few years ago but didn't give them enough lead time to complete a bird house for this particular person. My husband reminded me of this gift idea this week which, of course, is not enough time to get one this year yet again. One day I will give this as a gift and it will be cherished! Pricing varies (between $200-$900) based on the size of the house and whether or not you want to just have the front replicated or if you want a 360 degree view. Keep this unique gift in mind for mother's day, father's day and, of course, Christmas 2013! You could even pair it with a subscription to Birds & Blooms Magazine.

Available at:

Custom Birdhouse (Extra Large) Example 360°
Custom Built Bird Houses
Custom Birdhouse (Large) Example
I hope you are enjoying shopping this holiday season. I don't know about you but I can't wait to see everyone open the gifts that I have selected for them. As I mentioned before, I love to shop to find unique gifts so I will leave you with some of my favorite go-to websites. Enjoy!!

Adorable Stationery:

For sweet treats:

This just goes under the "unique" catagory:

Another great jewelry site:

For the beach lover:

For your favorite gardener:

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Appetizer Series: Eggplant Bella Rose

A very good friend of mine is growing eggplant in her garden this year and was kind enough to share some with me. I must say that, when she handed me the basket of her beautiful bounty, I thought, "Well, that will look great in a fall centerpiece." Needless to say, I was very intimidated. So, I searched in my cookbook drawer and pulled out my husband's favorite cookbook. He loves every recipe this man has every published. I like the pictures. ;)

I then went on YouTube to see how to cut an eggplant. What? I had absolutely no idea where the seeds where, if you could eat the skin, etc. Don't judge, it got the job done.

I found a recipe that I thought sounded pretty simple and that I already had ingredients for.


Naturally, I altered the recipe to suit what I had in my pantry. I can honestly say that I have absolutely never fried anything. Pan fried, yes, but actually heating oil to a certain temperature and covering the food in it, no. I don't recommend eating this way too often but for an every now & then appetizer, I think it is fine.

If it turns out like this, you are doing it wrong:

My 1st mistake was in the breading process. I lightly breaded a few pieces, dropped them into oil that wasn't hot enough & pulled them out when it started to smoke. I wanted to scrap the whole thing but decided to finish since I couldn't turn the leftover ingredients into anything else. I rolled up my sleeves, breaded the heck out of the eggplant pieces & dropped them into screaming hot oil.


Oh, and this time I actually used a timer to make sure that I cooked each side for 3 minutes. They looked beautiful & golden brown. I actually like this even better than the Bourbon Bacon Toast from last week, which is saying a lot given my love of bacon. Thank you to my dear friend, Michele, for opening my eyes to a fabulous new vegetable!

(the wine is optional ;)

What I have learned from trying some fabulous new appetizers is that I need to give new things a try more often. I am so glad that I did because now I have 3 more items in my arsenal which means, if you invite me over for dinner, in addition to mashed potatoes, I can also bring a gourmet appetizer that you don't have to pretend to enjoy!

I want to end with a recipe that I have made over & over again since my friend, Ann, introduced me to it. I call it, ANN'S CORN DIP. She probably calls it something a bit more fabulous.

One can mexi-cali corn
1 cup mayo
1 cup monterrey jack cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Drain corn, & mix all ingredients together. Pour into a shallow baking dish, such as a pie pan, and top with sliced jalapenos (optional). Bake at 350 for 25 minutes and serve with Fritos scoops. This one is a crowd pleaser & I find that I have these ingredients on hand so it is easy to throw together at the last minute.

I hope you have enjoyed the Appetizer Series. I have been a shopping fool these past few weeks so stay tuned for a post or two of all of my favorite things. I am thinking of calling it J's Favorite Things, as a tribute to our beloved Oprah. Nobody is getting a car though, sorry! There will be some kooky items and some really practical ones. I think you will enjoy it!

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