Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Back to Basics

Dress: DVF  (better representation of its true colors here)  // Blazer: Ann Taylor // Shoes: Cole Haan // Laptop Bag: Target // Bracelet: Derng // Watch: Citizens Eco-Drive

Sometimes it's refreshing to skip the statement necklaces, the neon accents, the arm parties, and all of the other accessories and just put on a simple dress and walk out the door. I'm so happy I stumbled upon this dress over the summer at Newbury and Smith consignment store in Baltimore.  Let's be honest, I would have never paid over $300 for a dress, but I got it for $100 and it still had the tags on it! 

I realize that indoor pictures suck and hope to avoid them at all costs.  However, available daylight is slim to none in my home life these days.  Any tips for indoor photos? 

Yup, tried to take a picture with the pups and Jax ended up sprinting out of the shot and sliding across the dining room floor.  That's the reason I have a big ol' grin on my face and Jewels has a, "what the heck is wrong with him" stare on her face. I've also got to give a big round of thanks to my awesome hubs for putting up with my, "hey, I brushed my hair today and look somewhat decent. Can you take a picture of my outfit?" while making dinner.  Gotta love a man who can multi-task! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Weekend Casual:

I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!

If there is a formal petition going around advocating for routine four-day weekends, then please let me know so I can add my name to the list.

My local J. Crew Factory store opened up at midnight for Black Friday and the entire store was 50% off.  I hinted to the hubs that I would like to go and having a male bodyguard might be a good idea. I was joking on the male bodyguard piece because I thought to myself, "who the heck would go shopping at midnight?!?!"

Apparently everyone and their mother goes shopping at midnight on Black Friday.  The hubs and I got to the mall at 11:50pm and I think we were able to score one of the last parking spots at the very far corner of the mall lot.  Our next option was to park across the street at the Olive Garden.

I was able to snag 4 things at J. Crew, including another wool pencil skirt, but this one was only $25!  After waiting to checkout for over 30 minutes I was done with Black Friday shopping.  The hubs and I came home, put on our pjs and passed out!  We did venture out later in the day, during daylight hours, to pick up a few holiday decorations, and a sparkly new tool chest for the hubs.  Yes, you're officially an adult when your big Black Friday score is a tool chest.

Trench: Old Navy // Top: Gap // Jeans:// Gap // Bag: Kelly Moore // Boots: Cole Haan

Woohoo for fitting into skinny jeans the weekend after Thanksgiving.  I'm not going to lie, but I didn't even attempt to try on anything form fitting during my crazed midnight shopping at J. Crew.  My turkey belly didn't need that type of pressure.

This is pretty much my standard weekend uniform. Sweater + jeans + boots = DONE

Anyone score any amazing deals this weekend?  Eat too much turkey? I'm normally a turkey sandwich kind of gal for lunch, but I'm skipping all turkey products for at least a week!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Brew and Bourbon Classic at Laurel Park

A little over a month ago I saw on Groupon a sale on tickets for the first Brew and Bourbon Classic at Laurel Park.  The conversation I had with the hubs went something like this:

Me: Hey! I saw on Groupon tickets for some beer and bourbon festival at Laurel Park are $20 each. 

Hubs: I'm listening....

Me: Yeah, you get all the tastings of beer and bourbon you want for $20.

Hubs: Why are we still talking? Did you buy the tickets yet?

Mmmmm, beer. 

Unlike his winnings at Preakness, the hubs was a big ol' bust on the horse betting this time around. 

Just when you'd get done with tasty another beverage the horses would be ready to run again. 

Horses, beer, bourbon, and food trucks? Count me in! 

Okay, I wanted to take that outrider horse home. Such a cutie!

I had every intention of buying the hubs a to-do kit to make his own bourbon, but then once I saw what was on this barrel I just couldn't do it.  I like my liver and I hope we have a long and healthy partnership. 

Wood Chuck might be the most dangerous beverage of all time.  Oh, just drinking on some yummy apple juice.  Oh crap! There's alcohol in this apple juice!

Seriously, everywhere you looked there was beer, beer, bourbon, and then more beer. It was awesome. 

Oh wait, the horses are running again. 

The day wouldn't have been complete without a stop by the Jack Daniels table. 

Overall - definitely worth the trip to Laurel Park.  The track and grounds underwent a massive renovation in the last year and everything looks great.  The Brew and Bourbon Classic was set up both inside and outside and that was a fantastic idea.  I know the organizers probably took a chance on the November weather and made the event so you could stay inside if you wanted to, but the weather was a nice 60 degrees.  There had to be over 50 different types of beer to sample and probably close to 20 different types of bourbons.  There was even a Barefoot wine setup if you weren't into beer or bourbon. 

I will say, going in the hubs and I thought, "Yay! We're going to try out some new bourbons!"

Reality set in after we sampled our first bourbon. We both looked at each other and thought, "there is no way we're going to be functional human beings if we stay here and sample bourbon for four hours straight." 

So we sampled the beers we had never had before, in addition to one or two local favorites and stayed away from the bourbons.  The hubs could have sampled more brews, but it was his turn to act as the designated driver and that meant he could only have a few small samples and act responsible.  

This is definitely an event I hope to attend again!  

Any other fall festivals coming up I should know about? 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Confession: Baby Feet

I have a minor, but healthy (I assume) obsession with baby feet. Admitting it is the first step in overcoming the problem... right?

(Sorry for the insanely big watermark, but it's the internet and a kid - a combination I'm not fond of and avoid 99.9% of the time.)

October is a very important month for my cousin. It's the month she married her husband. It's the month her daughter was born and more recently it was the month her son was born.  Naturally when I asked her if I could take a few photos of her little guy she asked if I wouldn't mind a totally posed picture where we placed her and her husband's wedding rings on her little guy's feet.

Please, you want me to take more than one picture of your adorable kid's feet?

Try and stop me!!!

I swear I don't have a weird foot obsession.  I'm only obsessed with cute baby feet.  They're just so tiny and adorable.  Plus baby moccasins might be the cutest footwear option in the world.

Anyone else find baby feet to be too adorable for words?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Jersey Strong: Celebrate life

For the past month I had been planning to head up to Jersey to see a few of my family members during Veterans Day weekend.  The three-day weekend meant I could get out of Baltimore for a few days and still have time to do errands and decompress before going back to work. Plus, it was my aunt's birthday and my cousin just had a baby boy in October, which meant a trip was definitely needed.

Then, that bioootch named Sandy blew into town and decimated countless areas of my birth state. Quite a few of my family members were without power for over 8 days.  Thankfully, they've all got power back. 

They also still have their homes, which, unfortunately cannot be said for many people in New Jersey and New York at the moment.  My family was exceptionally lucky, we all know it, and we're incredibly thankful for it. 

Plans were slightly last minute because I wasn't going to crash at anyone's house who didn't have power, but in the end I made my way up to Jersey over the weekend.  I loaded up my Prius's trunk with donated clothes and blankets, dropped them off outside of Trenton, and then headed up to north Jersey to celebrate life with my family. There was a new baby to fawn over and a birthday to be celebrated! 

Prosecco at a birthday party!  Flashback to Meaghan's birthday party at Southern Hospitality anyone? Clearly this is now my drink of choice at birthday festivities. 

Mmmm, cake.

Craziness. I swear to goodness if you flashed back in time to 25(ish) years ago you'd find me in the center and I'd be trying to bolt for the door! Man I should have paid attention during a makeup tutorial. Perhaps if I did then blush and eyeliner wouldn't scare the daylights out of me. 

I'm just stating for the record that out of all of my aunt's nieces and great-nieces I get first dibs on all clothes. #JustSayin 

PJ party with my 12 year-old nephew, my aunt, and my uncle.  We watched Aladdin and I might have had to keep quiet because otherwise I would have quoted that entire movie.  I definitely broke out the Genie's rant in the cave.  


Sunday brunch on fancy china. Alton Brown ambrosia french toast with bacon. I die. 

It wouldn't be a trip to my aunt's house without some amazing flowers.  

She's going to be ticked, but I do not recall the name of these pink beauties. My aunt was able to laugh off being without power for over a week because, "well, it was so cool in the house that these orchids lasted forever."  They were leftover orchids from a bride's bouquet that she put together before Sandy came into town. 

If you have the means and you want to, I would highly encourage you to donate in some way to the Hurricane Sandy relief effort.  It was really disheartening to drive through towns in NJ that had been crushed.  I can't even count how many massive trees I saw down and even worse still leaning on power lines. It's going to be a very long time until the storm damage is in the past. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

Buckeyes: Chocolate and Peanut Butter Goodness

If you're ever in the need of a tasty treat that combines the yumminess of peanut butter and chocolate I'd highly recommend that you give Buckeyes a try.  Added bonus - you don't even have to turn your oven on to make them!

For the record, I am not an Ohio State fan.  Just clearing that up in case anyone was curious.   

Ingredients: Yield 5 Dozen

  • 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips   (I used closer to 8 ounces of milk chocolate because I didn't have any semi-sweet chips in my pantry.)
  • 2 tablespoons shortening

1. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper; set aside.  I used two baking sheets that way when I was dropping the chocolate-dipped buckeyes down I had more room on my sheet. 

2. Combine the peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and confectioners' sugar.  Directions said by hand, but I tossed everything in my KitchenAid mixer and mixed on the stir setting to get things started.  Then I mashed by hand.  Get the mixture as smooth as possible.  Shape mixture into balls using roughly 2 teaspoons of dough for each ball.  Place on prepared pan, and refrigerate.

3. Melt shortening and chocolate chips together in a metal bowl over a pan of lightly simmering water.  Stir occasionally until smooth, and remove from heat.   Note - when the chocolate was cooling it started to thicken up, so I would routinely bring the chocolate back to the heat to keep it easier to work with on the peanut butter balls.

4.  Remove peanut butter balls from refrigerator.  Insert a wooden toothpick into a ball, and dip into melted chocolate.  Return to was paper, chocolate side down, and remove toothpick.  Repeat with remaining balls.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set. 

Enjoy!  I actually got five-and-a-half dozen Buckeyes out of this recipe, which was more than enough for both the hubs and I to take some of these to our respective jobs.  They were eaten instantly!  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

If Waldo wore pencil skirts

Oh, who am I kidding? I'd knock over Waldo in a heartbeat and take his precious striped shirts. I know Waldo typically wears a red striped shirt, but I think he probably has a few blue ones in his closet for off days.

Skirt: J.Crew // Top: American Apparel // Sunnies: Cole Haan // Shoes: Cole Haan // Purse: Kate Spade // Necklace: Ann Taylor Loft // Bracelets: family heirloom, Derng

It's a good thing I can claim my brother is a rugby player.  I think that gives me a quasi-rational for having a large influx of striped shirts in my closet.  I honestly don't know how I would get dressed in the morning if it wasn't for stripes, polka dots, and a million-and-one black t-shirts.  

I scored that wool pencil skirt from J.Crew over the summer and I've been biding my time until the weather cooled down to actually wear it.  The hubs thought I was insane for buying a wool skirt when it was over 100 degrees out, but I think I got it for $50 and that was just too good of a deal to pass up.

Of course these photos are two weeks old and were taken when it was still daylight when we got home from work.  The first couple of weeks of daylights savings always throw me for a loop, but I should be excited because it means that my constant fear of acquiring unwanted UV rays is significantly diminished.  I liked this outfit so much that I wore the same shirt and skirt yesterday for election day, but I switched out the brown Cole Haans for my favorite patent red pair.  It wasn't until after I got dressed that the hubs told me I looked like an American Flag.  Gotta equally represent the red and the blue in a bi-partisan way!  I gladly swapped out the big necklace for my "I VOTED" sticker.  

How are you adjusting to the time change?  Anyone stay up too late last night watching election returns and/or speeches?  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My fellow Americans: Please go vote

If you're an American and you're reading this message I urge you to go do your civic duty and vote today. 

Right now our brothers and sisters in arms are sitting in harms way and protecting the very fundamental  democratic values that so many in this country take for granted.  It's embarrassing that roughly half of the eligible voting population decides the leadership of our country.  I'd never want to meet a serviceman or women and have to tell them that I got lazy on election day and didn't use my right to have a voice in my nation's leadership. 

Think your vote doesn't count?  If you feel that way then you're sadly mistaken.  The past few national elections have shown this country that every single vote counts.  Senate races, where the Senate majority hangs in the balance, have been won and lost by mere hundreds of votes.  

Seriously, don't be that person who talks a lot of talk, but doesn't actually do anything to give their voice a chance to be counted.  These elections are too important to suddenly go silent. 

Look, I do not care who you vote for or which political party you support, but I only ask that you vote.  I have never once, in over ten years, have asked my hubs who he votes for or what political party he supports.  I don't ask my parents, my siblings, my friends, anyone else those questions because I truly believe that your right to vote is yours and you can make up your mind all on your own.  The last thing anyone needs is an opinionated red head giving her two cents to everyone :) 

Go to your polling station, wait in line (seriously, people wait for days to score the latest phones and Black Friday deals, but complain about waiting to vote), and give your voice a chance to be heard.  Think about all the years in this nation's history in which not everyone had a right to vote.  If you were born a woman, or poor, or non-white, etc. then there were years where you couldn't vote.  People fought and died for you to have that fundamental right to vote.  Don't insult their fight and dedication by turning your back on your right to vote.  

Please go vote. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

400th Post: DSLR Camera Strap Cover from Two Pink Hearts Giveaway

The first time I did a photoshoot with my 24-70mm f/2.8L lens I was left with a bruise from having the camera dangling around my neck for a few hours.  The lens itself weighs just over 2lbs and while that doesn't sound like a lot of weight please ask yourself if you've ever worn a necklace that heavy for a few hours?  I know my ears hurt after a night of wearing massive earrings, so it only makes sense that a heavy camera would cause a bit of neck pain.

Fast forward a few months and I did a one-year old session for a friend's little girl.  My friend is a fellow Canon lover and she noticed that my favorite lens was really heavy.  I actually joked with her that she should hint to my husband that I needed a padded camera strap cover.  After spending more than my monthly mortgage payment on a camera lens I was on camera expenses lockdown, which meant I couldn't buy myself a strap cover.  I swear to goodness I wasn't suggesting she buy me one, but  instead of suggesting to the hubs that he buy me a strap cover she went a head and bought me one as a thanks for taking her daughter's pictures.  

That lovely gray, chevron-striped, padded strap cover has been on my Canon ever since it arrived in the mail.  I'm completely smitten with it because it works!  I haven't had a moment of neck pain or bruising since I started using that strap cover.  It has a great pocket that holds a standard lens cap or a few extra memory cards.  My 50mm 1.4 lens cap fits in the pocket perfectly. 

I started this ol' blog way back in July of 2008 and I'd like to point out that my second post ever was obsessing over some Kate Spade shoes... clearly things haven't changed that much.  I still don't have a central focus on this blog, as it grows with me, but I do know that photography has always been a key aspect of it.  My own photography skills have greatly improved since then, but let's be honest, they could only go up!  It pains me to no end that the images above were taken with a cell phone, but I only own one DSLR (for now!) and I lent my point-and-shoot to my brother-in-law months ago and haven't seen it since.  

As a thank you I wanted to gift one reader with their own padded camera strap cover from Two Pink Hearts.  They're handmade in Virginia and are available in a variety of adorable fabrics.  Even if you don't have a SLR camera these strap covers would make a great gift for the upcoming holidays for someone that does have a SLR.  Honestly, I'm thinking about getting my dad one as a stocking stuffer.  

How do you win one?  Piece of cake - just become a blog follower on Google Friend Connect and leave me a comment on this post before 7am on November 12th.   Let me know which padded camera strap cover you'd like to pick up and leave an email address so I can let you know if you're the winner.

You can leave an additional comment as an entry if you follow me on Twitter (jax_and_jewels) or Pinterest.  Just let me know your Twitter and/or Pinterest name so I can follow you back! 

Also, a big THANK YOU to everyone who voted for my pictures on Katie Evan's Octoberfest contest. I'm still giddy because my ferris wheel picture received the most votes.  Thanks for your votes and for spreading the word. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Marine Corps Marathon: 2012 Recap

For the record, I started to "write" this recap while riding down the metro escalator at the Rosslyn metro stop while blinking back tears.  It really was going to be a whole, "pity party for one" type of recap and then Hurricane Sandy blew into town.  Sunday night the rain started and thankfully Monday morning I was able to run over to Target and get some basic provisions before the full force of the storm hit.  Sandy really put things into perspective for me.  I had a bad race.  That was it.  Yes, I was in a lot of physical pain, but that pain has subsided over the past few days.  The hubs and I came through the storm incredibly lucky. We had a few big tree limbs come down and thankfully they missed our front porch and my car.  

My heart goes out to everyone who was affected by Hurricane Sandy.  My own family up in NY isn't expected to have power in their house for another 10 days.  

Last Monday, October 28th, I woke up and felt "off."  By Monday night I realized I was getting a cold.  I did what any normal human would do and I started to dope up on DayQuil and NyQuil, took in lots of fluids, and popped vitamin C tablets like they were breath mints.  I started to feel better, but I was definitely still drowsy and lethargic all week, which isn't ideal the week leading up to a marathon.  Granted, I'd have my normal tapering hyper moments, but they weren't as frequent as they had been in the past.

Race day morning I woke up at 4:40am, toasted a flaxseed whole week muffin, grabbed my stuff, and drove down to the New Carrollton Metro station to meet other members of the Annapolis Strider's Moore's Marines.  However, in my rush to get into the metro station I left my bottle of water in the car.  I had already downed one bottle of water on my drive to the metro station, so I wasn't overly concerned, but I would have liked that other bottle of water.

The hope was to meet the rest of our Moore's Marines running buddies by the UPS trucks at 7am.  Well, we left the NC metro stop at 5:50 and still didn't make it to the UPS trucks by 7am.  I think we finally got to bag drop-off at 7:20am.  Thankfully, the guy in front of me at bag check at an extra bottle of water and I had zero issues with asking him if I could steal a bottle of water from him.

The craziest thing happened - my core running group all found each other at the port-a-potties near the start line.  The lines for the port-a-potties at the Runner's Village were super long and I said we should try the ones near the start line.  It was funny because that's where we found our other running buddy who came in from a completely different metro line.  30,000 runners lining up and the four of us found each other - that's awesome!

Even though I had been fighting a cold all week I still had delusions about going for a four hour marathon.  Right before the start I left my running buddies with the 4:30 pace group and headed off to see if I could find the 4:00 pace group, which I didn't.  So I started the race alone.  Looking back I should have listened to my body and ran with my running group and tried to have fun during the race.  It probably would have been a lot more enjoyable.

The howitzer went off and I started the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon.  I tend to start off fast, so my goal for the first three miles was to actively try to stay slow and not pass people.

Mile 1 - 9:11
Mile 2 - 9:30
Mile 3 - 9:04

First three miles - mission accomplished.

However, I felt like I had sand in the back of my throat at the first water stop.  It got bad when every two miles I was looking for water even though I knew there weren't water stops that frequent.

Even though I felt tired and thirsty I was running well.  Miles where I didn't have to slow down to fuel or drink water were clicking by in the 8:40 - 8:50 range.  Slowing down to take in water and fuel only slowed me down to 9:06 - 9:11 miles and usually I'm much slower than that when it comes to water and fuel.

I definitely noticed there was less crowd support than MCM 2010, but I figured impending Hurricane Sandy might have forced a few people out of town.  However, running through Georgetown brought chills down my spine.  I can't even describe the euphoria that occurs when I run down a street that is jam packed full of spectators screaming, beating drums, dancing, and just going nuts.  I pledge to cheer at just as many races as I run next year so I can give back to other runners in someway.

The wind was definitely stronger in some areas than I remember from two years ago.  Again, there was a hurricane coming and if I forgot that for a second the countless signs that proclaimed, "Run faster! Sandy is coming!" definitely reminded me.

I saw the hubs for the first time somewhere around mile 11.  It was crazy, I was wearing a hat and definitely had tunnel vision, but somehow I saw him across the road.  I immediately cut across the road, stopped, gave him a kiss, and then went on my merry way.  We saw each other three more times before mile 20.  He left the camera at home because of the weather, but he tried taking a few pictures with his cell phone.

Exhibit A:

Thanks for the photobomb topless dude! This was just before the dreaded bridge as I saw the hubs one last time before the finish line.  I shouted to him, "4:10" because at that point that was the time I thought I was going to beat.  I kind of gave up on 4 hours at that point, which maybe I shouldn't have done with that many miles left, but I knew I'd start slowing down soon.  I just didn't know how soon and how badly I'd slow down.

Somewhere over the dreaded bridge it happened.  My right quad muscle spasmed and badly.  It looked like I was having a mini Alien moment because I could see the muscle jumping up through my capris.  Ever single time I extended my leg the muscle jumped.  I literally had to keep my hand on my quad muscle in order to move forward and it's sad that after the race I had a hand imprint bruise on my leg from pushing down so hard.  

I had a great 20.5 mile run and a craptastic 5.7 mile walk.  I was just so frustrated because I trained more for this race than I had for my previous marathons combined.  I did three separate 20 mile runs and two of them were in intense heat and humidity.  

I was just dehydrated on race day.  That silly little cold got the best of me and it sucked.  Since July I woke up 4 times a week at 5am to go running and then come race week I had a little cold.  That's what ticks me off the most.  All that training can get wiped out by a tiny cold.  

Besties.  Still not putting much weight on my right leg.

Screw it. I quasi-ran a marathon and I'm going to smile for a darn picture.  

At some point I hope I remember this race not for the quad spasm, but for racing a hurricane.

Mission not accomplished this time around, but I know I'll get to sub 4:00 soon. 

Anyone else run Marine Corps?  How did you do?