Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fashion Show Alert!

Heidi Story's fall fashion show is this weekend at the Byrd. Be there and be prepared to find new fall cravings!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wanderings in Carytown

So, a few weeks ago I made it to Carytown for a day of browsing. I had my usual fun checking out the new merchandise in all the shops and found a few surprises along the way. One of my most exciting discoveries were the new jewelry lines at AlterNatives. To be honest, I haven't been in for a while so I don't know how "new" these lines are, but if you're like me, it's definitely worth a stop back in.

I usually think of AlterNatives as having a great selection of the Southwestern-meets-hippie jewelry with lots of sterling silver and semi-precious stones. Always beautiful, but expected. As stated, on my last walk-through, the selection had added pieces from designers. These were new, different, gorgeous.

My favorite designer was Dori Csengeri. This jewelry is hand-embroidered. As the Web site states: "Dori's unique jewelry is entirely hand sewn at her atelier, by experienced embroidery craftswomen, in an ancestral technique of assembly be needlework of silky cotton cords." To put it in laymen's terms, these necklaces and earrings are colorful and feature eye-catching patterns that look exotic and one-of-a-kind. You'll see Asian, Turkish, European and Indian influences all in each piece. Think of a chunky neckpiece (necklace can't begin to describe it) with an intricate design in lilac, lime green and moss green accentuated with matching beads and semi-precious stones. Each piece elegantly combines colors and textures for a totally original look. Faceted shiny and rounded earthier stones also mix together in many pieces.

The items looked a little pricey, but once you see the jewelry you'll understand why. It's totally worth it for a necklace everyone will covet when they see it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ross Dress for Less: Success and Randomness

So, if you asked me to name the most random store in Richmond, I'd probably come up with Ross Dress for Less. Since this store opened at Willow Lawn, I've stopped in occasionally to varying success. One an early trip, I picked up a glamorous metallic sea-foam-green Calvin Klein leather purse for about $70. On subsequent trips I've found no name brands I recognize with the exception of teeny-bopper lines like "Hot Kiss."

It was with a wary eye that I dropped in earlier this week. It was after work, I didn't feel like making the drive out to the good TJ Maxx or Marshall's, and I needed shoes for a wedding I'm in next weekend. It's about 3 minutes from my office so I decided on a walk-through. First off, I found a super-cute and elegant pair of Nine West satin slingbacks for $17.99. Perfect! The issue I was having with other shoes I'd seen around town was that black satin tends to go toward matronly or juniors department. These hit the middle of the road with a touch of upscale. Read: I will actually wear them again. Hooray!

With one good find in hand, I couldn't leave without a loop around the rest of the store. Other checkout-worthy inventory included an entire rack of BCBG sweat suits priced at $21.99 per piece with the original $140 price tags still attached; brown leather Banana Republic handbags; white leather Francesco Biasia handbags; Calvin Klein work-ish clothes, Tahari suits and Nine West suites. What a great selection. I guess Ross may have to become a regular on my bargain-hunting rotation.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Amuse Bouche Spoons: So Cute!

One of the things I actually did get for my friend were these fabulous stainless steel appetizer spoons from Crate & Barrel. How cute are they?! For a look that exceeds my iffy photography skills, search "appetizer spoon" on the Crate & Barrel site. Whether she decides to cook herself, or get bite-size treats from a caterer, these spoons will make any soiree stylish.

For those who are unfamiliar with the amuse bouche or tasting spoons, the package gives a great description. It says:
"12 Tasting Spoons (The other 11 wait neatly below). Just a taste: Inspired by the restaurant trend to serve a culinary amuse bouche ("amuse the mouth"): a one-bite tasting sent compliments of the chef as a little unexpected extra to greet the table, preview the talents of the kitchen, and spark dinner conversation. Part dish, part spoon, these clever servers offer a creative way to present a playful first tiny bite to entice the appetite. Or a final sweet something to add surprise after dessert. Use your imagination to spoon up: soup, caviar, pate, tartare, seafood, ceviche, crostini, salad, sushi, pasta, polenta, sorbet, chocolate mousse, creme brulee, truffles and various delicacies, entertaining miniatures."

I hope she loves them as much as I do!

Saxon Back Room Never Disappoints

I got two pairs of shoes for less than $100! Yes, I was supposed to be shopping for a wedding present. Yes, I wasn't supposed to be spending money on myself. But hey, in my defense, had I bought these babies at retail, I would have paid $264 plus tax. My total came in at $101.54. I didn't have any coupons. My secret: the back room at Saxon. Any time I hit Short Pump Town Center, I end up walking through this hidden gem, and today there were diamonds aplenty.

My two pairs: Luichiny gold strappy sandals with thick, sculptural heels that will go perfect with a one-shouldered dress I'm wearing to a rehearsal; and a pair of black snakeskin A B S by Allen Schwartz sling backs with hidden platforms that make me feel very Lauren on "The Hills." The Luichiny sandals were 70 percent off and the A B S kicks were 60 percent off. With those deep discounts, I just couldn't leave them behind.

Other brands on super sale that I managed to skip included Nanette Lepore, Chinese Laundry, Stuart Weitzman, Coach and Betsey Johnson. I don't know if it's just because fall's coming, but it seemed like the selection of super-cute must-buys were extra plentiful.

Also on a shoe sale note, Que Bella is having an end-of-season sale as well. I haven't made it in yet, but this is usually one of my favorite sales to hit as it's one of the few times I can afford to load up on the oh-so-stylish and comfy shoes they sell. With shoes marked between 50 and 75 percent off, you'd better stop in soon before all your size is sold out. I'm hoping to make it in soon!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Has Anyone Tried Row House Soaps?

Yesterday I headed to Cooper Vineyards for a wine tasting and Mini Cooper rally. Alongside the wine, there was a host of vendors, one of which was Row House Soaps. I've always been intrigued by this brand as in love the packaging and love the varieties, but have never picked one up. Today the Kitchen Soap in particular caught my eye. The package said it would remove garlic and onion scents from fingers. I didn't pick up a bar as I'd already spent enough on Cooper wine to take home, but am wondering if anyone out there has given it a shot, and if I should, in fact, head to the Row House Soaps store or to Nicola Flora and pick up a bar.

Tastefully Simple was the other vendor that caught my eye. To be honest, I'm usually kind of turned off by direct sales companies, but this time the name attracted me. The idea behind the gourmet foods sold by Tastefully simple is that they all can be eaten straight from the jar or prepared with less than two ingredients. While I love cooking from scratch, sometimes you need something tasty in a pinch. Okay, sounds good. Then I sampled a few of the products and fell in love with the Black Bean Salsa. It was chock full of creamy black beans and tangy, smoky flavor. I've had black bean and corn salsas before, but this one seemed to have the perfect flavor blend. It would be a perfect snack as it felt a bit more substantial than your average tomato-based salsa, or it would taste great in a quesadilla. At $7.99 for a 16-ounce jar, it cost a bit more than your average salsa, but the standout flavor was worth the price tag.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Why I <3 Susana Monaco

So, a few months ago, I walked to Carytown and was feeling super athletic and all when I decided to cool off and browse through Heidi Story. I wasn't planning to buy anything, but saw a cute halter dress on sale and decided to try it on. On the way to the dressing room, I happened to pick up a black Susana Monaco dress. It was a simple dress, gathered at the top, a-line from under the bust, thick tank-style straps. It was made from a nylon-lycra blend that just felt like a thicker version of the simple, stretchy dresses you see in every store come summer.

When I put this dress on, it was like magic. If I wasn't sure about cut making a difference on simple dresses, this proved it. All of a sudden I went from short and slightly pudgy to long, curvy and busty. Since then, I've worn this dress to work with a jacket, out with heels and a glitzy necklace, and casually with flip flops. I've wadded it up on the floor, and can always pick it right back up and put it on wrinkle-free. I love it. I can't remember the exact price, but think it was somewhere around $160. For a simple dress, that's a little high, but right now I think it was totally worth it. This dress is so versatile and flattering. In fact, I can't wait to get back in to Heidi Story and get another fabulous Susana Monaco dress.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Best Shopping Site Ever

Okay, if you haven't ever logged on to LOG ON NOW. This Web site is awesome. First of all, the site allows you to shop a multitude of online retailers ranging from Saks Fifth Avenue and Shop Bop to Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters all in one spot. So, say you want a silver dress, all you have to do is type "silver dress" in the search bar, and you'll get a bunch of matches from more than 20 different online stores. You can just browse by item, like "shoes" or "dresses," or you can shop by the styles they've made up. Click on "5th Avenue" to browse glitzy, high end brands. Choose "Collegetown" for more affordable, offbeat styles. And so on.

Once you become a member, you can add your favorite clothes to your "stylebook" and put looks together for other members to browse. You can also browse a bunch of celebrity looks where stylists at put together outfits to mimic celebrity styles.

All this stuff is great, but the best part about Shop Style is the "set price alert" button. See something you like but don't want to pay full price? Simply click this handy button and insert your email address. They'll email you when your item goes on sale! As a dedicated sale shopper, I've made a habit of frequently going on this site and setting price alerts for all the items I like. It takes the hassle out of finding great deals online!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Richmond Sale Updates

If you're constantly craving the slightly-offbeat-yet-ultra-trendy clothes and handbags at Lucky Lillibet in The Shops at 5807, you'd better head that way ASAP. Many of the super cute flowery dresses are marked at 60 percent off, as are "summer handbags" including some metallic crock ones with bamboo-style handles.

Also in the near West End, it looks like DM Williams is closing. All the designer clothes that appeal to all ages are marked down. I'll be sad to see this spot go!

Occasionally in Carytown is moving its location totally into The Shops at 5807, and everything in the Carytown store is marked half off. Drop by for cute travel coffee mugs, jewelry and more.

Neiman Marcus Online Sale

If you're looking to pick up any last-minute summer items, or some super cute sale items that you'll be able to wear for a while in Richmond weather, log on to the Neiman Marcus site. All sale items are an additional third off! I couldn't help but order a super cute pair of Stuart Weitzman satin/rope sandals. The prices started at $300, but I got them for $136.50. AND, if you enter the code FALL8 at checkout you can get free shipping!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Super Sale at Atlantic Embroidery

I hadn't stopped in Atlantic Embroidery since it moved from Patterson Avenue to upstairs in The Village Shopping Center. In fact, I'd somewhat forgotten about the place until I got an email from Daily Candy about Jane Marvel's chic line of bags and luggage. When I was reading the list of stores where the line was sold, I noticed Atlantic Embroidery and its new location.

A few days ago after a delicious sushi lunch at Haru Sush, I stepped upstairs and walked into a huge sale. I have no idea how long it's going on, but everything in-stock in the store is 40 percent off. This includes a great selection of tote bags, cosmetic bags, luggage and whatever else you can find. As for the Jane Marvel, I bought most of it up, including a puddle-jumper bag and two hanging cosmetic bags (one for me and one for a gift), but there were still a few fabulous oilcloth pieces left. If you're in need of something cute and monogrammed, head to Atlantic Embroidery soon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Anyone?

Well, tonight I happened to be in the West End and I decided to pop in the Nordstrom anniversary sale. You can also check the sale out online, but there's something extra fun about finding great deals in person.

To start out with, I was quite pleased with myself for managing to avoid the sunglasses sale table. There were Fendi's, Gucci's (including a very tempting rimless pair with big G's on the corners) and Marc Jacobs' for around $120. There were also super trendy Coach's for around $100. I usually end up with a new pair of sunglasses from every sale. If you've been craving designer shades, this is the time to pick them up.

I also skipped the purses, although the selection there included Betseyville, Juicy Couture, Kate Spade, Hobo and others. I think my favorite bag I left behind was a square-shaped leather Kate Spade. It was very classic and timeless. There was also a great Chole "daytripper" gray leather bag that I would have taken home had I an extra $500 to drop on a bag.

Next, jewelry. There was lots on sale there too including Betsey Johnson, Juicy Couture and Skagen. I picked up a Dogeared "imagine" necklace for a friend. This super dainty sterling silver necklace has a tiny bird on it and comes with a card saying, "make a wish each time you put on your necklace. anything you imagine is possible! let your necklace be a daily reminder of how wonderfully limitless the future is!" I loved this because the bird is cute and not something traditional like a heart or horseshoe. Plus, the saying is simple and nice without being sappy.

I glanced over the shoe sale, but am rarely impressed by shoe sales at Nordstrom (I wait for the Rack), so I quickly headed upstairs. The clothing selection was somewhat limited but there were some good buys. I picked up a super cute green cardigan in the B.P. department for about $25. And, of course, I ended up grabbing a non-on-sale, super glitzy black tank.

In any case, while this sale isn't the best of the year, there are definitely some great deals to be had. It's worth the trip.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sip Tea for Massey

Cuppa Tea Company is hosting a special tea to benefit the Massey Cancer Center. Here are the details:

"Tea Time for Massey
Join us for a relaxing, traditonal English afternoon tea to benefit the VCU Massey Cancer Center.

A portion of the proceeds benefit the life saving cancer research being conducted at VCU Massey Cancer Center.

What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon for a good cause!

Our Price: $ 30.00
Date: July 24, 2008
Time: 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM
RSVP: (804) 254 - 8322"

DSW Shoe Sale Time

I usually try to keep myself out of DSW. The store is so big and everything's so cute. It's hard to get out without buying something. I recently got an email about new markdowns, though, and since I was near Chesterfield on Friday, I decided to stop in. I love the location across from Chesterfield Towne Center because it's big and new and nice. Well, as I expected, the sale racks in back were two thick and packed with great shoes. I ended up taking home one pair of Michael Kors peep-toe wedges for 40 percent off of $79.94. The shoe is black patent leather with a black-and-white-striped foam wedge. I had been ogling the fresh take on a classic preppy style all summer at Dillard's. I'm also planning to try and hit the West End store this week to look for these adorable patent leather topsiders that weren't available there in my size.

Other great styles I left behind: a super high pair of tan leather platforms by Jessica Simpson (oh Jessica, I hate that I love your shoes) that would make anyone's legs look long enough to make others jealous; a pair of ombre round-toe pumps by Moda that faded from white to black, super trendy; and an array of shoes by designers like Tahari and Coach. I had to tear myself out because I knew I was heading to Potomac Mills, the discount shopping mecca the next day. More on that trip to come.

If you haven't, get thee to DSW!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Intermix Online

Here in Richmond, we are not lucky enough to have an Intermix. This high-end shop stocks an amazing selection of designer duds and accessories that are completely to die for. Even if we can't have one here, it's worth signing up for the emails. First of all, they send out a weekly email with the amazingly drool-worthy high-end goods. Second of all, you get emails when they have sales.

And so we move on to my next splurgey purchase. For the entire season, I have by dying for the Diane Von Furstenberg "Comfy Chic" sandals, but at a retail price of $255, they are sadly outside the price range of a budget-conscious fashionista. I had been envisioning the gold version on my feet pairing adorably with nearly every sundress I own when I got an email alert from (the amazing-ness of that site is a whole other post) that they'd gone on sale. Sadly, the gold were out of stock in my size. I debated back and forth on the other color, black with an ethnic print on top and gold soles, but decided not to make the leap. They were still $155 after all. I recently got another email that they'd dipped below $100 and I decided it was fate. I took the plunge and bought them.

They arrived in the mail next week and they are everything I'd dreamed of. While the new color tone won't pair perfectly with as many outfits, they are perfect for making a statement without going overboard. They are super high, but the flat level of the wedge means they'll be pretty comfy. I'll still be keeping my eye out for a discount pair in platinum or gold, though (the gold is back up to $159 on Intermix and they're out of my color). I adore the way the fabric wraps around to the ground.

Haute Look

So, for some reason I’ve been in a money-spending mood lately. With all the economic stuff going on, you'd think I'd be sensible and save, but it's just not happening. It all started about a month and a half ago with some addictive visits to my favorite sample-sale-style web site, If you haven’t, you MUST visit the web site and register to receive emails when their sales start. In fact, this web site falls under the category of being so good, I almost just re-thunk my post and took it away because it will mean more people have access to the great deals I crave.

The thing about Haute Look is that you must sign on to the web site right when the sale starts to have your pick of all the great deals. Signing in even an hour late can cause you to miss out on some amazing buys. My two most recent purchases were a Diane Von Furstenberg spaghetti-strap dress for more than half off and an amazing Foley & Corinna metallic copper leather city clutch, also for more than half off. Both are fab buys that are severely depleting my bank balance.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

This Weekend at Total Wine in the West End

Head out and taste Chardonnay along with summer brews. Here are the details:

Total Wine (Westland Shopping Center on West Broad with the big cactus)
12 to 6 p.m.
Free admission
More than 15 Chars to taste
Summer beers to taste.

Heck yeah!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Crab-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers from Bin 22

After a walk through the way-too-crowded Greek Festival with lines so long we couldn't even tell what they were for, my boyfriend and I walked to Bin 22 on Friday evening. I have to say the patio at Bin 22 is one of my absolute favorite ways to spend an evening in the RIC. Along with a wine flight and two paninis, for the first time we deviated from the cheese-and-meat plate and tried the crab-stuffed piquillo peppers ($9). When a plate with field greens and three tiny red peppers on it appeared at our table we feared we'd made a mistake. Then we each took a pepper and bit into it. It was bliss. Creamy, cheesy crab-y filling was perfectly complemented with the ripe flavor of the roasted red Spanish peppers. My boyfriend proclaimed this one of the best dishes he'd eaten in Richmond in a long time. We managed not to fight over the last one and split it down the middle. While not an ideal dish if you've got a large group, these tasty bites of bliss are definitely worth it. They'll be on our regular list from now on.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Get Ready to Druel

Check out this article on the hot accessories for fall and your tongue will definitely be wagging on the ground. While I wasn't head over heels for some of the solid-toned leather bags, there was plenty to make me excited about cool breezes and boot season. On the top of my wish list is the Louis Vuitton Embossed Leather Speedy Bag and the Givenchy Lace-Up Wedge Boot. Mmmmm...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Learn about English Tea at Cuppa Tea Co.

Afternoon Tea
Presentation on English Tea Traditions
Book Signing with Jane Pettigrew

Where & When:
One North Morris Street
Richmond, Virginia, 23220

Friday June 6, 2008
1:00 PM - 3:00 PM

RSVP by noon Wednesday, June 4th.

Call 254-8322 for reservations.

The following books written by Jane are available at Cuppa Tea:

Afternoon Tea
Tea in Paris

Welcome Drink:

Green Tea Mango Cooler

Iceberg Lettuce Wedges and Blue Cheese Dressing and Edamame

Tea Sandwiches

Garden Salad on White

Roast Beef, Provolone,and Arugula Pin wheels

Ginger-Lime Chicken Salad on Poppy Seed Tartlets

Tuna Nicoise and Baby Green on Ciabatta


Pound Cake with Fresh Raspberries and Blueberries and Lemon Whipped Cream

Banana,Chocolate, and Jackfruit Egg Roll served with Caramel Sabayon Sauce

Mini Sweet Potato Pie

Coconut- Almond Macaroons

Poached Peaches with Masala Chai Ice Cream and Shortbread cookies


Strawberry Cream Green
Coconut- Almond

If you go, make sure to say hello to owners Lurline and Alan. Both are super sweet and can help you find any type of tea you desire. The chocolate varieties and the Venezia (a creamy tea with a flavor similar to cappuccino) are worth picking up while you're there.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

New Cosmetics Worth Buying

So, I went on a cruise about 2 weeks ago and like any cosmetics-obsessed girl, I took this as an opportunity to stock up on new products, especially in travel sizes, and seek out some new favorites. Here's a roundup of the ones I'll definitely be buying again.

La Roche-Posay Hydraphase UV

I bought this moisturizer after seeing a similar product by the same brand written up in In Style. This proved one of my favorite products and I will continue to use it daily. Although the moisturizer contained an SPF of 30, it went on and absorbed quickly and smoothly. In the past when I've tried moisturizers with a higher SPF they've clogged my pores or sunken in slowly leaving a white residue or rubbed off if I rub my face or felt like they didn't do much actual moisturizing. This did none of the above. It soaked into my face and left no greasy residue. It also had a light scent that was pleasant but not overpowering. My boyfriend forgot to bring moisturizer, used this one and actually loved it too. He still asks to use it. After the success of this product, I may look into more La Roche-Posay skincare when I buy more moisturizer.

Burt's Bees Radiance Body Lotion

This proved the perfect arm lotion for evening. It was lightly moisturizing (hence why I say perfect for arms, not legs) and had a bit of shimmer that looked pretty in evening lighting but not like I was some 13-year-old coated in glitter. It also did feel like it did moisturize lightly, which most shimmer lotions don't manage to do. Again, it had a light pleasant scent but nothing so strong I couldn't use perfume. The key ingredient in the product is Royal Jelly, a special food that honey bees create and feed to young bees that are going to grow up to be honey bees. The numerous nutrients in Royal Jelly are believed to soften your skin and enhance its natural radiance. All I know is I put it on, and liked the light shimmer. It's definitely something I'll keep on hand.

Oscar Blandi Dry Shampoo

I've always been a fan of Dry Shampoo, but I picked up this particular version because of the small container. I had visions of using it for quick changes and refreshing during the day. This product is basically a powder with a pointed applicator. You sprinkle it through your hair, brush it through, and voila, less grease. It was a bit harder to use than the spray versions because you had to be careful not to get too much concentrated in one area, but once applied it worked just as well. Plus, the Oscar Blandi version had a refreshing lemon scent that makes grease hair smell great. The fragrance lasts all day long too. If you're like me and you love having great-smelling hair, this product is worth buying both for scent and the small, easy to tote size (perfect for a gym bag too!).

MAC Splashproof Lash

All I can say is finally a waterproof mascara that actually lengthens lashes. This is by far the BEST waterproof mascara I've ever tried. It wasn't clumpy and did it's job. My lashes looked long and after I climbed up a waterfall in Jamaica and got totally soaked it was still on my eyes and not running down my face. This will be another standard addition to the makeup bag.

CO Bigelow Mentha Lip Tint

I saw these last year but none of the colors blew me away. This season I bought Magenta Mint and Plum Mint. I've always been a fan of the basic Mentha Lip Shine, but the Lip Tint is the same great burst of mint with a sheer glossy tint that's perfect alone or over lip stick. I kept one in my bag at all times during the trip. It felt so refreshing after laying in the sun or walking along a hot street. It's for sale at Bath & Body Works, but if you go on the CO Bigelow Web site right now, some of the colors are on sale for $5 each!

Dermalogica Solar Defense Wipes SPF 15

These towlettes come in a little package like makeup-removing face wipes, but each towel is saturated with SPF 15. Plus they have other antioxidents like Green Tea and Vitamins A, C and E, and skin calmers like balm mint built in. They're perfect for wiping off with when you're feeling hot and sweaty. Rather than making you feel greasy, these wipes make you feel like you're cleaning off but really you're adding sunblock. They're perfect for laying by the pool or when you're walking in the sun.

Dermalogica Ultimate Buffing Cloth

I was sold on this buffing cloth to help prevent ingrown hairs on my bikini line (apparently exfoliating helps keep that from happening) but ended up using this cloth everywhere. It exfoliates with any scrub and feels more effective than depending on those little crystals in exfoliants to hit every spot. Plus, it's machine washable and lasts up to a year. For less than $20, you don't have to buy exfoliator again for a while. Heck yeah!

Ode to my Gucci Joy Medium Boston Bag

My use of my economy stimulation check arrived yesterday in the form of a white Gucci Joy Medium Boston bag in the white GG Plus fabric with platinum leather accents. This is my first Gucci purchase to date and I'm jumping off the walls because I love it SOO much. I was undecided on whether to go with the "large" or "medium" size and ended up with medium. It's perfect. Big enough to hold my wallet, a cosmetic bag (there will be no lipstick on the lining of this!), sunglass case and some important papers and still shut easily. But it's not big enough that it resembles a small suitcase. The GG plus fabric is a canvas with a light coating. I picked it in hopes that it will protect the white and keep it from getting dirty quicker. Although it was a pricey purchase, it makes me feel so glamorous when I'm walking with it on my arm, it was totally worth it!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Achieve Airbrushed Perfection From Home

So I don't know about you, but I'm always SO jealous of people with flawless looking skin. I feel like even if I start out that way in the morning by 10 a.m. or so I'm looking shiny and makeup-less. Or, I go into the bathroom and notice some really ugly makeup streak I somehow missed during my morning attempt at blending.

Well, my latest purchase, MAC's Studio Mist Foundation has saved the day. People complain that you spray this stuff on a brush or on your hand (not directly on your face) so it's not as cool as real airbrush, but I don't care. All I know is that when I spray it on my brush and then brush it on my face, I get that effortless, flawless nice skin look I've been craving, especially if I set it with powder. And, several hours later I still look fresh and non-shiny.

If you're in the RIC, you have to head to Stony Point Fashion Park for this miracle spray bottle. It's only sold at MAC boutiques and not in department stores. It's definitely worth the trip though!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

CLIF Chocolate Brownie Bar: It’s Tasty!

In my ongoing struggles to lose weight, I’ve started, yet again, going to the gym before work. Since “waking up early to work out” for me means tearing myself out of bed at the last possible second, I always have to change at the gym and therefore end up needing a quick, portable breakfast option. Of late, I’ve been sampling different varieties of protein bars trying to find one that’s got the right amount of calories and a decent flavor.
I’ve eaten plenty of CLIF bars in the past, and they’ve all been pretty good. Nothing amazing that I’d eat over an omelet, but they’re fine. Then the other day I bit into the Chocolate Brownie flavor. Now I was skeptical even buying a chocolate flavored protein bars. Anyone who’s ever experimented with bars knows the chalky, artificial chocolate taste often found by an adventurous sampler. I gave it a shot anyway.
I bit into my bar while reading my email and wasn’t really paying much attention. All of a sudden, I was torn away from my computer because I noticed this delicious, brownie-batter-esque flavor in my mouth. I couldn’t believe how good it tasted. There was still a bit of the bizarre protein-bar texture, but the taste was some of the most natural, creamy chocolate flavor I’ve ever sampled in a “fitness” bar.
Label-wise it has 240 calories, 5 grams fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 44 total carbs, 5 grams dietar fiber, 22 grams sugar and 10 grams protein. A bit high on the sugar, but otherwise pretty good. Perfect for a post-workout breakfast!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Barrel Thief

Last Sunday I ventured to Short Pump to try Barrel Thief, the new wine store/cafe off Lauderdale Drive. Upon entering, I immediately liked the laid back atmosphere. The wines are simply organized: red Old World, white Old World, red New World, white New World and French. The week's featured wines are displayed at the front of the store near the large case where you can taste any that you're interested in.

We sat down at the wall of tables to sample some of the cuisine along with some Spanish wines. The wine associate/waitress was super friendly and happy to provide samples, even though we were just looking to purchase glasses. I started my meal with a glass of 2006 Onix from Priorat which was tasted fruity and full-bodied with a hint of chocolate in the finish. It was so good I wanted to buy a bottle, but apparently it's the most popular by-the-glass choice right now and they were all out of bottles! Later I tried a glass of 2005 Pazo Senorans Albarinio from Rias Biaxas which was also delightful. It was a heavier white with a tangy fruity flavor. My companion enjoyed a glass of 2006 Naia from Rueda which tasted similar to a pinot grigio but with a citrus-y, grapefruity finish. It was delicious and I could just imagine sipping it outside on a hot summer day. The bottle price was only $13 so I took one home with me.

In the way of food, we started out with a cheese trio that included a sheep's milk cheese, a smoked Gorgonzola and a creamy variety topped with quince paste. Each had a unique, tasty flavor and the choices complemented one another well. For my second course I had a panini with grilled vegetables, olive tapenade, goat cheese and prosciutto. It was a bit salty but still delicious. My companion's sandwich was the celebrity of the meal, though, with a delicious combination of turkey, apples and walnut cream cheese. It was creamy, sweet, savory and addictive.

After the generous tastes, we also took a bottle of NV = 1 + 1 = 3 Cava from Penedes. It was a fruity, crisp sparkler that we also thought was a bargain for only $16. If you've got a wine you're looking for, I've heard the store is very accommodating and will seek it out if they can get it.

All in all, I can't wait for my next opportunity to return to Barrel Thief!

Note: For more on Rueda check out the link below for a story from the New York Times:

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sweet, Crunchy, Chewy, Rich...mmmmmmmmm

I'm addicted to trying new foods. Now, I know many people suffer from this affliction, but I think it effects me more than most. I can hardly wander through the aisle of Ellwood Thompson's without taking home something crazy like mushroom pate (which was pretty good actually) or a vegan bran muffin (not as good) to sample. Even a stop in for lunch rarely costs me less than $25 because of the random items I pick up on my wanders toward the back corner of the store. I eat meat and don't always eat organic, but over the years I've tried kefir, stuffing-flavored Tofurkey, Quorn Chick'n Gruyere (which is quite tasty), veggie corn dogs, and a host of other random foods where the packaging piqued my interest.

So, recently I've been perusing plenty of food websites and newsletters like The Nibble and I see so many products I want to order. Generally, I try to avoid ordering food off the Internet. I mean, a simple visit to the grocery store is already expensive enough with a problem like mine, so why order even more random foods? Well, I recently gave in and ordered Cacao Nibbles in all four flavors. I can't even remember where I read about these dark chocolate treats, but a visit to the web site hooked me.

Made with quince, dried fruit and cacao nibs (raw, unprocessed chocolate bits), the sweets bill themselves as being for "those of us who care about healthy eating but delight in eating chocolate every day." Now, I don't know how "healthy" you could call these bits, 5 pieces still has about 150 calories and an average of 4 grams saturated fat, but I decided to order because most varieties have 2 grams of fiber per serving and if you actually stick to one serving 150 calories still isn't that bad. Plus, the ingredient list is short, sweet and doesn't include anything I can't pronounce. So, I'll take this over the 100-calorie sweets that still incorporate hydrogenated oils.

Flavor choices are "Date Coconut," "Blueberry Lavender Plum," "Apricot Cranberry," and "Mango Apple." If you don't have a store that sells them in your area, the best deal is to get a sampler pack with one of each for $32, shipping included.

The package arrived Friday. Thus far, I've only bit into the Apricot Cranberry variety, but they are delicious! The chocolate (63 percent cacao) is rich and flavorful; the quince adds satisfying crunch (much more substantial than a Krackle or Nestle-ish crunch which I can't stand) and the fruit adds tang and a bit of chewy-ness. The bites aren't that big, but three satisfied my sweet tooth. I'll definitely be placing an order for Cacao Nibbles again soon!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Cheap Manis and Pedis, Yay!

It was my birthday over the weekend and after a night of fun at Sine, my friends and I wanted to relax, be pampered and let someone else make us pretty. We decided to go for manicures and pedicures at Fusion Nail Spa in Carytown. I'd seen the sign for this spot plenty of times, but being a bit wary of walk-in nail salons, hadn't tried it yet.
We headed in on Saturday afternoon and were pleased to see that none of us had to wait. The three of us sat in cozy massaging chairs right in a row so we could chat as our feet soaked. Now, the chairs at Fusion Nail Spa are no ordinary massage chairs. Every other massaging chair I've sat in during a pedicure vibrates like the "massagers" at an amusement park, leaving me feeling numb and weird after about 15 minutes. This chair had a variety of massage settings and actually felt like it was doing something as it moved up and down my back.
The manicure and pedicure themselves were pretty standard, but everything was clean and the staff was super friendly. Plus, the mani-pedi combo was only $40!!! So far, this is the cheapest I've found around town, especially for a pedicure where you get a leg massage and foot scrub. At the price, I think I'll be having much prettier nails on a much more consistent basis from now on.

27: A hit

Okay, so yes I've hit two restaurants owned by Antonio Capece of La Grotta in three days. But both were so delicious it was worth it! I'd read a few negative reviews of 27 but wanted to check it out for myself. I found it hard to believe that anything Capece's involved with wouldn't be delicious. For my entree I ordered homemade fettuccine with a spicy tomato sauce and shrimp ($15). As I eagerly anticipated the arrival of my meal, I enjoyed fresh-baked bread with a tasty sundried tomato dip. The bread was the crusty, chewy sort that I absolutely adore. My meal was equally pleasing. It came with plenty of fresh shrimp that were cooked perfectly. They practically melted in my mouth. The fettuccine was also delicious, if slightly overcooked (it was a little tender for my taste, but tasted great). The only criticism I can must is that the dish lacked the advertised "spice." But the sauce tasted so fresh and tomato-y I didn't even miss it. For dessert I sampled the vanilla creme brulee (they were out of the delicious-sounding Italian cheesecake, a disappointment) and it was light, crunchy, custardy and amazing. It came in an oval-shaped dish that allowed for the perfect amount of crunch and custard. Overall, the meal was tasty and 27 will certainly be added into my meal rotation.

Amici: Always a Delicious Standard

On Saturday night we tried to hit Edo's but at 8:30 there was an hour-and-a-half wait, so we decided to head to Amici in Carytown. I only make it to Amici a few times a year, but every time my meal is delicious. The homemade bread sticks, the intimate atmosphere and the homemade pasta have never disappointed. On this visit I had a special made of roasted beets with chopped walnuts, crumbled creamy cheese and greens. The combination was divine. My second course consisted of homemade fettuccine with fresh pesto and pine nuts. The server warned me that the pesto was freshly made and mixed with the pasta, sometimes making for a dish that isn't quite piping hot. This was some of the best pest I've ever experienced. The dish was by far warm enough and the pesto was literally grease-free. I've ordered pesto in the past and it's come out greasy and heavy. This was light and delicious. Combined with the fresh flavor of the pasta, this dish was divine. My friend ordered the stuffed eggplant, which was also amazing. It tasted similar to freshly made eggplant Parmesan but without the breading that sometimes makes the dish too heavy. All in all, a great meal once again!

Moshi Moshi

Friday night it was time to try Moshi Moshi. I'd been surveying the modernistic sign and almost techno-looking exterior on various drives through Carytown. A friend was in town and we were craving sushi. We decided to stop by.
The interior is upscale and totally redone. Downstairs has a very dark, wood feel and holds a bar, tables and chairs and a cozy fireplace that calls for one to drop in for one of the unique beer selections and good conversation. Upstairs has a lighter dining room feel. The menu features an eclectic mix of sushi with modern twists, entrees, fancy Japanese appetizers and soups. While many of the entrees (priced at about $22 and up) looked intriguing, I was in the mood for sushi and not spending a ton of money. So, I went for ginger soup, a spicy tuna roll and a special roll made with shrimp tempura and eel sauce. The tempura avocado sounded interesting but I decided to save it for a future visit.
If you don't like cilantro mayonnaise or mango, I don't suggest going to Moshi Moshi for sushi. Practically every roll has one, the other, or a combination of the two. While this didn't bother me, one of my companions didn't like either and had to order her rolls with many alterations. The staff was very accommodating, however, and was happy to alter their rolls to meet her preferences.
I've heard Moshi Moshi is owned by the same people as Sumo San. I know many people love Sumo, but on the one occasion I tried it I wasn't too impressed and felt similarly about Moshi Moshi's sushi. My spicy tuna suffered from too much rice and too little tuna. The shrimp roll lacked the satisfying crunch that only well-prepared tempura batter can provide. My ginger soup was flavorful but contained shrimp with the tail on. This may be traditional, but a restaurant that has no problem putting upscale twists on traditional cuisine could at least cut the tails off my shrimp so I don't have the dilemma of how to delicately de-tail shrimp in soup. Also, the ginger flavor wasn't too strong for that to be the name of the soup. There were bits of shredded ginger in the bottom of my bowl, but they were light on that sweet bite ginger usually possesses.
As stated, the drink menu had a nice beer selection and a long list of sake ranging in price from the teens to the thirties. We tried the only organic one on the menu and it had a smooth fruity flavor with a pleasant aftertaste.
Overall, I would not go back for sushi, but would still like to try the entrees. The bar definitely merits a return as well.