Friday, December 31, 2010

Tick-tock... Goodbye, Twenty-Ten!

Time is almost up on Twenty-Ten! Can you believe it? In just a few hours, a whole new year will be here.

It seems like 2010 went by in the blink of an eye. I'm pretty sure I say that at the end of every year, but this one really did seem to zoom by in a flash.

I can't say I'm all that sad to see 2010 go. This year was not my best year. Not my worst, but not my best. I was busy and stressed and sleep-deprived (ha!) with work, and I seemed to take a step backward when I moved home in May (of course you guys offered me awesome words of encouragement then. Thanks again!).

And while I didn't have any set plans for ringing in 2011, taking part in any sort of celebration tonight has kind of been ruled out. I'm finishing off 2010 with a cold. (Thanks to my editor, who was sick Wednesday when I went in to the office to lay out the paper. I woke up Thursday with a sore throat and a runny nose and since then I haven't much wanted to get out of bed.)

But I am optimistic. I figure, it can only get better from here, right? Come on, 2011! I have high hopes for the New Year. Maybe it's like rain on your wedding day? Perhaps a cough and a sniffle on NYE is good luck? Here's hoping.

No matter what, I am excited for tomorrow. I am going to be kicking off 2011 by meeting up with some wonderful bloggy ladies. Some I know, some I don't. I'm excited! See, things are already looking up...

Before I sign off for 2010, let me say thank you. Thanks for being here, for spending a bit of your time with me, and for always being so sweet and kind. Here's to a beautiful, wonderful, joyful and simply fabulous New Year, for you and for me! Have fun tonight, be safe, and I'll see you on the other side-- in 2011!


Images via we heart it, here and here (second one altered by me.)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Deck the Halls ~ Merry Christmas!

I just spent the whole day wrapping presents and listening to Christmas carols.

After a couple hours, the novelty of that wore off fast. Ha!

But really, no exaggerations, when I wasn't out helping my dad shop for my mom-- it's our very last-minute tradition-- I was at home, sitting uncomfortably on the floor, surrounded by rolls of paper, swirls of ribbon and a bevy of bows.

The Christmas music did make it better though. I love Christmas music. And singing along to Christmas music. Especially the classics sang by music legends. Like Nat King Cole. Bing Crosby. Frank Sinatra. Eartha Kitt. You know the ones. They all kept me company while I folded and taped.

Despite all the hours and effort, I'm excited for when my family will tear into all my hard work tomorrow morning. Only in a few hours really. It's already after midnight here... I hope they like their gifts!

Before I head to bed and listen for reindeer hoofs "up on the rooftop"-- see, still got those carols in my head-- I thought I'd show you what my house looks like at Christmastime. Like I mentioned in my last post, we didn't have a tree until about a week ago. Why? Well, because we recently got new, hardwood floors! Bye, bye carpet! You can sneak a peek in the photo above, and see a sliver of our new furniture, too.

Anyway, let the mini-house tour, well, living room tour, begin:

Every year my mom turns our staircase into candy cane land. I love it.

These bells were my mom's mom's. That would be my grandma. I never met her, unfortunately, but I hear wonderful things all the time. These bells are very special. And they hold our mistletoe. Kiss, kiss!

I have claimed the task of setting up the nativity set every year. See, this bit of Christmas decor is very special to me. My grandma, my dad's mom, hand-painted each piece. I am totally biased, but it is the most beautiful nativity I've ever seen.

I always set up the little animals differently. I can never remember what I did the last year. This time, the cow is peeking in from the side of the manager. But the stars of the scene never change-- and I always put in baby Jesus last.

Our fireplace-- that my dad designed-- gets dressed up, too. My mom hangs garland from the mantel and sets up all those little stuffed animals on the hearth; they're from her work (Starbucks!).

Oh, Christmas Tree! Sparkling at night. It's the real thing. We like the pine smell.

Reflecting in the mirror... Don't you love my snowman? I made that in elementary school. We had to bring in one of our socks for his cap! I remember being very upset back then that there wasn't one more black pom-pom for his mouth. I had to put a brown one in the middle. Even then I was a perfectionist-- and enjoyed symmetry.  :)

Did you "deck the halls" at your home this year? What are your Christmas decorating traditions? Whatever you do, I hope it is wonderful. Because guess what? It's here! :) Merry Christmas, my loves. I hope your day is full of joy and laughter with friends and family. Because no matter what is under the tree, it is the people in our lives who are our true gifts.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Christmas at The Grove

... well, that is if torrential rain for days on end is your idea of what Christmas looks like. Personally, I'd prefer snow, but that's not going to happen here. So gray skies and raindrops it is.

Despite the gloomy weather, I'm slowly getting into the Christmas spirit. I'll admit, it has taken me a bit longer to really feel the season, if you know what I mean. It definitely snuck up on me this year. I think it is work and stress and the fact that my house didn't even have a tree until the end of last week. But with the decorations finally up and after sending out my Christmas cards and attending two holiday parties (one with the boy's family, one with friends), I am starting to come around.

Though the date never changes and I knew it was coming, I think I really realized Christmas is here about two weekends ago. (About the same time I started all my holiday shopping, ha!) On that Saturday, the boy and I spent the afternoon perusing the fabulous artists and creators at Unique L.A.'s third annual Holiday Show. I was on a mission to buy handmade and get a few people checked off my gift-giving list. Of course, I mostly saw things I wanted for myself! I bought the coolest, chunky (and pointy!) quartz ring by Kittinhawk and, like last year, I stopped by Danni's booth, Oh, hello friend, to say hi. Ok, and buy a few things. What can I say...?

Anyway, after browsing and buying for a couple hours, the boy and I were starving. Shopping sure works up an appetite! So we headed over to The Grove for dinner at Morels French Steakhouse and Bistro. It was our first time there and it was delicious. Expensive, but delicious. (I got the roasted tilapia served atop basil mashed potatoes with sliced tomatoes, zucchini and fried capers. Yum.)

But the best part of our quick trip, and what really kick started me getting into the holiday mood, was seeing all the wonderful decorations. From the huge, glistening Christmas tree to a "flying" reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh to a water fountain show set to classic carols, you couldn't help but feel a bit more jolly.

Want to see? ...

So, are you feeling festive this holiday season? Or have you been distracted, like me?

And, perhaps more importantly, who else still has more shopping to do? (Not to mention all my wrapping!) I know I sure do! I'm always finishing up last minute. That's what Christmas Eve is for, right? :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Family bonding

Sometimes, my brother and I are sooo different. What we think, how we act, what we like, what we do. Of course, most of our differences can easily be explained by the simple fact of gender-- you know, the old "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" thing.

For example, while I would be just smitten to receive a brand new kit of makeup brushes, my brother would be overjoyed to get a shiny new set of ... tools.

Well, that last part is exactly what happened today.

Today was-- and still is for another half hour or so-- my little brother's birthday. (Though, as you can tell by the photo, he's not so little.) Every December, Patrick catches up to me. See, we are a year and nine months apart. Most of the time, our ages appear to be separated by two years. But on December 14 he narrows the gap. I'm 25 and today, Patrick turned the big 2-4.

(He, like me, has started to realize that anything after the "big 2-1" is really not all that exciting anymore.)

My brother is impossibly hard to buy for-- he either won't tell you what he wants or he will list a bunch of gun-related paraphernalia that is way out of my price range or comprehension-- and that frustrating fact is only compounded because of his birthday's proximity to Christmas. Not only do I have to come up with one fabulous birthday gift, a mere 10 days later I have to deliver another smile-eliciting, thrill-inducing present.

Well, I am proud to say that this year, I have done good-- so far.

Taking my father's advice, I bought for my brother a 24-piece 3/8 in. drive ratchet and socket set by Kobalt that comes in a handy blue storage case. Turns out my brother is always borrowing my dad's set to work on his car, so he was in need of his own.

(Let me just mention here that when I went to Lowe's to purchase said case, I was looking ultra-girly and wearing heels. I thought for sure some store employee would catch one glimpse of the wide-eyed blonde scouring the tool aisle, take pity on me and rush to my aid. No such luck. I know we live in the 21st century but really, I'm not afraid to admit it: I know nothing of tools. So next time Lowe's, help a girl out!)

I wasn't sure how the gift would go over since my brother is awfully hard to please but he ended up loving it! After peeling off the wrapping he immediately opened the case and started fiddling with the ratchet and trying out the sockets. He said it was "cool" and thanked me several times. I even got a hug! (And we're not a very huggy family. Yeah, I just made that word up.)

I was tickled pink that he truly liked the gift and I know that the socket set will get far more use than the beer brewing kit I got him last year (for Christmas I believe). That "out of the box" gift-giving idea is still sitting, well, in the box.

So I guess there's just one thing left to say: Thank you, 24-piece 3/8 in. drive socket set. You brought a sister and a brother, who are often worlds apart, together, if only for a few moments. You even got us to hug.

Patrick and I, circa 2008. I obviously need to force him to take more photos.

Wish list

Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa is almost here! Have you been naughty or nice? (Maybe a bit of both?)

Well, hopefully none of us will find coal in our stockings this Christmas. Here's a few items from my wish list that I'd be happy to find under the tree:

Some new makeup brushes would be much appreciated. Mine have seen better days. And these ones not only sparkle, they are antibacterial to boot. (This makeup lover wouldn't say no to a beauty box made just for junkies, either.)

Fragrance that smells as good as it looks. (Marc Jacobs Daisy may be my perennial favorite, but I'm willing to give Kate Spade's Twirl a whirl. Both are fruity and floral.)

 A hair treatment that would restore and replenish my dry locks, which are even more ravaged by the winter wind, would be quite useful. I've heard bloggers rave about Moroccanoil.

I'd love to light a candle on dark winter nights. This magnolia one would make my room smell like my grandma-- and I mean that in the best way possible. 

Since the kind of digital camera I want is a bit out of my price range (and probably Santa's), this adorable Diana would be a fun new way to capture memories and give them a dreamy perspective.

I would love to add a few more easy-breezy tops that look effortlessly chic to my wardrobe. This sheer midnight blue one and that olive green camp-style one would look good in my closet.

Add to that a flowy floral lace number you can dress up or down.

New clothes need new kicks. I've had my eye on a pair of new boots with buckle details for awhile (like these) and a girl always needs more cute flats (like these).

My jewelry box is overflowing but I'm always adding more jewels and baubles to my collection. I heart these nature-inspired, hippie chic pieces: a double leaf ring, a sparkling feather necklace, and safari-themed bangles.

 I've been using the same metallic, studded bag all year; it's time for a new model. This caramel-colored faux leather satchel would be perfect for every day.

And finally, because the New Year is almost here and I can't survive without a schedule, a 2011 agenda that is both cheery and functional is definitely in order.

There you have it. My wish list for Christmas. What I find under the tree Dec. 25 no one knows (except the jolly bearded man himself) but whatever it is, I know I will love it.

Your turn! What made your wish list this year? 

P.S. If you'd like to receive a Christmas card from yours truly, drop me a line with your address at carissanicole {at} gmail {dot} com by Thursday, Dec. 16. I'd love to add you to my list!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sending some cheer

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
with every Christmas card I write...

I can’t believe Christmas is just a little more than two weeks away! Can you? When I think about it, I get butterflies in my stomach—mostly because I’m not anywhere close to being done with my gift shopping!

But putting that anxiety aside for a second, I am excited to continue one Christmas tradition I started (seriously) last year: sending Christmas cards! In the past I would faithfully buy cards but end up never sending them—and if they did get where they were supposed to go, it was because they got taped to the top of a present. Which is fine but we all know that the best part of a card is finding it in your mailbox, right? Especially since my postman usually just brings me tons and tons of junk mail and bills, I get a little thrill whenever I find amongst that stack a pretty envelope with a handwritten address from a friend.

Longtime readers will know that last year I offered to send anyone who was interested an old fashioned, signed-sealed-delivered holiday greeting. Many of you replied that you would like to be on the receiving end of my snail mail, and I was so happy to send them!

Last year I actually made my own cards, which was both fun and fantastic but also time consuming. Since I have gotten a late start this year, I doubt that I will be crafting my cards from scratch (though I'll likely jazz them up). But I’d still love to send you one!

So if you would like to get a cheery card from me, and I hope you do, simply send me an email at carissanicole {at} gmail {dot} com with your mailing address. I'll add you to the list!

And don’t worry, I promise to keep it confidential and never ever use it for anything except to send you a bit of holiday cheer!

Thanks for playing along!

P.S. This is totally open to international readers, too. I just hope it will get to you in time!
P.P.S. If you'd like to participate, I need to know your address by Dec. 16 at the latest! :)

Image via we heart it

Monday, December 6, 2010


Ahh, the eternal question: To be a red head or not to be a red head? Well, at least that's my current conundrum. This photo of the ever-gorgeous-no-matter-what-her-hair-color Emma Stone represents my state of mind (state of hair?) perfectly.

Although red is always a popular choice in the fall and the color has been made even more trendy this season due to all the celebs trying out the look, I personally have been thinking of going red forever. Well, more specifically, I have been thinking of dyeing my hair red for several years now, and even added some red streaks into my blonde mane in high school (or was it college? I can't remember), but I have been particularly preoccupied by the idea for the past couple months.

Okay, full disclosure: I have two boxes of auburn-ish hair dye (Clairol's Perfect 10 Ginger in a Snap, if you'd like to know) that have been sitting unopened, unused, for oh, about three months. I haven't quite gotten up the courage to take the fiery plunge, let alone do it myself!

So tell me, what do you think of Emma's new look? (It is for her role as the goldilocks Gwen Stacy in the upcoming "Spider-Man" movie.) Like I said, I think she looks beautiful either way, though she is actually a natural blonde.

And perhaps more importantly, what would you think if I went ginger? I'd love to hear your thoughts! (My friends and co-workers have mixed feelings about it.)

Hope you are having a happy Monday!

P.S. My Monday has been very productive but it just got even better when the lovely Meagan of Mo Pie, Please informed me that I won her very first giveaway! Woo hoo! I'm so excited! The prize is two linocut prints from The Big Harumph. Go show Meagan and the shop some love for their generosity!

Photo via Yahoo! Movies

Edit (Dec. 13): Thanks for all the support, guys! If I go red, you'll definitely be the first to know! :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chill in the air

It's been awful chilly lately. Not cold enough to snow, unfortunately-- I don't think that will ever happen here, in the basin of "perpetually sunny" Los Angeles-- but brisk enough to say "Brrr" when you walk outside. (Or simply squeal, if you're like me.)

This past weekend, while walking through a local outdoor mall, making a feeble attempt at starting my holiday shopping, temperatures got so low that I actually bought myself a new (and somewhat pricey) jacket at American Eagle. It's an olive green trench with a belt at the waist and pretty darn adorable if I do say so myself. It was totally an impulse purchase but, in my defense, I had been eyeing a jacket just like it. And I got 20 percent off. So there. :)

Anyway, this week the weather has been warming up, making that jacket virtually unnecessary come noontime, but in the mornings it is still nice and cool. And the nights still get a bit frigid and blustery. Perfect scarf-and-mittens weather. (I picked up a cute pair of soft, red gloves this weekend, too.)

I didn't exactly plan to spend this post regaling you with details about my weather forecast. More importantly I wanted to share the beautiful photograph above. It entered my email inbox the other day, courtesy my favorite "cheap" art website, 20x200. Shot by Joseph O. Holmes, it is called "The Sledding Hill (Dusk)." This is one in a series of photographs he has taken at Brooklyn's Prospect Park. Don't you just love the way the light peeks through the skeleton trees and reflects off the snow, creating this warm, gorgeous glow? I may be a California girl, but I'd love to go there. Now. (And have a snowball fight.)

So, let's make small talk, shall we? How's the weather where you are? Any snow?

Stay warm,

P.S. Holmes also shot two of my other 20x200 faves, also set in his hometown of New York City. I posted about them here. (I love this one, too)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Yep, I posed with my pie. Yep, I'm a cheeseball.

Boy, oh boy, am I full! I feel like all I did this past weekend was consume mass amounts of calories. With a little shopping thrown in for good measure. Though, I avoided the mall on Black Friday and wasn't very successful in my gift-finding mission Saturday or Sunday, mostly because I was unprepared and didn't know what I wanted to buy anybody. But back to the food...

Like I said, the title of this post would most accurately describe the way I felt this past weekend: stuffed. You know the holidays are here when you see the circumference of your waist rapidly start to expand, right? Well, the overindulgence all started with a Thanksgiving feast on Thursday. Just check out this spread:

Turkey? Check.
Stuffing? Check.
Green bean casserole? Check. (Mixed veggies for my dad. The guy doesn't like green bean casserole. How can that be!?)
Chive mashed potatoes and gravy? Double check.
Buttery cloverleaf rolls? Mmm, check.
Sweet potato casserole with pecans? Oh-how-I-wish-we-still-had-leftovers check.

And don't forget the obligatory cranberry sauce and plate of olives and pickles. Or the wine. Pinot grigio for me, of course.

As you can tell by my plate, there was nothing on the table I didn't like. Though, I'm proud to say that you can actually still see some of my plate. Some years I fill every square inch and run out of room, piling this on top of that! This year I tried to practice restraint.

Just looking at these photos is seriously making me wish we still had leftovers. I would kill for some of that stuffing right about now! So so good.

Anyway, later came pie. Lots and lots of pie. Per usual, my mom went a tad overboard...

My mom baked apple, pumpkin, pecan and mincemeat pies. She is crazy, no? Mind you, we only had four people at our dinner table. Even still, I upped the insanity when I decided I just had to contribute something to Thanksgiving dinner. Given the fact that this was a very last minute decision-- as in 10 o'clock on Thursday morning-- dessert seemed like the easiest route to go.

More specifically, that Nantucket Cranberry Pie that I told you about the other day.

Luckily, it was so easy to make that when I dashed off to the store Thanksgiving Day all I had to grab was a bag of cranberries and some almond extract. Everything else I needed we already had in the pantry!

The teaspoon of almond extract called for in the recipe perfumed the whole batter with a nutty, sweet fragrance that reminded me of my mom’s favorite candy: marzipan. I couldn’t even help myself from using my fingers to help “clean” the bowl, it was that good. When I put my creation in the oven, I had high hopes. And I am happy to say it didn't disappoint!  

Even with all the sugar, the cranberries retained their tartness, making for a kind of sweet and sour dessert. The chopped pecans added a lovely crunch and served as a nice counterpoint to the berries-- most of which burst but some hold outs stayed whole, giving the "pie" a rustic texture. I put "pie" in quotations because it doesn't have a bottom. It's more like a cobbler, I would say, with the fruit on the bottom and crust on top. But, when baked in a circle and cut into wedges, I think it definitely passes as pie. Speaking of crust, the top of the pie--which is made from a thick batter that you pour out in ribbons-- I would liken to a sugar cookie. It was golden and crisp on top but still moist and crumbly in the middle. And again, it tasted of almonds.

All around, I'd say my pie was a winner. My mom and dad thought so, too. My brother seemed less convinced. I pestered him to take a bite, which he said was okay, and then he returned his attention to his favorites: pecan and pumpkin. Personally, I was so stuffed from dinner that I only had half a slice on Thanksgiving. But when I heated up a piece the next day, you can be sure I ate every last bite.

Vanilla ice cream was the perfect complement to this tangy pie!

So, are you still feeling stuffed from Thanksgiving? Did your dinner table look like mine, with all the typical Turkey Day trimmings, or did your family and friends nosh on different dishes? I'd love to hear! (Though I'll make sure I'm not hungry when I read your comments!)


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Reasons to be thankful

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! Although today is without a doubt a day of gluttony, it is also a day to give thanks for everything you have. To stop thinking about what you want, what you need and be satisfied--no, overjoyed-- by what you do have, right now. I read a quote earlier that said, "There is always, always, always something to be thankful for." And it's true. Even in the most trying times. Even when you are grinning and bearing it through another dysfunctional family holiday. Even when it seems like things can't get any worse, you can't be any more stressed out, you can't be any more unhappy. If you take a minute to stop and think-- and of course, this requires you to actually do that, to stop and smell the roses, as they say-- you can always find something to be thankful for.

There's the obvious: Just being alive. Having a roof over my head-- one I don't even have to pay for. (Thanks Mom and Dad!) Having food on the table, or at the very least a fast food drive-thru away. Having a job that, while it does push me to the brink of my sanity sometimes, I do love, and it gives me purpose. Being able to pay my bills. My health. (That awful cold is finally gone, hooray!)

There's the people who make life worth living. My family of course. We may bump heads at times, we may get on each other's nerves, but at the end of the day, we love each other. We have seen each other's flaws and yet we still love each other. Nothing's better than that.

And then there's my friends. Where would we be without friends? They make me laugh, are there with a tissue and a hug when I cry, will listen when I need to vent and support me when I share my dreams. Yes, I am very thankful for my friends. (And this includes you!)

I'm thankful for the boy. Our relationship is complicated at times--but really, whose relationship isn't?-- but he is one of my best friends and I'm glad I have him in my life.

And I can't forget Hazel. Oh, how I adore that little fur ball. She brings me such joy. When she greets me at the door, running and jumping and kissing, that monkey can erase even the worst bad day.

Like happiness, I believe gratitude is a choice. It is a way of looking at things. Is the cup half empty or half full? I will admit, it's not always easy to be thankful, and I have been guilty on a couple occasions of complaining too much and being, well, for lack of a better term, an ungrateful brat. But making that choice to acknowledge the day and what comes your way with gratitude is without question the most encouraging, uplifting and fulfilling way to live.

So, about that cup? Today, I say half full.

Images via we heart it: 1, 2, 3 + 4