Thursday, October 30, 2014

Grand Ledges

This is James's sixth trip to Michigan. Can you believe that? My boyfriend, who has a degree in rocks, has come to visit me six times, and I only just managed to take him to the most interesting rocks within an hour's drive. Those rocks are the Grand Ledges, and I know they are far more significant to a Michigander like myself than to a Utah boy from the mountains, but here we are.

We spent a sunny, 70 degree day there earlier this week, and experienced the kind of Fall I wish we got more of. The kind where the leaves are turning and falling, but we aren't freezing in the meantime. We've had a lot of that this year, but I'm afraid it's coming to a close.

Fall in Michigan
Grand River

Anyway, those ledges! Carved out of sandstone by the Grand River, not unlike how the Colorado River formed the Grand Canyon, just on a far less grandiose scale. Some day soon I want to take James up to Pictured Rocks, but in the meantime, we enjoyed some quiet walking and snacking in Oak Park, followed by bubble tea.

Autumn at the Grand Ledges
Autumn at the Grand Ledges
James at the Grand Ledges

Pretty cool, right? And not at all what you expect to find in the lower peninsula. Michigan is full of surprises!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Daytime Date

What I wore on a Daytime Date

I am a slave to comfort, especially as the weather cools down. All I want in life are flowy shirts and soft cardigans to wrap up warm.

What I wore on a Daytime DateWhat I wore on a Daytime Date

James loves this shirt -- if it's on offer when I ask his opinion on my fashion choices, he always picks it! I'm not sure exactly why he loves it so much, but I'm a fan for two reasons: one, the lace is so dressy and beautiful; and two, the silhouette is perfect for going out and getting a food baby. The jeans are super comfortable as well, really stretchy, and they fit me perfectly. I wish I lived closer to a Zara!

To get close-up on the details, we've got pink-tinted freshwater pearl drops and a braided bun that I'll have to do a tutorial of soon. One of my favorite things about this shirt is that I don't have to work too hard on the accessories -- a nice pair of earrings will set you up completely when the shirt has its own embellishment.

What I wore on a Daytime DateHairstyle for a Daytime Date

Cardigan: Charlotte Russe.//Shirt: H&M (Old).//Jeans: Zara.//Bag: Badgley Mischka.//Earrings: Unknown.

Hair tutorial to come; photos by James and edited by me.

Monday, October 27, 2014

DIY Boot Trees

I used to own a pair of boot trees (also known as shapers, or those things that keep your tall boots from collapsing on themselves when you're not wearing them). They came with my first pair of tall riding boots, but I have no idea where they ended up! Not having a lot of disposable income at the moment, but also sick of seeing my poor tall boots slumping in my closet, I did some googling and came up with an alternate solution: wine bottles!

DIY Boot Shapers

This is an easy, elegant DIY that I prettied up (and made more functional) with ribbon. For each pair of boots, you will need:

-2 empty wine bottles, preferably the same brand and variety (so they will be the same size and shape)
-8-10 feet of ribbon, cut in half

DIY Boot Shapers

Start by rinsing the inside of the bottles and soaping up the outside (you don't want sticky wine residue inside your boots). Then find the mid-way point of the first section of ribbon and use it as the starting point for wrapping at the neck of the bottle.

This can get a little tricky, but you want it to lay flat and tight to the neck so it won't slip off. When you're satisfied it's secure, tie it off with a square knot. You should still have at least a foot of extra ribbon on each end.

DIY Boot Shapers

Tie the ends of these ribbons together with another square knot, to form a little handle. This extra length of ribbon will hang over the top of your boots and give you an easy way to pull out the trees when you want to wear them.

DIY Boot Shapers

Repeat with the second bottle and length of ribbon, and enjoy having better shaped boots!

DIY Boot Shapers

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Chapelure

It hasn't been a secret around here that I'm trying to eat healthier. And honestly, I have been. I'm proud to say that I haven't indulged in peanut butter and chocolate chips for breakfast, or dessert after both lunch and dinner, since August! It didn't seem like it at the time, but yeah, I had a problem. And what you're about to see is really going to seem like a relapse.

I've been wanting to take James to one of the nicer independent coffee shops/bakeries in town for a while now. It's called Chapelure, and it's one of the only places to get a decent macaron in this city, let alone an authentic pastry (whether inspired by European or Asian cuisine). We set a tentative date for this excursion, and when we woke up that morning, he suggested we get breakfast there.

Coffee and Pastries at Chapelure

I know, I know, it's terrible. Who eats that for breakfast? I would, however, like to clarify that we shared it all. The only reason his coffee isn't in the shot is because he ordered it with soy, and as the barista explained, you can't make soy pretty.

Anyway, on to the pastries!

Macarons at Chapelure

The macarons were perfect. So often, bakers ruin them with a jelly filling instead of a light cream. These didn't suffer from this defect, and had the perfect light, chewy consistency in the cookie. I can't eat many macarons, but these really hit the spot.

Caramel Espresso Chocolate Tart at Chapelure

Next, the chocolate caramel espresso tart. We enjoyed this one, but it was probably our least favorite of the bunch. James and I both prefer caramel as more of a garnish and would have liked a better balance between the three flavors.

Tiramisu at Chapelure

Finally, the tiramisu. This is James's favorite dessert of all time, and, like me and chocolate cake, he has very specific standards for it. Chapelure got it as right as a bakery could. (Being a fan of intense flavors, James prefers the ladyfingers in his tiramisu to take a generous bath in coffee and rum before they jump in the cream; I'm guessing Chapelure doesn't do this due to the risk of getting children drunk.)

We thoroughly enjoyed our "breakfast" date. Don't worry about our blood sugar -- after this marathon we went a couple days before eating dessert again. But we highly recommend Chapelure. I think it's going to be my new go-to spot when I have writer's block or need a chocolate craving satiated. The coffee is good, the staff are super friendly, and the wifi is complimentary. Who could ask for anything more?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What I Wore to an Autumn Wedding

What I wore to an Autumn Wedding

I have had this skirt for at least three years. I found it at a thrift store paired with a matching jacket, and can only assume it had a previous life as some kind of dance costume. I had vague intentions of doing something different with it, as I do with many of my more interesting thrift store finds, but it languished in my closet until last month. That's when I realized it would be the perfect basis for a Autumn wedding outfit.

What I wore to an Autumn Wedding

It needed a little bit of work to fit me properly -- I added in some elastic and altered the seams on the side without a zipper -- but I was really pleased with the result! The decoration on the waist is the best part of the skirt anyway, and it needed no attention.

What I wore to an Autumn Wedding
What I wore to a Fall Wedding

I happen to have a cami the exact same color as the skirt, but I decided to take advantage of the gold accents for the rest of the ensemble -- gold lace cami shell, gold leather jacket, gold jewelry, gold hair pieces. It's totally overkill for the every day, but perfect for a wedding. Once the dancing got started, I ditched the jacket and had lots of fun twirling around (and, to be honest, doing the Thriller dance) in that skirt.

What I wore to a Fall Wedding
Clothes
Jacket: Express (thrifted). Similar.//Gold Lace Cami: Crystal K. Spent ages looking for something comparable and came up empty apart from Poshmark. Sorry!//Red Cami: Arizona. Same in wrong color; Similar in Right Color.//Bag: Coach (Old). Similar.//Skirt: Unknown (thrifted). Similar, Similar, and Similar (in ascending price order).
Jewelry
Hoop Earrings: Macy's (Gifted). Similar.//Gold Ball Necklace: Inherited. Similar.//Bangle: Macy's. (Gifted.) Similar.
Other Details
Hair chopstick tutorial here. Hair style tutorial here.//Nails: pointer+pinky in Curry Up, Don't Be Late, all others (including toes), in Suzi Loves Sydney, both from O.P.I.

Photos taken by James; edited by me.

Monday, October 20, 2014

DIY: Wedding Candy Buffet

A cousin of mine got married recently. It was easily the most fun I've had in at least a month. As family often does in these situations, my mom and I volunteered to help her out with anything she might need. That's how this instagram came about, and that's why I know the ins and outs of candy buffets without actually getting married.

There are a few obvious first steps to this: compiling vases and ordering candy. I should be clear up front and say that we didn't have a direct hand in either, apart from supplying some of the glass. But in my opinion, a list of helpful tips is more beneficial than a list of retailers.

Glass: There was a loose them of alcohol on this candy bar, with the martini glasses and snifters, but in the end the bride went to Hobby Lobby and got two of almost everything so the table would be symmetrical. I think that's my favorite look, but it depends on how much you want to spend (and how much you value being able to give the glass back to relatives after the wedding!).

Candy: Gummies and chocolate are king. The jelly beans and the gumballs didn't move much at all (although in the case of the gumballs, that wasn't much of a surprise -- they were more there to add an difference in texture). The bride's color scheme was just blue, so she didn't stress too much over particular shades when it came to her candy. She also used some silver as an accent color. I think this is a wise choice, both in terms of sanity prevention and visual interest. If I do this for myself in the future, I would consider adding more gummies, and maybe swapping the gumballs for some Lindt truffles. But to each her own!

Putting it all together: This is where it gets interesting. We borrowed a 3x6 foot table from a friend to practice our set up, and scavenged the house for pedestals to raise some of the vases. In the end, we had a combination of flower pots, flower pot trays, cake pans, and tupperware underneath the tablecloth. We also brought out some small mirrors to put underneath some of the glass. In a few cases, this was for structural reasons, but mostly it just adds visual interest. We took pictures of this process all the way through, so we knew where to place the pedestals and what glasses went where.

Constructing a Candy Buffet

A few other things to consider -- I personally handwashed every single one of these vases. Laborious, yes, but no one wants to eat out of a grimy, finger-printed vase. It's probably common sense, but it's a valuable step. We also supplied the top tablecloth ourselves, by hemming several yards of white silk. The table set up for this at the reception site had a cloth already, but the silk was valuable for the purposes of adding texture, and more importantly, hiding flower pots.

Three pieces of glassware that didn't have twins; one was already designated by the bride as a centerpiece, since it would be difficult to get anything out of. The other two also went down the middle, and we fanned out the others in a symmetrical pattern. In the end, we had 19 vases and 13 different types of candy. We sent the bride a photo of the empty set up table for her to label which candies went where.

When we arrived at the reception venue, we had several boxes of freshly cleaned glassware, a marked-up photo, and a suitcase full of candy and little scoops and tongs. It took some assembly (and some candy sampling), but the final product was absolutely gorgeous and a big hit with the guests, who didn't leave very many leftovers!

Finished Candy Buffet
Completed Candy Buffet

Candy used (roughly from left to right, bearing in mind that I'm leaving out duplicates):
Back Row: Jelly Beans, gum balls, silver m&ms with rock candy (home made by the MOH and her family; pina colada and rum flavored)
Middle Row: Blue M&Ms, blue raspberry gummy bears, Sixlets, Salt Water Taffy, (more sixlets), gummy sharks
Front Row: Chocolate coins, air heads, Hershey Kisses, mints.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

Meijer Gardens played host to a number of pieces in Art Prize, which initially drew us there, but we ended up deciding to spend the whole day. I hadn't been in over ten years (more than enough time to forget about everything but the enormous horse), and I enjoyed the opportunity to see it with grown up eyes.

Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

I suspect my companions got more out of the visit than I did -- I've never claimed to be an art buff, and I didn't recognize most of the names we saw on sculpture tags -- but I still enjoyed myself. A sculpture park is such a different experience than a gallery. In many ways, I prefer it. The experience is more immersive and the art interacts with its surroundings in ways it can't indoors. Each season brings a different setting, and because you can come at the pieces from so many angles, both up-close and at a distance, it allows for a new understanding and appreciation of what you're looking at. The landscaping is extraordinary, too.

Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

I love how the sculpture in the background of this one matches the color of the turning leaves on the tree next to it!

And of course no visit to the gardens would be complete without staring for a while at the American Horse, a collection of three identical sculptures based off of designs by Leonardo Da Vinci. Each one is to scale, though -- one the size of the model horses I used to play with, one the size of a real horse, and the third over twenty feet tall!

The American Horse
The American Horse
The American Horse
The American Horse

I would also be remiss if I didn't highlight the cafe. I don't have too much to say about it, except that the food was delicious, fresh, fast, affordable, and (for the most part) unique. I highly recommend a visit. I'm confident we aren't the only family who spent more than enough time in the gardens to want a snack, although picnics are also a great idea here.

Meijer Gardens Cafe
Meijer Gardens Cafe
Meijer Gardens Cafe

If you ever have a chance to visit the gardens, go for it! I promise you won't regret it. Admission is $12 for adults, with varying discounts for kids, students, and seniors. The Art Prize exhibit, when in season, is free. I can highly recommend the cafe, and the children's garden has dozens of interesting, educational exhibits for little ones to learn and enjoy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What I Wore: Art Prize

While I have no intention of turning this into a fashion blog, I do have a nice camera and a decent closet. Why not showcase it every now and again? So here is my first style post!

What I Wore at Art Prize

Spending several hours at Art Prize (or any daytime festival, really) requires good walking shoes and layers. I've been on the hunt for some nice black leather boots for a while now, but with limited financial resources and rather specific standards for boots, I was unsuccessful. Then I realized that I already had a great pair of black leather boots in my closet, just sitting there collecting dust: my field boots.

What I Wore at Art Prize

For those who don't know, field boots (or tall boots) are the equestrian version of heels -- you wear them on dressier, more formal occasions, like shows. But I'm not riding at the moment, and I see no reason to avoid wearing them until I get back on a show horse. Since they're technically exercise wear, they're actually pretty comfortable, so I paired them with some white skinny jeans, and headed out on the town.

What I Wore at Art Prize
What I Wore at Art Prize

It's been years since I followed the white after labor day rule. My philosophy is that white works any time of the year as long as it's paired appropriately, which is why I brought out the burgundy knit, leather jacket, and the pashmina -- all together (and especially with the boots), it's an autumn-oriented outfit. Details below.

What I Wore at Art Prize

Pashmina: From India. Similar.//Sweater: BCBG. Similar.//Jacket: Express (thrifted). Similar.//Bag: Coach (Old). Similar.//Jeans: Zara (past season). Similar.//Boots: Dublin. Similar.

Nails: Pinkies and pointers in Curry Up, Don't Be Late; the rest in Suzi Loves Sydney, both from O.P.I.

Hair tutorial to come!

All photos by James.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Grand Rapids Art Prize

I just got back from a busy weekend in Grand Rapids -- we did and saw so much it's difficult to believe we fit it into only three days! I have a lot to post about, but I'm going to start with the one thing that we devoted some time to on each of the three days: Art Prize!

Sadly, Art Prize is now over, but we got to see some amazing pieces, and I even got photos of a few of them. We started in the DeVos center on Friday evening, where I didn't bring my camera along. I saw a few that I really wish I could have captured, but I still have plenty to show you here! We had no shortage of beautiful art at the Amway Grand Plaza, UICA, Kendall College, and Meijer Gardens.

Double ondAnomala by Michele Ciribifera

Double ondAnomala by Michele Ciribifera

Gabriella by Armin Mersmann

Gabriella by Armin Mersmann

Spiral Helix by Alyson Shotz

Spiral Helix by Alyson Shotz

Weeping Willow by Joseph Krajkiewcz

Weeping Willow by Joseph Krajkiewcz

You Have Options by Christopher Yockey

You Have Options by Christopher Yockey

There were so many amazing and creative pieces from all over the world. I think there were literally thousands of entries this year -- you'd have to spend every day of Art Prize looking for them to see them all! The aesthete in me typically enjoys the pretty pieces, but in the end, I really loved a lot of the more political art we saw, including Live Free or Die, a collection of images by Dan Tague. I had reblogged them once before on my Tumblr, so it was really amazing to see them in person.

Live Free or Die by Dan Tague at Art Prize

Live Free or Die by Dan Tague at Art PrizeLive Free or Die by Dan Tague at Art Prize

Live Free or Die by Dan Tague at Art Prize

Great as that was, though, I think my absolute favorite piece was also the most controversial in the entire festival: an installation entitled There's Something Happening Here . . . by Henry Brimmer. It was easily the most difficult piece to photograph, but the message it sent was so incredibly powerful. Walking around downtown, you could look overhead and see the silhouettes of armed men on the rooftops.

There's Something Happening Here by Henry Brimmer at Art Prize

The artist feels that there is "No explanation required" and I am inclined to agree. It sent shivers down my spine, but if you're looking for art that sparks debate and has the potential to start dialogue about real issues, you need look no further. I only wish they could stay there as a permanent reminder and call to action.