Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Christmas Wrapping 2016

I started out the season a little uninspired. Name a color combo and it seemed like I'd done it at some point. Green and gold. Blue and gold. Red and purple. Red and white and black. White and black and pink. Plaid! I'd even done silver and gold! But I've had this nagging desire for a couple years to do something really crazy for Christmas: orange.

If you're anything like my mom, you just recoiled in horror. Sure, it's basically a UVA theme. Yes, it's essentially a tribute to Dutch people everywhere. But I just couldn't shake how classic those Hermes boxes are! And I had found myself really drawn to the navy-and-orange signage of this antique store every time I passed. Plus, finding a way to do classy orange seemed like the ultimate challenge.

I trusted that orange and blue are complementary colors and went for it, and I'm pretty happy with the results! Sean searched for a long time for the word to capture his feelings about it and he landed on "sophisticated." I'll take it!

You can't really buy orange wrapping paper in your average chain store, so I popped into Paper Source and picked up three really pretty sheets to use for smaller gifts: a gold floral print, a Rifle Paper Design floral, and an orange-and-turquoise caning print.

The gorgeous blue caning print paper and the mint polka dot came from Home Goods, while the dusty navy polka dot paper came from Target.

The ribbons all came from craft stores and Target. I'm obsessed with that gold-and-mint ribbon!

What do you think? Success or am I still completely tripping? Now that I've tackled this most challenging of combos, I'm already feeling invigorated about next year! All neons perhaps? (Just kidding...I think that might be too far even for me. But, as the great Justin Bieber opines, "Never say never.")

Take a journey into the past by checking out the previous schemes:  2006-200920102011201220132014 and 2015.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thanksgiving Snapshots 2016

Thanksgiving...remember that? It feels like forever ago! We had such a fantastic time visiting and then I jumped head-first into Christmas cards and completely failed to memorialize this most fantastic of holidays. 

This year, we trekked to Sean's Uncle and Aunt's house, where we feasted on turkey with AMAZING gravy (I'll have to get the recipe from Emily!), brussels sprouts, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes with bourbon and orange juice, mashed potatoes and more. After dinner, we busted out our new favorite board game, Telestrations, and laughed until we cried as we passed around each other's terrible drawings and guesses. So much fun!

On Saturday, I dragged Sean to Old Town Alexandria for some Black Friday small business shopping and as usual, spent all my money at my favorite spot, Red Barn Mercantile. We had delicious burgers for lunch at BurgerFi (a big city chain). My burger — the CEO — blended wagyu beef and brisket topped with candied bacon-tomato jam, truffle aioli and aged Swiss cheese. Every single bite was delicious. 

I was loving being able to embrace sweater and boot weather to its fullest!

The feast continued when we got together for a girls' night to watch Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life! In an homage to the adventurous cuisine of Al's Pancake World, we ordered sliders, flatbread pizza, jambalaya pasta, truffle fries and caesar salad from Adega. It just felt right.

We finished the weekend with a lovely long visit with this little nugget, Sean's honorary nephew, and a surprise birthday party at an Irish pub! What a fun Thanksgiving, but we came home after four hours in traffic and didn't get to tackle Christmas decorating at all. I'm champing at the bit to get started and can't wait to share my traditional wrapping scheme here!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Winesgiving 2016

This past weekend was one of my very favorite annual events for Wine Club: Winesgiving! On the weekend before Thanksgiving, we hit the road and drive to the nearby country vineyards for a day of picnicking, imbibing and laughing our heads off. We've decided our annual trek will be to Saude Creek Winery for the foreseeable future, with its lovely views, music, winery cat and of course, wines.

We started our journey at The Cheese Shop and Wythe Candy, where we stocked up on bougie provisions for my ideal Thanksgiving feast, full of cheese and chocolate. Here I am devouring my smoked turkey and edam sandwich while fending off the winery cat.

A snapshot of our insane amount of cheese, meats, crackers, chips and chocolate.

And of course, the ever-important centerpiece supplied by Lauren.

Missing one, unfortunately. Someday all six of us will make it!

Heads up: These are the most delicious chips from Spain and we were all raving.

The wines we sampled! I especially loved the Vidal Blanc, which the staff likened to "champagne without the bubbles."

It was a dreamy day, and it's not an understatement to say I couldn't be more thankful to be blessed with a sisterhood like ours. Friendship in adulthood is hard, and to have a constant and reliable sounding board of support makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the land.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday Best v. 273

It's been a week of soul-searching for me. Really thinking about our country, and my role in it and what I can do to live in a place that reflects the core things I believe in, like acceptance and diversity and inclusivity and respect. So, today is a very special Sunday Best, just with links I've found helpful in giving me direction and maybe they'll help you, too:

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday Best v.272

Still twinning this weekend! Last night we went to our favorite annual Halloween house party, and tonight, I'm considering carving pumpkins. I've only done it once in adulthood and I have ambitious ideas, but no idea how to execute. Maybe YouTube could teach me?

Here are the best links I saw this week:

Friday, October 28, 2016

Hallowino 2016!

Traditions are what make life sweet, and few things are sweeter than Hallowino! Every year, Wine Club dons costumes and celebrates the holiday mid-week, and it's always so much fun. Here's a little recap of Hallowino 2016:

Here we are, Cleopatra, a Cat, She-Ra, Twinning Emojis and Raggedy Ann.

This year's haunted and spooky wine line-up:
  • Cloud Break Black Cloud Red Blend: A California red with cherry and dark fruit notes and a touch of soft oak on the finish.
  • Apothic Inferno: We are HUGE fans of the drinkable Apothic blends, and this new smoky wine was one of my favorites. It has notes of maple, spice and vanilla and is aged in whiskey barrels. 
  • Girl and Dragon Malbec: A bright wine smacking of berries.
  • The Velvet Devil Merlot: Aromas of dark cherries, tobacco, cedar, anise and cherry blossoms. No clue if I tasted half those flavors, but it was tasty and I'm not a Merlot fan usually.
  • Hunted Zinfandel Lodi: A fruity zinfandel with hints of spice and chocolate.

Lauren honored her Louisiana roots and served up tasty jambalaya using this recipe. Andouille is so delish.

This was Ashleigh and I's fourth year of bestie costumes and one of my favorites yet! We dressed as the twinning emoji. Check out previous Hallowinos from 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 20112010 and the first in 2009!

A video posted by Amber Kennedy (@amberfi) on

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday Best v.272

Claude Monet, with his waterlilies

It's my favorite time of year, packed with art festivals and wine fests and costume parties. I have a few things I still need to knock off my fall to-do list, including drink cider and have something pumpkin spice flavored. My main fall activity so far was planting some ranunculus bulbs (pray for me that they actually come up!) and mulching. Woot for adulthood. 

Anyway, take a stroll through the best of the internet this week:

Monday, October 17, 2016

Jams of the Moment

Super enjoyed the first episode of Insecure on HBO. Issa Rae is so charming, and her character's challenges (the I-just-spent-my-twenties-doing-what? crisis) is super relatable even to a white married girl like me.

I'm also loving Phoebe Robinson after listening to both of her podcasts — Two Dope Queens and Sooo Many White Guys — while I plug away at work. I'd like to read her new book. She seems like a girl I could split some rose with and just giggle about mansplaining, Daria and our crushes on older men.

I spent a significant amount of time hunting for the perfect nude mauve lip color and ended up with one of my favorite products around, the NYX soft matte lip cream in Cannes. I seriously love this whole line and for $6 a pop, it's not even a big hit on my wallet.

I also found a perfect deep red that is actually moisturizing and long-lasting in Shea Moisture's Red Rose lipstick. I grabbed it on a whim and it's definitely my favorite red for fall these days.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sunday Best v.271

Freewheelin' Bob Dylan with Suze Rotolo, West Village, 1963

After an unintended hiatus (brought to you by that most dastardly deed: yardwork), I'm BACK with the hot links! While away your Sunday with these picks:

  • Fantastic pictures of "history" including sunbathing on the pyramids.
  • You can now tour every MOMA exhibition since 1929 online. 
  • James Hamblin argues for doing away with greetings and sign-offs in emails.
  • Advice for living, from the Notorious RBG, also the star of a new children's book.
  • Terri Gross's fantastic interview with Bruce Springsteen just reaffirms my love for both.
  • For my friends who are parents:
  • Why ancient statues have tiny penises.
  • Nearing 80, painter David Hockney is still busy as ever.
  • The "Frasier" conversation in this episode of "Sooo Many White Guys" is laugh-out-loud hilarious.
  • Behind the nomination of Bob Dylan for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
  • I was always obsessed with Jackie Kennedy and always loved Natalie Portman, so this new biopic is a must-see for me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Six-Day, Six-Year Celebration

Y'all, I am so overdue for a good life update! Life is...good! Sean and I made just about the entire past week an extended celebration of our sixth wedding anniversary, which is truly my favorite holiday of the year. I am a huge believer in not treating it like "just another day." It's a big accomplishment, and should be celebrated.

Our extended celebration kicked off with a visit to FedEx Field, because I surprised Sean with tickets to watch the Redskins play the Cleveland Browns. And thank goodness, they won. The last time we went, there was freezing rain and we lost, so I had only bad memories.

Not to be outdone, Sean had a gorgeous bouquet of lilies delivered to my office, which had every coworker Snapchatting her boyfriend hints to do the same.

We like to try to get away for our anniversary weekends when we can. If we had our way, we would spend every year in Ocracoke, but with the threat of a hurricane, we opted to spend some time in Richmond, a badass city we never seem to visit even though it's so close.

We started our visit with a lunch (and seriously, this could have been three meals) at Bombolini, a fresh pasta emporium with amazing flavors, like red wine, black pepper and squid ink. I had rosemary fettucine with chicken rose sauce and it was so good, but so much food. If we were Richmonders, I can totally imagine popping in to grab dinner to go; their freezer was stocked with fresh lasagnas and raviolis.

Unfortunately, it was pouring rain from the outer bands of Hurricane Matthew, so that ruled out so many great Richmond things to do, like check out the murals, lounge on the rocks at Belle Isle, roam around the Maymont property or check out the Lewis Ginter gardens. So we did what we always do: we went to the movies and saw The Girl on the Train. It was dark, y'all.

From there, we decided to kill some time boozin', because like many small cities these days, Richmond is home to a huge brewing and distilling scene. We went to Ardent Craft Ales, where we sampled their Sweet Potato and Sage Ale (my favorite!), "The One" Pumpkin Ale, Nelson Sauvin Saison and Stortebeker hefeweizen. They really were all delicious, and it was packed with other folks wearing parkas and Hunter wellies, so clearly, it was the place to be on Saturday.

We drove clear across town to check out Blue Bee Cider, where we split a flight. It was really impressive to see the variation in the ciders, with really unique flavors for each, including a dessert wine with a nice kick of ginger.

Bottom's up!

We finished our gastronomical tour of Richmond on Saturday with a decadent dinner at Bistro Bobette, directly across the street from our hotel in Shockoe Bottom. Sean had what I secretly wanted — bistro steak with pommes frites — and I had beef tenderloin medallions in a pepper brandy sauce with potato gratin. I could swim in that sauce, you guys.

The Berkeley is an beautiful fancy pants hotel in a fantastic location and our room was beautiful. I used travel rewards for the room, so it was doubly great because it didn't cost me anything extra! 

We finished our visit on Sunday morning with a trip to Kuba Kuba, renowned for its authentic Cuban food. I was squirming in my seat to the music the entire time. I need more Cuban and Puerto Rican food in my life.

We had empanadillas stuffed with picadillo to start and honestly, I could have just eaten 15 of these. The fried dough was perfection, and the seasoned beef inside combined with the lime sour cream drizzled on top was the perfect mix of sweet and tart and spicy.

I figured "When in faux Havana..." and ordered a Cafe con Leche with condensed milk, and that was basically warm heaven in a cup.

I had a classic Cubano with plantains...

And Sean devoured his plate of ropa viejo over rice.

And on our way out, since the sun was shining, we snagged the requisite Richmond keepsake: a mural portrait.

I can't wait to see what our seventh year brings!