Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dolly Parton, I Like Your Style

Do you ever find yourself trapped in the YouTube rabbit hole? What began as an innocent YouTube search for Carrie Underwood's American Idol audition ended literally 3 hours later with me having watched just about every video of Dolly Parton performing in the '60s and '70s. I love this woman something fierce, y'all. I grew up about 2 hours from Dollywood and it was our theme park of choice for field trips and summer day adventures. Her heart is bigger than her hair; the amount of love and support she's given back to the Appalachian region is immense.

Her look these days isn't exactly something most of us would want to copy, but she's always had a great mix of down-home comfort and showgirl style. How great is this little gold sequin wiggle dress from the '60s?

Or her perfect '70s ensemble of a denim belted trench with pressed trousers and boots?

Or a denim shirt paired with simple hoop earrings? She always jokes she modeled her look after the town tramp, but there's nothing trampy about these looks.

Get the Look

Country Girl

  1. What country gal wardrobe would be complete without the denim shirt? $98 at J. Crew, but lawd knows you can find a cheaper one at Target!
  2. Take the stage at the Bluebird Cafe in Sanctuary's western shirt, $108 at Nordstrom.
  3. Update Dolly's classic bedazzled long-sleeved style with a retro chic dress. In a dream fantasy world, this Valentino would look perfect under the lights on the Ryman Auditorium stage.
  4. Charm 'em at the county fairs in this French Connection frock.
  5. Accentuate your higher-than-heaven hair with a mod headband.
  6. And no cowgirl is complete without her trusty boots to go with everything.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tuesday Best v.144

Dolly Parton and Carl Thomas Dean on their wedding day.

You're not wrong; today is not, in fact, Sunday. But I did, in fact, forget to post my Sunday Best this week and rather than sit on the links until next Sunday, I figured I'd just let this one fly. 
  • In case you didn't know, Martin Short is the best.
  • Michelle Obama and Jimmy Fallon star in the Evolution of Mom Dancing.
  • One dude collected first editions of the White Album and then played them all at once and this is what happened.
  • The copy editor in me finds this picture of the president's edits fascinating.
  • Gifs of Oscar losers, god bless them.
  • Incredible ingenuity at a tool trade show for Amish folks.
  • What Harlem thinks of the Harlem Shake.
  • Earth is the most incredible work of art.
  • A study of tweets shows the geography of happiness.
  • What happens when Brooklynites move to the 'burbs? Hipsturbia.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Fashion Review: Oscars 2013

What a fashion let-down this Oscars was, amirite? A lot I think we've all seen before, and a few surprises (Anne Hathaway much?), but not the good kind. I'm not sure anyone really took my breath away, and maybe that's just a testament to how weird red carpets have gotten since stylists have become ubiquitous. Anyways, here are the ones that, for whatever reason, struck me.

Best Dressed

Charlize Theron looked like an ethereal glamazon in her Dior couture. How many people can rock the same pixie as Ellen DeGeneres, wedding white and tower over everyone without looking the least bit like they're trying too hard? She's delivered some of my favorite moments on the Oscar red carpet and although this was incredible, I'm sad to say it's not even my favorite I've seen from her. Alas, that's the kind of night we were having.

The fluffy, frou frou Oscar de la Renta gown has become cliche, but I thought it was a real departure from Amy Adams, who has never really worn something this princess-y. Her soft, not-too-fussy hair was a perfect counter-balance and she just looked completely event-appropriate, unlike some people. 

 I had mixed feelings about Jennifer Lawrence's Dior Couture look, partially because whoever her stylist is was just maybe trying too hard. I thought the fabric looked a little wrinkly and granny, but I loved the subtle pink that showed up better on the telecast than in these pictures. I thought the backwards diamond necklace was WAY too contrived. And I maybe was a bit concerned the dress ultimately, literally, tripped her up. But she looked elegant and I don't think she'll have any regrets in 10 years.

It kind of annoys me how good Stacy Keibler always looks, since she's certainly not getting nominated any time soon. Her Naeem Khan gown was easily one of my favorites...interesting, sparkly, modern, yet art deco.

 Naomi Watts apparently worked closely with the Armani Prive team to design this custom gown, which was just the right mix of futuristic couture and throwback retro glamour. Her simple makeup was the perfect accessory.

 Naomi's BFF Nicole Kidman always takes risks on the Oscar red carpet, and her sparkly L'Wren Scott was no exception. The detailing, at first, seemed a bit pageant-y to me, but I love the complementary earrings and honestly, she's got it so she should flaunt it.

 I was SO HAPPY to see Jennifer Aniston not only wearing a color, but experimenting with volume. She looked really blissfully happy and her Valentino fit her easy, modern vibe. I'm not totally sold on the matchy clutch, but whatevs, I'm happy to see her out of her safe black.

I'm sure some people hated Halle Berry's Versace dress, which was a total Dynasty-level '80s-style drama gown, but I thought it was perfect for her. It even matched the Bond montage! She had become so predictable, always wearing mostly see-through gowns with feathers or ruffles sewn to cover her naughty bits, and I liked how this was more covered up but maybe even more sexy.

I don't know if I LOVED Reese's Louis Vuitton gown...the bow was a little immature looking, but the fit is incredible and her hair was perfection. The color is also great with her eyes.

Kristen Stewart is here purely based on the achievements of Reem Acra. The beadings and ruffles are really pretty on this gown, but girl just about ruined the effect with her bedhead, ridiculous insistence on hobbling instead of using crutches and generally sour attitude. I super dislike her.

On another actress I can't promise I would have loved Kerry Washington's Miu Miu gown, but on her, the color was so lovely and the make-up was a perfect complement. This is a woman who completely understood her role at the show. She's there as an ABC star, as a star of a nominated film and as a presenter, so she needs a little sparkle, but doesn't need to act like a pretty pretty princess. Now, if she's ever nominated, I expect she'd be turning the glamour dial up to 11.

Good, But ...

Jessica Chastain has become so reliable for being in the "close, but no cigar" category. There's always something just off...either the fit, or the color, or the styling. For me, this Armani didn't work for a couple reasons. On screen, it didn't read bronze, but looked instead like a bedazzled spanx bodysuit. Also, the silhouette is very, very similar to most of the gowns she's worn and on that level, I'd just like to see her push herself a little further until she lands on something that truly feels right. It always seems like it's too tight in her bust. I loved her hair and make-up, though, and the dress wasn't an atrocity. I just don't think it was the dream fantasy I had in mind. She needs to take some lessons at the Julianne Moore School for Making Redheads Look Bangin.

This is super nitpicky, so bear with me. I really, really thought the detailing on Amanda Seyfried's Alexander McQueen gown was lovely, but for the entire red carpet, the fabric would bunch up between the halter and the bust because there was just slightly too much fabric. It was driving me INSANE. Her make-up was also too matchy. That said, she still looks beautiful and I love that she wore something really different.

The color of Jennifer Garner's Gucci gown? Perfection. The necklace? Hands down, one of my favorites I've ever seen at the Oscars, ever. The flamenco costume in the back? Ummmm. I just...I couldn't love it. I tried to love it, but it was inherently kinda weird when juxtaposed with the super-clean front of the gown. We couldn't help but wonder how smushed it would look after sitting for a couple hours.

Zoe Saldana looked really elegant, and my husband especially thought she looked great. Her Alexis Mabille gown moved really beautifully, with the layers at the bottom fluttering up and down and every step. But still, I just couldn't land on the side of love. It felt overembellished and like five too many concepts in one dress. Without the huge bow on the side of the belt, which kind of looked like one of those tribute ribbons you wear to show solidarity with a charity, I maybe could have gotten on board.

Worst Dressed

What on earth happened here? I mean, seriously. Is this Rachel Zoe's fault? Who can I blame for this? Somehow, someone tricked Anne Hathaway into wearing a "Prada" gown that is actually a David's Bridal bridesmaids' gown from 1998 in a nude color with the world's WORST darts at the breasts pointing directly to her nipples. This person took it a step further and broke one of the cardinal rules of accessorizing by pairing a high halter neckline WITH A NECKLACE. NEVER. Just never. It was just so surreal, because she has killed it so many times on the red carpet, most especially the year she hosted, and this is the year she actually won! It just screamed late 90's prom to me in the worst way.

Someone tweeted that Salma Hayek looked like she came dressed up as Paula Abdul at the 1990 Grammys and it's not even that off-base. Don't get me wrong; she always looks gorgeous and her make-up is beautiful. But the prom hair + the velvet + the high gold neckline of her Alexander McQueen just came off looking cheap. Which is crazy when you consider her husband is the CEO of PPR, which owns brands like Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci. Girl should never be looking cheap. 

I really, really hate to dump on Helen Hunt, who was just trying to be the woman of the people in her H&M dress. But. This is not only a dress we've all seen 500,000,000 times before, often on the rack at our local department store's formal section. It's also wrinkly and pulling in super weird ways and just blah. Being boring is honestly the worst thing when it comes to the Oscars. Her jewelry was equally blah, and it bums me out, because she is smokin' hot.

It seems unfair to dump on stars' wives who will not get any screen time, but I just wanted to say that Mark Ruffalo's wife, Sunrise, appears to be wearing a losing design from a future Project Runway challenge involving making clothes out of outdoor furniture upholstery fabrics. That skirt seriously looks like patio furniture pads. And the cobalt blue clutch looks like a total afterthought, weirdly huge, and strangely shapeless. 

So, am I alone in thinking this year's red carpet was a bit of a snoozer? I want my breath taken away, people!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Jams of the Week

Idol Jam: Kree Harrison

I'm having a hard time getting enthused about any of the Idol contestants so far, but Kree's performance this week gave me chills. American Idol is totally my guilty pleasure!

Dangerous Addiction Jam: Berry Burst Oreos
I bought these for Valentine's Day Wine Club and kinda can't get them out of my head. I have always shied away from different flavors of Oreos — why mess with a good thing? — but I kinda loved these. Obviously, it can't be more than an occasional indulgence, though!

Brit Jam: Alt-J (∆)

I have this running list in my mind of bands I've been meaning to check out. For whatever reason, I only took the time last week to look into Alt-J, a British band that was getting a LOT of attention last year, including winning the Mercury Prize. I don't feel like there's another band I could even compare them to, but I love their unique musicality, especially when they use toy piano!

Netflix Jam: "Chronicle"

Sean and I finally watched "Chronicle" on Netflix last weekend and it was really staggering. I've gotten pretty weary of superhero movies and this one took the whole concept and turned it upside down. I also loved that, because it was such a small independent movie, it was just low-fi enough to not seem completely fake. It also featured my "Friday Night Lights" jam, Michael B. Jordan!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Oscars 2013: What I Would Wear

It's Oscars week! That means somewhere in Hollywood, stylists are trying to convince their clients to make a choice, waiting for emergency expedited packages from Milan, poring over cases of diamonds and preparing to sew actresses into their gowns. It's so much easier choosing a dream fantasy outfit from the comfort of my couch. For the third year in a row, here are my picks for what gowns I'd wear if I were going to the big show.

If I Were... A Nominee's Date

I'd wear this delicate Monique Lhuillier gown, which doesn't threaten to steal the spotlight, but won't look bad if it just happens to grab a little bit of it. 

I'd add a little shine with antique Victorian moonstone and diamond earrings, with delicate little hearts, from Doyle & Doyle.

If I Were ... A Starlet Invited for the First Time

I'd wear something a little edgy, sexy but still glamorous. I might have Jason Wu add some extra layers of tulle to make this night sky dress a bit more dramatic. I would also keep my makeup soft and pretty, with a slightly smoky eye...think Natalie Portman does edgy.

I'd keep the jewelry modern and interesting and — key word — unexpected. A labradorite ring by Mayet would be just the thing.

If I Were ... A Presenter

I'd grab attention with Monique Lhuillier's art deco beaded long-sleeved gown. It's delicate and a little tough at the same time, and would move beautifully. The key, obviously, would be perfect shapewear. 

Taking a cue from Lhuillier's runway, I'd wear modern and eye-catching malachite earrings, maybe wearing my hair in a low bun or chignon.

If I Were ... A Grand Old Dame

If I'm Meryl Streep, who loves long sleeves and has a lovely decolletage, I'd be all over this Valentino gown, which has a hint of sexiness and is almost regal. 

Something so regal deserves beautiful antiques, like these 19th-century pearl and mine-cut diamond earrings.

If I Were ... A First-Time Nominee

I'd soak up every bit of the Hollywood-ness of the experience and go retro with this beautifully cut Zac Posen gown. The color isn't the easiest to pull off, but it could be glorious. I'd trade the goth make-up shown on the runway for sun-kissed bronzes and apricots and maybe do my hair kinda like this:

I'd wear gilded earrings, like these Julius Cohen sparklers from 1st Dibs.

If I were ... Nominated Before, But Favored to Win

Let's say I'm a certain actress with a short gamine haircut, a tiny waist and voice like a bird, I might be willing to take a serious risk on a dress fit for Scarlett O'Hara. The cut and billowy skirt of this Ulyana Sergeenko gown is so classicly beautiful, yet sexy. The color is daring, and it's fun to really make a lesser-known designer's name known in every household. 

I'd pair it with an elegant, unique Victorian diamond necklace and simple makeup.

OR, if I'm a young starlet, also on my second nomination but much more famous this time around and really well-liked by everybody, I might wear this: 

Marchesa is cliche for awards shows, but it's for a reason. They're just the best at girly fantasy drama gowns. I love the cut of this hot pink gown, which makes it look both modern and like classic 1950s Dior or Balenciaga. Plus, pockets? Sign me up.

Fuschia and a teal-green always look magnificent together. And on a young girl, jewelry doesn't need to be fussy or uptight, but should be elegant. This T.B. Starr necklace or something like it would be perfect.

So, what do you think? Last year, at least one of my gown choices ended up on the telecast, but it was on the body of George Clooney's date rather than a nominee. Would any of these land me on your worst dressed list?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Old Bay Pork Tenderloin

I was trying to think of a new spin on pork tenderloin and it came to me — a-ha! — Old Bay. You can't live in the Chesapeake Bay region and not love Old Bay on's just the rule. I decided to make a spice rub and although making recipes up as I go makes me very nervous, this worked out just fine.

I mixed (these are super rough estimates):
  • 1 tablespoon of Old Bay
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
I preheated the oven to 375 and after rubbing the tenderloin with olive oil, I pressed the spice mix into the meat. I then seared it on a grill pan on medium-heat, about 3 minutes on each side. I then popped it into the oven and cooked for about 35 minutes. I ended up slightly overcooking, but it wasn't too bad.

The flavor was great...just spicy enough, but not overpowering. Sean proclaimed it "delicious," so that's a success.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Best v.143

"Networks of Light" by Hana Hillerova, available at 1st Dibs

I've had such a nice, relaxing weekend after such a busy few weeks. I'm gearing up for my Super Bowl — the Oscars — next weekend and also tackling some sewing projects (finally!!). This was such a crazy news week, between the Russian meteor, the disaster cruise and Oscar Pistorius. I can't lie, I spent much of the week catching up on Fashion Week slide shows. Here are my favorite links from the week:

Friday, February 15, 2013

Jams of the Week

Beltway TV Jams: "House of Cards," "Scandal" and "The Americans"

All I seem to watch lately are shows about insane beltway politics. If I wasn't paranoid after "Homeland," these three shows combined might have made me a crazy person. "House of Cards" was a weekend addiction for us and I can't say enough about it. "Scandal" is frothy ridiculousness, but I kinda wish I had Olivia Pope's certainty and conviction. "The Americans" is unsettling, but really intriguing...I'm interested to see where it goes.

Girl Band Jam: "Forever" by Haim

This has been in heavy rotation on my Spotify. I love the '80s reminds me of old Lionel Richie songs. I also love each and every girl's hair in this band....they're all sisters with the last name Haim, putting to bed my theory that the band was an ode to Corey Haim.

Fashion Week Jam (continued): Zac Posen

I'm still pinning the hell out of fashion week! Embarrassing but true: before Pinterest and before added "style boards," I used to literally save every picture I loved to my desktop for a season, just so I could keep all my favorites in one place. Can you imagine how much space that ate up? Ugh, ridiculous. So grateful for Pinterest to store all my favorite inspirations! Zac Posen's collection was pure glamour, and I loved the unique color palette...lots of vibrant orange, delicate lilac and classic tweedy fall fabrics.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Wine Club

Last night I hosted our Galentine's Day wine club. What's Galentine's Day, you ask? Let Leslie Knope explain it to ya:

Here are some snapshots of the night:

I used my heart punch to cut out cardboard hearts that I scattered on the table with heart cards from a deck of playing cards.

We had to bring wines with romantic-looking labels. Here's what we ended up with:
  • The Chocolate Cellar Red Wine: One of the better "chocolate" red wines I've legit tasted and smelled like tootsie rolls, but it was totally in an appealing way, if you can imagine.
  • Monogamy Cabernet Sauvignon: Dark fruits, like plum, cassis, blackberries plus a hint of oak.
  • Flirt red wine: Super drinkable blend of syrah, tempranillo and zinfandel. The bottle said it had hints of baked cherry spice, cherry cola, vanilla and butterscotch...doesn't that sound amazing?!

  • Ooh La La Pinot Grigio: Ashleigh brought this super easy-to-love pinot that was a great starter for the night. Light, but crisp. Super great aroma!
  • Salvatore Principe Malbec: Smooth, with flavors of red raspberries and plums.
  • Fancy Pants Red Wine: For some reason I was having trouble finding a link, but seriously, this was great. It had a great finish and a smooth hint of vanilla that I really enjoyed.

I served my favorite go-to, no-fail dish: Pork tenderloin with coffee spice rub. Seriously, it hasn't failed me once, and everyone was asking for the recipe. I wish I could claim I made it up!

I like to serve the pork with bourbon peach sauce (recipe included with the pork recipe), which helps take the spice down a notch and is really great on its own. I used frozen peaches, and they worked perfectly.

I made these caprese skewers for our New Year's Eve party and they really are so much bang for your buck and effort. It's just: bocconcini (mini fresh mozzarella balls), basil, Italian sausage tortellini and grape tomatoes, all drizzled with balsamic glaze and basil-flavored olive oil. I'm excited we had leftovers because I'm thinking that's lunch tomorrow.

I made crispy parmesan green beans, but crispy is a bit of a stretch. Regardless, they were great. I read several recipes, but it's frankly almost too simple to need a recipe: Preheat oven to 400, lay the french-cut green beans in a single layer on a cookie sheet or baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and grated parmesan and pop it in the oven until the parmesan is browned.

I experimented a bit for dessert. I had seen an idea on Pinterest to make a grilled cheese with brie, strawberries and chocolate ... amazing, right? But I already had puff pastry and heart-shaped cookie cutters and thought I could make some magic happen. It was definitely a mixed result, and rather than recount where I went wrong, I'll just tell you what I will do if I make it again:
  1. Thaw puff pastry in fridge overnight. When ready for use, roll out, cut with cookie cutter and brush with egg wash and sprinkled with sparkling sugar. If you have left yourself room, fold excess up to create something akin to a pizza crust that will help hold ingredients in place. That was the chief problem with my version.
  2. Cook until slightly begins to puff.
  3. Add brie, strawberries and chocolate.
  4. Either bake or broil until the puff pastry is golden brown and the brie and chocolate is just melted and serve.
We had a fun wine club, and it's always fun to decorate for Valentine's Day. I'm not sure what we're doing tonight...I've been promised a surprise! Have a great day, whether you're celebrating romantic love, friendly love or familial love. It's all good, wherever you've got it.