Shopping Bags: Cole Haan Shoes

Call me late to the party, but I just realized that Cole Haan is taking some risks with their shoe collection.  Always known for quality and classic style, the latest offerings are edgier, updated versions of timeless silhouettes.  The delicious color combinations and design details manage to be both sophisicated and quirky. 
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Delicious Dishes, Microwave Edition: Salt and Pepper Parmesan Popcorn

Over the past decade there have been reports about the PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) in pre-packaged popcorn bags.  PFOA has been identified by The Environmental Protection Agency as a “likely carcinogen.” In addition, the chemical used to give popcorn its tasty butter flavor, called diacetyl, produces fumes that could be harmful to your respiratory system, but is deemed "safe" by the FDA (yeah right).  Why bother with all those potential side effects when you can make your own microwave popcorn in about the same time it takes to make the pre-packaged stuff?  Besides being a healthier alternative, you are not limited to the flavors available on the shelf.  There are limitless flavoring options when you make it yourself. 
1.  Pour 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels in a brown paper bag.  
2.  Fold the bag and place it in the microwave.
3.  Set the microwave for 5 minutes.
4.  Once kernels have begun to pop listen for popping to slow down to one second between pops.
5.  Pour popcorn in a large bowl, Toss with olive oil to lightly coat the majority of the popcorn.
6.  Sprinkle salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese to taste.
You may want to toss the popcorn after the first round of seasoning and repeat the process depending on how much flavor you want.
 ENTERTAINING TIP:  For your next party, set up a poporn bar with various seasonings for your guests to add to a preportioned bag, box, or bowl, of unseasoned popcorn.


Trendspotting: Galaxy Print

Beautiful variations of this print have been showing up everywhere lately.  The appeal, at least for me, is that the striated colors remind me of tie-dye, but with way more sophistication.
Our roving style reporter, Kristabel, spotted this chic chick shopping in a pair of cosmically cute leggings. She makes the look work by keeping the silhouettes of the top and sandals very simple.
The trend is even making its way to your fingertips!  Check out the DIY here.


Trendspotting: How to Shop for Trendy Items, Part Deux

Ok, so here are a few ways that I will be wearing the floral skinny jeans I scored for under $12 at Target.  First up, I paired the jeans with a white blazer, black tee, and sparkly statement necklace.  This look would work well for a dinner date, or any other dressy casual event.

Next up, a funkier look. The shoe contrasts beautifully against the black and white pants.  I think the silky tunic plays well with the long necklace and gives the look an easy glamour.

Finally, a bit of playful pattern mixing.  The gray and white striped shirt compliments the floral pattern and the yellow shoe adds to the fun, casual feel of the outfit.


Fave 5: Oatmeal Flavor Combinations

The healthier option for oatmeal is old fashioned oats.  Why?  Because old fashioned oats are minimally processed, which means they require more work for the carbohydrate to be absorbed by the body, which gives you a sustained energy level.  Instant oatmeal, which adds sugar, artificial colors and flavorings, is highly processed.  This processing causes the oats to break down very rapidly into sugar in your body causing an energy spike.  Another reason to love old fashioned oatmeal is because it's a blank canvas to be creative with flavors.  Just follow the package directions for microwave cooking. In about five minutes, you can create a great one-bowl breakfast full of fiber, protein, and complex carbs!  Here are my five favorite oatmeal flavor combinations.

1.  Pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and pecans.  Pumpkin pie for breakfast anyone?  Well not quite, but I like to have the flavors of my favorite desserts at breakfast as often as possible.  You can also add some stevia, agave nectar, or artificial sweetner to taste.
2.  Peanut butter and cocoa.  Peanut butter and chocolate are a classic combination, you may not have thought about putting in your oatmeal before, but its high time you did, because it's delish!
3.  Plain greek yogurt and strawberries.  If you like strawberries and cream instant oatmeal this is the combo for you.  You will probably need to add your sweetner of choice to this one as well.
4.  Sweet & Spicy tea, an apple, and almonds.  This is a recent favorite.  The tea should be steeped ahead of time and used instead of water while cooking the oats.  Then add thinly sliced apples to the oatmeal after cooking and top with sliced almonds.
5.  Banana and walnuts.  Kinda like banana bread for breakfast; you can also add cinnamon and nutmeg to increase the similarity.


Trendspotting: How To Shop for Trendy Items

Have you ever seen an item of clothing that you liked, but considered trendy, and were unsure if you should buy it?  Fashion trends rip the runway several times per year.  Unless you're a full-time fashionista, with a baller budget, It's hard to keep up with it all.  If you want to stay knowlegeable about trends, without much time/money investment, utilize magazines and fashion websites (like this one).  Magazine editors do a great job of breaking down the trends that they spot at the seasonal runway shows. Purchase your favorite fashion magazine when they publish their hot trend issue at the start of each new season; it will save you time and money.  An even more affordable option would be to subscribe to fashion blogs, and have the information delivered to your in-box. The printed pants above were from Rebecca Minkoff's Spring 2013 show, which was held in September of 2012. 
 Another way to keep up with trends is by noticing what is being worn by celebrities, and what items are carried in trend-driven junior clothing departments. For example, I saw Heidi Klum wearing a black and white printed jean on Project Runway and loved the look on her.  This inspired me to keep an eye out for a similar pair. Within the same week, I saw these jeans advertised on Target's website,  but I still wasn't sure that I wanted to spend any money on such a trendy item...UNTIL!

I saw them a few weeks later (while shopping for toothpaste or something, of course) for $11.48!!  I made my decision to buy these jeans after they met all my requirements for purchasing a trendy item; 1. I loved the print,  2.  The price was right,  3.They flattered my figure.  For the budget concious, it's best to wait until at least the beginning of a new season to get the best possible price on those items that you feel kinda push you out of your fashion comfort zone.  For example, retailers purchase (and sometimes stock) spring trends in the winter, so by the time the actual spring months arrive, they have to mark clothing down in order to make room for merchandise they are purchasing for the upcoming seasons.

In part two of this article, I'll show you how I plan to incorporate these pants into my spring wardrobe.


Embellishments: Bold Gold Necklaces

Statement necklaces aren't really a trend, at least not for me; I've always loved chunky, funky pieces of jewelry and will continue to wear them even if they are no longer considered "in". Currently, gold is taking center stage as the heavy metal of choice with a ton of gorgeous examples seen on the runway.  This wearable art needs very little other adornment.  Keep your outfit simple and let this wearable art do what it was designed to do.

You can rely on prominent fashionistas to take a look to the streets.  Here we have bold gold examples that span from the sidewalk, to the White House. Take your style cues from these lovely ladies and layer multiples of the same or similar chains for a more classic look.



Delicious Dishes: Coconut Banana Protein Latte

As a coffee addict lover and health and fitness nut enthusiast, I've been on the lookout for a product that combines protein and coffee.  There are a few on the market but they either lack an authentic coffee flavor or are laden with sugar.  What's a girl to do?  Make her own!  The recipe was inspired by my trainer. He often drinks a gross unique combination of raw oats, coffee, protein powder and water, as a snack.  Since I was already looking for a coffee/protein combo, I took his idea and made it more suitable for human consumption (just kidding C, (not really)). 

I made my own coconut milk by blending fresh coconut with water, and then straining it, but you can just use store bought coconut milk, no biggie! Add a scoop of Smooth Banana Dymatize Elite protein powder in a blender with eight ounces of cold black coffee and blend until smooth. Pour in a large glass filled with ice. Add coconut milk to desired taste. Shake the coconut milk before pouring it in the glass for a mock foam/crema.  This is a delicious, non-dairy, gluten free, low sugar, low calorie alternative to any ready-made protein coffee drink on the market.  Enjoy!


Sights & Sounds: Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival (Miami Gardens, Florida)

The Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival was a two day event that featured live performances by artists such as Earth, Wind, and Fire, Charlie Wilson, Monica, Neyo, Fantasia, and many others. 
In addition to the fabulous live music, there were many vendors selling unique fashions and accessories. 


Shopping Bags: Walgreens Goes Upscale

Wait, am I in Ulta--Wait, no it's a sushi bar--A grocery store--a liquor store--hey!  I can get toilet paper here and fill my prescription?  WHAT IS THIS MAGICAL PLACE...Walgreens? No, it couldn't--Wow!
Walgreens has been revamping it's image for a few years now.  It's always been a place to get a prescription filled, and find cosmetics, and other health and beauty essentials, but I have never noticed the decor or given the food a second thought.  This local Walgreens, shot by the fabulous Kristabel, is bright, modern, ultra-hip, and has expanded food offerings that are, dare I say, gourmet! 


Soul Inspired: Real Love (Part Three)

Who among us can exemplify Christ-like love toward others? For the most part, in navigating the hustle and bustle of our lives, we are consumed with self. A self-absorbed, self-centered society, such as we live in, can leave little room for caring for or about others. Yet, scripture clearly states that we are to love others (our neighbor) as ourselves.
Jesus Christ has a great compassion for mankind. In chapter 9 of the Book of Matthew (v.36) Matthew writes, "When He waw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." In my early years as a Christian, I realized I lacked a heart-felt concern for mankind. I prayed, asking God to give me a burden for others. I asked, "Where is mine?" His answer to me was, "Pray! The more one prays, the more he will feel the burden himself."
Have compassion toward others; pray for them. Love your neighbor (others) as yourself.
And to God be the glory!


Frock Star: Ikat Maxi Dress

Spring is in the air! The best way to welcome the season is with a colorful, versatile print dress.  This gorgeous number is definitely the star of the show, but a well-dressed woman knows that the supporting players are just as important.  Choose accessories that complement the details of the dress, but don't detract from them.  For casual events, a denim jacket and flat sandals with hardware detail is simple, yet chic. Roll up the sleeves of the denim jacket and add a watch or unique bracelet (or both!) to accent the gorgeous detail at the neckline.  For a dressier occasion, a modern, sculptural  3/4 sleeve jacket in complementary tones and a gorgeous peep-toe bootie are a great combination with the earthy, tribal print.