12.31.2012

MOVIE REVIEW: LES MISERABLES


ASHLEY 
I've been hearing bits and pieces of the Les Mis storyline, along with a few of the songs I learned to play on the piano, for years now. But it wasn't enough to put all the pieces together, so I went in to this movie not really knowing much about it except that it takes place in France and portrays characters overcoming significant obstacles. From the moment I saw the trailer, I was completely intrigued and counted down the weeks until it was finally time to see it. The costumes, the makeup, the music, the sets and the acting completely blew me away. I've heard many people complain about how some of the actors couldn't really sing, but I was so involved in the film that I didn't really notice what I feel were minor shortcomings that didn't take away from the film at all. Sure, many of the actors aren't broadway singers, but I think that was the point. They were there to act and that they did in the most unbelievable way. Especially Anne Hathaway. I was disappointed that she was only in the movie for a short period of time, but her performance completely blew me away. Like shook me to the very core. Oscar worthy for sure. Emotionally, I felt like I was right there with the characters and although I didn't officially cry, there were tears in my eyes and the biggest lump ever in my throat as I watched one particular scene. The movie did feel slightly lengthy during a few minor scenes, but I understand why it was the length it was. If only there were intermissions at movie theaters! If you haven't seen it and you're still planning to make a trip to the theater, I wholeheartedly recommend it. Just remember not to drink to much soda while watching it (: (5/5)  

JEFF 
This is a movie about singing. I was thinking it would be like the film Mamma Mia with a major emphasis on the music, but not singing every word. I didn't know anything about the story, so I went in blind. Having said that, I think it was well worth it. If finances were different, I think I would see many Broadway musicals, including this one. I'd have to say most of the actors did a stellar job. There were many moments during the movie where I thought the actors were the actual characters themselves because it was so believable. I can't give an educated opinion regarding the singing because frankly, I was raised with deaf parents and music was not a big part of my upbringing. But for the most part I thought the actors could sing well enough to not destroy the performances. I thoroughly enjoyed the sets. It felt so real. From a cinematography standpoint I thought it was done very well. Overall, it was a great movie and I would recommend it for people who enjoy musical theater. It's not necessarily your typical action packed guy movie, but I was entertained and I will definitely watch it again. (5/5)  

Pin It

12.24.2012

GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST

We had big plans for our first Autumn Grey Christmas blog post. It was going to be all about how we celebrate Christmas, SoCal style. Because around here, it's not uncommon for it to be in the 70's on Christmas day. But then the weather threw us a little curveball and as of a few weeks ago, it has actually been cold around here! Not the kind of cold most are used to at Christmas time, but cold by Orange County standards. And we're totally embracing it. So we've decided to save that post for next Christmas.

So until then, we want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! Here is a picture of us picking out our very first Christmas tree as a married couple...the ghosts of Christmas past!






Pin It

12.20.2012

BEAUTY: HOW TO WEAR RED LIPSTICK

I've always been a girl who loves makeup and when I turned 18, I started paying regular visits to the MAC counter at Nordstrom. I've spent years acquiring brushes, shadows and glosses and getting my makeup done periodically when I wanted a change in my day-to-day look. But it wasn't until last year that I finally decided I wanted to take the plunge and start wearing red lipstick on occasion, particularly for the holidays. I knew it would be impossible to select the right shade for my skin tone by myself, so I did what I always do when I'm in need of color advice. I paid a visit to my local MAC counter.

I ended up with a shade of red I really liked, wore it to a holiday party and then quickly realized how high maintenance it was to wear. I felt like I was constantly needing to check a mirror to make sure it still looked right and constantly having to reapply it. Not to mention having to worry it was on my teeth or looking too cakey because I reapplied one too many times. I've since learned a few tricks of the trade about how to make it last longer than 20 minutes and how to keep it from looking too dry. And that's exactly what I'm sharing with you today, just in case you want to take the plunge and feel extra festive for the holidays this year.

Here are the steps I go through when applying red lipstick:

1. Make sure your lips are properly exfoliated so your lipstick goes on smooth. I do this by lightly brushing my lips with a clean toothbrush from time to time. 

2. Always start with a lip primer. I apply the primer outside my lip line as well and allow it to dry for a few seconds.

3. Line your lips with a nude colored liner and once you've lined the outside, fill in the inside of your lips as well, just like you would a lipstick. Nude liner is the one tool I was missing when I first started wearing red lipstick and it has made all the difference!

4. Now it's time to apply your go-to shade of red lipstick!

5. The finishing application step that I didn't learn until recently is that it's always good to apply a bit of lip balm after you've applied your lipstick. It adds a bit of shine and keeps it from getting too dry and cakey. I usually apply it right in the center.

6. Lastly, and this is going to sound so weird, but trust me on this one. To avoid having lipstick end up on my teeth, I use a trick I learned about years and years ago. After your lipstick is on, put two fingers in your mouth and just like you would when eating a popsicle, pull them out. You'll probably notice lipstick your fingers when you do this. This is what would've ended up on your teeth. You're welcome. I've always heard that putting vaseline on your teeth prevents lipstick from ending up on them but I have yet to try it. 

So if you're sold on the idea of wearing red lipstick, here is a list of the products I use. #1 and #4 are universal when it comes to skin tone, but be sure to ask your local makeup professional for a recommendation when it comes the actual shade of red you as your skin tone determines what shade will compliment you the best. For example, women with fair skin tend to look best in reds with blue tones and those with olive skin tones benefit from orange or tomato colored reds.




Pin It

12.19.2012

CUISINE: CARAMELIZED BROWN BUTTER RICE KRISPIE TREATS

Rice Krispie Treats are one of my all time favorite treats. When I was kid, my mom would always make or buy them from the store and the majority of the time, I would get in trouble for eating too many. I came across this recipe for Caramelized Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats which uses exactly the same ingredients as your typical recipe, but with a twist. I'm not a big fan of adding extras like M&M's to my Rice Krispie Treats, even though Ash always wants to mix them in, so this recipe is the perfect variation of the recipe we all know and love while still keeping things classic.

. 4 ounces salted butter 
. 5.25 ounces bag of marshmallows (1/2 bag)
. 6 ounces Rice Krispies Cereal (1/2 of 12 ounce box)

1. In large pot melt butter over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown. Make sure you watch closely and stir often.

2. When butter is browned evenly, stir in marshmallows. Melt and cook, stirring often, until mixture turns pale brown, then stir constantly until browned but not dark, this will take 3 to 5 mins. 

3. Turn off heat, add rice krispies and mix well. Scrape into a pan already lined with parchment paper or wax paper and press down lightly. Let cool and cut into squares. 



Pin It

12.17.2012

CRAFT: HOLIDAY-ESQUE HEADBANDS

Today's date marks my official half birthday. It also marks the date the series finale of Gossip Girl will air on TV. Both aren't very happy occasions (what will I do without all that Gossip Girl fashion inspiration?!), but in the spirit of making lemonade, I'm celebrating by showing you how to make some holiday-esque headbands. Headbands are one of mine and Blair Waldorf's favorite accessories and for me, I feel like they can take an otherwise ordinary ensemble to the next level. These are perfect to wear to holiday parties, or if you're feeling extra giving, as a gift to any fellow hipster friends.



MATERIALS:
. sewing needle and thread
. ribbon
. elastic
. scissors
. glue gun
. felt
. flat sequin string
. trim



INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Take your trim of choice and measure it around your head according to how you like it to fit and cut it 1-2 inches too short to allow room for your elastic. I don't like my headbands too tight or they give me a headache so I keep it just loose enough to fit comfortably on my head without falling off.
2. Measure and cut 1-2 inches of elastic.
3. Using your needle and thread, hand stitch each end of the trim to each end of the elastic, making sure not to twist it in the process. 
4. If you are okay with how the trim looks when sewn to the elastic, then you're good to go! If you're a perfectionist like me and you want to hide the part of the headband you've sewn together, cut a small amount of ribbon and using the hot glue, wrap it around the area where the elastic meets the trim (see image below)

*To create double stranded headband on the right, just measure 2 pieces of trim instead of 1 and sew both of them to the elastic. I stitched both of them, pretty much one right on top of the other and at the same time so I didn't have to do double the sewing. Me and hand stitching only hang out when we have to.


I found a tutorial for this type of sequin heart headband and although it's geared towards babies or little girls, I loved it so much I decided to make one for myself. I made the heart quite a bit smaller just to make it feel a bit more adult friendly. It might still look like a little girl's headband, but what can I say, I like to feel youthful.  

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Measure elastic around your head and cut it 1 inch short.
2. Trace 2 identical hearts (or whatever shape you'd like) on the felt and cut them out.
3. Glue the ends of the elastic to one heart, making sure not to twist it in the process.
4. Glue the 2nd heart on top of the 1st, making a sort of heart sandwich. This will cover where the elastic is secured to the 1st heart. 
5. Working in small sections, begin applying a small amount of glue to the outer edges of the heart and secure the sequin string. Without cutting the sequin string, continuing working your way in and around the outline of the heart in sections making sure you cover all the felt until you reach the middle of the heart. 

*Be patient while completing step #5. The glue gets messy and you'll likely lightly burn yourself a few times when securing the sequin string to the glue. Or maybe that's just me. Whatever the case, I promise it will be worth it in the end!

6. Once you've reached the middle of the heart and secured the last sequin along the string, cut the remaining unsecured sequin string.

Pin It

12.14.2012

BEAUTY: HAIR PRODUCTS

After my last style post, I had a few people ask me about my hair and what products I use, so today's post is going to be dedicated to all things hair products! My obsession with styling my hair started at a very young age. I grew up watching my grandma and mom get their hair done at the salon and even got my first and only perm at age 8. I totally blame my mom for that. I started coloring my hair at the ripe old age of 13 with a few blonde highlights and I've been coloring my hair ever since. I also blame my mom for that as well, but it's a good thing because my natural color is what you could call "dishwater blonde". It's a very light ashy brown with blonde highlights and folks, it ain't pretty.

But I digress...this post is about my current product lineup so let's jump in! Allow me to preface my list with the idea that the products I use always vary depending on the current condition of my hair. I get quite a few recommendations from my fabulous stylist and they are always spot on. Here is a breakdown of the hair products I'm currently using.



SHAMPOO & CONDITIONER:
1. Redken Smooth Down shampoo
2. Redken Smooth Down conditioner
3. Joico K-Pak Revitaluxe - this is my deep conditioning treatment that I use either 1x/week or 1x/every other week in place of my Redken conditioner, depending on how dry my hair feels.

BEFORE HEAT STYLING:
4. Pravana Density Extreme Volumizing Foam - I use this after I wash my hair and after I've towel dried it for 10-15 minutes.
5. Rusk Deep Shine Oil - I use this after I apply the volumizing foam while my hair is still damp and before I blow dry and style it. It helps protect it from some of the damage that comes from heat styling your hair. I also use this product after I flat iron my hair before I apply hair spray and finishing spray.

AFTER HEAT STYLING:
6. Paul Mitchell Super Clean Light Finishing Spray - It's always nice to add a bit of hair spray after heat styling just to keep things in place. This is a pretty light hair spray but I like it because I can still run my fingers or a brush through my hair after using it. I've been using Paul Mitchell hair spray for years. 
7. KMS Hair Play Dry Touch-Up - My stylist uses this on my hair as a final finishing step after styling and I finally caved and bought it. I use this spray as a last step after I've styled my hair but I also love to use it when I wear my hair in a bun. It adds just the right amount of shine, especially if you've used a heavier hair spray to keep things in place. 

AS NEEDED:
8. Suave Dry Shampoo - This product is my BFF in between washes or when I want to add extra volume, it's incredibly inexpensive and it smells good. I'm pretty picky when it comes to how my hair products smell and after trying a few different dry shampoos, I decided this one is my absolute favorite. AND they sell it at Target. Added bonus. 
9. Paul Mitchell Flexible Style Sculpting Foam - I used to think this was a regular mousse and I used it for years thinking it was helping to volumize my hair. Then I realized it was actually a conditioning foam and it's pretty much the only product that helps my hair when it's filled with static or feels really dry. I use it as needed and as per my usual requirement, it smells absolutely amazing.  

*I always use pomade every once in a while to tame flyways, but I don't have any brand recommendations for that. Pretty much any pomade will do, just be careful how much you apply. A little goes a long way!

Pin It

12.12.2012

CUISINE: CARAMELIZED ONION & GOAT CHEESE BREAD

Tis the season for attending and hosting holiday parties! This month I wanted to come up with a recipe that could be useful to both serve and eat at a party. I thought about making a dessert, perhaps even something with peppermint despite the fact that I don't care for anything with mint flavoring, but I decided that an appetizer may be the road less traveled as there are so many desserts being shared this time of year. This recipe for caramelized onion and goat cheese bread caught my eye because it seemed like it would not only be tasty, but also easy to eat.

This appetizer is both savory and sweet. The goat cheese adds a bit of tang, while the caramelized onions and honey balance out the more savory flavors in the bread. And right at the end you get a nice crunchy texture with the toasted pecans and the edges of the bread. One word of caution, this recipe tastes the best when fresh out of the oven and might not travel well. If you're bringing this dish to a party, you can make everything ahead of time, wait to put it in the oven until you've arrived at your destination and then bake it and add the honey and pecan toppings to it when you're ready to serve. Providing there's an oven at your destination of course.



. 1/2 cup chopped pecans
. 1 tbsp butter
. 1 medium size sweet onion, halved & thinly sliced
. 1/2 tsp sugar
. 1 large garlic clove, minced
. 1 (10.5 oz.) goat cheese log
. 1/8 tsp salt
. 1/8 tsp pepper
. 1 (8.5 oz.) loaf French bread baguette, cut in half lengthwise
. 1/2 cup honey

1. Place pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet.
2. Bake at 350º for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly toasted.
3. Melt butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium high heat. Stir in onion and sugar. Cook, stirring often, 20-25 minutes or until onions are carmel colored. Add garlic, cook 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 30 mins.
4. Process onion mixture, goat cheese, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor 30 to 45 seconds or until ingredients are well blended and smooth. Spread mixture evenly onto cut sides of bread. Place on a baking sheet.
5. Bake at 375º for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated and edges are lightly browned. Cut into 1-inch slices. Drizzle evenly with honey and sprinkle with toasted pecans.

Pin It

12.10.2012

O CHRISTMAS TREE

It's been a few years since we've had a Christmas tree in our home at Christmas time. The first time we didn't get a Christmas tree, Jeff had just been laid off and money was tight. The next year, money was still tight, but my newfound allergies also came into play and because we were going to spend Christmas morning at my parents home, we opted to again, not a get a tree. This year, as luck would have it, money is still tight, but we were determined to get a Christmas tree. So we paid a visit to the Christmas tree lot for the first time in 3 years and found the perfect tree at a price we couldn't refuse.

The next day as we were doing some cleaning around the house, Jeff decided to take our bags of recycled goods to be recycled, and this time, he decided to try out a different recycling center. We normally don't get much more than $20 for the cans and bottles we recycle and I often question why we go to the trouble of letting them collect in the backyard, but Jeff always insists. Perhaps he really is trying to save the environment! As he was leaving the recycling center, he called me and said "Guess how much we got this time! You'll never believe it." Come to find out, the amount he got for our recycled goods was almost exactly the amount we paid for our Christmas tree this year.

I know in my heart that it isn't coincidence at all and when I heard that I felt extremely blessed. It's so easy to get caught up in the commercialization of Christmas. In all the gifts you feel like you have to buy and planning the perfect outfits for the holiday parties you're attending. We've had some pretty tough Christmases, especially over the past few years and every year when the holidays roll around, I always seem to get caught up in thinking about all the things I don't have that I think I should have. And it always makes me just want to skip this holiday altogether because it feels more sorrowful than joyful. And then somehow, when I least expect it, I'm always reminded of what the Christmas season is all about.

While at the Christmas tree lot this week, Jeff was busy securing our newly purchased tree to the top of the car and this feeling of gratitude came over me. I imagined how years from now, we'd look back on these times and cherish them. That someday we'd be able to say that even though we didn't have a lot of money, we had each other and we understood the meaning behind the Christmas season. I'm mildly allergic to our noble fur, but every time I see it in our living room, it reminds me that I can still feel joy during the Christmas season, even in the midst of life's trials. And that this year, I can be especially grateful for sinus rinsing kits.



Pin It

12.07.2012

STYLE: MIXING STYLE GENRES

When it comes to showing skin, I dress pretty conservatively. So when I find a knee length skirt that is both flattering in terms of fit and in my price range, I snatch it up quickly. If you haven't gone shopping for knee length skirts lately, especially pencil skirts, you'd be surprised how hard they are to find. Or at least that's the case in SoCal. When I saw this particular knee length skirt while shopping one afternoon, the length immediately caught my attention, but it was a little more bold in terms of color than I'm used to. Undecided, I asked Jeff what he thought and as luck would have it, he said he really liked the print. So I decided to be open minded and try it on. The longer I had it on in the fitting room, the more I liked it, so I purchased it and it sat in my closet for a while.

The longer it sat there the more I marinated about what kind of shirt I'd pair with it. My initial starting point with color is black, but for fear of looking like a bumble bee and having the dark blue in the skirt start to look black, I strayed away. I thought about my lighter blue chambray shirt, but because I wanted to tuck it in, I quickly realized it would be too bulky underneath the thin material of the skirt. So I started perusing my closet for any solid color shirt I thought might match. And unexpectedly I ended up with a cream colored sheer shirt in a completely different style genre than the bold print on the skirt. Sometimes you don't know if you really like something until you try it on and when I did, I was pleasantly surprised. 

It wasn't something I would normally put together, but that's what I liked about it. The style of the shirt is both feminine and classic, two words that I typically use to describe my style as a whole, but because it's both a neutral and a solid color, it helps to balance out the bold print and color of the skirt. I'm always looking for ways to diversify my wardrobe and mixing pieces in different styles genres helps me to do that. Even when it does require me to change my shirt 5 different times before I actually land on the winning look.  



Pin It

12.05.2012

CHRISTMAS MUSIC PLAYLIST

Music is a huge part of my life and when it comes to the holiday season, I feel like I'm missing out on something if I'm not listening to Christmas music. Some people start listening to it before Thanksgiving, but I'm a stickler on waiting until after Thanksgiving, both to decorate and listen to Christmas music. Just like my holiday decor, I always think I have a lot of Christmas music until I start perusing through it. And then I immediately feel like I need more.

Here's a playlist of some of my favorites from my Christmas music collection as a whole. There are multiple Frank Sinatra and Faith Hill songs on there and that's because I absolutely love their Christmas albums. You'll also notice an N'Sync song on there from the N'Sync Christmas album I got when I was in high school. Don't hate! I'm also really interested in picking up a copy of Michael Buble Christmas album as well. If there's any Christmas music or albums out there you absolutely love that I haven't included on this playlist, please leave a comment and let me know! I'm always on the hunt for more music.

Pin It

12.03.2012

CRAFT: MINI TREES

I always think I have a billion decorations for every holiday and then when we actually bring them out of storage every year, I always realize that I want more. Such was the case when we unearthed the dusty box of Christmas decor this year. We haven't purchased our tree yet, so perhaps that's why I feel our home is decorated enough just yet. A few years ago I developed the most heinous allergies and I'm still not sure if pine is one of them. Any day now we're going to have to finally make a decision between a real tree like the kind I grew up decorating every year, or purchasing our first faux tree. But that's another post for another day.

In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to do some Christmas decor crafting and ironically, I found the most adorable mini Christmas tree crafts on Pinterest, the source of all modern craft creativity. The Christmas decor in our home has a very specific theme (I like to call it a winter wonderland style), so I was pretty selective when it came to color and material. I chose three different styles of trees and tried to keep with a metallic colored theme. We all know how much I love the color gold, so you know I had to include that in there somehow! Here's what Jeff and I ended up with while crafting our mini trees over the weekend, starting with the first 2 types of trees.



 MATERIALS:
. tinsel
. thin yarn (it doesn't necessarily have to be thin, I was just going for a specific non-yarny look)
. glue gun
. glue stick
. scissors
. thin cardboard/poster board to create the cone shape of the tree
(I've seen people use cereal boxes, but we ended up using an old gift box and a Krispy Kreme box!)



INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Create a cone shape in whatever size you desire using the cardboard type material you've chosen. Where possible, make sure the side with the label (if applicable) is on the inside of the cone so you can't see it.
2. Once you've formed your cardboard into the size and shape you want, secure it with a glue gun. I also used a stapler at one point because it seemed rational. Whatever works for you, just as long as it's secure and not too bulky!
3. Select the material you want to use (tinsel, yarn, etc.) and starting at the base of the cone, secure the material with a glue gun. Then begin wrapping the material around the cone, being careful to make sure the cardboard surface is covered as you go. If you don't quite cover all of it, that's okay. You can go over it later. But the better you cover it in the beginning, the easier your life will be.
4. Use the glue gun every so often to make sure the material your using is secure, especially towards the tip of the cone where it becomes much more narrow.
5. There isn't a perfect way to cover the tip of the cone, so use your imagination on this one. With the yarn tree, I ended up cutting the yarn strand just slightly longer than the top of the tree, using the glue gun on the very top and lightly pushing it through.
6. If needed, use more material to cover the spots you might have missed and pay special attention to the base of the tree.


The 3rd type of tree was the easiest to make, providing you have the right materials. We initially used wire from the jewelry making section of the craft store, but after shaping it into the tree shape, we realized it was too flimsy. So we headed to Home Depot and picked up 6 ft of copper wire. We ended up having to cut off about 1/2 a foot of it at the end, but it all depends on how wide and how tall you want your tree. In the original tutorial I saw of this tree, they used a foam cone to shape it. Jeff assured me he'd be able to use one of our cardboard cones to shape it, but soon realized the copper wire was too strong for the cardboard. So he ended up using odds and ends around the house, including a Martinelli's bottle from Thanksgiving.  


Pin It