Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry & Bright

Whether you’re expecting a white Christmas or one that’s 80 degrees and sunny, may you and your family enjoy a merry, magical holiday!



We can't wait to have Christmas Eve dinner with friends, listen to our favorite carols and make gingerbread pancakes tomorrow morning. Joyous wishes to you and yours! 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Five: Holiday Edition

Happy holidays, everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying this most wonderful time of the year. Here to kick off the weekend are five things that are making me smile.


1. It’s the thoughtful kindness of friends that makes the holiday season so special. Many thanks to my sweet friend Diana of The World Around Her for these fun surprises.


2. I may be biased, but are these two kitties cute or what?!


(via Ulta Beauty) 

3. What’s up, Santa? Just in case you need a few last-minute ideas, Conair’s Curl Secret looks like the perfect stocking stuffer.


(via Bon Appetit)

4. There’s nothing like whipping up a tasty batch of latkes in honor of Hanukkah (even though I don't actually celebrate).


(via E! Online) 

5. I finally saw Mockingjay on Wednesday and loved every minute! Next up, Annie and Into the Woods

What's making you happy this week? 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Let It Sing

Need a quick Monday pick-me-up? “Let It Sing,” which I discovered during a symphony concert starring Sutton Foster and Joshua Henry, is fun, inspiring and incredibly uplifting. 



“You’ve got to give yourself a reason to rejoice, for the music you make counts for everything.”

– “Let It Sing” from the Broadway musical Violet

I’ve been playing it nonstop on iTunes throughout the past week, and plan to keep it close at hand to help ward off any occasional feelings of discouragement. Hopefully, it will compel you, too, to go out and make the most of your day, week and life. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Friends-giving, Sutton Foster & Two Very Cute Kitties

From sharing a feast with two dear friends to seeing the incomparable Sutton Foster bring down the house at DC’s Kennedy Center, my Thanksgiving weekend was filled with food, fun and, of course, two very cuddly kitties. Best of all, it’s now officially the Christmas season, to be celebrated with many a carol, roll of giftwrap and homemade cookie.

As usual, my low-key holiday weekend kicked off Wednesday night with a big glass of wine and an annual viewing of Gone With the Wind. A lovely light snow  our first of the season  also fell that day. Then, Thursday morning, it was time to head into the kitchen to help my husband prepare a Thanksgiving meal of turkey, gravy, salad, my Nana’s mashed potatoes, his Nana’s stuffing and some delish cranberry-lemon relish. Our friends also contributed rolls, a green bean casserole and two pies, making for a fabulous meal in our new home.

(For those who are wondering, I gave up my pescetarian diet a few months back after struggling with low energy levels and weight gain. Luckily, I’ve been feeling better ever since.)

   
Friday found us doing some early-morning shopping, then later heading to the Kennedy Center, where Tony-winner Sutton Foster performed alongside the National Symphony Orchestra and special guest artists Megan McGinnis and Joshua Henry. While the two-hour show didn't seem nearly long enough, it was by far one of the most awesome symphony concerts I’ve seen.

Looks like I'll be re-cleaning the tablecloth and mats! 
Finally, while Steve worked on homework Saturday and Sunday, I enjoyed putting up decorations and snuggling with our kitties, who both tried to “help” deck the halls by batting at ornaments and lounging on top of stockings. All in all, it was a wonderful start to the holiday season! 

How was your Thanksgiving? Are you ready for the holidays?  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Help Animals This Giving Tuesday

Thanks to the SPCA of Northern Virginia, my husband and I were able to give our sweet kitties a loving forever home. Please support SPCA NoVa in their effort to raise $15,000 this Giving Tuesday by making a donation and helping spread the word about the wonderful work they do.  


Many homeless dogs and cats will thank you! 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

And it is. Like, 40 degrees as I type this.

OK, so maybe that isn’t really all that cold, but this past week has felt unseasonably chilly, with days in the 30s and nights dipping down into the 20s. I know that’s still nothing compared to the nightmare folks in Buffalo and other parts of the country are dealing with right now, but cold weather of any kind just leaves me longing for spring, even before winter officially begins.

Luckily, colder temps at least mean the holidays are on the way, which is something I do love and look forward to every year. Already, I’ve started listening to Christmas carols while preparing to host my first ever Friendsgiving, put up our tree and shop for gifts. Idina Menzel and Michael Buble’s cute take on a classic favorite has especially made me smile. 


Are you getting into the holiday spirit? Is it cold outside yet? 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

So Long, Dry Skin: My Favorite Fall Moisturizer

Along with bringing falling leaves and inevitably cooler temps, autumn marks my skin’s annual transition from combination-oily to combination-dry. In the past, it was always a time I’d dread, (at least beauty-wise), especially since any moisturizer I’d try, any time of year, would ultimately irritate my skin and make me break out.

Luckily, that all changed this past summer after I won a Neutrogena giveaway hosted by (my fave!) beauty blogger Elle Sees. Along with other fun items like makeup-removing wipes, a color stick and mascara, my prize pack included a full-sized bottle of Oil-Free Moisture lotion for combination skin.


Though I was initially a bit skeptical following so many bad experiences with moisturizers, I started using it right away and am happy to say that it’s been working great ever since, even now, as the air (and my skin) get drier. Along with having noticeably smoother, brighter skin, I’ve also been breaking out far less. Hopefully, I’ll be able to stick with this formula all winter long, using more if needed as the days become ever more frigid.
   
How do you keep your skin from becoming too dry during the fall and winter months? Do you have a favorite moisturizer or other skin product you swear by? 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

On the Move

Aside from getting the flu or being forced to eat raw onions, there are few things I hate more than moving. From the boxes and pack-it-up chaos to the actual, you know, moving part, it’s an organizational nut’s worst nightmare, especially when you skip the professionals and decide to do it yourself. Which, by the way, I swore we wouldn’t be doing this time.

Well, guess what? After getting moving company estimates we thought were much too high based on the distance, our furniture and more, my husband and I decided to bite the bullet and go the DIY route once again, transporting smaller items in our SUV ahead of time and, yes, renting a Penske truck for the bigger pieces.

A sneak peek inside our new home!
As we pulled into the lot two Saturdays ago, I tried to keep my spirits up and the impending dread in check. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all, right? RIGHT! One of Steve’s coworkers very graciously helped him with the heavy pieces, while I held doors, carried smaller items and cheered the guys on. A couple short hours later, we were done, making it our smoothest, fastest and easiest move ever.

Since then, we’ve made great progress setting up and arranging things inside the new house, thankful that nothing was damaged, lost or broken. Best of all, we can put the money we saved toward other new-home necessities and can also rest easy knowing that we won’t be moving again for a very long time!

What are some of your tips for ensuring a smooth move? 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Help Protect Cats On Halloween

Happy Halloween, everyone! As a cat lover and mom, I just want to remind everyone to please help keep your own cats and others safe from any evil people who might want to do them harm tomorrow night.

While I love the candy and pumpkin decorating that accompanies this holiday, cat cruelty breaks my heart and makes me sick. Please protect your own kitties by keeping them indoors, and also take a stand if you see anyone tormenting innocent cats in your neighborhood. 


Molly and Twix's first Halloween with us back in 2011. They look so tiny!  
As they are every year, our sweet indoor kitties Molly and Twix will be safely burrowed under the covers while we give out candy. Our new community appears to have a large number of families with young kids, so we expect to go through a lot of it this year! 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Grumpy Cat Jack-o’-Lantern

Between packing, moving and spending a small fortune buying things for our new house, I haven’t done much (actually, make that any) Halloween decorating this year. Still, being the huge cat lover that I am, I couldn’t resist sharing a couple pictures of the first ever “grump-o’-lantern,” created by sculptor Ray Villafane.


No, this isn’t a sponsored post. A strategist sent me the info, and I thought it was a cool, cute idea. I’ve already downloaded the free Friskies template to try out next year.


Have you done any pumpkin carving this month? Even though I haven’t had a chance to decorate, I have written a few Halloween-related posts for Brit + Co, including roundups of DIY garlands, three-step decorations and, of course, cat costumes! You can check them out by visiting my profile page

Happy decorating and celebrating! 

Images via Rick Scuteri/AP Images for Friskies/PetSmart Halloween Promotion

Thursday, October 16, 2014

On Being Positive

With the recent purchase of our first home, it's fair to say that the past month has been an especially good one for me. As someone who tries her best to live a positive, healthy life, I'm also the first to admit that attitude matters and that negativity really doesn’t get me anywhere. That said, there are definitely times when I will, without any added guilt, allow myself to feel sad, angry or just generally unhappy.

One of the many reasons I think people suffer in silence when feeling sad or depressed is because there’s a social stigma associated with being unhappy and admitting that we don’t all have the picture perfect lives we believe we’re supposed to. Instead of showing the world our true selves, we portray ideal versions of our careers, homes, relationships and more via social media, succumbing to the pressure to be happy and positive at all times, believing that if we aren’t able to do it all and have it all, we have hopelessly failed.  


(via Live It Up

Honestly, I do this, too, trying not to talk too much about the bad experiences and challenges, even though, really, the past few years have been a mixed bag for me, bringing both some of the best and hardest days of my life. And isn’t that the way life usually is, a series of ups and downs, good times and bad times?

In certain ways, my life today is better than I ever imagined it could be. In others, it isn’t. And that’s OK. I’ll keep finding the answers, being positive when I can, allowing myself to work through negative emotions when I need to, and knowing that in the end, it’s all a part of this crazy, wild adventure we share.


(via Anna Grrrl)

Do you ever feel pressured to be positive no matter what or to portray a "perfect" life? 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Best Birthday Present Ever (aka Our New Home)

What could possibly be more exciting than buying your first home? Not much, in my opinion, unless you happen to be doing it on or around your birthday!

When my husband and I moved into our current apartment last year, we hoped it would be our last one and that we would be able to purchase our first home by the time the lease expired this fall. To our surprise, things ended up moving even a bit more quickly than expected, with us finding a realtor in late August, launching a search and viewing about 20 homes before finding the one we loved – a three-level townhouse with a small yard and walkout basement. We made an offer that very evening, got a reasonable counteroffer, accepted it and went to settlement just a couple days after I celebrated 31 years.


Our first home! 


Celebrating with champagne.

Having lived in apartments my entire life, owning a home is a huge step for me, one that’s scary and thrilling all at the same time. And while there are definitely a few things we want to have done before moving in later this month, plus some other changes we'd like to make over time, all in all, we know this will be a great first home for us. 

Are you currently house hunting or planning to start looking? We were lucky to work with an excellent realtor, so if you’re in the DC area and need a referral, just let me know. If you've previously been in our shoes as a first-time homeowner, do you have any helpful advice to share? 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Because Summer Isn’t Over Yet…

Summer may be winding down, but in my flip-flop-loving heart, its memories still live on. And I've made some really great ones this year.

Ever since Memorial Day heralded the start of the season, I've had the chance to visit the Cali coast, enjoy three glorious days at Disneyland, discover trampoline boot camp, watch dragon boat races on the Potomac, celebrate my four-year wedding anniversary, see the fireflies shine during my evening walks and get ready to embark on the scary, exciting house hunting adventure of my life. 

And while many people here on the East Coast say so long to summer as soon as Labor Day’s come and gone, I'll try to keep some of its spirit alive even as we now head into September. This is, after all, my favorite season, so why not? 

Have a great Labor Day weekend, everyone, and enjoy what's left of this amazing, magical time of year. Because it isn't over just yet.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Trampoline Boot Camp

Ever since my friend and I visited an indoor trampoline park last month in California, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of finding one here in my own little corner of the DC area. Luckily, I did just that last Saturday when my husband and I went to a one-hour, boot-camp style trampoline class that was fun, unique and incredibly challenging.

Since my friends and I grew up trampolining in one of their backyards, and I did just fine with the freestyle jumping last month, I figured I should have no trouble at all mastering the class, right? Wrong! Though I was able to keep up overall, it was also one of the toughest workouts of my life, and I definitely have work to do before I’ll be as fast and fit as some of the regulars who were there.

Still, out of all the workout programs and classes I’ve tried, this was by far my favorite, and I’m looking forward to sticking with it as much as I can. No, I didn’t take any pictures of myself all sweaty and red-faced, but if you want to get an idea of what the class is like, check out the video below.

As you watch, keep in mind that the intensity of each session can vary depending on the instructor, as can the types of exercises you do. Our instructor focused on cardio and strength intervals, plus obstacle course-style routines using the trampoline, weighted balls and resistance bands.



Sound like fun? Each class at our local Flight Trampoline Park costs $11, but they also offer a $16 two-class pass and a $70 10-class pass. And if you don’t have a Flight Park near you, there are other companies out there, too, like Sky Zone and Rebounderz.

Have you ever given trampoline fitness classes a try? Would you? I absolutely recommend it if you're looking for a different, fun and challenging workout! 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Five Things Thursday: Best of the West

Hello out there! How was everyone’s July? Mine was awesome, mostly because of the couple weeks I spent chillaxing and catching up with family and friends in California. From Nor Cal to So Cal, Disneyland to Dana Point, and many places in between, there was rarely a dull moment. Although it’s impossible to pick out absolute favorites, here are five crazy cool memories from my time on the West Coast, best coast.

1. Hiking to Mammoth Rocks

Since Stephen’s family has a cute vacation house in coastal Nor Cal, we decided to kick off our trip by spending 4th of July weekend exploring the area. Along with watching the annual fireworks over the bay and going to a local pancake breakfast fundraiser, another highlight was hiking along the gorgeous coastline to Mammoth Rocks, which scientists believe the ancient creatures once rubbed up against, creating uniquely shaped smooth patches that exist to this day. 



2. Visiting DreamWorks Studios and the Iconic Hollywood Bowl

When one of your best friends works for DreamWorks (hi P!), visiting the studios is an absolute must. Even better? Going to the Hollywood Bowl to watch the DreamWorks 20th anniversary show hosted by Jack Black. That outing was in celebration of another best friend’s 30th birthday (hi B!).


3. Three Days of Disney

It’s no secret that I’m an absolute Disneyland fanatic, so when my mom suggested a three-day girls’ trip (Stephen had to head back to DC a bit sooner than me), I was totally down. Two nights at Disney’s Grand California Hotel helped us pack in nearly three full days of park hopping at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. We also had a special dinner at Downtown Disney’s Rainforest CafĂ©, where animatronic elephants and gorillas put on a spectacular show. Even though I may have tired out my mom and sister with my go, go, go adrenaline rush, overall, it was a really great time.  



4. Giraffe Gazing at the Santa Barbara Zoo

Of course, no trip to California would be complete without a visit to one of the state’s amazing zoos. The Santa Barbara Zoo, located on the Central Coast, is big enough to be fun, but not so big that you get lost walking around. My favorite animal? The giraffes, of course!



5. Trampolining at Sky Zone

Disney, the zoo and trampolining? Yes, I’m definitely a kid at heart. My friend and I had a blast visiting an indoor trampoline park and getting a great workout while catching up. Have you ever been to one of these places? I need to find one around here ASAP and ask whether they have an exercise class I can enroll in.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures from Sky Zone because my phone was stashed away inside a locker, so I'll leave you with a couple other final shots instead. 



What have been the highlights of your summer so far? 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Why I Don’t Tan (For Faux or For Real)

It’s that time of year again when everyone inevitably starts talking about tanning, whether it comes from a bottle or directly from the sun itself. It’s also the time when some people feel the need to state that this here porcelain-skinned blogger needs to “get some color.” 

My response? I don’t do tans, nor will I ever. First and foremost, I have no desire to risk getting skin cancer, something I’ve seen people of all ages fight, just for the sake of obtaining a fleeting glow. Second, I have no interest in any bottled bronzer on the market, because the honest truth is, I don’t mind being pale. It’s just who I am, how I have always looked, and not something I feel the need to justify to anyone else.

It saddens me to hear fellow smart, talented, beautiful women saying things like, “Please excuse the circles under my eyes,” or “I'm so pale in that picture,” as if we need to apologize for the way we look or preempt others' negative judgment. This especially strikes a chord with me because I've done it, too, putting myself down verbally or in writing, allowing others’ opinions to make me feel insecure. And the one time I did break down and try one of those “facial glow” creams? Along with it causing my skin to freak out, I also thought I looked completely ridiculous.


Tan-free two years ago in Hawaii. 

The way I see it, some people have blue eyes, and some people have brown hair. I have both, plus pale, porcelain skin, just like my sister, grandmother and other Irish relatives before us. I wear makeup because I want to and put care into my appearance because I take pride in looking and feeling my best on my own terms. If someone else loves the way she looks with a faux tan and wants to rock one every summer, that’s awesome. But my fair skin isn’t something I desire to "enhance" or change just because some people might think there’s no place for paleness at the pool.

So when you see me this summer, drenched in sunscreen and wearing a rash guard over my swimsuit for extra sun protection, please don’t ask me why I’m not getting a tan. And if you see me nursing a sunburn that came out even though I slathered myself with the above-mentioned sunblock, please know that this certainly wasn’t intentional or a result of my trying to bring on a golden glow. Also know that I will keep continually trying to be better about protecting my skin and preventing skin cancer. Because while I can certainly live without a tan, getting one the old-fashioned way just might stop me from living at all. 

P.S. I'll be taking a couple weeks off to enjoy the 4th of July holiday and some summer fun. Have a great time celebrating, and I'll see you all again soon! 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Five Things Thursday: Favorite Summer Sayings

As much as I dread the intense humidity that inevitably accompanies Washington D.C. summers, I’m also quick to admit that there’s just something magical about this time of year. After all, summertime means 4th of July, warm evenings on the deck, fun travels to visit family and friends and, of course, flip-flops on my feet day in and day out.


So, to help capture a little bit of summer's intangible magic here on the blog, I’m devoting this week’s Five Things linkup to a few seasonally-inspired sayings.




(via Etsy


(via eighteen25)




(via Etsy

What do you love most about summer?  

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Five Things Thursday: Random Musings of the Serious (and Not So Serious) Kind

Happy Thursday! After a short break from participating in the Five Things linkup, I’m back, this time sharing five serious (and not so serious) things on my mind. As always, these are simply my own opinions, and others are free to agree or disagree as they choose. 


1. With so many deadly shootings occurring at schools and elsewhere in this country on a daily basis, it is clear that we have a serious, multifaceted problem that needs to be addressed. Why are so many young men exhibiting a willingness to kill? How does easy access to guns contribute to this problem? The issues are complex and challenging, and for that reason, I think we simply avoid dealing with them. While it’s hard to know exactly what to do or how to help on a personal level, I truly hope we as a nation can arrive at some type of understanding that will alter the terrible path we’re on. After all, mere "thoughts and prayers" following every tragedy don't save lives.

2. Speaking of change, this video really moved me this week, and I think it's way beyond time for our national capital's football team to change its mascot.



3. Something else that recently impacted me is this profound statement by the late scientist Carl Sagan, which was replicated in the season finale of Fox and National Geographic's amazing series Cosmos. Have you seen this show? If not, I highly recommend checking it out on DVD or when it (hopefully) comes back for another season. Although I am not a religious person, I do believe in the power of humanity and in the responsibility we all have to care for one another and for the "pale blue dot" we call home.



4. On a lighter note, my husband and I celebrated our fourth anniversary last week (yay!) with a low-key dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. While we both loved our entrees -- smoked salmon for me and ribs for him -- it was the pineapple mojito that really blew me away! The lovely purple (our wedding color) flowers he gave me added an extra special touch to the day, as well.


5. After dinner, we headed to the theater to catch Maleficent. Have you seen it? What did you think? While I thought the story, script and acting could have been strengthened at certain points, Angelina Jolie was of course amazing, as were the special effects. All in all, I'd recommend it.

Have a safe and wonderful weekend, everyone!  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Four Years Ago…

“Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”

– Ella Fitzgerald





Happy fourth anniversary to my dearest friend. 

{Photos by Alex Neumann}

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Weekend Wildlife Sightings (Plus a Cute Kitty Picture or Two)

As many of you already know, I’m a big animal lover. Cats will always hold the ultimate special place in my heart, but I also love dogs, rabbits and wildlife of all kinds. So, you can imagine my excitement when we moved last fall to a neighborhood where we get to see beavers, bats, foxes, deer, groundhogs, bald eagles, geese, ducks and more all while out taking even the simplest of nature walks throughout the community.

And, while many of you may have been grilling or hitting the sand this past Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I also had a great time further exploring our area while attempting to snap pictures and film a video or two. So far, none of the images we've shot have turned out all that awesome, but we're hoping that if we keep heading out there a few times a week, we'll soon get some that are. And if sightings like these don't convince me to stick with my workout routine this summer, I don't know what will!



Isn't this shrub-munching beaver cute? We've seen a family of four so far!


A goose and her gosling, who's hiding in the weeds.


Deer sighting from across the pond.




Not exactly wildlife, but super cute just the same. They even took a break from sunning to get me a Mother's Day card a couple weeks ago. The inside says, "As far as cats go, I AM the best." And in my eyes, yup, they are. :)

Do you love nature walks and wildlife, too? What are some of your favorite animals to spot? 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Now a Freelance Contributor at Brit + Co.

Hey guys! I took an unexpected week off from blogging here at High Heels & Flip-Flops, but I promise it was for a good reason!

As I hinted at a few weeks back, I was recently selected for a new freelance writing gig, and today, I’m excited to share that I’ve joined the team at Brit + Co. as a weekly contributor. My first post, Beyond White: 15 Ombre Wedding Gowns, went live a few days ago, and I’m so grateful to all of you who already took the time to offer likes and kind words via social media.


Stay tuned for upcoming posts focused on weddings, food and more, plus some other new posts here. Lately, I've been struggling with topic ideas and interesting things to share on this blog, so if there's something you'd like to ask me or read about, feel free to let me know. 

As always, thanks for reading and following! :)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Five Things Thursday: Things I'm Loving

Happy May Day! It’s been a busy week around here, but I’ve still made time to join Diana and Tairalyn for their weekly Five Things linkup, where I’m sharing a few cool things I’m loving right now. Want to join in? Check out my five things below, share yours and then head on over to The World Around Her or Little Miss Mama to add your link and join the fun!


1. Charity Miles App

Even though our daily walks were put on hold thanks to rainy weather the past couple of days, I’m looking forward to getting back out there again! If you aren’t already familiar with it, the free Charity Miles app allows you to earn money for a charity of your choosing for every mile you walk, run or bike. Charities to choose from include Stand Up to Cancer, the Wounded Warrior Project, ASPCA and many more. Check it out, and start giving back while you work out!

2. Farmers Markets

Have I mentioned before that I love, love, love our new neighborhood? Starting tonight, there’ll be yet another great thing going on – a seasonal farmers market within easy walking distance of our place. I’m looking forward to seeing what they have and hopefully also getting inspired to whip up a few new healthy recipes.

Photo Credit: Fabbioli Cellars
3. Fabbioli Cellars’ Una Pera Wine

As I mentioned last week, Fabbioli Cellars is one of my favorite local wineries. Lately, I've been especially loving their Una Pera pear wine, which always hits the spot on a warm spring or summer’s day. Since it’s sold at our local Whole Foods, we can even get our fix without visiting the winery itself (even though we like to every chance we get).

4. Margaritas

For those times when wine just won’t cut it, I love indulging in a tangy margarita. I recently discovered this mango jalapeno recipe on Pinterest and can’t wait to give it a try.

5. MRIS Homes.com

Sure, Zillow is a great basic tool, but for hardcore house searching, MRIS Homes is a truly awesome one-stop shop for real-time, in-depth info. Fellow house hunters or homeowners, are there any other sites you'd recommend?

What are you loving this week?