la mia bella vita

my beautiful life by Katie

Terrifically 2

No terrible two’s around here, just terrifically two!  Today La Mia Bella Vita turns 2!  I can’t hardly believe that two years have passed by since I first started secretly blogging ( yep, I didn’t tell anyone for a good 6 or more months).

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#fb with our sweet pup Chelsea – I am around 2 1/2 here

These past two years have been filled with a lot of ups and downs.  There have been different challenges, including finding my voice, growing as a writer and simply growing as a blogger.  There is no simple road to success, and I wouldn’t have these past 2 years any other way.  I’ve still got a long way to go, but I already have so much to celebrate and be proud of.

Each year on my “blogging” birthday, which coincidentally falls on my real birthday, I like to announce my goals and dreams for the coming year (check out my very first blog post here and last year’s birthday post here).  As I’ve mentioned before, “announcing to the universe,”  as my Mom says, is a great practice of putting your intentions out into the world.  So often we don’t say aloud what we want, for fear that it might not happen…but if you announce it, the universe will listen and provide.

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birthday party

So, here are my goals for Year Two of La Mia Bella Vita:

  1. Blog more about what I’m cooking, share my own personal recipes and continue to work towards finding a balance with it.  (Click here and here  if you are curious why I need balance with this.)
  2. Travel to new places and work on not having fear of the unknown or fear of missing out.
  3. Follow what brings me happiness and joy in life, and don’t let other peoples’ judgements or opinions get in the way of what I know is right for me and for my blog.
  4. Go to New York Fashion Week.  (This was on the list this past year, but our travels to Thailand overlapped.)
  5. “Summer” in Italy and start blogging in Italian.
  6. Bite the bullet and change the theme of my blog. (I’ve been toying with this for a few months now.)
  7. Spend more time learning about the technical aspects of blogging – html, etc… (Insert concerned face here.)
  8. If I don’t have time to blog as much as I would like, or Instagram or whatever, don’t explain myself.  Everyone gets busy, and that is 100%, completely okay.
  9. Build more relationships with fellow bloggers.
  10. Grow my social media accounts.
  11. Fall nine times, get up ten.  Continue reaching out to companies that I am passionate about working with.  Opportunities will come my way, I just need to keep pushing and never stop believing.

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I’ve definitely had style and a creative flair from the beginning.

Fall Fun

Happy Fall everyone!  Today is the First Day of Autumn, and as I’ve mentioned before, Fall is one of my favorite times of year (and probably my favorite season).  Although the leaves may not change color or have that sweet smell in San Diego, the air changes and becomes a little cooler, and the stores become just as stocked with all of the fun candies and costumes.

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flash back to fall, when my best friend was the scarecrow

Here is what I am looking forward to doing this Fall, along with pictures from last year’s festive activities:

  • Burn my absolute favorite candle, Leaves
  • Carve PumpkinsIMG_20151031_225954
  • Roast pumpkin seedsIMG_20151031_112944
  • Go apple and pear picking in Julian (here are my recommendations)
  • Dress up for Halloween – any ideas?IMG_20151031_172219

wednesday and fester addams

  • Celebrate Oktoberfest
  • Make caramel apples (here is my inspo for this year)
  • Eat my favorite store-bought caramel apple, the Happy Apple
  • Go to Boston and enjoy the Fall foliageIMG_20151017_192309
  • Make homemade applesauce (here is my recipe)
  • Go to Disneyland for Mickey’s Halloween Party
  • Make our favorite pumpkin doughnuts (this recipe is killer)IMG_20151025_104636
  • Make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (here is our tried and true recipe)
  • Make a Fall soup20151102_192903

julia childs split pea soup

  • Make pumpkin pancakes
  • Roast chestnuts (thanks to my Father-in-law, who kindly ships us large bags of chestnuts from his trees every year)
  • Try a new pumpkin recipe (this was last year’s home-run new recipe)DSC00892

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What fun things do you have planned for Fall?  Am I missing anything?  Leave your advice in the comments below, I would love some more great ideas!

On My Bookshelf

It has been a few months since I’ve mentioned any reading going on, and although I have neglected my bookshelf a little bit (I blame it on the traveling), I’ve finally dusted off my current reads and am happy to say, I am back at it.  Yes, remember me talking about my reading style here?  I always have a few good books going at the same time.

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I have finally finished “The Magical Art of Tidying Up,” and yes, it was magical.  To be honest, I am actually a very clean and organized person, so I originally thought that this book might not be helpful, but when I first flipped through it, a certain excerpt caught my attention:

“Spare Buttons:  You will never use spare buttons.”

I think that I literally stopped dead in my tracks.  Yes, I have a jar of spare buttons.  Oh no, I am that person with a jar of spare buttons.  I have a jar of spare buttons! Appropriately, I read the book, and really did get a lot out of it.

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For example, we reorganized our clothing drawers and have started folding our clothing according to her method and have never looked back.  I did get rid of the buttons, and many other things that were being kept with no purpose.  And I also gained a lot of perspective on why we keep things.  It was a great read, even for some one who is organized.

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The other book that I have become slightly obsessed with is “The 4 Hour Work Week.”  I mean, who wouldn’t want to work for only four hours, right?  When I first started reading this book, I couldn’t put it down.  My husband kept gently asking, “are you ready to go to bed now?”  Hours later?  Yes.  This has been a great read for me.  Not everything is a piece of advice that I can use, but it has been great for getting a different perspective on time use and prioritizing.

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The final book that I have been reading is one that I picked up while in Montepulciano this past April, Favole al Telefono.  Yes, it is in Italian, and yes, it is a children’s book.  But, you’ve gotta start somewhere, right?  It doesn’t necessarily challenge me in terms of understanding the material, but it gives me the chance to recognize things that I’ve already learned.  And it is a great feeling to read a book in Italian and understand everything (for the most part).  I guess that this is more of a confidence building book.

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What have you been reading this Summer?  Do you already have your next book picked out? Next up for me are a few books that I have on loan from family, but I’m also thinking that I need to get around to reading this book before the movie comes out this Fall.

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Fall Neutrals

Who else gets excited for Fall fashions?  Sweaters, comfy coats, snuggly fabrics, boots…what could be better?  For me, I mostly keep my eye out for neutral pieces to add to my closet.  For me, they are versatile and much more timeless than colorful or printed pieces.  I like to choose pieces that have lasting power and can also be worn in other seasons.  Here are a few fun pieces that I’ve got me eye on:

Fall Neutrals

woven sneaker  / / asymmetrical sweater / / shift dress

funnel neck sweater / / over the knee boots / / slouchy bag

jacquard dress / / cashmere trench / / wool baseball cap

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What kind of pieces are you looking for this Fall?

101 in 1001

So, I’m not exactly sure how this all came to be, but one day, several months ago, I came across some one’s blog post about a super-sized to-do list / goal list / bucket list of 101 things to do in 1001 days.  At the time, I thought that it sounded pretty great, but I didn’t feel particularly determined to do one myself.

Flash forward a few months, when I am saying to my husband, “do you remember that thing I told you about…it was like 200 things in 2000 days….or was it 300 things in 3000 days?”  After a bit of confusion and Google searching, I was able to track down what I was looking for, 101 in 1001.

So what exactly is 101 in 1001?  Well, it is a little different for everyone, but for me, I am compiling a list of 101 things that I want to accomplish in 1001 days (approximately 2.75 years).  My goal was to compile a mix of different personal goals and dreams; things that I might be able to easily accomplish and things that I will really need to push for.

I am excited by my list and feel really enthused about accomplishing everything, and a little bit like I can barely wait to get started and see how these next 1001 days go.  I hope that you enjoy my list, and maybe even feel a little inspired to start your own.  Okay mega-list, lets do this!

Start Day: September 13, 2016

Finish Date: June 11, 2019

  1. Swim in turquoise water
  2. Learn how to tango or salsa dance
  3. Visit the islands of Greece
  4. See the Northern Lights in Iceland
  5. Bake Julia Child’s croissants
  6. Become fluent in Italian
  7. Start speaking only Italian in our home
  8. Visit Sardinia
  9. Learn enough Spanish to order my favorite fish tacos
  10. Take a watercolor painting class
  11. Go to Croatia
  12. Find a swimsuit that fits well and makes me feel confident
  13. Finish the photo collage wall in our living room
  14. Go to Pantelleria
  15. Work on my media kit and finalize the changes
  16. Start and finish the photo collage idea I have for my office
  17. Get new bedding and linens
  18. Make our own wedding album
  19. Put all of our loose photos into matching photo albums
  20. Start running regularly again
  21. Run a race
  22. Try the frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity
  23. Fly a kite
  24. Take a pilates class
  25. Leave a 100% tip
  26. Make Grammy’s gingerbread sleigh
  27. Find a new pair of sunglasses that are comfortable enough for all-day wear
  28. Start writing a book
  29. Summer in Italy
  30. Re-design my website
  31. Invest in nice business cards
  32. Go clubbing one last time
  33. Go line dancing
  34. Pick out a new dining room table and chairs
  35. Improve my posture, and be conscious of it everyday
  36. Buy a condo
  37. Organize our new filing cabinet
  38. Find a new wine bar
  39. Purchase new wine glasses (since we have broken most of ours)
  40. Tie a note to a balloon and let it go
  41. Forgive people who have hurt me in my past and let go of those hurts
  42. Watch the sun set
  43. Do 32 acts of kindness for each year I have lived
  44. Host a dinner part solely made from items at the 99 Cents Only store
  45. Dress up for Halloween
  46. Host a house warming party, even if we only have 2 people to invite
  47. Be more assertive: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
  48. Stop explaining myself and my choices
  49. Laugh at something everyday
  50. Sing and dance and kiss in the rain
  51. Save more money for retirement
  52. Start reading a book and finish it within a month
  53. Fix our pesky and loud water filter
  54. Be more forgiving
  55. Pray everyday
  56. Plan more in advance for trips, not the week or days before
  57. Get back to my goal weight and make healthy choices to keep balance
  58. Get a manicure with a bold colored polish (not my every time bubble bath)
  59. Get a Microsoft Surface and stop traveling with our laptop
  60. Get a motorcycle license and test drive a Vespa
  61. Send some one a card just because
  62. Pick out new bedroom furniture
  63. Learn to surf
  64. Stroll under the Eiffel Tower
  65. List our old coins on Ebay
  66. Sell my old Viola
  67. Get a no fuss, shower and go haircut
  68. Pick out a new camera
  69. Download Italian pop songs
  70. Visit Death Valley National Park
  71. Cover our Christmas Tree in a plastic bag
  72. Attend New York Fashion Week
  73. Start getting paid to blog
  74. Work with a company that I am passionate about
  75. Put away $10 for every goal completed
  76. Get professional photos taken
  77. Find a pair of comfortable, neutral high heels
  78. Start a skincare routine
  79. Be featured in a magazine
  80. Start a housewares line
  81. Keep the house “company ready” everyday for a month
  82. Stop biting my cuticles
  83. Go one month without sugar
  84. Play in a Bocce tournament
  85. Go roller skating or roller blading
  86. *
  87. Do something active everyday for 90 days
  88. Type slower, so that I don’t need to make as many typo corrections
  89. Fit in my original pair of skinny jeans again
  90. Stretch for 5 minutes before and after exercise for one month
  91. Feed the homeless once a month for a year
  92. Show and express more gratitude
  93. Get a pair of Uggs and don’t worry about them getting dirty
  94. Plan a trip to San Francisco and Napa Valley
  95. Ride the Coastliner
  96. Don’t mindlessly watch TV, either watch a taped or planned show, otherwise read a book, do work, go for a walk, play a game or just be quiet
  97. Unsubscribe from unwanted emails
  98. Start speaking only Italian to my Father-in-law
  99. Study/speak Italian everyday for 60 days
  100. Don’t sweat the small stuff and get caught up in other peoples’ drama
  101. Sleep under the stars

* Number 86 is something that I am not yet ready to share out-loud, but someday will gladly share it.

What I’m Packing

For me, packing light is a major priority.  As much as I love the idea of having a different outfit for each day of my travel, multiple pairs of shoes and handbags, and multiple hair tools for different styles; no longer are the days of me lugging around one giant 75 lb suitcase (yes, it has happened).

I am actually completely on the opposite end of the spectrum now.  Long weekend?  Carry-on suitcase.  Week away?  Carry-on suitcase.  Month away?  Carry-on suitcase.  Yes, I have managed to limit myself to packing everything that I need for up to one month in just one carry-on suitcase, and this includes a bit of extra room for goodies to come home with me as well.

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my favorite carry-on

So here are my tips and tricks for keeping you suitcase light, organized, and ready for anything.

  • Check the weather and pack accordingly.  Traveling to a wet climate?  Pack waterproof shoes, umbrellas and ponchos.  Traveling to snow?  Winter boots and all the fixings.  Traveling somewhere hot?  Don’t forget a sweater for those cool nights.
  • Determine how many outfits you will need.  For me, the key to packing light is re-wearing clothing.  No one will ever notice or care that you have worn something more than once.  So if I am going to be gone for a couple of weeks, I will plan on packing 1 weeks worth of clothing, and re-wear accordingly.  Additionally, plan to do some hand-wash along the way or have things cleaned at the hotel.  Worst case scenario: I forget something or something is stained or broken beyond repair?  Pretty much anywhere in the world I will have the accessibility to buy something.
  • Accessories.  Here is the tricky part for me – I always want to bring way more shoes and sunglasses than I have space for, so I have to be really tough with myself here.  I try to limit myself to 2 pairs of sunglasses and 2 pairs of shoes for each trip.  For sunglasses, I pick one nice everyday pair and another pair that I wouldn’t be sad if they broke or got left behind.  For shoes, I try to pick one super comfortable pair / sneaker and a second pair that can be dressed up or down.  For example, for an upcoming trip that will involve a lot of walking, I’m already tentatively planning on these two:shoes

navy loafers  / / new balance sneakers

  • Toiletries.  Long had I been on the hunt for the perfect toiletry bag (here was the start), and you know what?  I think that I have found it.  The trick here is travel size everything (and the Container Store is a great place to find just about every size and shape).  There is no way I could bring all full size products with me, I would literally have an entire suitcase filled with products.  So, I’ve invested in enough travel-size, refillable containers for all of my beauty and health products.  I set out my toiletry bag a week or so before we are going to leave, and as I go through my daily routine, I visually check and make sure that everything is packed and ready to go.  Additionally, when I return from travel, I immediately replace or refill anything that I used.  That way my toiletries are always packed and ready.

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find this organizing cutie here

Now for the packing.  Well, here I have tried several different methods – I have tried packing cubes, I have tried the rolling technique,or even just throwing things in on the way home…but for me, tried and true is just traditional folding and setting the items inside my suitcase.

And for a few extra tips, here are a few items that I never travel without:

  • Ziploc bags (gallon and jumbo size) / /  These are great for storing items that you are bringing back that might leak or break.  They are also great for holding extra toiletries.
  • Extra Cash / / Hide a little bit of extra money somewhere in your wallet or elsewhere, so that just in case you are in a pinch with no ATM in sight, you have a bit of reserve.
  • Cable Ties / / Perfect for locking up suitcases or bags during travel or if they are being held at the hotel.  Sure, some one could still cut them open, but at least you would know if they had or not. (Here are the ones I use.)
  • Ear Plugs / / Sometimes for the hotel, and sometimes for the plane, either way, pack them even if you think that you don’t need them.
  • Neck Buddy / / I am a serious neck-bobber on the plane, remember my mention of it here?  Well, now with my new neck pillow, I am sleeping comfortably.
  • Snuggly Socks / / Either for more comfort on the plane ride, or a particularly chilly night, I never ever travel without at least one pair of these.
  • External charger  / / This little cutie is small enough to fit in your purse, but holds enough power to fully charge your phone or camera..

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What are your packing tips and tricks?  Do you have any items that you would never travel without?

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Summer Bucket List Update

Okay ya’ll…do you remember just a few weeks back when I posted an End of Summer Bucket List?  I wanted to keep you all in the loop with how it’s been going.  So, how has it been going?  Well, probably about as good as my Spring Bucket List.

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Actually, if I were really honest, it’s going much worse than my Spring Bucket List.  In fact, I am starting to wonder, why do I keep making these lists?  It feels like some sort of self-punishment.  It’s like, okay Katie, let’s make a list of things you will never do (insert roaring laughter).  I am only joking (a little).

Realistically our Summer has been super busy, so, no, we haven’t done everything on the list, but we have had a great Summer.  But just in case you are wondering, here is what we have gotten done:

End of Summer Bucket List:

  1. Spend the day at the beach : Completed on August 8th, 25th and 28th.IMG_20160820_120600
  2. Get new boogie boards and put them to use : Thanks to Costco, our new boards are awesome!IMG_20160718_100025
  3. Have a late night outdoor cookout and enjoy our warm Summer nights : Update: our warm Summer nights have officially passed :(
  4. Make a point to enjoy at least 3 sunsets (not at home) (yes, this means I will need to change out of my pj’s) : So far we have made it to one.  And I am starting to think that this might be as good as it gets.IMG_20160806_212455
  5. Fly a kite
  6. Go for an outdoor happy hour
  7. Go out for Taco Tuesday at this famous eatery and then enjoy a beach walk
  8. Go for a hike : Completed on August 10th, we hiked Cowles Mountain.
  9. Go on a Summer vaca (already in the works, details soon!) : We are about to head out of town, tune in here to see where we are!
  10. Go to a concert at Humphreys : Humphreys has come and gone, but we did enjoy several concerts at the Marina Park South and loved all of the fireworks.IMG_20160826_222139
  11. Go dancing
  12. Try a new restaurant (maybe this one)
  13. Go to a Padres game
  14. Take our beach cruisers on the boat over to Coronado and bike around for the day
  15. Make a stone fruit dessert (probably this one)
  16. Go to Belmont Pier
  17. Go out for ice cream (preferably here or here)
  18. Splurge on this deep dish with friends : Not once, but twice have we ordered this amazing beast of a pizza, the great sausage stuffed pie.  If you live in San Diego, please do yourself a favor and go order one now!IMG_20160717_075535

So, we almost made it to halfway done.  Not bad if you are shooting for average, right?  Well, we’ll see if I am a glutton for punishment and come up with a Fall list.  Maybe instead of calling it a “bucket list,” I should just call it “inspiration.”  Fall Inspiration, that sounds kind of nice, right?

Transition

It’s hard to believe that in just a few short weeks we will officially be in Fall.  The days are getting shorter, the air is starting to change and the fashions are definitely transitioning.

Living in San Diego, I never need to officially change over my closet like I used to when we lived on the East Coast, but I do still look forward to the changing of the seasons.  I still love a good sweater or coat just as much as the next girl, but I just don’t need to be layering them together.  Here are a few pieces that I am looking forward to adding to my closet this Fall:

Transition

striped blouse  / / oversized sweater  / / navy blue coat

western mules / / destroyed jeans / / cashmere sweater

What is your favorite part about Fall?  Is it the changing fashions?  Or maybe you look forward the sweet smell of the changing leaves?  Whatever it is, I hope that the transition falls together nicely for you.

What We Have

Every few months or so, I get into this mega-organizational mood, and with that comes my frustration with an over-stuffed pantry and freezer.  I often find myself at the grocery store picking up things that are good for “in a pinch” meals, but then I often cook other things; which results in a very well stocked (or stuffed to the brim) pantry and freezer.

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my grain basket is way overstuffed, and yes, I have a grain basket

So, along with all of the other little home organization projects that I have been busying myself with lately (read this book if you haven’t, it is so good!), I also have been inspired for the Mr. and I to try and work through some of the things (or all of the things) that have been stocking in our pantry and freezer.  Granted, I am sure that it will fill up again at some point, but I like feeling like we hit the reset button.

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So I’ve been cooking a lot this week with things from our pantry.  A lot of creativity has been needed, but everything has turned out great.  With a few random fresh items reaching their point of no return, I made what my family calls a “garbage pizza.”  No, not because it tastes bad, but because it has a ton of toppings on it.  I layered sliced tomatoes sprinkled with oregano, onions and fresh cooked sausage; and then I topped it with a little of my homemade ricotta, and some fresh mozzarella.  After it came out of the oven, just a drizzle of e.v.o.o. and some fresh torn basil.  It was fresh and delicious!  (Pizza is always a winner in our house.)

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I also decided to whip up a Tuscan White Bean Soup.  I’ve had these pesky white beans staring at me from my pantry for months now.  What had I bought them for?  I can’t even begin to remember, but for some reason, I just haven’t used them.  So, I figured soup was a good use.  I rendered some bacon in my pan, then added a bit of onions and garlic and seasoned them.  I let that cook down, then de-glazed the pan with a bit of wine.  I added in my can of beans, one small can of vegetable stock (you could use anything, it was just what I had on hand) and some fresh diced rosemary.  I let this bubble away for a good 30 minutes.  After simmering, I removed the bacon and pureed the soup into silky, creamy beany deliciousness.  I sliced up a loaf of bread that I had baked, oiled the slices and popped them on the grill to get a little char.  Soup and grilled bread?  Yes, a completely brown colored meal, but oh so good.

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You read earlier that I had used a bit of sausage for our pizza – well, I still had another lump of sausage to use.  What’s a girl to do?  Thankfully a favorite recipe popped into my head – a sausage and tomato ragu by Lidia Bastianich (I last made it here).  You slowly cook some sausage with onions, wine, tomatoes and basil, until it all gets real friendly.  It gets so sweet and savory and addictive.  This is definitely one of our favorite sauces to make, and luckily we had just the right ingredients on hand to make a small batch.  Perfetto!

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Some of you may have seen on my Instagram that a friend gifted me some beautiful basil and tomatoes from his garden – the perfect opportunity for a quick and easy Italian lunch.  I picked up a little prosciutto di parma and imported mozzarella, went home and put together a simple caprese salad.  When the ingredients are fresh, there is nothing better.

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And with all of these savory dishes, you have to have something sweet, right?  Well, in our house, for sure!  So, the hubs whipped up a batch of our absolute favorite chocolate chip cookies ever…(drum roll please)Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies.  Just make sure if you make these babies to under-bake them a little, and then let them cool for 10 minutes and they will be ooey gooey perfection.

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We rounded out the week not with more cooking, but with some apple picking.  We drove out to Julian on Sunday morning to take advantage of the freshly opened apple and pear fields.  We picked way too many pounds of apples and pears considering we are leaving town here very soon, but I am really excited to make our first applesauce of the season.

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What have you been whipping up in the kitchen?  Any ideas on what to do with a bag of frozen corn and some tomatoes?

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What I’m Packing

So I’ve started hinting that the Mr. and I are gearing up for a trip, and with just a few weeks away, I am in major prep mode.  Although I am going to still keep our destination a surprise for now, I will tell you that where we are going is requiring some special packing items – we need to be prepared for hot, humid weather, and tropical rain storms.  That being said, I’ve done my best to find a few flowy dresses and waterproof items to make sure that I will be comfortable throughout our travels.

WIP3

striped dress  / /  teva sandals  / /  blue dress

longchamp tote  / /  printed shift dress  / /  dress with frills

Since I started looking for some of these new items just a couple of weeks ago, I quickly realized I probably should have started my search much earlier.  So much of what is in stores now is already from the Fall collections.  Any suggestions on where to find some Summery dresses this late in the season?

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