Holiday VIP Shopping

Have you ever been invited to a VIP shopping party?  I've heard of these exclusive, after hours, by invitation only soirees, and I'm intrigued by them, although I realize that it's a marketing tactic to lure in loyal customers.  Well, Hubs was personally invited, with a phone call and not a mass email as I would expect, to attend the Nordstrom VIP Holiday party a few weekends ago.  I suspect it's because he recently acquired a Nordstrom CC, but it's hard to imagine that every cc holder was invited with a phone call on the very same day as the event. We decided to check it out, and wow!  We were completely taken aback and impressed by how fancy this party was.  I now see that this marketing tactic definitely works because it makes me want to spend my money at a place that treats their customers this way.
Sipping our FREE peppermint champagne cocktail

Variety of cocktails
An assortment of holiday confectionery
Live band
Lobster Maki

Goat cheese, bacon, and fig/mango bruschetta
Filet of beef bites with horseradish foam
Tomato and onion tartlettes
Peppermint whoopie pie
Mini pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting
There were many other hors d'oeuvres and picture worthy details, like the chocolate raspberry cups and the lollipop-tarts, all of which made me feel like a spoiled guest at a lavish wedding.  How crazy, right?!  It was supposed to be just a normal, quiet Sunday night for the Quigleys that spontaneously turned into a fancy fun evening all thanks to their neighborhood Nordstrom. Yay for Christmas!

Weddings Recap

I've been to a wedding every month this fall, and all of them were out of town and super duper fun.  I had every intention to make a post about each trip, but I kept delaying the effort because of my shortage of photos.  Nonetheless, I am here now to properly acknowledge each one of these lovely, now married couples adored by the Quigleys.  

The Gaffneys
Chris and Shelli, got hitched on September 25 at the Castle in Franklinton, Louisiana.  The venue was charming, the weather was nice and cool, the bride and groom gushed over each other, and I think there should be more thrones and medieval accessories at every wedding.  
The Browns
Mey and Chris had the absolute perfect beach wedding on October 15 in Georgetown, South Carolina.  We've never been to SC, and Hubs and I have been aching for a beach trip for over a year.  This trip was the perfect remedy.  Our beach house was an HGTV watcher's dream, filled with over a dozen of the craziest, funny, and entertaining friends, and only a block away from the soft sands on our share of the Atlantic coast.  That weekend flew by way too fast, but the memories will forever last: dance-a-thons, beach bon-fire, deeply pondering whether breast milk is dairy, maximum relaxation to full speed partying, hippie Coyt at the Merlotte's-esque bar, accapella R&B, etc.  Did I mention the wedding itself was freakin gorgeous?  And of course, the reception was a blast, with a photo booth, great food, awesome music, and more than enough wine for me to drink.

The cutie on the bottom left, Katie Prados, is the bride for our last wedding in 2011.  She's actually getting married on New Year's Eve, so I guess it can also count as our first wedding of 2012!  
The Kees
Edmund (one of my besties from college and CEO of NOLA's very own fab fashion mag, Amelie G) and Charlotte got married on November 12 in NOLA, and it was soooo much fun.  I actually was sick as a dog that weekend, and I could barely get myself out of bed the morning of the wedding.  Luckily, I mustered up the energy for one of the prettiest NOLA weddings ever.  The gorgeous ceremony was at the fountain at Audubon Park.  The lively reception was at Eiffel.  And my favorite part of the entire day was the wedding party's private streetcar ride from ceremony to reception with a live brass band on board.  It was absolutely incredible!  
Hubs on the left refuses to be suave for the picture.  He's such a rebel.  
Dancing on the streetcar...unbelievable, unforgettable fun times
It was so wonderful to be a part of each of these weddings!  I can't wait for the 2012 couples!!

I heart the holidays

Who doesn't absolutely love this time of year!?!? It would be an easier number to count the scrooges and grinches (who are just in the closet about their holiday infatuation) out there because this time of year is an opiate for all things merry and bright.  My mom is an annual member of the notorious group who prematurely welcomes Christmas.  She sings along loudly to "Let it snow" long before any sign of winter (or even autumn) because she claims that the duration of holiday cheer aligns directly with  the "-ber" months.  I'm sure those who look forward to Labor Day would have a strong rebuttal to my mom's logic, but her enthusiasm to stretch the joyful season isn't entirely ridiculous.  All that fun, hectic, colorful, coziness in the air with the nostalgic songs and movies playing in the it! love it! love it!

Hubs took a page out of my mom's book this year and gave me the best Christmas gift ever right after Thanksgiving.  Canon EOS 60D.  Whoa.  It's a beast.  The DSLR research, decision, and acquisition phases are now over, and I (we) finally have one of my (our) own!  I'm so excited about this bad boy, trying to read and learn as much as my wee brain can absorb through practice.  ISO, aperture, shutter speeds, depth of field, what?!.  (If you have any tips for beginners, please share!) Hubs gave me the camera early so I can bust it out for our trip to NYC with my dear cousins from VA Beach.  What a blast!  Hubs and I have been lucky enough to go to NYC almost every year since 2006.  From DC, it's very easy to take a quickie trip to the Big Apple because there are 9283742983 different, inexpensive ways to get there within 4 hours time.  Our preferred transportation is taking the bus, and we've tried Bolt Bus, Vamoose, another bus company that's no longer around, and most recently, Megabus.  Price points are comparable (about $15-20/ticket), and I think the travel experience is greatly determined by expectations (it's a bus) and the timing of your trip (lines/crowds/noise).  Of all three, Megabus is probably the one we'll use again because it's double-decker (more space), the restroom was impressively clean (could've been because we took the first trip in the early am), convenient pick-up/drop off points, and sometimes the prices are even less than $10/ticket. 

Needless to say, NYC was a whirlwind of super fun times.  I haven't uploaded all my camera pics, but here are a mixture of my feeble attempts to take pro pictures via DSLR and iPhone. 
George, Marissa, Hubs, James


Check us out on the big screen at Times Square! 

Shake Shack's Shack Stack

Totto Ramen Miso Ramen with char siu pork...mmmmm
I would live in NYC for a year to fully commit 365 days to eating and watching plays and musicals on Broadway.  This past trip was a nice consolation.  We saw Rock of Ages, which was awesome, but the ice cream on top was seeing Hugh Jackman (squeals and high pitch sounds!!!) after the show.  The theater for his one-man show was across the street from ours, and I sped my way through the crowds when Hubs told me that he was exiting the building.  I was only three feet away from his adorable face, and you should be proud that I didn't push over the elderly lady standing in between us, but which I immediately regretted as he reached out to touch her arm.  Yep, he freakin touched her!  Grrrr.  That's okay.  I'm pretty sure he winked directly at me and told me that he loves me as his eyes gazed deeply into mine.  My knees turned to jello, and cousin Marissa and I giggled, skipped, and giddily relived the moment for the rest of the night. 

Hubs and I returned to DC to celebrate my mom's 68th birthday that weekend.  More fun times to capture on my new toy, but here is one of my favorites.  My twin nieces Lyla and Makayla with Talula in the background.  Aren't they just the cutest?!?

Sniffling Stylishly

Isn't it wonderful to receive an incredibly thoughtful and cute gift for nothing?  Well, I think it's even better when the gift is handmade by an amazing friend and a constant source of inspiration.  The ever so clever and witty Ms. Quijano gave me an adorable, embroidered handkerchief a few months ago, which has frequently, well, come in handy.  I suspect she gave me the gift to console me before she left for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to provide support and aid in the upcoming presidential and legislative elections.  Her efforts to participate in such a daunting and influential process, filled with obstacles too many to mention, are typical of Ms. Quijano: selfless, courageous, and extraordinary.  She's the type of company I wish to be around 24/7 because we talk about EVERYTHING, and I burn about 928374982739847 calories from the amount (and volume) of laughter that occurs.  Needless to say, I am more than ready for her to come home and miss her tremendously.  Good thing she left me this handkerchief to take care of my sniffles as I get all sentimental.   
 I love handkerchiefs.  Especially ones with double entendres.  Doesn't this just make you want to embroider?

Shoes; they're not just for wearing.

My last post featured some old shoes that I found, so the focus of this post is for new shoes that I hope to receive.  (Wink! Wink!)  First, I must share this news article that I read this morning because it conveys a strong message:  Shoes can save your life.  No joke!  Yes, combat boots are pretty heavy duty and can prevent an elevator from crushing you.  But other types of footwear are also useful in other manners.  For instance, a stiletto can be used as a weapon against an attacker with the right amount of force, and a mere house slipper can stamp out that pesky bug that trespassed into your home.  And let's not forget how a good pair of trusty, comfy boots can instantly cure those winter doldrums.  So here we go!
I've been searching for some spunky, black, high top sneaks, and I should have just initially consulted with my online shopping and fashion guru, Mrs. Brown, because she immediately knew which shoe collection I needed to check out.  And of course, she was right on target.  These Supra Vaiders fit the bill, and they even have a touch of gold to be completely Saintstastic!  (Check out Mrs. Brown's WildStyle and try not to be envious of the honeymoon escapade she's about to embark on; future post on Mrs. Brown's fantastic wedding coming soon.)

 Hate all you want, but I still love me some Uggs and would certainly love a new pair, especially these in navy.
These Melissa button boots by Frye are simple and fantastic.  It's hard to find tall boots that don't zip up or have elastic or another feature that goes beyond just pulling them on.  These are a gem.  

Alexander McQueen booties?  Yes please!!!  Amazing.  AND on sale from $1175 to just $822!  Hah!  It's funny that these are even on the list, but a girl can and SHOULD dream. 

Pinki pumps by Ivanka Trump. Perfect for glitz and glam on New Years Eve.  More of Ivanka's collection here.
Not Too Coy Maria is fun, dressy, and I think still conservative enough for the office.  Maybe. 
Vivienne Westwood Anglomania + Melissa Croco Mary Janes.  WOWZAs!  How fabulous are these, right?  I would wear these puppies until I'm in my 90s.  Then I'll probably have to start toning down the bright colors. 
Resort Chic Wedge Suede by Lily Pulitzer could not be more aptly named because I can completely picture myself on vacation at a resort, feeling chic, with these on my feet.  And a floppy, wide brim, straw hat on my head.  And a deliciously dangerous pina colada.  One in each hand.  

Happy Dreaming!!!

Oldies But Goodies

After moving approximately 29837498237 times in the past few years, I've become quite efficient with my packing skills, facilitating an appreciation for storage aptitude and minimal junk.  Its a bit crazy how much stuff one person can accumulate in a small tiny apartment, as I did in New Orleans, and by no means am I a pack rat (I think).  I routinely purge knick knacks and old clothes, but it can be difficult to figure out what stuff to get rid of and what trinket or piece of fabric I should keep for upcycling (supposedly).  Well, my criteria for KEEP has greatly increased to weed out most uni-functional, non-essentials because after so many moves, I've become familiar with the high value and limited amount of storage space.  That and Hoarders freaks me out. 

With my de-cluttering momentum in full speed,  I've tried to encourage my mom to reduce as well, but she's reluctant to let go of sentimental items, like the popsicle stick jewelry box I made her or the canvas stitched photo frame with seashells.  And thank heavens for that! I dedicate this post to my mom, who I can't thank enough for keeping some stuff that I probably would have given away a long time ago if they were in my possession.  After Katrina, all our non-damaged belongings were packed away with no order whatsoever and transported to the DC area where we relocated after the storm.  Six years and some change later, I stumbled upon some of these old boxes that must have never been unpacked, and, to my delightful surprise, I found some dear old friends.

 From top right: no name multi-color pumps, cobalt blue Puma sneaks, Airwalk plastic metallic violet, Nike Air Max (don't laugh, but I got the kids version because I liked the color better, and it was cheaper), Steve Madden golfer looking shoes (Hubs' favorite, insisting that I put them back in rotation), Dr. Marten's teardrop mary janes, DKNY sneakers, and no name suede mules. 
Check out some of the shoes that I wore in high school.  I think I had about seven more pairs of sneakers and definitely a pair of Sauconys, red Chucks from my super awesome friend Mincey, and another pair of lace up Docs.  Man, I miss those guys.  Tear.  I worked at Foot Action at the mall during my sophomore and junior year, thus the crazy shoe collection.  The pumps in the top right are sooo fun, aren't they?  I certainly didn't wear those to school.    
My favorite part of this shoe, clearly, is the carrot on the tongue.  Who doesn't love veggie detailing?
The most amazing find of all are my high school yearbooks that I thought were destroyed and gone forever.  Even Hubs was super excited and jumping up and down with me because he's repeatedly heard my sad, nostalgic stories about losing my yearbooks in the storm, especially since my 10 year HS reunion just passed.  I'm a sucker for memories, photographs, and journals (hence the blogging) and the loss of any of these things can be devastating because of the inability to get them back.  I know, its just yearbooks (now covered in mold) but it really warmed my heart and reminded me how much I love my mom and and how awesome she is for not listening to her naggy, pestering daughter who obviously still has a lot to learn.  Remember to hug, kiss, call, and tell your mom you love her today!   

Quigley FOOD Journeys: Philly Style

I heart food.  Then again, who doesnt?!?!  Nowadays, an endless amount of shows, networks, and media are strictly dedicated to all things food, making it difficult to ignore delicious temptations and intriguing recipes.  I became a victim in college, as I devoured everything the Food Network offered, rushing home in between classes for Sara's Secrets and sneaking in an episode of 30 Minute Meals before I rush off to work at night.  Back then, Rachael Ray was still an underground celeb and Giada was rockin crunchy, curly hair.  My foodfernalia sources have expanded since then, and I now enjoy reading chef biographies, exploring food blogs, and learning about different love affairs with food.  Yelp and Chowhound are my two favorite online food review sites and sources.  I also check out restaurants mentioned in The Best Thing I Ever Ate (although I often wonder if some of these places are simply commercial plug-ins).  The results of my research and analysis led us to eat at the following places in Philly.

Jim's Steaks
VIllage Whiskey
Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House

Jim's Steaks...AWESOME!  We were strugging on whether to go to famous Pat and Geno's, which are across the street from each other, or to Tony Luke's for the quintessential Philly cheeseteak.  On the ardent advice of our concierge, we opted for Jim's Steaks, which we never heard of before but was within walking distance.  My oh my, it was a risk that paid off well.  
The line was out the door and wrapped around the corner; a good indication. 
Two cheesesteaks: both topped with onions, mushrooms, and peppas; one with provolone and one with whiz and banana peppas.  MMMM MMMMM MMMMMM.
Village Whiskey...we ate here for a late night dinner after watching some hilarious acts at the nearby Helium Comedy Club.  Chef Jose Garces is one of the new Iron Chefs, and Hubs was aching to try the Whiskey King Burger, which has foie gras.  The entire meal was sinful, superbly rich, and indulgent.  My only disappointment was the Pickled Green Beans and Shallots dish (no pics) because it wasn't pickley enough for my taste.  My pickle preference is driven by the principle that the more distorted my face gets from puckering, the better.  Bring on the vinegar, I say!  Sadly, the pickled green beans dish was barely tangy.  Aside from that, the rest of our choices were fantastic, service was great, and the ambiance was very warm and sexy with dark wood furnishings, low candles, and leather booths.
Short Rib and Cheddar Fries.  WOW.  Generous amount of deliciously tender short rib meat and high quality gooey cheddar cheese over perfectly crispy french fries.  Eating this deceived me into feeling wealthy.  Wish I could have some right now... 
Whiskey King Burger: maple bourbon glazed cipollini, rogue bleu cheese, applewood bacon, foie gras.  Hubs said "each outstanding flavor dances on the tongue."  The delicious brioce bun deserves an award for best supporting actor as the valuable vehicle uniting such formidable ingredients.

Morimoto...Although we had a horrible server, the meal itself was genuinely magnificent.  It's hard to express this notion without being too dramatic, but it truly was a life-altering, opens-your-eyes, awakens-the-senses type of experience.  And this being said after having to deal with an arrogant, condescending, flippant waiter who seemed to insist on ruining our evening.  After Hubs articulately communicated his extreme dissatisfaction to the manager, our server was immediately replaced with a reassuringly happy, friendly girl who just moved to Philly from New Orleans (automatic 100 bonus points).  We were also compensated with additional specialties to placate my fuming husband. (He rarely gets mad, so when he does, it's scary.  And this was cartoon-smoke-shooting-out-of-his-ears type of mad.)  The manager was charming and her quick response to correct the situation eliminated any resentment we may have had and elevated our dining experience even further.      
Amuse Bouche: Cream of Tomato with Lobster Ceviche
Tuna Pizza: crisp tortilla, spicy tuna carpaccio and anchovy sauce
Toro Tartare with fresh wasabi.  Easily and certainly, this is on my personal list of top ten Best Thing I Ever Ate...ever ever ever.  I could write an entire book on the experience of eating this stunning, almost too good to be true dish.  It seems like a very tiny portion, and Hubs and I were certainly pleased at how many indulgently satisfying bites this deceivingly small plate provided.  The presentation, colors, textures, freshness, flavors, sauces, and the meticulous cohesion of it all...BRAVO.  I can get really artsy fartsy on this one, discuss its ethereal dimensions, use a ton of superlatives, and so on and so forth.  But honestly, every single component of this dish was enhanced each and every brilliant bite.  I imagine that this is passed around as hors d'oeuvres upon entering heaven. 
10 Hour Pork Kakuni: braised pork belly with hot rice porridge.  Fantastic again.  Wonderfully tender and tasty.  However, if I have to leave out one dish from the evening, it would be this.  Simply because I've had braised pork belly before, and although this was perfectly delicious, it wasn't anything new and exotic like the other dishes.
Ishi Yaki Bop: rice dish prepared at your table in hot river stone bowl with bok choy and Kobe beef.  Delicious.  It's hard to argue the ridiculous price of Kobe when you taste it for yourself, especially when it's prepared in such a remarkable way.
This is one of the ways they made it up to us.  And oh did it work.  Trio of Gelato: coconut (MIND BLASTINGLY GOOD), chocolate, and tangerine.  Two glasses of Sparkling Ume: orange blossom, champagne.
One picture not featured that was a part of our meal is the Morimoto Ramen Soup: iron chef’s chicken noodle soup.  It's a low down, crying shame that the ramen we associate with is even called ramen, if this is what ramen is supposed to be, because it was the ultimate, maximum-umami noodle soup experience.  I could eat Morimoto's version of ramen everyday. 

Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House was our final food stop before hopping back on the train for DC.  It was my first time to a restaurant with six words to its name, but its reviews were awesome, prices were cheap, and we were hungry.  Soon after ordering, our bowls were placed in front of us, filled to the brim with hot, deliciously comforting and tasty broth, tender slices of beef, and perfectly cooked noodles. 
I ordered the Sliced Beef with Shaved Noodle Soup.  The noodles were a bit thinner, more like fettuccine.  This whole bowl was $5.25.  Yummyyyy!  I'm definitely going to crave this once winter rolls around.
Hubs ordered the Beef Brisket with Hand Drawn Noodle Soup.  It may look a bit similar, but the cut of meat and the broth were different.  This was a bit more beefy, but if I had to choose, I liked this type of noodle more.  It was wider and a bit thicker, more like pappardelle pasta, so it was a bit more satisfying, albeit unladylike, to slurp up a of mouthful of noodles and chew.  This was also $5.25.  SIGH.  I wish this was in DC!
I hope you'll get to try at least one of the places or dishes I mentioned.  Philly was definitely a fun town for eats, and I eagerly await my next trip there to try out even more!