Sense Appeal XXIV - Christmas Edition


for the eyes:
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Santa's workshop chez moi

for the mind:
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Though all retailers push spending during the holiday season, some aren't as eager to spread Christmas cheer.  The American Family Association published a list of the "naughty" and "nice" retailers based upon the extent they promote Christmas.

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Turns out, Barnes & Noble, Office Depot and Radio Shack, among others, are in fact against celebrating Christmas, which may make you re-think where you get your books, binders and batteries come this time next year. But no coal for the companies below, who as indicated by the photos, clearly made the nice list.

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Home Depot

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Neiman Marcus

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and Target

for the ears:
DAVE BARNES - CHRISTMAS TONIGHT from Salvador Lleo on Vimeo.
Mainstream musicians of today have a tendency to absolutely ruin a classic Christmas carol. That means you, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga and One Direction. So, when I find an artist who takes proper care of the quality of Christmas music, I feel compelled to share it.

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Like this guy, Dave Barnes. He has the soothing voice of the Michael Bublé sort who beautifully carries the charm of both traditional Christmas songs and his own variety. I'm particularly fond of his duet with Hillary Scott--"Christmas Tonight." It serves as a satisfying replacement for when I've overplayed my all-time favorite, "Baby, It's Cold Outside."

fashion for feel:
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Over a year ago, I posted about my fetish for leather accents, and it's only grown since as I'm becoming more open to all leather pieces, particularly skirts. During the winter, donning denim day in and day out grows tiresome and I crave something to satisfy my more feminine taste.

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Leather skirts used to give off an edgier vibe, worn strictly by those who preferred to be seen as the tough-girl type. Now, with full-body skirts, ruffles and lace cut-outs, leather can be--dare I say--ladylike.

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Whether faux (like bottom left pleated magic leather skirt) or for real (like top left Neil Barrett burgundy leather mini skirt or middle Mugler Origami leather skirt in praline), the options are nearly endless.

for taste:
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It seemed only fitting to post a Christmas-themed sense appeal. For many, Christmas looks like snow, smells like the pine of a Christmas tree, and tastes like eggnog, gingerbread or peppermint bark from William's Sonoma.

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In my household, Christmas tastes like my mom's Christmas candy crack(ers). The addictive nature of these treats comes from the mixture of salty and sweet, and packaging them for friends and family is always one of my favorite annual duties as my mom's little elf.

1 sleeve (1/4 box) Saltine crackers
2 sticks of butter
1 cup of light brown packed sugar
12 oz./2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
5 oz. sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 400
In a 15" x 10" jelly roll pan with a 1" edge, line it with heavy duty aluminum foil.

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Lay the crackers in the foil-lined pan with the edges touching and no overlap.

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Melt 2 sticks of butter and the cup of brown sugar over medium high heat.

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Bring to a boil. After 3 minutes, pour the boiling mixture over the crackers as evenly as possible.

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Place in the preheated oven and bake for 6 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly across the hot mixture. Wait 2 or 3 minutes for the chocolate to melt, then spread evenly with a spatula without disturbing the crackers. Sprinkle about half the bag of almonds across the top.

Cool one hour at room temperature, and then place the crackers in the freezer to harden for 45 minutes. Break into bite size pieces and share with friends and family--and leave the rest out for Santa tonight! Merry Christmas Eve!

Weekend In a Winter Wonderland


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It's been a whirlwind of a semester, all culminating in one last wonderful winter weekend.

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The details of Andy & Kirby's wedding are coming together. A frosty Friday was made all the more flavorful with a peppermint oreo milkshake from the Cow Tipping Creamery trailer in West Campus. I saw the updates since the move-in at my sister's new South Austin home while babysitting on Friday night, like this chalk wall entryway. I made my first trip to Snack Bar with some of my best girlfriends, now my favorite SoCo spot. The 50-degree temperatures allowed me to sport the newest additions to my winter wardrobe: an olive boyfriend fatigue jacket and caramel Dolce Vita booties. And the Kappa Christmas decor made for an ideal finals study environment.

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My two exams were spread out enough to allow for a healthy mixture of work and play, so much in fact that I was able to make two trips to Austin's Trail of Lights at Zilker Park.

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On my second go-around, William and I picked up dinner in one of the mini food trailer parks along the trail.

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The savory crêpes were a sweet reward for completing another six credit French course and an even sweeter reward for finally bidding adieu to Plan II Physics.

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Sweetest of all, was the two sets of company I wandered through this winter wonderland with.

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And now, after almost 12 months straight spent in Austin, I couldn't be happier to be home for the holidays.

Les fêtes


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{mimi shows off her art student skills with the handmade card she made for meghan}
Among the onslaught of good things that come during the holidays--like the cheerful spirit from the last post--the parties and gatherings certainly rank high on my list. On top of Christmas formals, tacky sweater parties and deb balls, junior year means you are 20 going on 21, therefore birthday bashes are frequent and often full-blown festivities.

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{meg blowing out her 21 candles at Moonshine}
Meghan celebrated her first legal drink in style with yet another amazing Cade's Cake creation. We ordered her a stack of Vogue magazines cake; the top featured a favorite of she and I both, Lana Del Rey.

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Julianne turned 21 on the same night and had confetti to accompany her cocktails.

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And Evan was just pleased to be with family and Thomas the Train toys as we celebrated his entrance into the terrible twos on Thanksgiving Day. And it all leads up to the ultimate birthday celebration on the 25th.

Spreading Cheer


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As we grow older, the meaning behind Christmas changes.

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As a child, it's about the magic. Joy, in the form of a new American Girl doll or the newest set of Transformers, is delivered into your home through the chimney.

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As we mature, it's about the stuff. The greedy teenage years get the best of us as we ask for our first cell phone, car, and computer from our parents--all so we can stay connected with the most important people in our lives at that time, our friends.

I'm pretty set on things. Now, it's about the cheer, the kindness. Though it's entirely non-Christmas related, this story and video reminded me of the contagious spirit that spreads come this time of year.

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A mother from Houston, whose family has crossed paths with my own, tells the story of the criticism she received after her decision to adopt a Bulgarian boy with Down Syndrome. Needless to say, the idea was not well-received by even her closest friends, some of whom even called her "crazy."

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Most people's most pressing concern was for her daughter, Ace, and how she would be able to deal with something that would "ruin their lives."

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Somehow, the loving parents willing to devote their lives to raising this son, were being scrutinized for her having hearts bigger than we're used to.

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I encourage you to read the full blog post featured on the Huffington Post, which closes with this:
We as parents get so wrapped up in trivial things, bogged down by stresses of raising children in today's crazy competitive world, that we often forget what truly matters. Being good to people. Being kind to everyone.
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I'm not a parent, but I think we as people get bogged down. We forget what truly matters, too. Especially at this time of year.

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Lately, I've been wrapped up in trivial matters as college can easily have that effect on you. It makes it all the more refreshing to come by reminders that simple things, like just being kind, don't just go a long way, but go the longest way.

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The best way to spread Christmas cheer, is being kind to all who are near.

Sense Appeal XXIII


for the eyes:
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'Cause it's contagious.

for the mind:
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My Plan II thesis is approaching sooner rather than later and it's got my mind hungry for all things social media related. While Plan II pre-med students dip their foot in the doctor world and art students shine on stages or canvases, I'm most curious about our social media crazed culture.

Watch and learn for yourselves here as Jonah Peretti of BuzzFeed channels his creative energy and brilliance into the world wide web.

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While he focuses on viral marketing, it still seemed pertinent to my social media studies. It's hard not to be fascinated with how quickly everything spreads. He makes a particularly interesting comparison to religion with Muslims success in bringing so many people to the Islam faith largely because they stress effective conversion methods. Just the same, this day and age needs to apply more emphasis on how we spread ideas rather than just the ideas themselves. Or so Jonah says.

for the ears:
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{kendall, katie and mimi dressed as DJ, Michelle & Stephanie from Full House--part of my daily elementary school after school routine}
This past weekend was Fiji's 90s party. The weekend before was 80s and as we danced into the next decade, the biggest difference was a little less neon and a lot more denim. Needless to say, it was highly entertaining to take a step back into childhood, especially where music is concerned.

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Once I had graduated from Disney musical classics, I moved onto burned mixed CDs featuring Deana Carter, Hanson and Vitamin C. I find that music has a way of transporting you back in time unlike anything else, so in honor of this flashback, I've created a playlist of hits from the best/worst/cheesiest songs from the decade of denim and Destiny's Child.

fashion for feel:
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Even if fashion falls short on making your top priority list, we all like to get festive for the holidays. And this holiday season, I highly recommend you deck the halls with plaid.

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top left: Free People Maxi Sergeant Coat // bottom left: McQ Alexander McQueen Plaid V-Neck Dress // middle: Glascow crop sweatshirt // top right: Franco Ferrari extreme plaid scarf // bottom right: Harvey Faircloth flannel romper
This prep school pattern isn't just reserved for school girls and is certainly not only meant for mini skirts, as indicated by these items on sale now just in time to make it onto your list to Santa.

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It may be a blast from your private school past, but I can assure you whatever garment you choose to don your plaid in will bring you holiday cheer year round.

for taste: 
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I do my best to count my blessings often, and one thing that always makes the list is my taste buds' wide pallette for different foods, which Austin serves more than well. Not to mention, I always have willing company to dine with. Most recently, I've
top left: sipped smoothies on a Sunday at the new juice bar at Whole Foods with Lana
top right: had my first Hillside Farmacy experience with another first-timer and friend, Katie
bottom left: didn't let the line spilling onto MLK deter William and I from Cane's on opening weekend
bottom right: cured the Monday blues with a wake and bacon breakfast at none other than, Bacon

Happy Hump Day!