Sense Appeal XXIV - Christmas Edition

12.24.2013

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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Gap

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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.

ingredients: 
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

12.17.2013

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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

12.09.2013

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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

12.05.2013

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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.