Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Like Mother, Like Daughter:
Mother's Day Gift Guide & Giveaway



My mom is a palliative care physician, and she literally has no free time for shopping, pampering, or fun of any kind. I take it as my responsibility to keep her up-to-date with the newest trends and fads of the fashion and beauty world, so Mother's Day is the perfect time to show how much I love her while simultaneously debriefing her on the seasonal must-haves. Plus, she's just like me, so shopping for Dr. Knight has always been easy peasy. I like easy peasy. 

Here is a list of fabulous possible gifts your mama will adore this year! Heavy emphasis on pink, purses, and perfume! Oh, and chocolate of course

1. Prada Candy Mother's Day Set // 2. CLARISONIC Festival Colors- PLUS Joy Sonic Skin Cleansing System for Face & Body // 3. Godiva Ultimate Dessert Truffles // 4. Things We Love Eat Cake for Breakfast Mug // 5. CLARISONIC Opal- Pink Oasis Facial Sonic Infusion System // 6. Silver Street "Happy Hour" Flask // 7. DryBar 3-Day Bender 1.25" Curling Iron // 8. Lilly Pulitzer Large Glass Catchall Tray // 9. Longchamp Large Le Pliage Tote in Pink // 10. Voluspa Japonica Crème de Peche Large Embossed Jar Candle // 11. J. Crew Persian Leaves Earrings 



And now for the giveaway! I've teamed up with 12 fabulous bloggers to bring you an awesome, Mother's Day giveaway - with 3 winners! Be sure to check out these ladies' blogs & enter through the Rafflecopter below. A very important note - All giveaway entries will be verified, before winners are announced.



Mother's Day 2014 Gift Ideas



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck, everyone! What are you planning on buying your mother this year? Any ideas?!

xo

♥ Stephanie

The Soundtrack of My Life:
Put Them Jams on Repeat


I think it goes without saying that music is one of the most powerful intangible influences in life. I literally don't know how I could've gotten through those rough 12-15 months of physical recovery if it weren't for my iPod... or Sudoku. As a fancy pants classically-trained vocalist, singing has become more than a talent for me; it's become an outlet. I'll never forget the first time I cried on stage while performing my talent at Miss Florida. I sang "Reflection" by Christina Aguilera, and at some point in the middle of the song, I literally lost myself in the melody and lyrics, and I broke down. Don't worry-- the audience felt it, too, so it was all good and totally not awko, although the potential for creating a distinct level of palpable discomfort was high. 

As you can see, my vocals were irrelevant. The fist making, sass, and convulsions were clearly enough to win that panel. Don't steal my strategy, bro. 


As my preparation for Miss Florida USA becomes more and more diligent, I need to remember moments like making a judge on the panel of the Miss Florida 2011 Pageant cry with my passion and transparency. I want to remember the taste of hearing my name called in the Top 10 on finals night... and how much it meant to me that my dad was in the audience to see it. As I reflect back on what still reigns as the most exciting night of my life, I need that spark, that passion, and that drive to stay fresh in mind. In an attempt to keep the fire beneath my easily-distracted feet, I created a completely embarrassing yet motivating playlist on Spotify for my crowning moment. 


I would like to point out that it takes a lot of practice to look this calm and collected. Inquire within for lessons. 

No but seriously, I look like an absolute idiot.. but that joy and surprise is 100% genuine. My goal is to experience THAT horrendously unattractive and unapologetic elation again this July. I realize this Spotify playlist probably makes me look like a twelve year old boy, but I don't care. I won't tell anyone if you share each and every song. Heck, make your own playlist and send it to me, so I can further enhance the already awesome motivational soundtrack to my life. 




Not to get all deep and nostalgic, but if you could relive a moment of grave importance to your life and personal development through music, what would be on your playlist? No judgments, obviously


Have a great weekend!
xo

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Spotify via Glam Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Spotify.

♥ Stephanie

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Somebunny Loves You!
Happy Easter, Y'all!

"The Lord is Risen. He is Risen, Indeed!"

Happy Easter, Easter, C.C. Lake, Prep, OOTD, #FBloggers

I hope you all had an absolutely wonderful holiday with your family this Easter Sunday! My family's tradition is pretty simplistic: locate our Easter baskets (yes, my mom creates a Bible-related riddle every year), church, mimosas, then brunch + mimosas. Even though we don't go all fancy pants, it's my favorite family get-together every year. Grandma comes over, my mom is on cloud 9 with a full house, and the McAwesome siblings assemble under the same roof. Plus, Easter is the one holiday where everyone is practically required to wear pastels, and that pleases me.

This year, for church I donned this ridiculously cute Santorini Dress from C.C. Lake with a white cardigan. I'm absolutely obsessed with the preppy pattern, and the Santorini paired fabulously with my comfy white sandals and small Kate Spade pearl necklace. Plus, this dress has pockets, and y'all know how much I love pockets. Functional and fabulous!

Happy Easter, Easter, C.C. Lake, Prep, OOTD, #FBloggers

Happy Easter, Easter, C.C. Lake, Prep, OOTD, #FBloggers

Happy Easter, Easter, C.C. Lake, Prep, OOTD, #FBloggers

Oh hey, bro. Creepin' in the background, I see. 

Happy Easter, Easter, C.C. Lake, Prep, OOTD, #FBloggers

Happy Easter, Easter, C.C. Lake, Prep, OOTD, #FBloggers

I curled my hair with loose curls produced by my all-time favorite hair tool, the DryBar 1.25" 3-Day Bender Curling Iron. Sprayed with DryBar Money Maker Flexible Hold hair spray? The curls stay all darn day long. 

Happy Easter, Easter, C.C. Lake, Prep, OOTD, #FBloggers

I wore large gold knot earrings, in addition to the aforementioned pearl necklace, and I toted my oh-so-versatile Vineyard Vines canvas clutch along, as well. I matched my nails to my dress in lieu of additional jewelry, and the OPI I Eat Mainely Lobster lacquer couldn't have been any more perfect of a match. 

Happy Easter, Easter, C.C. Lake, Prep, OOTD, #FBloggers

Happy Easter, Easter, C.C. Lake, Prep, OOTD, #FBloggers
Dress: C.C. Lake // Necklace: Kate Spade // Clutch: Vineyard Vines (old), Similar Here // Earrings: Kohl's

After a lovely service at Aloma Baptist Chuch, it was time to dig into my basket. Now, my mom and grandma both feel the need to assemble preposterously large baskets of candy for each of us, so I get double the candy and double the bunnies. I'm not complaining, by the way. My trainer might argue otherwise. 

Oh, and meet my new spring BFF, Butters. 

Happy Easter, Easter, C.C. Lake, Prep, OOTD, #FBloggers

Happy Easter, Easter, C.C. Lake, Prep, OOTD, #FBloggers

One key indication of blood relation between my mother, grandmother, and me is our shared love and affinity for champagne and/or mimosas. So blessed to share genes with these amazing women!

Happy Easter, Easter, C.C. Lake, Prep, OOTD, #FBloggers

And then there's my brother bear, Tony. He loves pictures. Obviously.

Happy Easter, Easter, C.C. Lake, Prep, OOTD, #FBloggers

What Tony lacks in photographic prowess he makes up for in the kitchen. As a former chef, he prepares Easter brunch for us every year, and I look forward to it every day during the 364-day pre-holiday interim. My job was to pick out the flowers, so naturally I opted for roses. Yes, I'm aware lilies are the standard Easter flower. I don't like when my creativity is stifled by rules of social conformity. Rebel without a cause over here. 

Easter, Happy Easter, He is Risen, C.C. Lake, Roses

Happy Easter, Easter, C.C. Lake, Prep, OOTD, #FBloggers

Happy Easter, Easter, C.C. Lake, Prep, OOTD, #FBloggers

So that's that! Post family time, I headed over to my dear friend Mikey's house for another holiday get-together, and after the champagne wore off, I fell asleep and entered in to a spell of complete non-productivity for the rest of the day. Recipe for the perfect Easter! :) 

How was your Easter Sunday?
xo

♥ Stephanie

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cherry Blossom-Inspired Date Night:
Homemade Maki Sushi Rolls & Kirin Beer

“I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Millennial Central for Kirin. I received product samples to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.”

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls

I literally just returned from a fabulously epic girls weekend in Washington DC with my BFF, the famous S, Kate, Alex, Catalina, and Zack (honorary female) for the final weekend of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, and my first official order of business upon my return to Orlando was to make my own maki sushi rolls. Call me uninformed, but I honestly had no idea the festival was rooted in such rich Japanese history, so I learned all about the sublimity that is Japanese cuisine and Kirin beer

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls


Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls
Playing with my BFFs during the final weekend of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C.-- Formal post to come! 

Apparently, Kirin is one of Japan's oldest breweries, with a history dating back to 1888. The back story of Kirin's history is that the mythical Kirin Beast is considered a good omen of serenity and prosperity-- so everyone should consume it abundantly according to Asian prophecy. I've seen my brother drink it before at sushi//hibachi restaurants, but I've always turned a cold shoulder and stuck with wine... cause you really can't ever go wrong with a glass of Riesling (let's be real). Luckily, there are a few different variations of Kirin beer, so if something doesn't quite fancy your palette, you have alternate options. My friends and I were able to taste test all the Kirin beers, known world-wide as beer at its purest because of its first-press brewing process and clean taste, and we were all obsessed. 

First, there's standard Kirin Ichiban, which is 100% malt, first-press beer with rich flavor, a smooth finish, and a clean aftertaste. It only uses the first strain of malt liquid, which means it's truly beer at its purest, and it's known for pairing beautifully with traditional Japanese cuisine and modern Asian cuisine. Second, there's Kirin Light, which offers a full flavor and authentic Japanese-style beer with just 95 calories. Kirin Light calls to me, simply for the caloric content, and it intuitively pairs well with lighter, healthier Asian dishes, ie. pageant girl food. Lastly, there's Kirin Ichiban Frozen, which is a draught beer topped with frozen Kirin Ichiban using a fancy pants proprietary process. Now available at select lucky U.S. location (Yes, D.C. is one of the privileged few), it's an innovative and non-traditional way to enjoy Ichiban in Japan, and it's good. Real good. 

Kirin's unique taste is the perfect compliment to refined traditional Japanese cuisine (like maki sushi), the bold flavors of modern Asian food, and other flavor-forward dishes. S, the driving force of our impromptu beer tasting, actually attended a National Cherry Blossom Festival event last week where former fashion model and celebrity chef Candice Kumai introduced Kirin pairing tips and Japanese-style recipes with event goers. Throughout the year, Chef Kumai will continue to share more special recipes and tips on Kirin's Facebook page, so I will continue to attempt different Asian dishes and force poor bystanders to eat my masterpieces during this one-year time period. Have I mentioned I'm trying to be more domestic?

Former model and celebrity chef Candice Kumai at the National Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Sake Tasting, kicking off the release of Kirin's Ichiban Frozen beer

In preparation for my little cooking adventure, I did some mild research on the Japanese customs, since my dad is adamant about doing as the Romans do when in Rome. Japanese custom mandates never filling your own glass and never letting another's glass get completely empty, so you have to be on your hostess A game when preparing for an Asian-inspired dinner party. Also, in Japan, when everyone is ready to drink, they salute by saying, "Kanpai," which literally means, "Dry your glass." Cheers to that.

In order to get started, you're going to need a rice paddle, bamboo mat, rice bowl, and soy sauce ramekins, among other optional instruments. As far as the actual ingredients go, the essentials are: 10-12 sheets toasted nori (seaweed), 1.5 cups sushi rice, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Set the mood for your evening with cherry blossoms, or in my case, the next best thing at Publix: purple or pink miniature orchids. Atmosphere is everything.

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls

Make your sushi rice first. Prepare and cook the sushi rice as directed on the package, sticking to a roughly two parts grain, one part water ratio. Cool the rice slightly while preparing your sushi-su (sushi vinegar), which is an Asian creation consisting of 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and one teaspoon of salt. Combine in a medium mixing bowl and whisk well to completely dissolve all the sugar and salt. 

This is the kind-of-tricky part, and it's best to tag team with a cooking partner. Transfer your slightly-cooled sushi rice into a large bowl. Using a rice paddle and a small paper fan (ie. piece of copy paper), fan the sushi rice as you slowly drizzle the sushi vinegar over the rice. Cut the sushi rice with the rice paddle as you fan the rice to cool at the same time. Be sure to not mix the rice. Simply cut through your block of rice until all of the sushi-su is absorbed. 

They see me rollin'... they hatin'...

This was the fun part. Don't be surprised if a guy completely reveals his inner domestic goddess while rolling your sushi. Make sure your rice is still warm and that you've got a clean surface to work on, like a clean cutting board or counter top. Lay down your bamboo mat on your work surface, then place the nori on top of the bamboo mat, shiny side down. 

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls

Using your rice paddle, spread a layer of approximately .5 cup sushi rice in the middle of the nori sheet. At the bottom of the sushi roll, closest to you, add your choice of fillers (cucumber, avocado, etc.), proteins (imitation crab, salmon, etc.), and seasonings in a horizontal line. Tightly roll from the bottom up into a long maki roll. Gently squeeze the bamboo mat to tighten your roll. 

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls

To cut into edible pieces, remove your bamboo mat and cut your roll in half. Wipe off your knife with your towel in between slicing, or things get nasty real quick. Next, line up your two halves and cut into fourths and sixths. Repeat until all the sushi rice is used. Serve and enjoy immediately. 

Make sure you've got wasabi (or in our case, Japanese horseradish), ginger, soy sauce, and spicy mustard, since those are popular Asian sauces/compliments. Serve on a rectangular sushi plate, and you're ready to go. Asian sensation say heyyy

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls

No joke, our sushi tasted amazing. Like, legit amazing. The Kirin Light, ringing in at only 95 calories, was the perfect beverage pairing for me, and Ian opted for the full bodied (and full calorie) Kirin Ichiban beer. It's refreshing, mildly sweet, and well balanced, so it complements the sweet and spicy flavors in the maki sushi like an absolute charm. 

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls

I never honestly thought that my trip to DC would spawn an urge to make my own sushi, but it did, and I'm glad it did. I feel more domestic already. The fact that Ian did 96% of the work while I "supervised" is irrelevant. 


Who else has made their own sushi? Did you pair it with Kirin Ichiban like we did?


Have a great week!
xo

♥ Stephanie

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pageant Girl Problems:
How to Repair Dull & Damaged Hair

As per FTC regulations, this post is sponsored by Global Influence Network, but all opinions are my own. #WeightlessHair


So apparently dying your hair back and forth from dark brunette to honey blonde can be harmful to its structural integrity. Who knew? It's an unfortunate truth, but as a pageant queen, I tend to perform better as a blonde-- on the contrary, in my every day non-glamorous life, I prefer to be brunette. It's more natural and a heavy favorite among my friends and family. Since this is my last year of eligibility in the Miss USA system, I'm doing all I can to ensure my best foot is forward come the state pageant in July, which translates to: my hair will be significanly lightened, tortured with heat, and tangled with extensions over the next few weeks. I think it goes without saying that my hair will be suffering. Majorly suffering. We're talking poor, dry, brittle, and tangle-prone locks who are supposed to somehow shine with illustrious sparkle on stage. 

As far as protectants go, Keratin is not an option for preserving my hair's health, since it removes any potential for volume and bounce-- which are two vital characteristics of effective pageant//bombshell hair. I've tried every other serum under the sun, and nothing seems to actually repair the damage besides reverting to air drying my hair, waiting a few months, and avoiding any and all forms of color treatment. Well, I'm happy to say I came across a fabulous and inexpensive method for restoring the natural shine and luster of healthy hair. It's called the new Dove® Advanced Hair Series, and it's available at my favorite place for all things feminine: Walgreens. 

The new Dove® Advanced Hair Care line offers an innovative and sensorial hair collection that provides weightless moisture plus volume and shine, so you can keep that oomph and bounce all day. As their slogan says, it literally "breathes life into lifeless hair." This brand spankin' new series' products create non-oily, weightless moisture and nourishment for hair, ranging from Oxyfusion to Dry Oil treatments aimed at correcting the burdens of fine-flat hair and dry-dull hair. I seem to suffer from all 4 conditions (fine, flat, dry, & dull-- yippee), so I'm an avid fan, especially for the price. 

Their products range from about $5-$10 at Walgreens, and although I'm such a fan of Moroccan and Argon Oil, I just can't justify spending $10 more for half the product when a full-sized Dove bottle accomplishes the same objective for less. Watch this super neat and quick video below for more information about product details and comparisons.  




Oh, and y'all are all invited to join in on the #WeightlessHair Twitter party on Wednesday, April 16 at 8 PM ET with @ResourcefulMom. RSVP here for a chance to win one of ten $50 Walgreens gift cards: http://resourcefulmommy.com/13754/dove-advanced-hair-series-at-walgreens-twitter-party/


Has anyone else given Dove's new Advanced Hair Care Series a try? What did you think? 


Have a great week, lovelies! I'm seriously sad I'm leaving DC this afternoon. Back to reality! Blah
xo

♥ Stephanie

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I Can Be Trophy Wife Barbie:
Springtime Bees, Trees, & Graphic Tees

9th & Elm, Trophy Wife, Tory Burch, Subtle Luxury, Lily and Laura bracelets, Lauren Conrad, OOTD

One time, a guy I was regrettably kind of seeing disclosed that his friend referred to me as a "trophy wife." I was offended. How rude. How sexist. How shallow. I have a degree in Actuarial Science, and I manage a financial planning firm for a living. Then, in my infinite wisdom (ie. once my period ended), I realized it's actually a back-handed compliment. Although the term "trophy wife" has an extremely negative connotation of implied incompetence and superficiality, I will be a trophy wife. Not in the sense that I'm all about looks, but because my nonexistent husband should be proud of me and all my professional accomplishment. Plus, hopefully he'll think I'm hot. Trophy wife hot. 

So the point of this rant is that I have fallen in love with the Trophy Wife graphic tee that 9th & Elm sent me. It was between this and their Selfie tank, so I'm sure you can fathom the inner debate that perpetuated in my head for 20+ minutes-- but ultimately, it stole my heart, and I'm in love. Opting for a casual look, I styled my amazing tank with black skinnies and a mint sparkle spin scarf from Subtle Luxury

9th & Elm, Trophy Wife, Tory Burch, Subtle Luxury, Lily and Laura bracelets, Lauren Conrad, OOTD

9th & Elm, Trophy Wife, Tory Burch, Subtle Luxury, Lily and Laura bracelets, Lauren Conrad, OOTD

Call me a crazy bag lady, but the bigger the better in my opinion! I use my Tory Burch Nylon Ella, Ella for short, as a work tote, and she doubles as a fabulous weekend bag, holding everything from my wallet to my towel and sunscreen for tanning opportunities. 

9th & Elm, Trophy Wife, Tory Burch, Subtle Luxury, Lily and Laura bracelets, Lauren Conrad, OOTD

9th & Elm, Trophy Wife, Tory Burch, Subtle Luxury, Lily and Laura bracelets, Lauren Conrad, OOTD

As far as accessories go, I tried to keep it clean and bright with a classic silver Kate Spade Gramercy Grand watch, David Yurman "Cable Classic" bracelet, and-- my favorite-- Lily and Laura bracelets from 9th and Elm.

9th & Elm, Trophy Wife, Tory Burch, Subtle Luxury, Lily and Laura bracelets, Lauren Conrad, OOTD

9th & Elm, Trophy Wife, Tory Burch, Subtle Luxury, Lily and Laura bracelets, Lauren Conrad, OOTD

9th & Elm, Trophy Wife, Tory Burch, Subtle Luxury, Lily and Laura bracelets, Lauren Conrad, OOTD

9th & Elm, Trophy Wife, Tory Burch, Subtle Luxury, Lily and Laura bracelets, Lauren Conrad, OOTD
Top: 9th & Elm // Jeans: Express // Scarf: Subtle Luxury // Shoes: Lauren Conrad // Watch: Kate Spade // Bracelets: Lily and Laura & David Yurman // Earrings: Max & Chloe // Bag: Tory Burch 


Shout out to my fellow trophy wives! Baby, do whatcha do!


Happy Hump Day, pretties!
xo

♥ Stephanie
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