January 2014 Favorites

Love & Toast Hand Creme in Honey Coconut

Was shopping at Ulta after work one day and got sucked in by this brand’s completely adorable packaging.  Who doesn’t want cute little birdies on their tube of hand cream?  Luckily, and more importantly, the product is awesome.  The honey coconut scent is not overly sweet or heavy.  I really want to try more from this brand, particularly their sugar grapefruit scent.

Dior Crème Abricot Fortifying Cream For Nails

Confession: This cuticle cream is my first ever Dior product.  But it has been around since 1963 and women everywhere have sworn by it for decades, so I think I picked a good product to start with.  I have been using it every night as I go to bed.  I use the tiniest bit and massage into the cuticle/nail area.  It’s very goopy and takes awhile to sink in, but it works wonders on my nails.  I actually forgot to use it a few nights in a row last week, and I could definitely tell the difference when I stopped.  Peely, dry hangnail city!  Ugh.  A couple nights later, after remembering to use the product faithfully, everything was back on track again.  Oh, and it smells great!  So as long as you can get past the goopy, sticky texture (which is why it is recommended to use it right before bed), then you will love it as much as I do.

Downton Abbey

I love everything about this show.  Acting, writing, story, sets, costumes, characters, everything.  Similar to Mad Men, this show does an amazing job with weaving tidbits of real, factual history throughout the story; from the sinking of the Titanic, to WW1, to the fads and fashions of the Roaring Twenties, to the introduction of various inventions and conveniences to the house (electric lights, sewing machines, refrigeration, the telephone, etc).  My favorite character in the whole show, hands down, is Carson, the overly stuffy but loveable head butler.  His utter disgust at anything being out of order, or any kind of change at Downton, just cracks me up.  Second would be Violet, the Dowager Countess, who is the perfect mix of “prim and proper elderly noblewoman stuck in her Victorian ways” and “feisty, witty, and wise grandmother who tells it like it is”.  It helps that Violet is played by the incredible Maggie Smith.

New episodes of Downton Abbey air on PBS on Sunday nights, but you can stream prior episodes via Amazon Prime Instant Video.  And if you haven’t, I suggest that you do.  Even Tadd loves this show!

Manicure of the Month

My favorite manicure combo of January was this navy & gold striped look achieved with Butter London’s Big Smoke (navy) and Orly’s Luxe (gold).  Love both of these polishes, and together they are gorgeous!  Lately I have been loving all things nautical, and I felt like this was a good representation of that look without being too in your face about it.  I had intended to have small gold anchors stamped on my thumbs, but the image plate I have just wasn’t working well.  I have more nautical-themed image plates on the way from MoYou London!  If you want to keep up with my nail stamping adventures, follow me over at Sunshine And Some Polish!

Candles of the Month

This month we have been burning Yankee Candle’s limited edition Boston Strong candle (which is no longer available, but I believe is the same or similar scent as their Home Sweet Home candles) and a Bath & Body Works’ 3-wick in the scent Gelato.  We usually have 2 candles to choose from at any given time, and after finishing our post-holiday candles (Vanilla Snowflake and Champagne Toast), I wanted to switch to some fragrances that kind of bridged the gap between winter and spring.  Winter doesn’t last very long here in Florida, and I tend to like my scents to follow the weather and/or season.  Boston Strong is spicy with a bit of a tea backnote, which I think is a perfect cozy scent for cooler weather.  Gelato smells like berries & cream, which is perfect when we are in the mood for something a little lighter and more spring-like.

What have you been into this month?

The Illustrious Biltmore Estate (aka American Downton Abbey)

We are back from our TN/NC adventure!  It was good to see family and we had a fabulous time.  We did and saw a TON during the 9 days we were gone, but I think one of the highlights for me was getting to see the Biltmore Estate, the grand French Chateauesque mansion built by George W. Vanderbilt II in the late 1800s.  The property spans over 8000 acres and includes some of the most beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Pisgah National Forest.  The house itself has 250 rooms (we got to see approximately 40 of them) and encompasses almost 180,000 square feet.  It has been established as the largest privately-owned residence in the US.

Being a history nerd, I knew I would love it, but there is something about being there in person…  I told Tadd that while we were on property, I almost felt like we were in a real life fairy tale.  This is about as close to European castle as you are going to get on American soil.  And being Downton Abbey fans, Tadd and I could not help but make comparisons.  Especially when we got to the kitchen and the servants areas.  However, I think my favorite room of all had to be the unbelievable dining hall.  I think I remember the tour audio mentioning that the room itself is about 7 stories tall.  The fireplace alone is mindbogglingly enormous, and is technically three fireplaces in one.  You can see a small photo of it here, although to truly get the scale of it, you really have to see it in person.

We took a ton of pictures while we were there, but only of the exterior, since photography was not allowed indoors.  Please know that the photos do this place zero justice, and if you ever have the opportunity to visit this place, I highly urge you to do so.  Between the interior tour, walking around the grounds, with lunch and shopping in the middle, this can easily take up an entire day or more.  We still wanted to see more (including the on site winery!) but I figure it gives us a reason to go back.  And I promise, I will be back!  I would love to go at Christmas time.  The house debuted on Christmas Eve 1895, so Christmas is kind of a big deal here.  They also have specialized tours (focused on architecture, landscaping, even one specifically about the lives of the “help”) that give you exclusive access not granted on the standard tour, so I would love to take one or two of those as well.  See?  Lots of reasons to go back!

Here are some of my favorite shots from the day, which is a lot of them because pretty much everywhere you look is some astonishingly beautiful sight, large or small (makes it very very easy to pretend to be a “good” photographer…heh):