Fashion Friday: Rachel Gilbert

Friday, July 30, 2010

In the words of Rachel Zoe, “I die.” When I laid eyes on another Rachel, I immediately died.

Designer Rachel Gilbert’s new line of jaw dropping, glittery dresses is ridiculously awesome.

Coming from the land down under, Rachel’s latest collection features dramatic, drool-worthy draping, gleeful glitter and awe-inspiring asymmetrical frocks.

The silver, one-shoulder bedazzled dress (right) makes me want to crash some red carpet or get married again in Vegas. And seriously – while it is an insane price tag, it’s not as bad as other high-end designers.

(Sources: Net-A-Porter, Rachel Gilbert; Photos Borrowed from: Rachel Gilbert and net-a-porter)
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Wearing your Heart on your Face

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Around Valentine’s Day, I spotted these adorable heart sunglasses in shades of pink and white that I thought would be perfect for my bridesmaids in the event that we would have a sunny wedding day (photo via Dana).

Little did I know that my kitschy find for my stylish bridesmaids would be part of a growing celebrity trend of heart-shaped glasses!

Above: Vanessa Hudgens (, Kelly Osborne (, Drew Barrymore & Nicole Richie (

Want the look? Try or Urban Outfitters
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No Tech Tuesday

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Back when I was in school, we had to call our friends on their parents land line and beep the horn to let them know we were outside to pick them up…

While I’m under 30 (barely), I can just imagine telling future generations what it was like not to have today’s technology. In fact, when I was at the Verizon store in April waiting for my numbers to transfer, the employee was a college co-ed and he said that he got his first cell phone at 16. You wanna know what I got for my 16th birthday? A pager. My friends would text me their number and I’d call them from a pay phone!

What I am trying to say is that we’ve become such a wired nation. From cell phones to Twitter to Facebook to blogs to email to BBM….it doesn’t end.

Earlier and this month, the Mr. and I de-wired on our honeymoon. It wasn’t the fact that we wanted to disconnect from the world, more so that the international charges were ridiculous. However, I am SO grateful that we let go of all computers, cell phones, internets, blogs, etc. I read some amazing books and had some good conversations with the hubs. It was really nice not to have dinner with someone that was checking their phone every few minutes!

While almost all of my readers’ jobs involve a computer, I thought I would give you a few ways to disconnect or become a bit less wired.

• No Technology Days: Brady and I discussed no internet weekends once a month. I think this is a great way to recharge you for the upcoming week. Discover new neighborhoods in your area, watch movies and visit friends! I know – the cell phone may be a bit difficult to give up during these days.

• Disconnect for an hour: The other day reader Amy’s internet went down at work and she was at a loss. I say, make this an ever day occurrence! Shut down your computer for an hour and do paperwork, take a long lunch, schedule some meetings – find something that doesn’t require you to stare at a screen.

Put your phone away during dinner: As I mentioned above, it was really nice to have dinner with someone that wasn’t checking their phone every few minutes. Unless you have a kid at home or a sick parent, what’s more important than the person you are eating with!? Just stop the texting and enjoy the time with the person you are hanging out with.

Don’t check work email after work hours: Unless you are saving the world or a doctor, stop checking work emails after hours. I thought that a work Blackberry would be a blessing. Well, it’s not. I found myself getting emails from mommy bloggers at 3:00 a.m. on weekends and finding the urge to always respond to people. Refusing to check work emails after hours helps you maintain a better work/life balance. Also, don’t give out your work email to friends. You will find yourself always wanting to send emails during work hours and checking for responses when you are away from work.

Honestly – these are simple tips! Sometimes you just need to ask yourself – am I really addicted to the internet? Do I need a break?
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Things just got a little sweeter here in Chicago today. West coast cupcake mecca Sprinkles is opening its first Chicago store a few blocks from my apartment this afternoon. Being a five-star cupcake connoisseur, you know I will hit up this bakery on my way home this week. Today may be a bit crowded for my liking. It’s like those amateurs that go shopping on black Friday.

The Mr. and I (who are celebrating our 1-month anniversary! Yeah!), knocked one restaurant off our Chicago bucket list this weekend – Orange. Known as a contemporary brunch eatery, orange has a plethora of creative dishes. While the Mr. went for green eggs and ham (eggs with pesto), I immediately said “I do” to the pancake flight of the week – cupcakes! I sampled four different silver-dollar treats that included strawberry orange, vanilla bean, blueberry poppy seed and double chocolate. A stop at Orange wasn’t complete without trying their famous frushi – fruit sushi. It was refreshing, but I’m still not sure what I thought about the rice/banana and rice/strawberry/coconut combos.

Back in June, I was walking home from work while I saw a lot of commotion in a triangle near my apartment. There were camera crews, crowds of people and…the Flirty Cupcakes truck. I immediately darted to experience my first treat from this roving vehicle that has been hitting the streets of Chicago since spring. The driver told us folks in line that the crowds were for the Stanley Cup inside one of the restaurants, but I wasn’t the least bit excited to see the cup in Chicago. After all, my team had to give it up! Regardless, I enjoyed my first Flirty Cupcake and I must say – they have some of the best icing. How do you know where the truck is? You follow it on Twitter! Not to be outdone by its competitors, More Cupcakes in Chicago will also have a truck on the streets soon too.

Hands down, my favorite cupcakes in Chicago are still Swirlz. Their cake to icing ratio is amazing and I’ve never had a flavor that I didn’t enjoy. If you are visiting the Windy City, some other popular joints include Sugar Bliss (good downtown location near the big Macy's), Sweet Mandy B’s and Southport Grocery.
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Vintage Photo Booth

Sunday, July 25, 2010

One of my dream jobs would be to become a trendspotter. I love reading about emerging, creative things.

For a while, silhouettes have been making a retro-return to home decorating. Well now it seems that party planners are taking silhouettes to another level. Replacing the now standard event photo booth is a customized silhouette station. Recently, People Magazine featured Karl Johnson’s celebrity silhouette work. The artist provided picture favors for J Lo’s 40th birthday and Colin Hanks’ wedding.

Additionally, planners are incorporating silhouettes into party décor. I love this bridal shower featured on the Inspired by This blog. The shower also had one of the most amazing favors for guests – a DIY scent station where the ladies customized their own perfume!
P.S. - Disclaimer - this post did not influence something you may or may not receive in the mail from me soon ; )

(Sources & Photos: Karl Johnson, People Magazine, Inspired by This)
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No Flower Girl

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I’ve always promised that Shot of Brandi would never turn into a wedding blog, but I did warn you that I would share some spectacular ideas here and there.

I don’t know if it is due to the recession or creativity competitions, but lately I’ve been seeing more and more brides think outside the bouquet and carry untraditional items on their wedding day. Feast your eyes on these beauties.

Sweet Something
• First there were candy buffets. Next – enter the candy bouquet! Lollipop Brides out of Australia created customized lollipop bouquets. The black and white bouquet will have guests do a double take when they first see this arm candy! (Sources: Found via Opulent Couturier; Images borrowed from Beautiful Moments)

Craft Scraps
• From buttons to felt to paper, DIY brides are totally scouring their local craft store for items to make a unique bouquet. Above you will see bouquets made from felt, buttons, paper and feathers (Sources: Frentree Flowers, ETSY: Jillian’s, Itz Friz, jujubee455)

Brooch Bouquet• While this trend is about to hit its pique, the brooch bouquet is a great option for a bride who loves shiny objects. For a pretty penny, you can order one of these online; however, more brides are making their own. I love the idea of having all of the women in your life give you brooches that make up your bouquet! To do this, ask everyone to bring you some sparkly pins to your shower. (Source: Fantasy Floral Design)

She Sells Sea Shells
• Perfect for a beach wedding is the seashell bouquet. I adore the matching boutonnieres for the guys! (Source: Romantic Flowers)

• If you thought the lollipops were wacky, just wait until you see these. For a yellow-loving bride, the first bouquet features lemons, while the second is made from artichokes! (Sources: Jane Parker Design, Hatch Creative)
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Fashion Friday: Fields of Dreams

Friday, July 23, 2010

One of a few new features here at Shot of Brandi, I plan to start featuring some designers and goods in what I’m coining Fashion Friday.

I may have mentioned this designer before (I can’t look that up quickly because the search function isn’t working on this blog), but today’s featured designer is Elva Fields.

These drool-worthy statement necklaces are a tad pricey, but what an investment piece! It could jazz up even the simplest Old Navy dress.
The bold beads and brilliant brooches are so stunning to look at they could be used to decorate not only yourself, but your home walls!

For those DIYers, Elva Fields is full of beading inspirations. Give me some time and I’ll attempt it myself. I’ve already begun collecting the brooches!

According to the site’s bio, designer Emily Wheat Maynard searched flea markets and auctions for the vintage pieces used in her creations. The majority of the pieces are one of a kind – so if you see something you like, act fast!

(Images from Elva Fields)
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Ice Cream Cocktail

Thursday, July 22, 2010

As the Smithkowski’s were heading out to our second Cubs game of the weekend, Brady said to me, “Who ever thought we would come back from Mexico to warmer weather in Chicago.” He couldn’t have said it better. Ever since we got back from our honeymoon, it’s been miserable in the non-Windy City. High humidity and temps = cranky Chicagoians. The citizens here are never happy about the weather!

While I saw this recipe for Strawberry Prosecco Sorbet from the Imbibe Magazine blog, I thought it would be perfect for Thirsty Thursday. It’s refreshing & bubby and I LOVE ice cream AND Prosecco!

This “drink” was part of a feature on boozy ice cream recipes – but I love that you can make this a sorbet OR a granita (kinda like an Italian Ice).

Strawberry Prosecco Sorbet (from Imbibe Magazine)
3 cups ripe strawberries, lightly mashed with the back of a fork
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup Prosecco
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Pinch salt

Set up a double boiler by arranging a stainless steel bowl over a saucepan filled with 1 to 2 inches of simmering water. Put the strawberries and sugar in the bowl and stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. The berries will have broken down slightly but shouldn’t be mushy. Remove the bowl from the heat. When the berries are cool, purée them. Add the prosecco, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Makes 1 pint.

For sorbet:
Freeze according to your ice cream machine manufacturer’s instructions.

For granita:Pour the mixture into a shallow pan approximately 8 by 8 inches and place it in the freezer. Every 30 minutes for the next 2 to 2 1/2 hours, roughly stir up the mixture with the tines of a fork until no liquid remains and the granita has a light, icy texture. Freeze until completely frozen, 8 hours to overnight.

Recipe by Ellen Jackson

Photos from Imbibe
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New Era of Blogging

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New is going to be the word of the year on Shot of Brandi. The most obvious thing is that I have a new name. Well soon the Smith’s will have a new apartment in a new city.

This weekend ushered in a new era in blogging for me – a new computer.

During the last two weeks of wedding planning, my laptop died. I didn’t freak out, cry or pout (okay, I may have pouted), but my HP lived a good computer life and it was understandable that it stopped working. Heck – Old HP was a used computer Brady bought at a past job for $150 during a computer sale! The hard drive died once before and we replaced it for $150, so getting it fixed again wasn’t worth the investment. RIP HP.

Sticking to the 2010 new theme, Say hello to Blue. My new Dell laptop! He’s nothing fancy – just a little machine to help me blog, look at my Google reader and email. I wasn’t crazy about the Blue (the hubs saw a mild 2 second freak out), but then I decided it really didn’t matter. I wanted pink, but Brady made a good point – what if he needed to use it?

Sadly, I still haven’t visited a tech person to help me retrieve my old files (including blog posts, ideas, etc.) from HP. You never know when something like this will happen to you, so I thought on this Tech Tuesday I would discuss tips for backing up your files!

· Upload your digital pictures to an online photo gallery. For some added protection, order photo CD’s!

· Purchase an external hard drive and back up your files often. This is a really easy process and external hard drives are pretty cost-effective. I plan to do this on a quarterly basis moving forward.

· Microsoft has a nice little blog post on how to back up some of your files here

· Save files on USB flash drives (I call them jump drives). These little memory sticks plug right into your computer – allowing you to save files on to the small device. USB/flash drives/jump drives – whatever you call them even come in fancy shapes, sizes and colors! The only downfall – these little buggers can be easy to lose!

(photo from Dell)
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Official Post from Mrs. Smith

Monday, July 19, 2010

After the most wonderful wedding and amazing honeymoon, I am making my official return to Shot of Brandi as Mr. Smith! I have some really great things planned, so get excited!

Two weeks ago, Mr. Smith and I spent a relaxing week in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I must say that I was disappointed in the overall alcohol to mixer ratio in Mexico. I found myself drinking 3-4 adult beverages at the pool to feel no mind-altering side effects.

The Mr. and I spent our last afternoon on a little bar crawl of downtown Cabo. Browsing the menu of the Giggling Marlin, I was overly excited when I was reminded of a favorite drink – the Paloma!

According to Wikipedia, Paloma is Spanish for “dove.” The easy way to explain the drink is tequila and Squirt. If you can’t find Squirt, then a grapefruit-flavored soda will do. I learned a few years back that the Paloma is the most popular cocktail in Mexico. Yes – read that again. The Paloma is the most popular cocktail in Mexico. Us Gringos in the States think it’s a Margarita!

Upon return from vacation, I was pleasantly surprised to see a recipe for the Paloma on the Everyday Food Blog. While I love Martha, Esquire had a better recipe.

La Paloma

* 2 ounces tequila -- tequila

* 1/2 ounce lime juice

* pinch of salt

* grapefruit soda


Combine the tequila (reposado, preferably), lime juice, and salt in a tall glass. Add ice, top off with grapefruit soda, and stir. The soda can be hard to find; we prefer the Mexican Jarritos brand, but anything will do, even, at last resort, lemon-lime soda with a splash of grapefruit juice. Some prefer the salt on the rim of the glass, but we say just throw it in. Others omit it entirely. Don't.

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