Best of 2011

I've seen a few Best Of posts lately and even read a number of articles on the Best of 2011.  Best Celebrity Breakups, Best Baby Names, Best Animal Stories, Best Video Games ... you get the picture.  So I wanted to say goodbye to 2011 by doing a little Best of Big Mario Life. 

Best Movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.  If nothing else, it was at least the most highly anticipated (by me) of 2011.

Best Book: The Hunger Games.  Without a doubt.

Best Vacation: Mexico!

Best Meal: Shrimp fajitas at Pipi's in Puerto Vallarta

Best Molly Moment: The elf hat.  Period.  But the Best Molly Photo (in my opinion) is of her cute little bum and chubba-dub legs.

Best Holiday: Christmas Eve/Christmas!  Lots of exciting news for my friends and family this year!

Best Recipe: It's a tie between tomato basil soup and caramel apple cider cookies.

Best Friday's Fancies: I think the Back to School look was my fave.  So comfy yet chic.

Best Favorite Food: Pomegranates.  I realized last night that I could probably eat one everyday for the rest of my life and die a happy lady.

Best Decision of 2011: It's a tie between starting my own photography business and quitting my job to move to San Francisco.  But the two kinda go together so it's okay.  :)

Thank you so much for reading along and being a part of Big Mario Life this year.  I hope you all have a fabulous New Year's and an even more wonderful 2012!  (Full disclosure: I'm actually moving this very day so I pre-scheduled this post.  Happy New Year!!)

So tell me, What are some of your 2011 Bests?


My (Newly)Wed Life

Good morning everyone!  Hope you're having a great New Year's Eve eve.  I'm sharing some food photography tips over at My (Newly)Wed Life so stop on by and check 'em out!



52 Weeks: Week 36

There's just so much emotion in this photo!  I love it!

Week 36: A Very Happy Christmas



Weekend Snippets on Wednesday

Hello lovelies!  Oh, how I've missed you all!  I took the weekend away from them internets and fell waaaaaay behind on my blog reading.  From what I've seen so far, it looks like you've all had a wonderful holiday weekend so I wanted to share a few photos from our Christmas with you.  Once I'm all settled in the new place this Saturday, I promise we'll return to more consistent blogging.  Happy Wednesday!



Awkward & Awesome Thursday

- Why do dentists always talk to you when they're working on your teeth?  Don't they realize you can't answer or participate in the conversation in any way?  I think pleasantries and small talk are totally fine at the beginning of the appointment but when your hands and tools are in my half-numb mouth as you fill a tiny cavity, that's not exactly the best time to ask about my holiday plans.

- I sold most of my furniture on Craigslist in preparation for the move so I'm currently sitting in the middle of my empty living room floor while I type this.  I still have internet and cable though.  I know my priorities.

- I bet you all saw that photo of Molly the Elf yesterday and thought, "Oh how cute, she just posed so nicely" right?  Wrong.  She did not pose nicely at all.  Molly was not thrilled about that elf hat.  She bit me, scratched me, growled at me, and attacked the hat.  But we got some awesome outtakes from it!  We decided to use this collage on our card.  It's not your typical Christmas card but we thought it was pretty funny.

- One of our clients sent me some baked goods yesterday for Christmas.  It was my first "from a client" gift!  And it was pretty tasty too.

- One more week till I'm officially a San Francisco resident.  I'm so excited!  It's the perfect way to ring in 2012, especially since my goal for 2011 was to move to SF by the end of the year.

- T minus 48 hours till Christmas Eve!!  Hope Santa's packing a full sleigh this year ;)

PS - Just wanted to share this Christmas DIY with you that I posted over on the photography blog.  I made this little filter last year and it worked so well!!  Click here for Christmas Heart Bokeh (you could make it with any shape but I chose to go with hearts).



Molly the Elf

... wanted to say hello.



Holiday Questionnaire

1. Eggnog or hot chocolate?
Both.  I like my eggnog cold so eggnog when I want a cold drink and hot chocolate when I want a warm one.

2. Does Santa wrap your presents or just sit them under the tree?
He wraps most of the time but he's had his occasionally bouts of laziness.

3. Colored lights or white lights?
White lights on my tree but colored lights outside the house.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Nope.  I don't even think I know what it looks like.

5. When do you hang up your holiday decorations?
Growing up, we always did it the day after Thanksgiving.  Someday I'll get back into that tradition.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding desserts)?
My mama makes this delicious broccoli, cheese, and rice casserole and the best candied yams with brown sugar, cinnamon, and marshmallows.  I'm drooling just thinking about them...

7. What is your favorite holiday memory from childhood?
I don't know if it's my favorite but it's definitely the funniest.  When I was about 5 or 6, I found a little box in my stocking.  I was so excited to have an actual present in my stocking instead of just candy as usual.  After I opened the little box, my mom asked me what I got.  I shouted "earrings!!"  Then she asked if there was anything else, to which I replied, "AND COTTON!!!"  That Christmas was so awesome, even cotton made me happy.

8. What is on your Christmas wish list?
A job.  I don't know if Santa can fit that in his bag, though.

9. Do you open gifts on Christmas Eve?
We always opened them on Christmas morning when I was little but The Boyfriend and his family open gifts on Christmas Eve.

10. How do you decorate your tree?
With pretty white lights and lots of ornaments that mean something special.

11. Snow - love it or dread it?
Love it.  Even when I lived in Chicago I always loved snow for Christmas.  It's usually not until February or March that I start dreading the snow.

12. Real tree or fake tree?
Real tree all the way!  Although if you do need to get a fake tree (I did last year), I highly recommend a Christmas tree-scented candle.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
Why, yes, I do!  It was a Popple.  Do you guys remember those things?  I wanted one so badly and I remember the moment I realized I finally got one.  I woke up in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve because I really had to go pee.  I laid in bed for a while thinking about whether or not I should get up and go.  I was nervous that Santa would be in the house and if he caught me out of bed, he might not leave me any presents.  Finally, my little bladder got the best of me so I hopped up and ran to the bathroom.  I thought, if I was fast enough maybe Santa wouldn't see me?  Oh, the mind of a child.  Anyway, as I was creeping back to bed, I noticed there were presents under the tree.  I got a little closer to see if the tags said, "From Santa" and that's when I saw it.  A white puffy ball of awesome with bright yellow hair just chillin' under my tree.  It was my Popple!!!  It took a long time for me to fall back asleep after all that excitement.

14. What's the most important thing about Christmas to you?
Spending time with family.  It's really the only time of year that you can ignore everyone and everything else and just be with family.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
Pumpkin pie.  And pecan pie.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Baking and decorating cookies.

17. What do you put on top of your tree?
A sparkly star.

18. Do you prefer giving or receiving?
Giving.  I really like finding the perfect gift for someone and seeing their face light up when they open it.  Plus, I'm totes awkward when I get presents so I'd rather just be a giver.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song?
Baby It's Cold Outside (the Dean Martin version).  But I also love The Chipmunks' Christmas Song.  Meee I waaaant a huuuuuula hoop.

20. Candy canes - yucky or yummy?

21. Favorite Christmas movie(s)?
Christmas Vacation, Elf, and Holiday Inn.

22. What do you leave for Santa?
Cookies (usually chocolate chip) and milk.

23. Do you have a Christmas morning tradition?
We always opened all our presents on Christmas morning so that was our big tradition.  I also ate almost all the candy in my stocking every Christmas morning but that's my own person, private, shameful little ms. piggy tradition.

24. Do you prefer to shop online or at the mall?
If I don't know what I want to get someone, I prefer to go to the mall for inspiration.  If I know what I'm after, I shop online.

25. Christmas letter or Christmas card?
I like to keep it simple and just go with a card.  (I'll show you ours in just a few days.)

What about you?  Feel free to answer a few of these in the comments below!

(*Saw this questionnaire over on Acquainted With The Night.)



Weekend Snippets {vol. 19}

Happy Monday lovelies!!  We are now officially less than one week away from Christmas!  To gear up for the big day, I'm going with a full Christmas theme for posts this week.  Hope you guys are in the mood for a little holiday cheer. :)

We spent most of Saturday moving or doing moving-related things (i.e. getting sucked into the time vortex otherwise known as Ikea then spending over four hours putting together the massive furniture we purchased).  We got our tree on Sunday and decorated it while listening to Elvis Christmas music and sipping on apple cider.  It was a perfect evening.  We're limited on space so we had to go with a smaller tree but I still love it.  It's cute and round and perfectly Christmas.

Our decorations are pretty simple but they're all meaningful to us in some way.  A lot of them are ornaments from They Boyfriend's childhood plus we have one his little cousin made for us and one from the kids I used to nanny.  We've also started a tradition of adding one ornament a year that is special to us.  Last year, the first year, we got ornaments with our initials.  This year, we picked something up in Disneyland when we went with the family.  I love everything about that tree but my favorite part of the photos of the tree is the lights.  Don't you just love how they twinkle?  Also, you can't really tell from the photos but that star on top is hot pink and sparkly.  And, yes, The Boyfriend was totally okay with a hot pink and sparkly star on his tree.  I love that guy.

So tell me, what did you do this weekend?

PS - If you want to read a little bit more about our Christmas traditions, check out my guest post at Use Your Words, Little Girl


Fab Friday's Fancies | Sparkle & Shine

Whaddup homies?  I'm so psyched it's Friday.  We're moving some of my stuff tomorrow and even though I know it's going to be exhausting, I'm so excited!!  We're also getting a tree on Sunday.  I know, Christmas is barely a week away.  But I'm willing to leave it up until my birthday to fully savor the holiday happiness.

I borrowed a little inspiration from the Christmas tree for this week's Friday's Fancies.  The theme is Sparkle & Shine and I just love the sparkle and shine of this little green number.  To tone down the sexiness, I paired it with dark tights and some rock star glam booties.  I think this could work for any holiday party, cocktail party, new year's eve party, or just an average Wednesday night.  I mean, why save the glam just for the parties, right?

1. Marta sequin dress
2. Twinkle heels booties
3. Opaque tights
4. Quartz cocktail ring



Awkward & Awesome Thursday

- Christmas lyrics.  Or rather, mis-hearing Christmas lyrics.  I've been listening to Christmas music in my office and there were two particular songs that I, um, mis-heard.  First, I was listening to A Marshmallow World (the Dean Martin version):

It's the time for play, it's a whipped cream day
I wait for it the whole year round.

But what I heard was:

It's the time for play, it's a wet dream day
I wait for it the whole year round.
Then, a little later, I was listening to Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee):
Rocking around the Christmas Tree
Let the Christmas Spirit ring
Later we'll have some pumpkin pie
and we'll do some caroling
But what I heard was:
Rocking around the Christmas Tree
Let the Christmas Spirit ring
Later we'll have some f***in'
and we'll do some caroling
I couldn't believe my ears!  I had to go back and listen a little more closely and, lo and behold, those lyrics were not what I thought they were.  I'm definitely going on the Naughty list now.
- Our Christmas cards will be delivered tomorrow!  I know we're cutting it kinda close but it's totally worth it.  They're hilarious.  Because we took the humor approach, I'm holding off on posting one on the blog until we get them in the mail.  Don't wanna spoil the surprise.  But I will tell you this - they involve Molly and a tiny elf hat.
- I finally ordered my 5D Mark II yesterday!!  It should be delivered on Monday - just in time for the holidays!  I cannot wait to play with it!  That's a lot of exclamation marks!!  Can you tell I'm excited!?

- I'm putting together my Christmas Mix 2011 and I need your help.  Any suggestions for some must-have holiday tunes?  I'm open to anything - from Bing Crosby to Run DMC - so tell me, what are your favorite Christmas songs?



Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Howdy y'all!  (That's a little bit of my Texan slipping out.  It happens.)  Did you all have a lovely weekend?  I'm in the midst of packing hell so my apartment looks like a tornado just blasted through.  To get me through the week, I decided to bake up a batch of pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.  And now I can't stop eating them.  So good!  I justify it by telling myself they're loaded with fiber because of the pumpkin.  It's sorta true, right!?

I basically just followed the same recipe as my pumpkin chocolate chip bread.  Here's what I changed:

-- use a whole 15 oz. can of pumpkin
-- sprinkle a little cinnamon-sugar on top
-- bake for 25-30 minutes (mine took 27)

I had one for breakfast yesterday.  Then another for a mid-morning snack.  And maybe another after dinner.  Oops.


Fab Friday's Fancies | Holiday Party

It's Friday Friday
Gotta get down on Friday
Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend, weekend

You know I've only heard that song once - ONCE - in my whole life and I still get it stuck in my head almost every week.  WTH, mate?

This week's Friday's Fancies theme is Holiday Party but seeing as how I just did a holiday party outfit last week, I decided to do a Cozy Weekend At Home outfit instead.  This little number is perfect for hanging out around the house.  And if you need to run out for a quick errand or wanna catch a movie, just slip on the festive flats and cozy snood before you head out the door!  Snood.  What a weird word.  Snood.  If Snookie had a brother, his name would be Snood.

1. Gradated Stripes Pullover - Alright, yes, I admit it.  I basically use Friday's Fancies to create my dream Anthro outfits.  But this one - I might actually buy!  The sweater is $88 and I have an Anthro gift card burning a whole in my wallet...
2. Stretch Denims - Dark gray, skinny jeans with stretch?  Yes, please!
3. Red Leather Wrap Bracelet - How cute is this little etsy find??
4. Eddie Ballet Flat - I just can't bring myself to spend this much on flats but I love that color on a dreary winter day.
5. Cashmere Snood - Haha.  Snood.

Happy Weekend!!!


Awkward & Awesome Thursday

- Toddlers & Tiaras is back.  Did any of you happen to watch it last night?  One of the mom's stated very bluntly, "I take my kids to drag shows."  Apparently they get inspiration from drag queens.  She later followed this up with "I've had my daughter perform 'Poker Face' on the bar at Applebee's."  And the Mom of the Year Award goes to ...

- After spending most of the '80s and '90s envious of Stephanie Tanner (from Full House) because she got to live in San Francisco, I am finally living out my childhood dream of living in the City by the Bay.  I'm moving to SF at the end of the month!
- And not only am I finally moving to SF, we're also finally ending this whole "long distance" business.  The Boyfriend and I are moving in together!  Yep, Molly will no longer be a two-household child.
- A few weeks ago I mentioned a photo shoot I was doing with the cutest little girl ever.  At the time, I only had a couple photos ready to show you but now you can check out the rest of them here.  I had almost as much fun editing them as I did shooting them!

Stephanie Tanner, a.k.a. the reason I was called Step-on-Me in elementary school.

PS - I'm guest posting over at Popcorn, Pugs, and Peonies today!  Stop by and say hello!


Wanderlust: Venice

I've got another case of wanderlust but this time it's for a place I've actually been to.  Maybe it's nostalgia?  Either way, I want to go back to Venice.  The Boyfriend and I went on a cold, rainy day in November, just over two years ago.  I absolutely loved it.  Because it was cold and rainy, there weren't many people out.  We had nothing on the agenda so we spent the day wandering the streets, ducking into shops to stay dry, and just letting ourselves be in the city.

What about you?  Ever been to Venice?  Any interest in going?

*I should tell you, the old man in the second to last photo was drinking red wine at 10 a.m., while we were drinking cappuccinos.  He's my idol now.



Weekend Snippets {vol. 18}

Hello lovelies!!  Did you all have a nice weekend?  We got back from Disneyland yesterday and I literally went from the airport to the office.  I didn't even eat lunch!  Unless you count Southwest's honey roasted peanuts.  Which I don't.  Needless to say, I'm slowly making my way through Google Reader.  If I haven't said hello yet, I'm on my way!

Since we have a history of losing cameras at Disneyland, I didn't want to tempt the photo fates.  But even if I had taken my camera, there's no way I could've done the weekend justice.  The park is just so beautiful during the holidays.  B E A U T I F U L.  The fireworks, the rides they totally re-made for Christmas, the choir singing every night, Sleeping Beauty's castle - they even made it snow on Main Street, people!!  Who can make snow magically appear on cue in Southern California?  Disney.  That's who.  Right before my phone's little heart (aka battery) gave out, I managed to snap a few shots of the holiday parade.

I just had to get a picture of Belle.  She was always my favorite Disney princess because she was the only one who had brown hair and eyes like me!  The 9-yr old in me wanted to trample the people in front of me and tackle Belle for her autograph.  But I refrained.

There was literally a mob of people following behind the end of the parade.  I've only been to the park three times but this was definitely the most crowded I'd ever seen it.  We still had a great time, though, and got to go on all of our favorite rides.  And we ended the trip with a nice healthy dinner of churros and hot chocolate for me and an ice cream sundae for The Boyfriend.  It was practically perfect in every way.



Fab Friday's Fancies | Fashionably Inspi(red)

It's F R I D A Y.  Thank God.

In honor of World Aids Day (yesterday), this week's Friday's Fancies theme is Fashionably Inspi(red).  And with the holidays coming up, some pretty awkward office parties are imminent.  So I took the theme one step further for a Fashionably Inspi(red): Office Holiday Party edition.

1. Flared & Cabled Sweater Dress - How cute is this little number?  It's a dress made from a cable knit sweater.  Comfy and chic?  Perfect!
2. Princey - What an adorable Oxford/bootie combo.
3. Tory Burch Square Statement Necklace - I kept the accessories simple since it's for an office party but I still wanted something a bit festive.  This Tory Burch beauty is the perfect combo.

Happy Weekend!!!


Awkward & Awesome Thursday

- Molly likes to eat my carpet.  I have no idea why.  I read online that guinea pigs tend to do this because they're just naturally prone to chewing.  I also read that you can try spraying the area with various things to deter them from chewing.  So I sprayed my carpet with diluted vinegar because who likes that, right?  Well, it worked.  And now my apartment smells like vinegar.

- I went out for Indian food yesterday.  So delicious!  But my hands smelled like chicken tikka masala for the rest of the day.  What is it with me and long-lasting odors?

- Yesterday, Sacramento had an identity crisis.  The city thought it was Chicago.  Gusts of wind shook my car as I drove to work.  Not a big deal, I thought, since I'll be in the office for most of the day.  I was wrong - it was a big big deal.  My office is on the 15th floor and that dang wind was blowing so hard my windows were creaking all day long!  And I don't mean slightly creaking.  I mean creaking so loudly people down the hall could hear it.  Makes it kinda hard to focus on work when you're constantly hearing glass *CREEEEAKKKK* all day long.

- Um, how is it December already????  Weren't we all just blogging about how much we love fall???

- My first Awesome is the most Awesome ever.  We're going to Disneyland tomorrow!!!!  I have never been during the holidays so I'm super pumped to see it all decked out for the season!  Why are we going, you ask?  Well, The Boyfriend's whole family is going (with one or two exceptiosn) to celebrate his grandparents' 65th wedding anniversary.  Yes, that's the big 6-5.  As in, years.  Of marriage.  Incredible, right?

- What do you think of the new bloggy look?  There's a few more things I'm still working on but overall I'm pretty happy with it so far.  It seems I'm a bit of a minimalist when it comes to design.  I'm okay with that.

- The She & Him Christmas album is pretty amazeballs.  I've been recommending it to anyone who cares to listen.  It's a little bit retro sweet and I love it.  Plus, I have a girl-crush on Zooey Deschanel.  Zooey, if you're reading, I wanna be your bff.  Actually, I wanna be you but that's creepy.  I'll settle for bff.



52 Weeks: Week 34 & 35

Week 34: Fall

Week 35: Horses in the cul-de-sac - (This was so bizarre.  The Boyfriend and I woke up Friday morning to see an empty horse-drawn carriage coming down the street.  Um... wtf?)



Cat Naps

The Boyfriend's sister has two beautiful, friendly little kitties and I got to spend some time with them over Thanksgiving weekend.  The girl, Mama Boots, is a bit camera shy (she ran away as soon as I tried to get a picture!) but her brother, Toni the Tiger, was happy to model for me.  Or maybe he was just too lazy to run away...

Doesn't Toni have the most beautiful blue eyes?

I was able to get one quick shot before Mama Boots realized what was going on.  I just loved that the two of them were in almost the exact same position but in two different rooms.  They were like mirror images of each other.

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