Lately in April

And we're back to Monday.  Hope you all had lovely weekends!  Ours was more low-key than usual and it was exactly what I needed.  On Saturday, we went out for Chinese food and caught a showing of The Five-Year Engagement.  We both really liked the movie and were pleasantly surprised by how funny it actually was.  I did notice something weird though - a couple of the clips shown in the commercials aren't actually in the movie.  Have any of you seen it?  Did you notice it, too?

On Sunday, I did a little urban yard work, which basically means scraping the weeds out from the cracks in the sidewalk.  Don't be jealous.  I also made my yummy almond biscotti (with a little orange zest) and now I'm thinking about making chocolate hazelnut, too.  You can be a little jealous of that one.  It's okay.

Since it's the last day of April (and my weekend was mildly uneventful) I thought it'd be fun to look back on the past month via Instagram.  I've really tried to control myself with this app and be conscious and deliberate about what I post but, you guys, sometimes Molly's cuteness just gets the best of me.  There's a good chance I could become the guinea pig version of a crazy cat lady.

Instagram on droid | Afternoon chocolate milk breaks | Sunny spring flowers | Escaping North

New haircut | Fresh veggies | A well-organized jewelry tree | Romantic spring flowers

The edge of America | Dutch in the city | Viansa | My little office assistant

Sometimes clouds are better than clear skies | Happy pie | Finally | Up


52 Weeks: Week 39

I am such a slacker!  I haven't done a 52 Weeks post in about three months!  This project is definitely not 52 Consecutive Weeks, that's for sure.

Week 39: Loving the Sunset

This is from the engagement session I shot last weekend.  I really wanted to do a silhouetted sunset shot and, luckily, this couple was totally down for it.  I'm pretty please with how it turned out.


Fab Friday's Fancies | Date Night

Can I getta "TGIF" up in here, people?  Woot woot for the weekend!!  Cha'mone Saturday morn'!  tee hee!!

Can you tell I'm excited for the weekend?  I think I talked The Boyfriend into seeing The Five Year Engagement with me Saturday night, which is perfect because this week's Friday's Fancies theme is Date Night.  For The Boyfriend and me, date night usually means either a) trying out a new restaurant; b) revisiting an old favorite; c) catching a movie; or d) any combination of the above.  In other words, we keep it pretty casual.  So for me, when I think "date night," I think relaxed but stylish.  This little ensemble would work perfectly for a chic-but-low-key evening out with your honey.

1. Petal window tee - how cute is the back of this top?  You'd just have to wear your hair in a sexy messy up-do of some sort to show it off.
2. Skinny ankle jeans
3. Margate purse
4. Corked necklace
5. Embraced sandals

What's your typical date night like?

Happy Weekend!!!


Awkward & Awesome

Happy almost-Friday lovelies!  Sorry I've been absent this week.  I realized the busy season for wedding photography starts in one month and there's still a lot for me to do!  I couldn't leave you hanging without some awkwardness and awesomeness this week, though, so here we go!

- The guy in front of me at the grocery store went on a Pepperidge Farm bender yesterday.  Milanos, Chessmen, Pirouettes, Goldfish, Goldfish Pretzels ... you name it, this guy was buying it.  At first I thought maybe he was a crazy couponer who figured out some deal where you pay only .39 cents each when you buy 50 boxes or something like that.  But no.  Up came his tab (over $100) and out came the cash.  No coupons.  I wanna go to whatever party that guy was having.

- BML got a face lift this week.  And I did it all by myself!  I am by no means a graphic designer and I had to Google almost everything, but overall, I'm quite pleased with it.  Hope you are, too!

- Okay, this one is both awkward & awesome.  You know how when you have all-natural peanut butter, the oil can sometimes separate if you don't keep it in the fridge?  Well, this happened to the peanut butter in our cabinet.  I took the jar out yesterday and gave it a good hard twist to open it up and the peanut oil splashed out.  Just so happens that Molly was standing right beside me and a blob of peanut oil may or may not have landed on her head.  Awkward.

I got a wet washcloth and tried to rub it off.  Yeah, that didn't quite work.  Instead, it just made it look like she had spiked her fur with hair gel.  This, of course, resulted in a number of new nicknames including: Punk Piggy, Jersey Shore Pig, Guido Guinea, and my personal fave, Molly D.

The resemblance is striking, no?  So awesome.


Fab Friday's Fancies | Picnic Primped

I went to the gym yesterday for the first time in about a year.  I've been working out at home since last spring and I was really starting to miss spinning classes.  So I got a membership and strutted on in.  I expected the class to be hard but holy geez.

First of all, I thought I was going to a half-hour class but it was actually a full hour.  That's okay.  No biggie.  I can handle it.  Or so I thought.  About 20 minutes in, I thought my legs had literally turned to Jello-O.  Literally.  I then caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and noticed my face and arms were bright pink.  I had flashbacks to my elementary school playground where kids called me Tomato Face because my cheeks would get so flushed when I ran.

The instructor was Australian and had a very interesting way of motivating us.  Every now and then she'd call us "honeys" (there were about 5 or 6 dudes in the class, btw) or say "come on baby!"  She also really liked to say "yeee."  Not "yeah" but "ye" with extra E's.  Imagine it with an Aussie accent:

Alright, honeys!  Yeeee!  Come on, baby!!  Yeee!  Yeee!  Yeee!!!!

That's what I heard for a full hour of my Thursday afternoon.  After the class, I had a banana and a glass of chocolate milk.  Just like Lance Armstrong.

Overall, though, it was a pretty good class and I'll probably go back.  After a day or two of rest, that is.  My lady bits are a little tender from that bike saddle.  TMI?  Too bad.

This week's Friday's Fancies theme is Picnic Primped.  Long airy dresses and big floppy hats were just made for picnics, don't you think?

1. Blissful Roses maxi
2. Scalloped floppy hat
3. Emerald green ring
4. Rosemary sandals

And I would like to have my picnic here, please.  Care to join me?


Happy Weekend!!!


Hello, San Francisco | Strawberry Hill

I had an adventure all by myself yesterday.  I needed to scope out some shooting locations for a few upcoming sessions and I had a feeling Stow Lake/Strawberry Hill might be a nice spot but I'd never actually been there.  So ... off I went to Golden Gate Park.

First of all, let me just say, there is so much to do and see in the park!  Since I had a specific location in mind, I drove straight there and didn't explore as much as I'd like.  This is often the case with my life in San Francisco.  I go somewhere for a specific reason and never really get a chance to explore.  I'm thinking of choosing a new neighborhood every other week or so and just hang out there for an afternoon.  See what it has to offer, you know?

But I digress.  Back to Strawberry Hill.  The top of the hill has stunning views of the city and a small, man-made waterfall.  (Still gorgeous.)  After I scoped out the hill, I headed down fully intent on leaving the park and making my way back home.

And then I saw a sign for the beach.  The beach!  I quickly realized that I'd never actually been to the beach on the ocean side of the city so I decided to take a little detour.  As I was standing there, staring out at the Pacific, it dawned on me that I was literally standing on the edge of America.  Mind blown.

If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably already seen these photos.  And if you don't follow me yet, maybe you should think about it.  I don't know ...  it's just a suggestion ...  no pressure or anything.  But, you know, it would be nice to see you there ...

PS - If you're in the mood to browse them interwebs, stop by Alisha & Brandon to check out my guest post explaining the meaning behind my blog name. :)


DIY Chalkboard

 I love chalkboards.  When I was in elementary school, I was fascinated with writing on the chalkboard.  Any time the teacher asked for a volunteer to write something, I always raised my hand.  When we had "free time" I just wanted to draw on the chalkboard.  And, yes, I was that weird nerdy kid that totally volunteered to clean the chalkboards after school.  I loved everything about chalkboards - the smell of the chalk, the white dust on my clothes, the fact that I could write on a "wall" and not get in trouble.

Since our kitchen table also serves as my office, we really need decorative items that can also serve double duty to help me stay organized in such a limited space.  What's more perfect for organizing lists than my childhood fave - a chalkboard!?  After searching long and hard for the perfect one - and finding quite a few that were ridiculously overpriced (I'm looking at you, Restoration Hardware...) - I finally just decided to make one.  I stopped by Michael's and bought a pre-cut wooden block, peel-and-stick chalkboard sheets, chalk, and white paint.  I had twine on hand so my total cost for supplies was about $10.

What You Need:
- Wooden block cut to whatever size you want for your board
- Peel-and-stick chalkboard sheets
- Paint (in whatever color you want)
- Twine for hanging*
- A drill and drill bit
- A long nail
- Chalk and chalkboard eraser

*If you don't want to hang it with twine, you can attach brackets to the back and hang it on a nail instead.

What You Do:
1. Since I wasn't sure if the peel-and-stick chalkboard sheets would adhere to a painted surface, I taped off the interior edges of the board first then painted the outside edges white.

2. Once the edges are dry, remove the tape.  Measure and mark the holes through which the twine will go.  Drill the two holes all the way through the board.  (As soon as I mentioned that I needed to drill something, The Boyfriend jumped at the chance to break out the tools and drill them for me.  Score one for cheap labor.)

3. Measure and trim your chalkboard sheets to fit the dimensions of your board.  Peel off the backing and press firmly onto the wood.

4. Using a long nail, find your drill holes under the chalkboard sheet and gently press the nail through.  This will give you a small opening through the chalkboard for you to thread the twine.

5. Thread the twine through the holes and secure the ends with a firm knot.  I also used another piece of twine to secure some chalk so it's always handy when I need to jot something down.

 And that's it!  An easy-peasy DIY chalkboard.  What are your fave tools for staying organized?


Tax Day Freebies

So tomorrow, April 17th, is Tax Day.  A dreaded day for many Americans.  To make the bitter tax pill go down just a little easier, a number of places are offering some great little freebies.  Here are just a few I thought you might be interested in.


Marble Slab Creamery is offering a free scoop of fro-yo at participating locations between 4pm and 7pm tomorrow.

Don't let that fro-yo ruin your appetite, though.  PF Chang's is offering a 15% discount on all carry-out and dine-in order tomorrow (April 17th).  Not gonna lie, I kinda love their lettuce wraps...

If you're not feeling the Chinese food vibe, Chili's has a coupon for a free appetizer or dessert (with purchase of an entree).

I also heard a little rumor that Chevy's will be picking up the tax tab for all their guests on April 17th.  (Though, being from San Antonio, i.e. The Capitol of Tex Mex, I feel a little conflicted over encouraging you to go to Chevy's.  To me, it's the Tex-Mex equivalent of The Olive Garden for Italian food...)

Arby's is offering free value curly fries (with coupon) all day April 17th.

Just in time for second (or third) dessert, Cinnabon is offering free Classic Cinnabon Bites from 6pm to 8pm tomorrow evening.

And if you need a caffeine fix, like Seattle's Best on Facebook and receive a free sample of its Levels coffee as part of the Great American Coffee Refund.

If you happen to live near a HydroMassage, you can get a free massage any time this week (April 16th to 20th).  Just print up the coupon and hop on in for a little relaxation after filing taxes.

So basically you can eat for free (or almost free) all day tomorrow and wrap up the day with a nice massage.  Not a bad way to end tax season!

*This post is not meant to promote or associate Big Mario Life with any of these businesses.  The sole purpose is to let you know where/how to score some free goodies on an otherwise drab Tuesday!*


Weekend Snippets

Aaaaaaaand it's Monday again.  Doesn't it always feel like the weekends just zoom by?

We had a Bay Area bloggers meet-up on Saturday at Pyramid brewery.  I thought I would take a ton of photos but ended up only shooting around 5 because I was so engrossed in the conversation!  We discussed everything from jobs and blogs to pets and jewelry and, before I knew it, almost three hours had passed.  Pretty sure the people at Pyramid thought we were moving in.  Thanks to Ana & Erin for organizing!

Chantal | Megan | Dana | Ana | Erin | Me

I also made some mixed berry "muffins" this weekend.  I put "muffins" in quotations because, if we're totally honest here, these are probably more like cupcakes.  But "muffins" sounds healthier.  Actually, these aren't bad for you at all.  Each one comes in at about 150 calories and they have lots of blueberries and blackberries.  That's healthy, right?

I really can't even claim this one as a legit recipe.  I basically took a box of yellow cake mix, added a cup of blackberries and a cup of blueberries, poured it in a muffin tin, sprinkled some cinnamon-sugar on top, and called it a day.  They are super delish, though.  And they make the perfect grab-and-go breakfast (or snack... or dessert...)!

What did you do this weekend?


Featuring | Alisha & Brandon

Happy Friday lovely readers!  I'm so glad it's finally Friday.  I've been fighting off a cold this week and yesterday's photo shoot in the cold rain pushed me over the edge.  I just want to cuddle up under a blanket and sleep away the weekend.

But before I do that, I want to introduce you to a sweet blogger friend who now has a lovely little button featured over in the right-hand column.  Her name is Alisha (you may know her already) and she writes about lovely and inspiring things at Alisha & Brandon.  She's a fellow Texan, which means you can't help but love her!

* * * * * * 

Howdy lovely readers of Big Mario Life. My name is Alisha, and I blog over at Alisha & Brandon. A space where I blog about everything under the sun from my overly obsessed dog and my photography, to my handsome husband and posts about our new home. I'm a Texas girl, and I say y'all but never yee-haw. I dance a mean two-step BUT can wobble with the best of 'em. I'm glued to my iPhone every-second-of-every-day. I'm a Christian and believe whole heartedly in my faith. And I blog about all the above. Feel free to visit me anytime. I love new friends. 

Oh and you probably didn't know it, but Stephanie and I are neighbors. No, really. Well, neighbors in the sense that we both lived in San Antonio, Texas. Us Texas girls gotta stick together.  :)

* * * * * *

You see what I mean?  Totally loveable, right?  I'm going to hop in bed with a cup of tea while you hop on over and check out Alisha's blog.

Happy Weekend!!!


Good Reads | The Adventure of English

The Boyfriend and I have a lot of random things in common.  For example, besides just learning and speaking different languages, we're also interested in the history and evolution of different languages.  (Random fact: I looked into and began the process of applying to PhD programs in Linguistics before deciding to go to law school.)

So it shouldn't surprise you when I tell you that not too long ago - probably on a Friday night because that's how cool nerdy we are - we got into a discussion about English.  I said that it was pretty cool that a language like English could survive for centuries while other languages like Latin died out.  He quickly corrected me ("It didn't die out.  It evolved.") then handed me a book called The Adventure of English.

It took one round-trip flight to New York for me to finish it.  As soon as I opened it, I was hooked.  Bragg tells the story as if the English language were some great adventurer and he's writing the biography of English the Conqueror.  I was riveted.  So many little things about our language make so much sense now - like how the American accent developed (as opposed to the British/Scottish/Irish/Whatever accents that all the original settlers had), why we have British and American spellings of the same words, and the origins of many of our words.  I totally expected this to be just slightly more interesting than a text book and did not anticipate and adventure story.  Here's a look at what I mean:

"It would be a lengthy, bloody, martyr-strewn and bitter fight that English would have to claim its proper place in the Church.  This infiltration was an omen.  It came in quietly and stealthily through the beasts."

You know what he's describing in that quote?  Religious stories from the thirteenth century that portrayed various animals and used their behaviors as a basis to teach Christian morality.  Most of these were written in Latin but a tiny few were written in English.  Hence, the "infiltration" Braggs refers to above.  Who writes about a language like that??  Who, I ask you???  Mutha-effin' Melvyn Bragg, that's who.

If you're looking to change up your reading list and add something educational but interesting, I highly recommend The Adventure of English.  Especially if you like languages or nerdy trivia (there's lots of trivia-like facts in the book!).



Now that Instagram is available for Androids, I've become slightly obsessed.  I seriously have to talk myself out of posting pictures sometimes because I don't want to overwhelm anyone.  I can see myself ending up with a lot of photos in a very short amount of time.  But as much as I love it, I still want a way to preserve the photos in print-form.  I had no idea there were so many options available for printing Instagram photos!

Casetagram - for those of you with iPhones

Stitchagram - these could actually be kinda cute on a sofa

Printstagram - posters, stickers, tiny photo books oh my!

Instagram Wall Art - perhaps the coolest of all the options

So have you printed your Instagram photos?  If so, what did you get?  (And if you're curious, you can find me here: bigmariolife)


Nutella Palmiers

Happy Monday everyone!  I hope you all had wonderful weekends.  We had double Easter celebrations on Saturday and Sunday and, yes, I ate a lot of meat.  Sausage, bacon, pork tenderloin, beef jerkey - I was not about to hold back!

I made these little cookies for both Easter parties and they were a pretty big success (at least ... I think so!).  I've made a savory version of this before using pesto, crumbled goat cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes so I thought a sweet version would be pretty simple.  These little cookies could also be called The Easiest Dessert Ever and you're about to see why!

What You Need:
- 1 package puff pastry dough
- 1 small jar of Nutella (you won't use the whole thing but I didn't measure exactly how much you'll need)
- 1 cup chopped hazelnuts
- granulated sugar to sprinkle on top (totally optional - I didn't do it but it would be a nice addition)

What To Do:
1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. Roll out your thawed puff pastry dough onto a flour surface (or just put a sheet of parchment paper on your cutting board).  The pastry will be roughly the right size when you unroll it but you may need to use a rolling pin to flatten it to about 1/2-inch thickness.

3. Spread a very thin layer of Nutella from edge to edge.  The key is keeping it a thin layer so it doesn't get too messy when you roll it up.  If you're anything like me, you'll be tempted to load up on the Nutella but try to resist!

4. Sprinkle chopped hazelnuts over the Nutella then roll the pastry.  Start with the edge closest to you and roll it to the center of the pastry.  Then roll the edge farthest from you until the two meet in the middle.  Lightly moisten the pastry where the two rolls meet to seal them together.

5. Slice into 1/2-inch segments and lay flat on a cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  (Be careful not to overdo it, though, because the Nutella can actually burn pretty easily.)  Remove from the oven, cool, and enjoy!

*If you want to use granulated sugar to make them a little fancier, sprinkle it on top right before you put the cookies in the oven.


Friday's Fancies | Flowers & Fedoras

In just two more days ... 48 hours ... I'll be able to eat meat again.  I can't decide what I want more - an In N Out burger, Wendy's Spicy Chicken sandwich, or The Boyfriend's homemade pasta carbonara (with bacon!).  Oh, lordy.  Next week is going to be dangerous.

This week's Friday's Fancies theme is florals.  I'm not typically one to rock the flower prints but this little floral number (and its elastic waist band) is right up my alley.  And fedoras are just cool so why not add one to the outfit?

1. Meet at Twilight floral dress
2. Khepri necklace
3. Fedora
4. Perforated loafers

Happy weekend!!!


NYC Part 2 | The High Line and Some Sweet Treats

*Photo-heavy post up ahead.  You've been warned*

I've been to New York many times before so, not only have I done a lot of the typical tourist stuff already, I've also found a few favorite spots that I must visit whenever I'm in town.  One thing I hadn't done, however, was check out the High Line.  It just opened last June so I was excited to see what it was all about.  It was a bit crowded but that was expected for a Sunday afternoon.  We had beautiful views of the city and the trees and flowers were all beginning to bloom.  I have no idea what some of them were but they made for pretty pictures!

After walking the full length of the pathway, we explored the neighborhood while on our way over to Magnolia Bakery for some cupcakes.  My weekend diet basically consisted of sugar, wine, and more sugar.

We also made a (very quick) stop at Rice to Riches over the weekend, my absolute favorite dessert spot.  If you're in New York, you must check this place out.  Be warned, though, it's seriously dangerous for the waistline.  I'm not even joking.  Some days I wish there was a location in SF and then my butt and thighs remind my why this would be a bad idea.  All the different, delicious, flavors of rice pudding and a myriad of toppings to boot ... nom nom nom.  This place is basically in Little Italy so you could just make a big foodie day of it and grab some Italian for lunch, too (which we totally did ...).

I was actually glad to see it was super-crowded when we went in.  It used to be one of those undiscovered gems with not many people stopping by.  Even though the crowds made it difficult to get many shots, it gave me hope that this place will stay in business for a very long time!


NYC Part 1 | An Afternoon in Central Park

Last Friday, after wandering around to snap a few shots, I found a cozy little bench and read in Central Park for well over an hour.  It was the one day we had sunshine while I was in New York so I took full advantage.

Afterwards, I took a longer route back to the subway and made a quick detour in Trump Tower.  How awesome would it be to live in such a cool building?

(Yes, the title says "Part 1."  I took so many photos over the weekend, I figured it was best to split them into multiple posts.  I promise not to bore you with never-ending recaps, though!)
© Twentieth Street | All rights reserved.
Blog Design Handcrafted by pipdig