{everyone needs a side of sparkle}


a toast (to the last post in 2011)

Hero Hubby and I are staying put this new year's eve and enjoying the company of some of our neighbors (I'm glad everyone will be walking home - instead of driving) that night for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Of course this is an impromptu mini-fete and I've had to work quickly to put together a casual, yet elegant menu. Fortunately I've been graced with an extended nap-time from Violet (she's rounding out the third hour!) and Laela has been happy to sit in my lap and chew on the lapel of my blazer (guess I won't be wearing that tomorrow night). Anyway, here is my collection of tasty, easy, budget-friendly new year's eve eats and sips. I'm not certain we'll make it to midnight, but I am sure our tummies won't be rumbling when the ball drops! Have a wonderful (and safe) weekend. Cheers!

Hors D'oeuvres:
Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Phyllo Bites
Parsnip Crisps
Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade Toasts
Warmed Olives

Kir Royales
Celebration Fizzies

Bergamot Infused Chocolate Truffles (I have so many of these left from Christmas... they'll be gone soon!)
Lady Fingers
Individual Key Lime Mousses

image via style me pretty
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year in review

2011 was a busy year for many reasons. One of them is the very creation of this blog! Here's my abridged year in review in list format (not necessarily in any particular order of importance).
  1. A blog is born - a Side of Sparkle starts publishing in April
  2. After many false starts, marissab.com is finally live and it's smooth sailing.
  3. Meeting new friends at the park and hanging out with other moms made this year great fun.
  4. A baby is born - we welcomed the newest addition to our family, Laela, on July 6th.
  5. Discovery of adding Pumpkin Spice Blend to my coffee brew makes waking up at 5:30am a tad bearable.
  6. "Bubba" met the recycling bin (finally, after months of coaxing, Violet has forgotten all about her baby bottle).
  7. Reconnecting with old friends was bittersweet as we wished them well on their cross-country move.
  8. Life ended too soon for a friend of ours this winter.
  9. Three dear friends had babies. Welcome to the world, Nathaniel, William and Hannah!
  10. A summer full of beach days and back yard bbq's with Violet, Laela and Hero Hubby was only spoiled by the massive ammount of bugs this summer. That's life on the marsh, for ya.
  11. Finally made concord grape jam this September from all those plump beauties nestled in the vines along our back-yard.
  12. Tasted farm fresh eggs for the first time and I'm hooked!
  13. Read Cat in the Hat over 100 times (yes, I counted).
  14. A long weekend on Martha's Vineyard in the spring
  15. Lots of visits to antique shops and flea markets this summer, which seemed to always involve ice cream cones afterwards - they just make sense together.
  16. Thanksgiving and Christmas spent with the extended family. A gift and a blessing. 
  17. Had lots of fun writing posts and sharing 2011 with you, Dear Readers. Here's to a terrific 2012!
See you next year...

image via love-luck-kisses-cake
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what a week...

...and it's still not over yet. And it won't be - not until the fat, jolly and imaginary (sorry to be a spoiler) man in red, white and black sings "ho ho ho." I generally love all things Christmas, holiday, family and, anything that justifies an alcoholic beverage in the morning and evening (in the same day). This year, however I am feeling just a tad (and I'm being really sarcastic here) pressed for merriment and joy. It might have something to do with the toddler, or the baby, or the business, or that I haven't actually slept soundly since 2008, but nevertheless I am chugging along (the not-so-pretty visual of "chugging along" aside). I'm chalking this holiday season up to getting my "chops" as I manage the many aspects of my life and have decided not to stress out about all the fabulous posts I had planned on sparkly holiday trimmings and killer cheese platters... and didn't get to write. I've shelved my "glorious gifts" lists and "party etiquette" ideas (it's really not polite to double-dip - unless you've already sneezed over the entire shrimp cocktail tray). Instead I'll be reporting from the front lines of x-mas mayhem, melt-downs and malapropisms. My post-holiday line-up will reflect on all the celebrations and hopefully serve up a nice side of sparkle - or, at the very least make you smile.

Merry, merry to all!

image via thebottomoftheironigbasket
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and the winner is...

Sara of Newburyport, MA! Thanks to everyone for participating in the Facebook "Share This" contest. I'll be hosting more like this one in the future, so stay tuned and have a wonderful weekend!
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best chocolate cupcakes ever

I would not make such a dramatic claim if this were not true. Of course, we all have different ideas of what "best ever" really means everything is relative. Since I'm a sweets junkie, I cannot be relied upon to objectively rate baked goods, so I put these chocolate cupcakes to the test by swaying my Hero Hubby to try one (the man does not like sweets, crazy right?!) They passed with flying colors. Thus, this recipe is now filed in the "best ever" section in my recipe book. Try them with vanilla buttercream frosting and you and your sweet (or not-so-sweet) tooth will not be disappointed. My little sweet liked them too!

recipe via SimplyRecipes
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contest extended!

The contest from Monday's post is being extended until Thursday night! Become a fan of Marissa B. and share the post about this contest to enter. Good luck!
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how to win this necklace:

1. Get on Facebook and become a fan of Marissa B. {link located right here}
2. Share the post about our current Rue La La deal
3. Wait until Wednesday morning to find out if you've won!

One lucky gal (or guy) will receive the crystal pompom necklace pictured above for sharing the news about the Marissa B. deal on Rue La La. What's this deal I speak of? Well, it's a $25 for $50 marissab.com voucher and the deal's only up until 12/17 in the Chicago City deals section. You need to be a member of Rue La La (which I highly suggest you do) to view this and other fabulous deals. Better hurry to enter - this contest closes at midnight on Tuesday, 12/13!
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oh, wear! winterize

The temperature is swiftly heading south for the winter around my part of the world. Though I dream of warmer climes, I am always happy to break out my winter boots, hat and gloves. This happy feeling usually only lasts until 1. It gets so cold out that I can't feel my toes, 2. My car gets stuck in the snow, 3. I have to shovel the snow and/or 4. I can't feel my toes while shoveling the snow.

In a perfect winter-wonder-world, I would be wearing this while I experienced all of the above.

scarf | coat | boot | gloves | hat | red crystal earrings
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exciting things at Marissa B.

Aside from all of us having the sniffles and managing the constant low-level chaos of taking care of my two children, marissab.com is going full steam ahead this holiday season. That's no excuse for not posting as regularly, but I hope you'll forgive me when you check out the site and see the great deals being offered on lots of fun and fashionable handmade jewelry! Have a wonderful weekend!

p.s. I almost forgot - use code SB1211 to get 10% off just for being fabulous and reading a Side of Sparkle. Happy holiday shopping!
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move over, June

Someday I will wield a glittery pink spatula while wearing an apron with frilly white trim that nips my waist in and makes me look like a baking goddess while I effortlessly make (from scratch!) cookies in all sorts of ingenious flavors. Someday.... or, perhaps never now that I have found a prepared cookie dough that tastes like it came from the oven of June Cleaver and is made with all natural ingredients. Joy! After a weekend of drunken debauchery (perhaps just a few too many cocktail parties), house chores and general child related chaos, The Hubs and I were ready to relax. It's almost physically impossible for me to relax without quelling my voracious sweet tooth. Since the oven was still hot from having cooked dinner, I decided to pop a few (ok, eight) little rounds of Triple Chocolate cookie dough by Immaculate Baking Co. How liberating it felt to simply break off however many cookies I wanted to bake, plop them onto a pan and bake for ten minutes. Yum! Considering the speed at which we ate these cookies, they could very well be re-named Vanishing Triple Chocolate. Enjoying a treat without having to clean up a cataclysm of batter and bowls was a divine way to end the weekend. No frilly aprons necessary.

image via muffintopmommy
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spice is very nice

Happy Friday, Dear Readers! I must share my latest java discovery: pumpkin spice blend. A week ago I was developing a dangerous habit of buying my morning coffee from a national chain (that will go unnamed) and loving the pumpkin spice variety. Spice is nice, but the quality of coffee at said national chain isn't up to my beloved Peet's. As I was browsing our spice cabinet for something to add to the brisket I was cooking, I stumbled upon a cast-away jar of pumpkin spice mix. Bah, I thought - will I ever use this? Then the proverbial light dawned and I immediately made a pot of coffee in the french press and added about a teaspoon of the spice to the grounds. Hazzah! I had my pumpkin spice coffee made to order with my favorite beans, in my favorite mug, next to my favorite little baristas while we read Cat in the Hat (for the ninth time). 
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Mo Pie, Please: A Giveaway + Sponsor Love :: Marissa B

Mo-Pie, Please is a seriously fun blog and Meagan is graciously hosting a give-away of these Marissa B. crystal earrings. Visit Mo-Pie, Please and leave a comment to enter. If you win, yay! If not, please don't weep - just visit marissab.com to guarantee your sparkle needs. 

Check out the give-away here!
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wordless wednesday

one | two
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nature's gifts

I've always been a proponent of using natural products on my skin. If it's not somthing I can put in my body then I don't want it on my body, but when I considered facial moisturizers I was a little skeptical about using pure oils. Fear not. I have been using various blends of all sorts of amazing oils and have been enjoying acne-free, smooth, dewy skin for over a year now. Here's a great post on the basics and how to make your own natural skin oil.
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nice package

I'm experiencing post T-day blues. Most likely due to pastry and eggnog withdrawal, I'm feeling a bit bloated and lazy on this fine Monday. Fortunately Old Man Winter has been hitting the snooze button many, many times and it's going to be 67 degrees today (unheard of temps for New England this time of year). The ladies and I are all packed for an afternoon of nature trail walks. My calves are aching already, but I'll try my best to focus on all those slices of pie evaporating from my waistline (that is how it works, right)?

Oh, yeah it's cyber Monday (joy) and when my ladies take a long nap after their busy morning, I'll be shopping for Christmas gifts. If you will be too, check out marissab.com for my 12 hour sale. Use coupon code 12HOURSALE - it's valid now through midnight tonight! Also, I am a sucker for fun packaging and so I spent some time this past weekend restyling the Marissa B. gift boxes. I was so pleased with the results that I'm going to put every order in this "signature" packaging. Whether you decide to give Marissa B. handmade jewelry or keep - it will arrive ready to go either way in a nice package.

meat balloon image via Bust

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thanks for reading

Wishing all of you, Dear Readers, a happy, healthy, Thanksgiving filled with delicious food, good company, lots of laughter and, of course, being thankful for all of it.

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oh, wear! Thanksgiving style

My rules for dress these days are simple: items that I will make it into the Goodwill bin in about two years (oh, and nothing that requires dry-cleaning...or that I would hate to see food imbedded into). Until Violet and Laela master the art of using utensils, I've shoved my finer clothing items to the back of my closet. But, a girl can still dream, right? Here's my pick for this Thanksgiving's festivities. Finding a less expensive cotton version of the dress shouldn't be too difficult. Wrap dresses are my go-to lately since they make nursing a cinch. Some lipstick in cranberry cream, a few feathers in the hair (such twisted humor - my apologies to turkeys everywhere) and some semiprecious jewelry punches up any outfit.

hair pins | dress | boots | bag | lipstick | pyrite earrings

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splurge worthy

While searching the web for some fun yet useful Christmas gifts for Hero Hubby, I got sidetracked (how typical) and stumbled upon poketo.com. The logo alone had me convinced that I want everything in this shop, but the real humdinger is the ceramic drip coffee maker by Hario. I'm *in love* with this and have deemed it splurge worthy (it's hardly going to break the bank at $30.00, however). It's the "I'll never crab at you in the morning with my perfect coffee" gift for me him. Hmmm...

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it's the little things

Wondering what to do with all those Veuve Clicquot corks rolling around post [fill-in your celebration here]? As soon as I saw this post I began digging through our junk drawer for some cast away corks (I can never bring myself to throw those away). Air plants are a quirky addition to any space and can easily be ordered online. They are low maintenance (just mist twice a week and keep in bright filtered light). These little babies would make such cute gifts... perhaps a fun little token to hold the place-cards for your Thanksgiving guests?

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two things

Since we're all still battling the sniffles over here, I was comforted by this article at Refinery29. I practically lived on Ramen noodles when I was an undergrad and would have loved a few tips as to how to give them a foodie twist. This is the ultimate comfort food, 

Check out my guest post over at the Immaculate Baking Co. blog.
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marissab.com is live

Hooray! I am happy to announce the re-designed Marissa B. jewelry site is now live. I deliberated during many a sleepless night rocking baby no. 2 back to sleep whether or not I should keep the business online or put things on hold until the spring. The verdict - get your side of sparkle from marissab.com this fall and holiday season. I decided to stick with my most popular designs and even add a few new styles. Check out the site and tell me what you think!
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rustic apple tart

I wanted to post this yesterday, but the ladies and I were driving around aimlessly in an effort to experience some quiet and induce my lovelies into an early morning nap. Violet was up extra early  (thanks, again, daylight savings for continuing to f*ck up our sleep schedules) and a car ride is sometimes the only thing to restore some sanity.

Anyway, I made this rustic apple tart last week with some *superb* pie dough from Immaculate Baking Co. my local market (i love you, Market Basket) just started carrying. I stopped buying ready-made pie dough last year after I realized what nasty stuff is in most brands. So, I tried my hand at making my own. Pate brisee, as it is formally known, is not complicated to make, but it's messy and takes a good chunk of time to prepare (well, most of the time is spent cleaning up). Alas, our pie consumption dwindled and in a tearful nostalgia I thought about apple tarts, chicken pot pie, strawberry rhubarb pie... until that beautiful autumn morning when I saw something new. An artsy, quirky box of pie dough in the refrigerator case; Immaculate Baking Co. "No artificial ingredients...all natural," the box read. Hmmm, thought I as I flipped it over to read the ingredients. To think, it was true! I was in pie dough nirvana. My mind flooded with possibilities - I stashed two boxes in my shopping cart and giddily slipped into the checkout lane. That night I put the dough to the taste-test and made chicken pot and a rustic apple tart. The crust was practically glowing when I drew the pies from the oven (the perfect golden brown) and the flavor was outstanding. You might even say the whole experience was immaculate.

RECIPE (this is for one medium-sized tart)

1 tablespoon butter 
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups sliced red delicious apples
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
1/4 package refrigerated pie dough (such as Immaculate Baking Co.)!
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
ice water

Preheat oven to 425° and set oven rack in the middle of the oven. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar, stir in apples and spices. Cook for about five minutes to slightly soften the apples. Allow to cool. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into  ten inch circle. Place the dough on a piece of parchment paper on top of a baking sheet. Arrange cooled apples in center of dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the edges of dough toward center, pressing gently. Brush dough with 1 teaspoon ice water and sprinkle evenly with 1 teaspoon granulated sugar. Place the tart in the refrigerator for 10 minutes (this chills the fat in the dough to ensure a flaky crust). Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

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nobody sleeps...

...when the kids are sick. Yes, I have the daunting task of managing a sick toddler, sick baby and sick self this week. Hopefully it's only a short bout of stuffy noses, mild fevers and loss of sleep (thanks, daylight savings, for f*cking up our sleep schedules). To think that just a week ago Violet was "doing make-up" while Hero Hubby and I got dressed up for a Halloween party. I can't promise a week full of amazing blog posts, but I'm already thinking about some comfort food to get us through this not-so-fun time. A rustic apple tart... some beef and barley soup? I'll keep you posted.
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oh, wear! {if I were going to the gala...}

if I were going to the gala...

November marks the annual Julie Fund gala, a benefit to raise awareness and funding for ovarian cancer research and assistance for women and their families affected by this devastating illness. Each year, Marissa B. jewelry donates toward the fundraising efforts. Though I always feel like my contribution is small, I hope the the phrase "every little bit helps" rings true. This year I will not be attending the benefit (I will be home covered in baby puke). Nevertheless, I could not resist day-dreaming about the perfect gala attire.

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good morning

Good morning, Dear Readers, it feels like it is swiftly turning from autumn to winter on our little patch of marsh due to the mini snowstorm we had the pleasure of experiencing over the weekend. My posts have been rather sporadic, I apologize, but that's not because I'm huddled in a corner covered with a blanket shuddering at the thought of old man winter turning the skin on my calves to a dry, scaly horror and making me feel fat because I have to wear layers to stay warm. No, I'm actually updating MarissaB.com in preparation for the holiday season. More updates on that later. For now, enjoy this fun site (no offense, to all you hipsters out there. It's irony and you love that) xxoo.

image via a-vintage-kiss

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treats, not tricks

Ah, Halloween... property damage, slutty nurse costumes, and the indescribable taste of candy corn. Oh, yeah and pumpkins and trick-or-treaters. Discouraged by the 1/2 inch of snowy-slush on the ground (really? it's not even November), and since Violet doesn't quite grasp the whole Halloween concept anyway, we're going to celebrate at home by making these delicious treats. The recipe's ingredients are much better than the kind one might discover while pillaging her youngster's treat bag and these candies are scarily easy to make. No tricks required.

1 cups creamy peanut butter
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup light brown sugar
1¼ cups powdered sugar
Melted milk chocolate (I like Ghiradelli)

For the filling:
In a medium saucepan, combine peanut butter, butter, and brown sugar. Heat over medium heat until completely melted and starting to bubble. Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time until thoroughly combined. I use a stand mixer to blend mine. Taste and add a pinch of salt if you find the mixture too sweet (salt content in peanut butter varies). Cool completely.
For the candies:
Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners. Roll peanut butter filling into small balls, then flatten them a bit. Pour some of the melted chocolate into the liners and then refrigerate until firm. Next, place a peanut butter filling on each chocolate base and pour more chocolate on top to just about fill the space in the cups, refrigerate until firm. Enjoy your homemade peanut butter cups!

image and recipe adapted from brown eyed baker, original recipe from The Brooks Stead
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bunnetics, anyone?

Flavorwire is my latest web-crush and this post about obscure 80's VHS cover art is too good not to share. The pithy comments just enhance the viewing experience. Here are my favorites, but check out the full post for all fifteen covers.

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diy project no. 006: image transfers


I came across this DIY project at DesignSponge  over the weekend and couldn't wait to share it with my readers. This is such a great way to spruce up your dinner table for the impending holidays. Speaking of which, wouldn't some decorated tea towels make perfect little gifts? For images check out joseph cornell box or mellowmint's DeviantArt site (just full of downloadable hi-res goodies)!

1. photos of food, dishes, figurines, plates, etc. (anything you want, make sure it high resolution)
2. scissors
3. inkjet printer transfer paper
4. inkjet color printer
5. napkins and placemats (mine are from ikea and cost less than a dollar each)
6. iron
7. computer

1. if you don’t want to take the photographs of objects yourself, you can find some great images in food magazines, or cookbook images, or just search flickr for yummy food photos. upload your photos to your computer and play around with them to get them to be the size you want. make a couple black and white prints on 8.5 x 11 paper to check that you like the size and detail on your photos. you want your images to be something you can cut all the way around to have a freestanding object. the transfers print in reverse so if that matters to your object, you need to reverse the image on your computer before printing.
2. when you have the images ready at the size you want them to be, print them in color on your transfer paper according to the directions on the package of the transfer paper. if you have the option on your printer, you should choose the highest quality of printing.
3. allow the transfer prints to dry. meanwhile, iron all the wrinkle out of your placemats and napkins on high temperature with no steam. allow these to cool.
4. cut out your shapes with scissors. you want to cut all excess off your shapes and cut right up to the edge of you object.
5. lay the transfer paper down on the fabric and iron it down according to the transfer paper instructions.
6. continue following the transfer instructions for cooling, peeling off the backing, and setting the image.

images via Design Sponge
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Since becoming a mother, I've noticed several small, but dramatic changes in my approach to life. I'm not talking about the big changes (more on those in a later post). Just a few seemingly small ways in which I do things differently now. Here they are - you might find some are ridiculous "issues" to have in the first place, but we all have our hang-ups, right? Please don't judge... but feel free to laugh!

I'm fearless when it comes to killing bugs. And I mean big, juicy awful bugs that previously I would just barely manage trap under a cup and wait for Hero Hubby to take care of. Now they just get squished by moi - sometimes without a tissue... eek.

I'm no longer superstitious in my mother's basement. It used to be, even up until a few years ago, that I still carried the paranoia that a trapped soul would devour my own if I lingered too long in the basement. Not quite a fear of the dark, just a creepy feeling every time I went down there. My mother's basement is not out of the ordinary - it's just a silly hangover from my youth. Present day? I could care less. Go ahead, ghost, take me away from my nagging children.

I love doing the dishes. Prior to my lovely brood, washing the dishes was not an activity I rated high on my "likes" list, nevermind my "loves" list. My how things change. Doing the dishes is like a zen state - a form of meditation. No one will interrupt me, lest I enlist their help.

Very small things make me happy. This one is almost in the category of big changes. Never before had I elated at discovering the Market Basket circular in the mailbox every Wednesday morning, nor did I think twice about the delight found in taking more than three sips of a steaming hot cup of coffee. It is said that it's the little things that make all the difference. Right now I understand that more than ever. Ah, the little things... like getting to write an entire blog post (almost) uninterrupted.
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oh, wear!

options to boot

It's a good thing I'm not actually being forced to choose one pair of boots for this lovely wool cape that begs to be donned while strolling through the countryside whilst arm in arm with your love. Alas, I do not have time for strolls in the countryside nor do I have the extra funds for the hefty price tag on this darling number. As investment pieces go, this is well worth its price and it is so very versatile. Sigh.

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