Headed to brunch on Sunday

Up and out of the house early! J. Crew Factory is running its end of the summer sale and everything is an additional 60% off. Grabbed this skirt last Friday for 19.99! Blouse from Muse Nashville last year unfortunately. Going to be a fabulous day!

Last weekend to lavish in white as summer winds down

How in the world did we get here? How is it possible that the last unofficial week of summer is approaching this quickly? With one week left until Labor Day a few thoughts enter my mind concerning the upcoming holiday. It’s the last weekend of pools being open; over-indulging on Aunt Sally’s potato salad at the family picnic, and, most likely, there will be one heck of a Martha Stewart White Sale at some store or another. But most importantly, the number one thing that rings in my head the Tuesday morning after Labor Day is the real white factor.
            Oh come on, you know what I’m talking about. I’m speaking on the rule that was formally abided by proudly and now has become the unspoken yet none-the-less honored practice. It consists of two simple parts. Don’t wear white until Easter. Don’t ever wear white after Labor Day.   I want to know who dictated that clever little fashion demand years ago.  Fashion is a personal statement you make for yourself which shouldn’t be contained by “rules”. I say if you want to wear white all year around go for it. More power to you if you’re the only one draped in a white cocktail dress throwing back eggnog at your annual Christmas party.
           However, I know there are some traditionalists out there who play by the rules and will tuck away the linen pants and white wide-brimmed hats next Monday.  No matter how you view the “White clothing rule.” in honor of wearing the crisp color and looking fabulous all summer (technically until Sept. 21st - the last official day of the season) the count down to Labor Day should be celebrated by wearing a piece of white this entire coming weekend!
        Rummage through your closets and find these staple pieces that you can flaunt this upcoming week. After all, for many of you, these clothes won’t see the light of day for another eight months.
First off we have the over-sized white bag or purse. I love a white bag because it pretty much goes with anything. One of my friends always wear hers well into the fall and ties a square-patterned scarf around one of the shoulder-straps for a cute accent.
          Now, I know you have a pair of white shoes that are dying to be worn because you probably haven’t worn them much this summer as it is. White sandals are tricky to wear unless you have the right outfit. On day three pair them with a dress or top that has some sort of white pattern running throughout it.  Navy and white clothing always looks fabulous with white flats. I love these above pictured Steve Madden “Day Break” Sandals available on for $79.99. Whatever your white-sandal choice, make sure your toes are pretty and pedicured.
          On to the white dress. Every woman should own one (outside of the once-worn wedding dress.) A nice strapless, knee-length or higher white dress is a necessity because you can wear it anywhere. Play the dress down in the afternoon with flats and your hair pulled in a pony tail. Dress it up for the evening with some bright colored shoes and vivid jewelry. Hello Friday night on the town!
          By the time the weekend rolls around it’s going to be poolside for one of the last times of the season. Now this is a daring request- pull out your white bathing suit if you own one. Lounge by the sparkling water in a full piece with cut-out sides which are very popular this year. Just avoid the white swim suit if you’re headed to the lake because it’ll get dingy in lake water. (Pictured from
       Slip on a pair of comfy linen drawstring white pants Sunday and experience what summer actually feels like on your body. Cool and soft, linen is one of my favorite fabrics and I love wearing drawstring linen pants casually with a tank top. J Crew takes the pant to an effortless level in their pictured women’s linen trousers; check them out at
           When you actually make it to Labor Day, wear your favorite white item left in your closet. If you realize you wish you had more of this color in your wardrobe, hit up the stores for Labor Day sales. Most of their white clothing will be discounted and if anything, you can put it away for next spring.
Don’t be surprised when Labor Day passes if you find your self wanting to wear more white. The color is worn with confidence and others definitely will notice you when you’re wearing it leading up to Labor Day. So get to your closet and start digging! You’ve got some white to find!

Don't you wish you were lounging here...

Gathering a group of friends together for dinner, drinks or plain laughter in the home is one of my favorite things in the world. Great stories and hysterical recollections usually surface and new memories are made.      While the sultry nights begin to cool into more bearable temperatures, (Eighty degrees for the low would be acceptable), I look forward to evenings outside. More cookouts with groups of friends, girls night sipping salty margaritas and, of course, laid back Sundays with my boyfriend and pets on the deck.
        There is something magical about evenings outdoors watching the sun set and the stars twinkle in the sky. OK, that line sounded like a cheesy one-liner straight out of a paperback romance novel but being outside at home is just simply comforting.  Consider your outdoor space an additional room to your home. Whether several acres of land or a small porch connect to your house, you should make a portion of your setting in the great outdoors a room for gathering outside of the house.
         While lawn furniture is on its way out of season in the retail world, we’re lucky enough in Tennessee to be able to take advantage of lounging on the patio or porch well into October.  With three full months of weather ahead working in our favor, why not take advantage of retail’s dilemma? Home furniture stores are moving out the lounge chairs and patio tables at a discounted speed to make way for new autumn picks and Christmas décor. Yes, I said Christmas.
        Now is absolutely the time to buy the perfect wooden patio table, chairs and fabulous green and yellow striped cushions you’ve been eyeing since March but couldn’t justify splurging on. Pottery Barn is running an outdoor living sale with popular pieces up to 60 percent off right now. Restoration Hardware’s website is worth browsing for comparable savings.    With discounts soaring, why not create a space aside from the typical table and chairs? Create a sitting area similar to your living room with rattan furniture, plush cushions and benches complete with a coffee table in the middle. My idea of the ultimate back-yard living room is pictured here with the wrap-around add-on wooden chairs softened with khaki cushions in the Chesapeake Collection on sale now on
       The Santa Barbara beach-inspired collection pictured from Restoration Hardware at in the top left  hand corner takes a simplistic yet lavishly comfortable approach to outdoor living. Light wood and sage cushions have me dreaming of the beach.  What about a more unique piece for the entertaining area? Ever considered a patio bar? Not only will you enjoy serving Coronas in the heat, when it’s time for hot chocolate by the outdoor patio fire pit this fall, it’s going to be extremely convenient to have a drink station on hand complete with fixings for s’mores.
Quite possibly one of my favorite ways to create a setting on the lawn or on your porch is with lighting. Lighting can create a mood that is impossible to resist.  Do you remember when you were a child and the trees in the South became ablaze with the soft glow of fireflies? Re-create this image with small neutral dimly-lit lanterns strung across low-lying branches trees close to your sitting area. With citronella candles’ aroma filling the air and keeping the mosquitoes away, you have created a relaxing room outside to dine under or lie for months to come.
        Another way to create either a dramatic or calm lighting ensemble outdoors is with oversized beach lanterns and hurricane jars. Again, use citronella candles in these light fixtures and choose from decorating with them on tables, placing them on the ground, or even opt to hang smaller beach lanterns from the trees.
If you are truly going to create an outdoor space that exemplifies your personal style and comfort, you may want to consider speaking with a design consultant. Inside Out in Brentwood off of Church Street is going to be a good place to start if you are here in the Nashville area. With a knowledgeable staff and very favorable pieces for porches, patios, and the poolside area, Inside Out is the perfect place to get started on your end-of-summer outdoor get-away.
      If you currently have the same old furniture that you’ve had for the past five years or more, it’s most likely time to replace it. Unless you are protecting your pieces during the colder months by covering or storing them away each year (which I would highly suggest doing in the future) most likely, wear and tear have taken their toll.   There are plenty of stores still completely stocked with the finds you need, Why not start fresh this year when the time to buy is right? Your additional room to the house doesn’t need to cost tens of thousands of dollars to add on. It just so happens, it’s already there- right outside your door.
With careful planning and a good eye for a bargain, your room can be complete to enjoy far beyond this summer.

Sundresses, frozen yogurt, laziness are my staples of summer

Isn’t it ironic that the days are at their hottest and sunlight continues to linger past eight o’clock assuring us that summer is still in full swing, yet children are getting ready to return to school already? I remember when Labor Day was the standard for No. 2 pencils, Crayola Crayons, and snazzy new outfits to make their fall debut.  My school days are long past and I don’t have children, so for me it definitely still feels like summer. I plan to lavish in my white clothing, continue to barbecue until I can’t stand another hamburger, and enjoy fresh produce as long as I can…or at least until Labor Day. There are so many things I love about the summer season. Though I may only have another month or so to enjoy them, I plan to overindulge while I can. I wanted to share some of my summer favorites with you and see what we have in common.

A tomato snob? Yes!- Call me a tomato snob, but the cardboard reddish-yellow tomatoes you pick up in the grocery in March are no comparison to a fresh, plump bright red tomato right out of the garden in the heart of summer.  I love fresh produce. An array of berries, peaches and cream corn on the cob and my personal favorite – juicy strawberries are a staples of summer; and what better place to find fresh produce than a roadside stand or a local farmer’s market. Road side stands and farmers' markets are a nice vacation from the cold produce aisle at the super market and truly exemplify the sweetness of summer.

Take me out to the ball game- Even though Nashville doesn't have a Major League Baseball team in Nashville, I still look forward to my first hot dog of the year at a Sounds game each summer. There’s something about the bright lights, the sound of a bat cracking a home run, and the random guy who’s been over served waving his foam finger in the crowd.  What is it about a ball game that consumes children and adults alike? You can experience it too by heading to a game. You have until Aug. 29 – the last home game -- to find out!
Sundress love- Hands down, the thing that beckons me to the thoughts of summer while there are still flurries on the ground are sun dresses. I’ve always been a girly-girl and there isn’t anything more relaxing and pretty feeling than a summer breeze over my shoulders when I’m wearing a pretty floral dress. If it were up to me I would wear a dress every day and run through a field full of daisies. Unfortunately I live and work outside of the daisy field but I do know where to find cute dresses. I love this  top-pictured strapless dress from J Crew. It’s perfect for a summer soirée and it’s a great transitional piece paired with a navy cardigan for the fall.

Move over cupcakes, it's yogurt time- I’m officially coining this decade “Explosion of the Frozen Yogurt Chains.” Can I get a Trade Mark on that? While cupcakes were the growing gourmet trend over the past few years, it appears that “build your own yogurt concoction chains” are sweeping the South now. I’m not complaining. Five years ago I had the choice of 31 flavors. Now I have the choice of multiple flavors and 75 toppings! The perfect summer night for me is chocolate-banana swirls with chopped nuts and rainbow sprinkles. Now that there is a Sweet CeCe’s coming right into the middle of Brentwood, the whole family can enjoy the perfect night! Too bad we have to wait until October to enjoy the location.

No matter what you’re wearing or eating during the month of August, just remember it’s not here for much longer, so even if the kids are in school, take advantage of the firefly summer nights and the sunny summer afternoons.  I’ve always thought the Country time Lemonade commercials sum up what summer is supposed to be -- relaxing, carefree fun.  So dive in and revisit your youth; the lazy, hazy days of summer. I’m going to!

Pizza entertainment for eight coming right up

Summer is in full swing and I hate the heat. OK, hate may be too strong of a word. I dislike this heat. I do, however, HATE the humidity. I go outside for five minutes and I have to come back in my house to take another shower. In a minimal amount of time in this humidity my make-up has melted off and my hair is a frizzy mess.
So I don’t go outside when I don’t have to. What a shame when I love to entertain but my disdain for this un-ending heat wave makes a back yard bar-b-que more like a chore than a good way to get friends together for an evening of food and fun.
Luckily, I’ve always thought the kitchen is an endearing room in the house to get people together. Some of the most entertaining stories and best laughs come out of group time in the kitchen whether preparing a meal or enjoying a glass of wine around the table together. So this week to entertain our favorites, we are going to do a group homemade pizza night with delicious drinks!
Let me tell you now, you are going to throw one of these get-to-gethers and I promise, you will be an instant entertaining hit among your group! If you aren’t, send the pizza dough bill to my house.

The Invite - So here’s what you do. This is a laid back casual event. Send an E-vite to a few couples or around 4-6 friends requesting their presence for a night of preparing pizza together. Request that each couple or friend bring the toppings of their favorite pizza and dough will be provided.  The beauty of this idea is the fact that there are so many pizza combinations these days. If anyone asks you for ideas you could suggest barbecue Chicken pizza, Hawaiian pizza (ham and pineapple), Sun-dried tomato Chicken Pesto Pizza, and, of course, the basic sausage and pepperoni or garden vegetable pizza.

Request that when your guests R.S.V.P on the E-vite that they should note which kind of pizza they’ll be preparing. This way no one will make the same recipe. The idea of the night is to have a variety of pizza for everyone to try.

Preparation- On the day of the event, stock up on already-prepared pizza dough which you can find in the bakery at Publix. Purchase enough dough for each of the individual pizzas that your guest’s replied that they would prepare. You may want to buy a few extra cans of pizza sauce. I refuse to use anything except Glen Muir’s Organic Pizza Sauce which can be found at Whole Foods.
For appetizers you’ll be serving red-roasted hummus dip (already made in the deli section of your grocery) and pita chips. Also buy a loaf of Italian bread, break into pieces and serve with Extra Virgin Olive Oil sprinkled with Italian Seasoning on the side.
Since there are usually wine and beer drinkers in every crowd, pick up a few bottles of Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir (available at Brinkman’s Wine and Spirits in Cool Springs). You will be surprised how well the smooth texture of fruit aromas and black cherry combined with ripe plum and a light oak influence pair with pizzas. Peroni is a well-known Italian-style lager that you can purchase at most grocery stores to entertain the palette of your beer drinkers.

Right Before Guest Arrival- Before your guests arrive, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Have a few bowls of flour set out which everyone will use for rolling pizza dough. Also have rolling pins handy for the dough process.  Set out appetizers and a drink station in the kitchen complete with glasses, beverages, and ice so your friends can help themselves.  Make sure you have plenty of clear space for your guests to prepare their pizzas. The kitchen table area and cleared counter or island space is ideal. Lastly, light some candles, and put on good music. Ray LaMontagne’s album Trouble is always a good pick for appealing lyrics and light hearted yet soulful rhythms.
When your friends arrive, encourage them to enjoy appetizers and drinks. Shortly after mingling, everyone should begin rolling out their pizza dough. The use of the flour helps with the kneading of the dough. Once rolled out, have guests take turns putting their dough without toppings in the oven for 10-15 minutes. After the pre-bake they can finish loading toppings and baking their pizza for 15-20 minutes or until the pizza crust is golden and the cheese is melted.
Everyone will love trying different versions of pizza. Making pizza takes time and it is a great opportunity for conversation. Enjoy your company, drinks and deliciousness and the fact that you are in the refreshing air condition amongst your closet friends. After all, when fall comes in a few months you will have plenty of time for cooking out on the grill and enjoying the great outdoors.

(Top right hand pizza is one of my own homemade pizzas.  Bar-b-que chicken, roma tomatoes, red onions and sharp cheddar cheese with Masterpiece Bar-b-cue Sauce)

Confessions of a former tan-a-holic

My name is Amy.. I’m a Tan-a-holic. Well, Ex Tan-a-holic; But I will admit to an addiction that I’m still overcoming and cravings come often, especially during the sunny season of summer.
I’ve learned that the need for a tan really took over my life to an extent in the past. I’m trying to undo the damage now, but it could be years before I really see what damage I may have caused.

Let’s rewind to two years ago. A typical year for me, I began my obsessive tanning regimen in February. I’d recently joined a gym that had better tanning packages than the retail chains in the area. It was cold out and my body was completely covered from head to toe. Why would I need a tan? Hello! I was working out in shorts and God forbid somebody see pasty white legs! That’s what I convinced myself of anyway.

Spring came and that meant legs and arms would be out there for the world to see. I continued to tan in the beds every other day. Summer threw me into a bathing suit pool-side every weekend covered in baby oil.

I would spend hours in the sweat-drenching heat absorbing the light until I was forced to call it a day when the sun finally began to sink behind the Brentwood hills.

I even remember when I was a teenager my little sister used to beg me to just jump in the ocean with her on vacation but I refused because that could cause tanning lines and I could miss out on a perfectly even tan. Back then it was an unspoken but never-the-less very-apparent contest coming home from spring break. We all wanted to be the most tan.

Where did this tanning chaos get me? Looking fabulous of course. After all, everyone knows you look better in any outfit with a tan -- and even skinnier. Did I listen to all the warnings out there about UVA and UVB rays? Skin cancer and Melanoma? No.   I was young, felt good and I was invincible. My view was “If the sun kills me, bury me in a white coffin…at least I’ll look good in it.” I know, ridiculous and immature but I also know some of my readers have gone through the same cycle to some extent.

About a year ago as I was getting dressed, I noticed I had more freckles on my arms than I used to and they were larger than the ones I was born with. Every couple of weeks more appeared on my arms, legs, and stomach. Then it happened. I was putting on makeup under my bright light and noticed two light brown spots on my face. Sun spots!

Suddenly a realization about 800 pounds hit me right on my tan little head. I was now 26 and already had age spots. I’d literally been paying the tanning bed for a decade to age me. I realized if I kept tanning at the rate I was, I was going to look like one of those West Palm Beach 40 year olds whose leathered skin would have them pass for someone 25 years older than their actual age. The possibility of skin cancer in my future was also a factor. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is often a result from tanning bed use.

I can’t reverse what I’ve already foolishly done. I have made some changes, though. Tanning beds are out of the question. You couldn’t pay me to use one now. The real sun is still appealing to lay poolside in, but not with out a 75 or higher sunscreen all over my body. (I’ve heard nothing over 30 spf works better, but I’m not taking any chances.) I love Koola Sun Block available at The Skin Bar in Brentwood for my face. It doesn’t go on greasy. I usually use Neutrogena spray for my body.

The good news of swearing off the sun? I feel like I’m doing something good for my body. I’m not the dark golden bronze that I used to be, but I do have a little color. I’ve found Express Tan in Brentwood does the best air brush tans. For $25 I can look like I’ve been to the beach for a week. A tanning consultant helps you choose the level of color for your skin and then they spray it on you with the relief of no streaks that spray booths can leave behind.

When I want the convenience of tanning in my own home, I have found L’oreal’s Sublime Bronze Tanning Towelettes in Medium available at Walgreens and Target are magnificent. You simply exfoliate your skin, and use one towel for your whole body. After about two days of use, you’ll have a wonderful glow! Streak factor is low with this product, though you may have to get someone to towel your back for the harder to reach areas.

I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss being dark all summer; especially when I throw on a black or white dress. But I know for a fact in the years to come my body will thank me for the lack of sun exposure. In the mean time, I’ll keep using my tanning towels, high SPF and knowledge on the risk of the sun. But for the moment, I’m headed to the pool and a nice shady umbrella for the afternoon. It’s only summer for another month and a half and I intend to enjoy it!

Wishing away winter

A pause between posts lasting this long could only be a result of these things... Coldness in the air… snowy mornings that last long into the night… cups of rich cocoa, thick clothing that engulfs our bodies... or simply put... WINTER.
         For Some, Winter is a like a trip to Disney World. A cheery magical wonderland where Groundhogs and Baby New Year take Mickey Mouse and Bambi’s place. Where twirling tea cup saucers are replaced with sledding saucers that move down icy hills at the speed of light. For Some, Winter is just lovely.
I, on the other hand find my delights far from drab colors, lack of sun light, and frozen-over wind shields. My disgust for winter doesn’t touch on Christmas. In fact, I yearn for holiday decorating and entertaining…both which turned out incredible this year! However, when the tree comes down and the soiree appetizer calories add up….I find myself wanting to skip right over the cold months ahead and dream of nothing but pool side Saturday’s and porch swing Sundays.
              While there is plenty of inspiration in the winter, or so I’ve been told, I decided in November to pull out my writing strike card.  What can say? There is a picture of a hot pink umbrella on an island beach at the top of this blog, not a grey umbrella weighed down in snow! Vowing not to give in to Winter, I have saved my creative energies for the months to come!
                 Flurries filled the air yesterday morning, but thoughts of Spring have clouded my outlook! Visions of light, breezy fabrics have reclaimed our favorite shops again, masking the drab heavy textures that consumed the past months. Cheery boutique window displays are silently cursing the weather amongst us and begging sunny days to bring anxious shoppers in to stock up for Spring!
           This Spring, I invite you to become a regular reader of The Raspberry Umbrella. Dive into these blog entries to find an unfolding story. The love story between Style and Life. It really is a beautiful relationship and with any help from the weather….it’s going to be an unstoppable one!