Skinny Vanilla

Sugar Cookies

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I’m kind of struggling for words today. Shopbop’s Friends and Family just started. I’ve ordered a new pair of Superga sneakers, and I’m convinced I probably need more, but nothing is really yelling at me. At least it’s a short week, AMIRIGHT? And Good Friday–which is my favorite service of the year. And I get to wear a new dress on Sunday and spend time celebrating Easter with my family.

Which brings me to cookies. Sugar cookies, specifically.
Everyone needs a good sugar cookie recipe in their back pocket. My favorite is Alton Brown’s (like so many of my other favorites). They are simple to whip up and have great texture. I like when cookies are a little on the thick side– they are better for biting into. And that’s what it’s all about.

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough

Directions

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color.
Add egg and milk and beat to combine.
Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl.
Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with powdered sugar.
Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick.
Move the dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking.
Cut into desired shape, place at least 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking time.
Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to complete cooling on wire rack.
Serve as is or ice as desired.
Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.

So you basically have three options for the cookies:
1. Eat them plain. The cookies on their own are more than delicious.
2. Decorate with Sprinkles. If you want to do this option, you’ll need to beat an egg, and apply to the raw cut out cookies with a pastry brush, and sprinkle away.
3. Ice after they’ve been baked. I used Royal Icing this time.

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Enjoy!
xx

Chicago Take Two

I honestly can’t even remember where we left off. Or how long it’s been. It feels like it’s been years. Work has been kind of crazy insane and I can’t even remember anything before last week–I’d claim amnesia except that would be a little too hopeful. I did, however, get to go to Chicago again for work. And this time, I got to go outside. And it was AWESOME. Chicago is great! I really loved it! My hotel was right on the Magnificent Mile which is littered with the best shopping. I asked for a few restaurant recs before I left and I usually find that sales associates/waiters/waitresses/(& anyone else you strike up a conversation with) are more than happy to tell you the best places to go.

I bebopped my way into the most gorgeous Burberry store I’ve ever seen and fell in love with the most perfect trench in the world. The only problem being that it’s April and I live in Alabama, and it would be positively silly to buy it now as opposed to the fall when I’ll actually be able to wear it. (But it will be mine.) I did find a bit of excitement in the Ferragamo boutique at Bloomingdales. The Vara bag comes in a mountain of colors (call a store and you’ll get better options than on the website) and several different sizes so there’s pretty much something for everyone. Then found my way via recommendation to Jellyfish. If you weren’t looking, you’d probably miss it. There’s a small, nonchalant doorway that leads you up a set of blue lit stairs above Scoop NYC. It’s the loveliest, yummiest, blue-lit sushi restaurant I have ever been to. I actually let the sushi chef tell me what to get because there were at least a dozen good options on the menu. I ended up with the Torched Salmon Atlantic and the El Sol and neither disappointed. Did I mention their cocktails are crazy beautiful too? Because they are. I had the Cloud 9, which is a St Germain (you know how I love that stuff), gin, sake combination with a slice of starfruit and a Somajito, an Asian take on a mojito, both of which I highly recommend.
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I made my way back to my hotel (while getting lectured on the phone by my mom for walking home alone in the dark) and finished off my night watching more Made in Chelsea, because that’s just what I do when I’m traveling for work.

The next day, I woke up bright eyed, bushy tailed and determined to do a little exploring. Chicago, even in the cold, is an absolutely beautiful city, and I totally get why anyone (who doesn’t mind the cold) would want to live there. I started my day at the Nutella Bar at Eataly and worked my way down to the museum.
IMG_5925 IMG_5927 IMG_5928 IMG_5929 IMG_5930 IMG_5931 IMG_5933 IMG_5934 Then I did what most normal human beings would do: I took selfies in the Orb.  IMG_5935 IMG_5937 IMG_5938 IMG_5950 IMG_5951 IMG_5955 I found a nice place to sit and rest my bones and enjoy the sun by two glass tile pillars. A few minutes later, I looked up and found myself utterly startled by the man’s face in the pillars. Upon closer look, I noticed the pillars were filled with little LED lights. I love when you find art in the least likely places.  IMG_5957 IMG_5962 IMG_5965 IMG_5966 I eventually made my way back to the hotel and got ready for work.  IMG_5967 IMG_5970

The rest of my trip was primarily made up of working and eating. And since the working bits aren’t very interesting to look at, I’ll leave you with the eating bits.
Several people recommended The Purple Pig and I’m oh so glad they did. It’s more of a small plates type of place, so you order a bunch of stuff and share them. We had a charcuterie platter, brusselsprouts salad with feta and chicken thighs on crispy potatoes and we made sure to save room for desserts. We ordered three between two people and left utterly fat and happy: Toasted Cinnamon Ice Cream with Candied Pecans and a Nutella and Banana S’mores Sandwich. But the grand winner of them all was the Sicilian Iris–fried Brioche filled with ricotta and chocolate. It was divine.
IMG_5987 IMG_5989 Then there was Sunda, an upscale Asian restaurant.
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And then a dinner alone (sometimes those are just the best, no?) at the pizza counter at Eataly. Might I add, it was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had too! You just can’t beat Buffalo Mozzarella.
IMG_6034 IMG_6033 I’d been dying to get over to West Randolf Street. I finally made it over on my last (very windy) morning. The Little Goat was JUST the breakfast I’d been craving. Chocolate Chip Crunch Pancakes and a Cinnamon Roll and Hashbrowns and a Latte, Oh my! The restaurant had a rotating goat on the top (what more do you need to know?) and was decorated so amazingly. There was a skylight in the center that let in loads of light and was flanked by incredible copper beams. And the menu had the cutest little illustrations. And everything was so delicious. I left the adorable restaurant one very happy girl.
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I spent the last hour of my time in Chicago walking off breakfast with one last stroll. I really can’t wait to go back and have time to visit all of the museums and neighborhoods.
IMG_6078 xx

Orecchiette Means Little Ear

Orecchiette means Little Ear. True story.
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Sam came home one day and told me he wanted to make pasta, which was all I needed to hear. (This is where the ear part comes in.) Sam mostly came up with this recipe on his own, with a few additions by yours truly. And we’ve probably made it four times in the last month (including making it for my youngest brother and his wife–they liked it too!). It’s definitely going to make its way into our permanent rotation. So, without further ado, I bring to you this wonderful take on an Italian classic.

Ingredients
12 ounces orecchiette
12 ounces (or 3 links) spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
2 scallions, chopped, separate one green part for garnish
8 ounces of mushrooms, stems discarded, chopped evenly
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (depending on size)
splash of red wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 handfuls of spinach
1 cup pasta water
1/2 cup good quality parm

Directions
Salt and boil a pot of water, add orecchiette. Cook for 10-15 minutes, depending on how soft you like your ears. (I like mine soft.)
Meanwhile, brown your sausage in a large skillet with sides. Add green onion. Saute for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms. Saute 5 minutes. Add cherry tomatoes. Saute.

Add a nice splash of red wine to de-glaze the skillet.

Add chicken broth. After it cooks down a little, add your spinach, and let it cook down.

At this point, your pasta should be cooked! (Yayyyyy) Strain your pasta (don’t forget to save a cup of your pasta water!) and add it to your skillet. Add in your pasta water and stir to combine. Don’t worry–your water will cook down quickly!

Top with your parm and the reserved scallions. Enjoy!
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Rose Bakery’s Greens Tart

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I promised I would post the Tart I made from How to Boil an Egg. So here I am. Basically what drew me to this cookbook was the minimalist cover, interesting font and super kitchy name. (Deep, I know.) So I was pleasantly surprised when the cookbook turned out to be awesome. It’s full of pretty much any recipe that has eggs: pastries, gratins, tarts, main courses, custards and salads. Which leads us to the Greens Tart! I looooooved it. Actually, I love the love that goes into making a tart. All the work that goes into the crust, the arranging of the ingredients in the crust, whisking the eggs, and finally pouring them over the top. It’s so simple, in the most beautiful way possible. The crust takes a while, so you might want to do this the day before so you don’t have to wait until nine o’clock to eat dinner on a week night. I never let that happen.

Basic Dough Crust
2 1/4th cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup water

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, Add butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fresh breadcrumbs.
Make a well in the middle and add the egg yolk and 1/2 cup of water.
Mix vigorously with a fork until almost all the flour is incorporated, then add a little more water and bring the dough together with your fingers, using as little water as possible. The dough should just come together naturally without force, and be soft but firm and not sticky.
Shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Greens Tart
(Makes a 9.5 inch tart)

Butter, for greasing
1 pastry dough

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 cups light cream
5 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 heads broccoli, blanched, drained and broken into small florets
2 handfuls shredded spinach
1 bunch fresh chives, chopped
Ground black pepper

Grease pie dish with butter.

Roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Drape the dough into the pie dish and trim off the excess dough. Let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line pastry shells with foil or wax paper and fill with dried beans, baking beans or weights.
Bake blind for 30-35 minutes until the base is light, golden and dry. Remove from the oven, take out the weights and lining and let cool.

To make filling, beat together the mustard, cream, eggs, egg yolk, salt and pepper in a bowl.
Sprinkle the cheese in the bottom of the tart crust. Mix the broccoli florets and spinach together and layer over the cheese. Cover with the egg mixture and top with a generous sprinkling of chives. (The green of the spinach and broccoli florets must stick out so the impression is lots of greens.)

Bake for 30 minutes, until set and golden. Remove from the oven and serve immediately of let cool.

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ta da!
I liked it just the way it was, but Sam was left looking for a little meat. In the future, I might add bacon or sausage to it. The broccoli is delicious in it though. This is definitely a favorite and will be added to the rotation.

Cook Book Wish List

It’s Evening Two crammed away in my hotel room. It was the first day of my AMA conference, which I loved. I’m lucky in that I love what I do. So much so, that it doesn’t even make me want to kill myself when I’m stuck in a chair listening to someone talk for eight hours straight. Afterwards, I had sushi in a restaurant downstairs (It’s still only 14 degrees, so I’m still not going outside). I went for a salmon nigiri (in an attempt to branch out on my Japanese food), a California roll (not so branched out) and sake!

Then I came upstairs and ate the rest of my Sour Patch Kids. (Damn those Sour Patch Kids and the self-loathing they leave behind.) So I decided to watch more Made in Chelsea and write this blog post to get my mind off of the calories. photo(25)
I started editing some pictures that I took of a dish I’ve been SO MEANING to post. I finally remembered to take photos of it on Sunday, but I had company and was clearly far more focused on talking than taking pictures because the pictures turned out to be complete shit. I’ll have to try again.

In the meantime, my amazon wish list is growing and growing. I’m filling it up with cook books and travel books and everything pretty. I’ve been dying to add more cookbooks to my arsenal and thought I’d use my boredom and lack of Truffle Mac and Cheese photos to share a few that will be on my bookshelf sooner, rather than later.

rose bakery
First up is Breakfast Lunch Tea by Rose Bakery. I have How to Boil an Egg and just made a tart out of it and I loved it (I promise to share asap). You can find Rose Bakery in Paris (mais oui!), London, Tokyo, Seoul and Tel Aviv.

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Next is Mimi‘s new book A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse. I love Mimi. I want to be her. First of all, she’s gorgeous, her life in Medoc is beautiful and she’s pregnant with her fifth child, with two stepchildren and makes the most amazing food. Oh and her husband is a photographer and takes beautiful pictures of her. All I’ve ever wanted is to live on a farm in France with 7 children and a husband who makes me look like a supermodel in photos. Oh, she was also a model, so there’s that too. Needless to say, I’ve pre-ordered her book.

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You had me at “foreword by David Chang”. Just kidding. No, I’m not. Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession and Recipes is a ramen restaurant with two locations in Tokyo and two in New York. And I’m pretty sure that I read they were going to add one in LA. Little known fact: I love ramen. Can’t wait to get my paws on this one.

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If you’ve looked for a place to book a nice dinner in Paris, there’s no doubt you’ve come across Frenchie. Perhaps you looked far enough in advance to be able to get a reservation (I didn’t). But there is a reason for that popularity and I intend on finding out with this cookbook until I make it back to Paris. (Ugh I miss Paris.)

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Finally, I really want Jerusalem. But it’s actually a two for one deal, because I also want Plenty. This came highly recommended by a twitter girlfriend of mine, and the amazon reviews are unreal. FIVE stars?! Sold and sold.

Do you have any favorite cookbooks? Not that I need to add anything else to my wishlist…

-2 and a Trip to the Park

photo 3(1) This post comes to you from some hotel in the middle of downtown, freezing Chicago. Actually, freezing doesn’t quite do it justice. It’s -2 degrees tonight. I’m in town for a conference so I’ve decided to go outside as little as humanly possible. Luckily the hotel I’m staying in has several restaurants and I’m staying really super close to the conference center. So for a late lunch I had a salad in a downstairs restaurant. And then came upstairs and put on my pajamas and vegged out. And then because I spent three hours doing nothing, I got hungry again and called room service for another salad and a side of fries (because the nearly entire bag of Sour Patch Kids I ate today didn’t put me over my calorie limit). So I type this as I watch Season 1 of Made in Chelsea and hate myself for eating nearly an entire bag of Sour Patch Kids and three full meals today. But that’s a whole ‘nother post for another day.
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Enough about today. Let’s talk about this past weekend. We stayed in Friday to watch Lost in Translation, which is one of our absolute favorite movies. Of course I fell asleep about 10 times before the movie was over. We’re getting ready to put our condo up for sale so we spent Saturday morning doing a few small home repairs and painting. (I am happy to report that I can caulk and spackle!) Afterwards we spent the afternoon with my mother’s family. Despite being under awful circumstances, I always love visiting with my aunts and cousins. Sunday we didn’t make it up in time for church, so I listened to it on the radio–so handy that they broadcast–and then we headed to the park. After all this cold weather, Sunday’s wonderful weather was so enjoyed.
Coco loves Railroad Park.
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Even in the dead of winter (albeit 70 degree winter) I still love our little park.
I’ll get back to not eating the rest of the Sour Patch Kids and binge watching more Made in Chelsea.
xx

Croque Madame

SONY DSC Croque Madames don’t quite make sense to me. I don’t like ham and I don’t like eggs (well, that’s only half true), so I really shouldn’t like Croque Madames. But I do! They are warm and cheesy and melt-y deliciousness that cannot be understood. The first time I ever had a Croque Monsieur was on my first trip to Paris. It was midday and we hadn’t eaten breakfast and were starving on our way to Rodin. We popped into a bakery in St Germain and I popped out with a Croque Monsieur and a Coca Light. {UGH I WANT TO GO BACK TO PARIS SO BAD.} So Croque Madame was obviously the next step. Chez Fon Fon, my favorite restaurant in town, has a delicious one that comes with the best french fries.

So during my menu planning last week, I found a great recipe that I knew I had to try. It’s simple and so perfect for any men-folk you might know. It has an awesome béchamel that you cover the top slices of the sandwich with and then you pop it under the broiler until it bubbles and melts like molten.

Serves Six. (Don’t panic–I cut my recipe down to just serve two.) Recipe from Saveur.
Ingredients
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 tbsp. flour
2 cups milk
12 oz. Gruyère, grated
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
12 ¾”-thick slices pain de mie or Pullman bread, toasted
6 tbsp. Dijon mustard
12 thin slices baked ham
2 tbsp. canola oil
6 eggs

Directions
Heat butter in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and cook, whisking, until smooth, about 1 minute. Whisk in milk, and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer until slightly reduced and thickened, 6–8 minutes. Add ½ cup grated Gruyère and the Parmesan, and whisk until smooth. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Heat broiler to high. Place 6 slices bread on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and spread 1 tbsp. mustard over each. Top with 2 slices ham and remaining Gruyère. Broil until cheese begins to melt, 1–2 minutes. Top with remaining bread slices, then pour a generous amount of béchamel on top of each sandwich. Broil until cheese sauce is bubbling and evenly browned, about 3–4 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12″ nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add eggs, season with salt and pepper, and cook until whites are cooked but yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes. Place an egg on top of each sandwich, and serve hot.

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xx

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

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I decided to actually do some meal planning this week. I pulled out three cookbooks and flipped through until I found a handful of recipes. Of course Giada came through. I love this cookbook–if you haven’t tried her chicken cacciatore, you must! (I apologize for the terrible pictures in that post. I hope all my pictures don’t look like that. Sheesh.)

So anyway, this Shrimp Fra Diavolo (which means Shrimp Brother Devil, if we’re being literal) is delicious! It’s only slightly hot. It was actually so delicious that it re-inspired me to get back in the kitchen. I love having recipes that you can make regularly and they always turn out perfectly.

Ingredients
1lb large shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juices
1 cup dry white wine
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leave parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Directions
In a medium bowl, toss the shrimp with salt and red pepper flakes.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil on medium high. Add shrimp and saute until just cooked, 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a plate and set aside.

Add onion to the skillet and saute until translucent. Add the tomatoes with their juices, wine, garlic and oregano. Simmer until sauce slightly thickens, about 10 minutes.

Return shrimp and juices to the tomato mixture and toss. Remove from heat, stir in parsley and basil. Spoon the shrimp mixture into shallow bowls and serve. (You can serve it over pasta or rice. I want to try it over spaghetti squash next time for something really guilt free.)
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After a conversation with my mom, I think I might work on putting together a meal planning tab on here. Her least favorite thing about cooking is coming up with what to cook. I thought it might be helpful (at least to me and her) to start filing my recipes into some sort of better organized plan. Let me not get ahead of myself though. We’ll see.

Have any good recipes to pass my way?

BMA

One of my favorite things to do when I go to other cities is visit their museums. The more I can get in (while leaving enough time to sightsee) the better! LOVE when cities have museum passes. So as much as I enjoy it, it’s an awful shame I don’t get over to our very own Birmingham Museum of Art more often. I’ve been with my mom a few times and my friend Nikki but not in the last year or so. So when my super-thoughtful manager sent me the event info for February’s First Thursday, I jumped at the chance to take Sam (he’d never been before!). It was French themed, with cocktails and tapas, the galleries open after hours and a showing of Midnight in Paris. We skipped the tapas to save room for pizza with my brother and niece afterwards. We started with a couple of glasses of wine but quickly realized we couldn’t walk in any of the galleries with them. So we walked around in the courtyard, in the freezing weather, mind you, and scoped out our favorite pieces. Then we made use of the empty galleries while everyone else kept busy with the tapas.  Processed with VSCOcam
I always love the modern art exhibits. I used to paint it myself, and have been thinking about attempting to start it up again. I know Sam will love to have our condo littered with painting supplies. I think I nearly did him in with the calligraphy of our Christmas cards. Processed with VSCOcam
This piece was unreal. It was covered in rhinestones, some piled on top of each other. Processed with VSCOcam Processed with VSCOcam Processed with VSCOcam Completely unrelated to art (or maybe not?) I’m trying out a center part this week. I’m not sure how I feel about it. My hair looks so dark in this picture. Maybe it just is that dark though.  Girlfriend has really GOT to find a hairdresser in town. Processed with VSCOcam And then we made a quick tour of the Japanese exhibit. I always love the screens. I would loooooove to have one.
(Side note, Sam loves Japanese culture food and has been dying to make a trip so we’ve been reading up a lot and trying to make some plans. If anyone has any recommendations, please do pass them on!) Processed with VSCOcam Definitely loved the afternoon outing. (All iPhone pictures, so I apologize for the quality.)
Are you guys better than I am about sightseeing in your own city? I’m planning a staycation for us in the next few weeks so I’ll have to research some more fun stuff in Birmingham!

>>Another side note, Flowers in the Attic is on tv right now. WHAT IS THIS MOVIE?!<<

Snowmygosh

Tuesday was insane. In the morning, I noticed snowflakes through a window at work. We went outside and played in it for a few minutes and then were told to work remotely from home. The snow continued to fall. Long story short, the city was in a gridlock. My phone went from 50% to 3% (without a charger), and five hours passed in the car alone. (I only live about 5 minutes from my office on a day with no traffic.) The roads were all impassable, so I finally gave up and stopped at a toyshop (the owner is the kindest person ever, btw). We were told that no traffic was moving and we needed to plan on staying where ever we were. But I had a little dog at home locked in a tiny kennel, and she’d be hungry and thirsty soon.

Sam and I finally found each other and he made the call to try one last time to get us home. We waited in traffic and weaved through abandoned cars and 7.5 hours after I left work, we finally made it home! Home never felt so good! There were so many stranded in cars and children stuck in schools and so many accidents, that I’m thankful that I only lost those few measly little hours.

We awoke this morning to the quietest day I’ve ever witnessed in Birmingham. We walked out of our neighborhood to the busiest highway in the state. And then we actually stood in the middle of the highway. There was no one on the road. We took the moment to snap a few pictures.
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Coat: Barbour// Scarf: Missoni//Beret: Anthropologie//Gloves: American Eagle//Boots: Hunter// Socks: Hunter// Leggings: Lululemon
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