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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Downton Abbey, series two

Downton Abbey series two is quickly approaching it's return to our PBS stations in the U.S. Friends in the U.K. have been bugging me as they have not just seen series two but they have also seen the Christmas Special thanks to ITV1. I am going crazy over here! Love this show so much and even M is super into the storyline.

Who else just aches over poor Mister Bates? And who else wishes Mary and Edith would stop screwing each other over? YOU ARE SISTERS, PEOPLE! Chill out.

Anyway, here are some videos from YouTube, some are official promos for the U.S. and others are from U.K. Enjoy and please support and donate to your local PBS stations - not just for Downton Abbey, but also for local programming, Sesame Street, music (Andrea Bocelli in Central Park, anyone?) among so many other wonderful programs!

Downton Abbey returns on January 8, 2012!
[Ed. Note: for those who don't know, in the U.K. it is 'series' NOT 'season'; the song on the ITV1 and PBS promo for series 2 is a cover of U2's "With or Without You" as performed by Scala & Kolacny Brothers]

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas decor

Do you love the holidays?

I am a big fan, and I treasure pulling out the things that I have inherited from family, as well as new things that M and I have acquired together. Above is a beautiful bird from Caspari, which M gave me as an early gift this year - the tag said - "Enjoy your tree twitter."

My Mom has a ton of baskets and gave me one. To fill it, I found some pinecones in the woods on our property and lightly applied some glitter to the tips. The broom is a cinnamon-scented broom I got at a local country store. It makes the whole first floor smell of cinnamon, I love it!

M's aunt knit him this enormous stocking. It is endlessly hilarious to me so I call it the 'Club foot' stocking. It stretches as you put stocking loot in it. Very retro-chic.... ahem. Anyway, so we have it on our mantel, then when we go to my family's home we put it up on their mantel to be filled!

This is dim, but shows the craftsmanship. M was raised Lutheran, and his German family has attended this one church for years. When M was little, he and his grandfather made this church together. Stained glass and all. It actually is a music box. You can take off the top and look inside and the built-to-scale church. It is very sweet and one of few things that links M to his grandfather who died when he was in middle school. It is on a table in our hallway. The other lights are from a garland I wind up our stairs, and some figures that I have been given from my side of the family.

I will do another post of the 'really old stuff' later this week! Do you have any special Christmas artifacts from your family?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Oxfords and Oysters 2011

Tonight is the second-annual Oxfords & Oysters event, hosted by Sky Blue Events at the newly-opened Four Seasons Baltimore! I am thrilled to be going this year as last year M and I had VIP tickets but had to miss the actual event at the last minute. Regardless, I am so happy that my friend Jennifer Grove was able to pull off such an event coup, scoring one of the best venues in town for a charitable event, before anyone else.

She has really done it this time and I am so excited for her- she hinted to me months ago that this year's O&O would be a big deal but she couldn't give me any deets until after it was all finalized. Plus, she was probably also waiting to make sure the hotel finished in enough time, as it just opened in October!

Again this year the O&O is fundraising for the Oyster Recovery Project, which helps bring oyster shells back to the Chesapeake Bay where they can keep doing their job, being reclaimed and also cleaning the Bays waters (not sitting in a dump). It is a massive operation with restauranteurs that participate and help the University of Maryland with this work. Clearly, this event means I get to eat oysters which I adore and cannot wait to imbibe in, so delicious...

There will also be an incredible DJ, who made it hard (impossible) to leave in a timely fashion at Sky Blue's last event, Pints & Pinstripes at Silo Point... As well as an open bar. It may be (Thirsty) Thursday but most of us likely are not going to work on Friday and are staying at the Four Seasons... Woohoo! One of my bridesmaids and best friend is joining me as my date so she and I really look forward to a fun night on the town after P&P closes up. I got a new cocktail dress for the occasion and am thrilled this event will be the kickoff of my Christmas party calendar!

Jennifer took the attached photos which include the heated infinity pool looking onto the Harbor, the infinity pool at night looking towards the Inner Harbor and Federal Hill, and from the balcony looking across to the Domino Sugar plant. It is such a beautiful location at Harbor East - Chiu's Sushi, Ra Sushi, Whole Foods, James Joyce, Little Italy and Fells Point all within easy walking distance of the Four Seasons hotel!!

Are you doing anything fun this weekend?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Silver polishing

Is anyone else the designated polisher for their family? This duty has been mine since about 8 years old, when my parents and grandparents realized I pay attention to the most minute details (between tines, in the smallest crannies and engravings) on our silver pieces. So, to earn some extra $$ and to help out older eyes, I would polish polish polish!

Carroll's Jewelers has been a store my family has shopped at for years. Wedding registries, graduation, college, etc. Sadly, the Coral Gables Carroll's on the Miracle Mile closed in January 2010, where it had been for SIXTY THREE years. Mind you, Coral Gables has not been around but since about 1923 so that is almost the entire history of this storied suburb! But, their Ft. Lauderdale store is still open... however, we don't really go up there.

Anyway, polishing. I'm older now and enjoy cooking a great deal. However, I am still thhhhheeeeeeee silver girl-to-go. So I am lucky to only be designated with silver polishing, table-setting and the occasional hors d'ouvres (this year, like last year, a warm crab dip).

Many of my family pieces are verrrrry old. Tiered centerpieces of pure silver from who knows whose estate in Europe. Trays. Silver water goblets. Tiffany & Co. silverware. Ancient flatware inherited from someone who lived for filigree and got the most ornate piece they could find (you Southern girls know what I mean, esp!). So the Hagerty silver foam has been used on these pieces for decades. It's super mild, looks like softened milk chocolate and washes off well. I like the brown stuff from Hagerty as then I can see it in the nooks and crannies when buffing and rinsing. It does the job right! Anyone ever use a SOFT toothbrush on their more ornate pieces? Try it sometime, delicately, and you will see how it helps!

After I finish with our place settings for Thanksgiving dinner, I will do an inherited champagne bucket and some vases. That includes this antique, incredibly delicate crystal bud vase with engraving up the stem, which rests in silver. And it is NOT gleaming due to Mother's dislike of polishing. Don't worry Mum, Worthy has it under control, because I understand you looooooooove this piece but despise the elbow grease. Least I can do for you playing hostess and keeping me on your cell phone plan!!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, are any of you avid silver polishers?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wedding plans: jewelry

M and I have continued to work on our wedding plans - you can never plan things too early, especially the fun stuff!

Yesterday we went to the Stony Point Fashion Park to the Tiffany & Co. which opened in September. M had not been, I had been with my Mom a few months ago. It is a great store for the Richmond-area market. Being as the next closest stores are Charlotte, NC and Tysons Corner, VA, I was really impressed by the high and low price points represented at this store. We are an old South town, but we have no major professional sports teams or a ton of locals who sport big bling, unless it is the inherited kind. I really enjoyed seeing what they offered for wedding bands.

Here are some various styles I have previously considered:

1. an antique, or antique-looking, scroll ring in platinum with no more than a carat of round diamonds in the band:

2. a pavé diamond platinum band of no more than one carat, with milgrain detail, which would go with my engagement ring:

3. a pavé and milgrain platinum band of round diamonds and sapphires:

[all of these photos are of rings from, taken for inspiration only]

Well, I think I may have found the ring - here it is taken from the Tiffany & Co. website:

This is the Tiffany Legacy Collection band ring, which sapphires and diamonds around the entire band. I love the milgrain detail and the subtle, Edwardian-period elegance of it! If you read my Pinterest you know I love that jewelry period!

Milgrain is a detail taken from my parents wedding bands; the platinum, sapphires and diamonds are all on my engagement ring. My Mother's Tiffany & Co. engagement ring is a yellow sapphire, which is her birthstone. So, now you can understand better how it all ties together!

M helped me figure out the band decision. He said he likes the sapphires and diamonds in the band together - which picks up the center stone sapphire in my engagement ring. We would like to get our bands at Tiffany & Co., as my parents did, but we are still on the fence as my engagement ring did not come from Tiffany, but rather a smaller local jewelry store which did a custom ring for M. So we shall see. At least stylistically we have decided what we want!

How did you do your wedding bands? Any tips?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Martha Stewart's Tortilla Soup

When the weather turns cold, one of the first things I do is make a soup or stew. Virginia has been a bit bipolar lately, so I may make a great pot of something, and then I am surprised by the warm snap that comes a few days later. This soup is the exception to any rule - warm or cold weather - it is delicious. M does not like cabbage or avocado but when they are in this soup he does not mind them at all - he piles those condiments on like it is nobody's business! So consider this recipe sometime, you will enjoy it for most of your week.

This recipe is from Martha Stewart's Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook. I first heard about this book via Kappa Prep. This was a while ago when the book first came out, she may have even done a giveaway! Regardless, I was given the book as a gift a couple years later from my Grandparents. My Grandmama was almost jealous. Here is what they wrote inside:

Aren't they the best? They have written a note in every book they have ever given me, which I love as it is preserved for forever.

One of the things I have learned from doing this recipe a few times is that making your own stock does make this recipe that much better. So, first I will give you Martha Stewart's basic chicken stock from page 41 and then I will follow with her tortilla soup from page 47.

Basic Chicken Stock
For flavor base
5 pounds assorted chicken parts (backs, necks, wings or a whole chicken)

For aromatics
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-to-2-inch lengths
2 celery stalks, chopped into 1-to-2-inch lengths
2 medium onions, peeled and cut into eighths
1 dried bay leaf
1 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns

Bring water with chicken to a boil. Place chicken parts in a stockpot just large enough to hold them with about 3 inches of room above (8-quarts or larger) and add enough water to cover by 1 inch (about 3 quarts). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, using a ladle to skim impurities and fat that rise to the top. [Note by Whit: I use organic chicken and I really do not get that many impurities or fat with that kind of meat!]

Add aromatics and simmer. Add vegetables, bay leaf, and peppercorns and reduce heat to a bare simmer (bubbles should just gently break the surface). Cook, skimming frequently, for 1.5-2.5 hours (depending on taste preference). [Note by Whit: Honestly, I cook the chicken in the pot until it is done. Then I take out the pieces I will strip for meat like the thighs, breasts, legs while keeping other parts, bones and difficult-to-pick pieces in the pot. I let it simmer most of the day like that so the flavor is deep and rich. I then use my skimmer to lift out the vegetables, bay leaf and any bones, meat or fat remaining in the pot. If I am just making the stock, I let it cool and place them in various containers to freeze, noting the date as I try to use them within 3 months. However, if I am making the tortilla soup, please continue to follow below!]

[Note by Whit: If continuing from the above stock recipe, be sure to watch your chicken meat so it is not overcooked! It is easier to clean the chicken while it is still warm, you can easily slip the fat off and shred the meat with forks or your hands into bite-size pieces.]

Tortilla Soup
For chile puree
2 dried pasilla chiles
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons sunflower oil, plus more for tomatoes
3 tomatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), halved
1 large onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

For finishing soup
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

For garnishes
Fried tortilla strips [Note by Whit: I use crumbled up tortilla chips, way easier]
1/4 white or green cabbage, halved lengthwise, cored, and thinly sliced (1 cup)
1/2 red onion, finly diced
3/4 cup cilantro leaves
1 ripe, firm avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
Lime wedges

Meanwhile, prepare chiles Toast the chiles in a dry medium skillet over high heat until fragrant and charred, about 1 minute on each side. [Note by Whit: if this gets too hot you will accidentally inhale the smokey 'fragrant' goodness of a burning pepper. Don't let this happen!] Let cool a bit, then split chiles lengthwise and scrape out seeds; discard seeds. Put chiles in a bowl and cover with warm water to soften, about 20 minutes (do not drain!!!). If necessary, weight chiles with another bowl to keep them submerged.

Make puree Heat broiler with rack about 5 inches below heat source. Lightly oil tomatoes and broil until charred in spots, about 5 minutes. Let cool briefly, then coarsely chop. Using the same skillet as above, heat oil over medium-high heat and saute onion and garlic until translucent, about 3 minutes, stirring to prevent to prevent sticking. Add the tomatoes and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in chiles and soaking liquid. Allow mixture to cool slightly before pureeing in a blender until smooth. Strain mixture through a sieve, pressing with a flexible spatula to extract as much liquid as possible (discard solids).

Finish soup Add puree to fortified stock and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes, to allow the flavors to blend. Add shredded chicken and cook just to heat through, then stir in lime juice.

Serve Ladle soup into serving bowls and serve garnishes in individual bowls alongside.

If you are looking for a great gift for a pair of newlyweds, a friend who has recently gotten into cooking and may need some inspiration, or someone who wants to have a great resource on the basics that they can improve upon, this book would be a wonderful gift for the holiday season. Otherwise, ENJOY!!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fall food: an amazing chili

To preface: I love this recipe, which M and I first tried in 2009 around Thanksgiving. We make it throughout the cold months, and one batch for us lasts about a week, even though the recipe states 4-6 servings! We love to use Mexican cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips and sliced jalapenos as our toppings. I am a big lime person, so I add some fresh-squeezed lime wedges to my bowl, too! This chili does freeze well, too!

Do you all love the Memphis Neelys from Food Network? Gina and Pat are so cute! We love their meat recipes - and here is one of our favorites.

Pat's Famous Beef and Pork Chili

6 slices thick-cut applewood smoked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound 85 percent lean ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 cup beer ....Pat Neely recommended: Budweiser ....M and I used Sam Adams Bonfire Rauchbier which adds a GREAT smoky taste
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (24-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (24-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice

In large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (I use a stock pot so it isn't too crowded though...), cook the bacon over medium heat until lightly crisp, stirring occasionally. Once the bacon is browned, add the garlic, onions, bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, chipotle chili powder, oregano, and smoked paprika and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until the vegetables are tender and seasonings are aromatic. Add the beef and break it up with a wooden spoon. Once beef is broken up and beginning to brown, add the pork. Break up with wooden spoon like the beef, and brown, until no longer pink, roughly 4 minutes. Stir in the beer and beans. Toss together, then add the crushed and diced tomatoes. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, if necessary. Transfer the chili to serving bowls and garnish with lime wedges, sour cream, shredded cheese, and sliced scallions.

Here is the link to the FoodNetwork YouTube page with the recipe!:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Royal Oud from House of Creed

The latest scent from the House of Creed is now available - most likely through pre-order as they don't send a ton of the stuff over here - Royal Oud. An incredibly sexy unisex scent that some will love and some will hate. The oriental and spicy scents are hit or miss for so many people.

Here are the scent notes broken down by Creed: Top Notes: Lemon, Pink Pepper, Bergamot; Heart Notes: Angelica, Bitter Green Galbanum, Lebanese Cedar; Base Notes: Oud, Sandalwood, Musk.

You cannot miss the Lemon, pepper, angelica, cedar and Persian oud. At least that is how I felt!

The history of the House of Creed is incredible - established in 1760 - still run by the same family. My favorite scents are Original Vetiver, which was a favorite of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna (I'm a Russian history scholar) and Fleurissimo, which was created on the occasion of Grace Kelly's marriage to Prince Ranier III of Monaco. Fleurissimo is one of the first scents I ever wore. Looking back, having Creed Fleurissimo and Chanel No. 5 as a middle-schooler probably was weird... eh, whatever.

So, this is my shoutout to one of the oldest fragrance houses in the world, respected and supported by most houses of royalty that have existed in modern history. And if you do not have your own local Saks Fifth Avenue, consider calling my girl Fatima Smith at the Stony Point Saks at 804-320-6960 Ext 5370. She is the Beauty Specialist for Creed at the Richmond Saks and would love to help you out!

[no compensation other than the advanced sample I recieved from Saks]

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Blog Hop: Favorite Cookbooks

My dear BFF Muffy Martinidecided late this past week to do a Blog Hop. Well, she wanted to do an entry like this for a while - but that is when she posted it! Isn't she creative? I love this idea as it is a great way to show how blogging peers can share something in common and then do a different dish.

I considered doing one of the several Junior League cookbooks I own (like Charlotte's Junior League... maybe I will save that for another entry) but I wanted to go more direct and family-oriented. I know I am supposed to do one that people can get a hold but this is too special to not share!!

My Dad's college roommate was a fifth-generation Texan attending W&L, and his wife and her GF's put together this cookbook. It is called "Favorites:" Childhood Friends Still Cooking Up Fun! It is so sweet that they put this together for their circle of friends - almost 200 pages, spiral bound and hard cover. Anyway, when his roommate's youngest decided to attend W&L three years ago, they brought this cookbook with them to present to my parents. Inside were a few of the recipes which Dad and Sam used in their farmhouse.

One of the recipes is "Sam and Jim's Eggs Benedict a la W&L". My Dad makes some of the best hollondaise sauce you have ever had - even Lady Bird Johnson thought so! She came to Sam and Dad's in the late 70s to have brunch with them while in Rockbridge County. Her Secret Service agents played with my Dad's dog, Lord Canterbury of Lexington ("Bear") while they sat inside and visited.
[I cannot make this stuff up!!!!]

One of the recipes is my ultimate favorite - simple, unhealthy and perfect for a couple guys, a young couple or a group of people gathered together (tailgates, Super Bowl Sunday, casual dinner party... etc etc!). I used to request this for birthday parties as my birthday is in August - too hot to do a lot of anything and this dish is super easy. The recipe I want to share is below, which the Pace family shared with Dad and Sam - the Steves used to send Sam a case of Pace picante (not the salsa!)...

Sam & Jim's Washington & Lee "Chicken in the Chips"

2 cups of cooked chicken, in bite-size pieces
1 (10 ounce) bag of original Fritos
16 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (or 8 ounces of mozz and 8 oz of pepper jack)
16 ounces sour cream (light is OK)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/3 cup Pace Picante sauce (medium)

Combine sour cream, soup and Paces to make sauce. In large casserole dish layer 1/2 chicken, 1/2 Fritos, 1/2 cheese, cover with 1/2 sauce and repeat. Bake at 350* for 30 minutes until bubbly.

Serve extra Pace on the sideboard, this goes great with a big salad or green beans!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fall 2011 trend: the bow blouse

(Marc by Marc Jacobs/Nordstrom)

Who else is on the fence with the bow blouse trend? I really feel like you have to be right on for this look or it just comes off horribly.

(Juicy Couture/Bloomingdales)

I am busty, not big persay (32DD), but pretty full. Since I have a lingerie background, I have done my gathering of well-fitting undergarments. For some people, this sizing issue can completely make a trend piece look horrible on them. It just does not work. For me, it is having something around my neck for several hours. I just do not like it. Its like a silky scarf, getting fearfully close to the beverage at my desk or draping over my keyboard keys. As if my hair was down.

(Diane von Furstenberg/Nordstrom)

Unless I am wearing a work outfit, heels, hose (of whatever sort), pencil skirt, ballet bun - the bow blouse just does not work. I feel a bit contrived pairing it with a pair of skinny jeans and stilettos. I think I look like a joke. Probably just a proportion thing.

(Alice + Olivia/Neiman-Marcus)

This all being said, maybe my impression will change since now it is a trend. This whole time, I have been wearing vintage bow blouses and these new bold colors may do just the trick. I would love one in a subtle pattern and another in maybe a deep rich jewel tone like a teal... Or both (see below).


I currently own some vintage silk ones from Doncaster, Carlisle, Worth and Juliana Collezione. They have not been worn in a while, and it was fun wearing them in a law office as they were a fun pick-me-up to the regularity of suits and oxfords. Who knows when I will pull them out!

(Robert Rodriguez/Neiman-Marcus)

What do you think of this trend? Did you wear these in their various revivals in the 70s, 80s and hold on to them? Are you hoping to purchase a few pieces for this season?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fall 2011 trend: animal-print shoes

One of the things I enjoy most is to put on a fun outfit, drive to my local Nordstrom and with a lemonade in hand (I do not drink coffee. This includes lattes!), peruse the regularly-changing displays of merchandise.

One of the best departments in our small, but pretty well-balanced Nordstrom is the shoe department. The selection is laughable compared to the Tysons Corner store, natch, but it is good enough to keep on trend throughout the seasons.

One display caught my eye, and it was animal prints for fall. This one display had a trend I am shyly toeing the line over. I like the look a lot, but can I really wear something enough to make it worth being in my wardrobe? And which style of shoe should I invest in, anyway? A woman cannot go wrong with an animal-print flat done right in pony hair, but some heels - as you shall see, really can be horrid. BUT, to each their own!

"Iris" by Via Spiga. Pony hair in animal-print with black patent leather trim and heel. If I was a dainty size 7.5 or less, I would get this shoe. Really cute but only if you never danced pointe. At least that is how I feel about it.

"Allie" by Halogen (Nordstrom brand). Suede black wedge with animal-print. If you want to go budget and trend, this shoe may work for you. But I honestly think it looks too cheap. The suede heel is a dramatic contrast from the rest of the shoe and not necessarily in a good way.

"Odessa" by Via Spiga. Animal-print in pony hair with black leather buckle, with silver hardware, over the toe. Barely a heel at all. You'd probably want to slip something in to support your arches with this one!

"Lyla" by Sam Edleman. Animal-print in pony hair. Wood heel. Ankle strap is brown leather with silver hardware. Anyone else feel like this one is ruined by the strap??

"Stringtie" by Stuart Weitzman. A classic ballet flat. Black leather trim and at toe, on a animal-print pony hair flat. This one is on my wishlist.

"Pipespy" by Stuart Weitzman. A very understated (other than pattern) peep-toe stiletto. Animal-print pony hair, wrapped leather heel. The heel is about four inches, otherwise I would be considering this one. Maybe I'll stick with a flat.

"Briar" by Dolce Vita. Black bow at back by ankle. Dark cheetah animal-print. Black leather-wrapped heel. I feel like this shoe has too much going on, but know I will be seeing it around Richmond because, hey, this look fits with a certain niche market of trying-too-hards that live around here.

Which of these shoes is your favorite?
What animal print trend are you embracing for fall?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wedding Inspiration: Getaway Cars

Did you use a special car for your getaway? Would you love to have one for your special day?

I think it would be nice to have a fun getaway car. Heck, have a chauffeur take you to your hotel, then the airport the next day as you depart for your honeymoon! Then you can just relax relax and, relax!

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's the Little Things...

Beautiful roses from M... "just because".

Aren't those the best kind of flowers? These are so fragrant and lush, like garden roses.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

"Stand by Me"

Another awesome wedding video by Josh Gooden, wedding photographer and videographer. Such a sweet, understated video - the epitome of Chesapeake, VA culture!

Tac & Katie // Wedding | Deltaville, Virginia from Josh Gooden on Vimeo.

I wish all of my family was able to travel. There is no doubt in my mind that M & I would have had a OBX or Chesapeake Bay wedding! So sweet.

Monday, September 12, 2011

After all these years...

Yeah, I still think J.T.T. is totally adorable/handsome/etc. I really did cover my wall with him. Maybe two walls.... In a 13 year-old infatuated sort of way. However, I NEVER joined the fan club. Bummer.

Does that make me a weirdo?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fabergé love

A few weekends ago, M and I went to the special Fabergé exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.

We saw a lot of incredible stuff, really special things I had never seen before... Not just the pieces from the large collection that already exists at the VMFA and I have seen throughout my life. M had never seen any of them, so it was special for me to share a major passion of mine with him (I am a Russian history buff).

Imperial Lillies of the Valley basket: Yellow and green gold, silver, nephrite, pearl, rose-cut diamonds, 1896. This sat on Empress Alexandra Feodorovna's desk, in likely her mauve boudoir. She was the wife of the famous 'last tsar' Nicholas II.

The Imperial Napoleonic egg: Green and yellow gold, emerald panels, rubies and diamonds, 1912. Interior is satin and velvet.

The egg still has its "surprise", six-panel miniature screen depicting in watercolor six regiments of which Maria Fyodorovna was an honorary colonel. Each panel has on its reverse side the royal monogram of the Dowager Empress. The screen itself is made from translucent green emeralds, rose-cut diamonds and white enamel.

Coiled Serpent Paperweight: Persian turquoise, sterling silver, 1908. This piece is massive, about a foot wide and several inches tall.

The Nobel Ice Egg: rock crystal, platinum and diamonds, 1914. For a nephew of Nobel prize creator. Exterior of shell appears simple, it is a silver-pearl matte ground shell covered with alternating layers of transparent and opaque white enamel, each layer separately painted and engraved to resemble frost. The result is an icy lustre. Inside is a watch pendant, of enamel, rock crystal and diamonds.

The Empress Josephine tiara is the last special piece, created in 1890. No idea on carats, which is annoying. Lets just say a ton! Those briolettes are the size of my big thumbnail! The diamonds were a gift from Tsar Alexander I to the Empress Josephine after her divorce from Napoleon Bonaparte. This piece is one of only a few tiaras ever made by Fabergé.

You can get a book from the VMFA on the exhibition for $60, published exclusively for the VMFA by Rizzoli. Don't you love everything that Rizzoli publishes? I do!

Or you could be like me, and add another pendant egg to your growing collection, the big one with lapis lazuli in the bottom! Pretty, no?

The American flag one I got in NYC after 9/11 in the summer of 2002. My first one was the paisley one in the top left with the malachite on the bottom. My grandparents gave it to me in 1997. The cross one I recieved for Christmas in 1999. So it was fun to get another one. They dress up any outfit and are not as kitchy as other reproductions.