Life Lately: florapothecarie, Los Angeles, Glorious Pink Hair, and a Red Panda

Life Lately feat

I thought it was about time I come out of hiding and say hello. Life lately has been a wild ride, and I wanted to share a little bit about what I’ve been up to these past few months!

florapothecarie lineup

In January, I re-branded my product line and launched florapothecarie! (flor-uh-poth-uh-cary) Still 100% natural, but now with even more organic ingredients and beautiful new labels. I could write a whole separate post on my decision to rebrand (I may still!), but for now I will say this: it’s always a tough decision, but I did it for a few reasons: I want to be self-employed someday soon, and I wasn’t charging nearly enough for my products in order to pay myself, so I knew I needed to raise my prices. I also felt the name “Poor & Pretty” did my high-quality, handcrafted products a disservice, so I knew I needed a new name. I wanted to bring color back into my branding (I love color!), so I knew the aesthetic needed to change. I wanted to get away from Etsy. Anyway, it’s done and launched and beautiful and I’m so happy! You can shop the full lineup on my new website right here!

deodorant cream_1000

OH! As part of my re-brand, I launched a product I’ve been working on for months: a natural cream deodorant (or deodorant paste). BIG thanks to my team of testers for trying it out and giving me such great feedback. They were totally in love with it, and I think you will be too. Buy it here.

Sami February 2016 Getty Villa LA

Last month, my wonderful incredible loving uncle flew me out to visit him and my aunt in Los Angeles. He thought I could use a little sunshine and warm weather, and he was so so right. The week I visited, it was sunny and 80-90 degrees every day (and I skipped out on a few New England snow storms). We visited the Getty Villa (above) and the Griffith Observatory, saw the Oscar-nominated short films, had dinner and a movie in the swankiest movie theatre I’ve ever been in, and relaxed on the beach.

Zuma Beach Malibu

Knowing me as well as he does, one day my uncle dropped me off at Zuma Beach (in Malibu, right off the Pacific Coast Highway), and left me alone while he went on a three-hour bike ride. The sun, the sand, the sea all called to me. I’ve always felt drawn to Southern California, and every time I visit, I feel like I’m home. I don’t know what this means quite yet, but I’m keeping my mind and heart open to the possibilities of my future.

Sami-Boudoir-cropped

I’m also totally in love with my pink ombré hair, which I can’t believe I never told you about! Of course, it was done by my super-talented bestie, Mish Jolie. IN OCTOBER. So yeah, I thought you should know about it. The photo above is from a boudoir shoot I did shortly after getting my hair done. Photographed by the lovely Cassandra Madeline, styled by Sammy Vigorito, hair & makeup by Rachel Toussaint. Truthfully, I’ve been struggling with feeling sexy and confident in my body for a long, long time. The boudoir shoot was my Christmas gift to myself, and worth every penny.

Red Panda - Beardsley Zoo

Also: I’m seeing someone new. His name is Rochan, and he is a red panda. Ha! Kidding. Sort of. I am seeing someone new. It’s very new, and very exciting, and that’s all I will say about it for now. Except that he took me to see this ADORABLE red panda at the Beardsley Zoo last weekend, and I almost lost my mind. He gets me.

xoxoxoxo!

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Toasting to Freedom and Sisterhood with Middle Sister Wines

Celebrating-Independence-Day-feature-via-@poorandpretty

Toasting-Independence-Day-with-Cupcakes-and-Middle-Sister-Wines

I love celebrating 4th of July every year, but this year I’m especially proud to be an American. In the past few weeks, our country has made incredible strides — most notably, securing the right to marry for our gay and lesbian friends. So on Saturday, my sister Suzi and I toasted to family, freedom, good weather, and great wine.

Vintage Wine Estates Middle Sister

When I was asked to taste test a bottle of Middle Sister Wines, I had to laugh at how perfectly the wines and their quirky little characters captured being a middle sister. Says Middle Sister Wines: “Did you know that birth order is commonly believed to have a profound and lasting effect on psychological development? WE DID!!! And that is why we have dedicated a wine to the sister in the middle – the one who always seems to have a personality of her own, and steals the show.” Yes, I can admit to being a bit of a troublemaker/show stealer. But, hey, I had to work hard to stand out!

Celebrating-Independence---toasting-with-Middle-Sister-Wines

Suzi and I have always been close, but we didn’t always get along. As the older sister, she seemed to have a lot more fun (and cooler things) than I did. I would trail after her, invite myself along on her adventures, try to outshine her, and occasionally steal her things. I’m loud (in volume, personality, and wardrobe), mischievous, energetic, attention-seeking, creative, and maybe more than a little whacky. Classic signs of being a middle sister.

Middle-Sister-Wines-and-Berry-Blue-Velvet-Cupcakes---4th-of-July-via-@poorandpretty

Neither of us are lushes, but we’ll have a glass or two of white wine occasionally. We especially love wine with our cupcakes.

Berry-Blue-Velvet-Cupcakes-4th-of-July-via-@poorandpretty

I made my patriotic Berry Blue Velvet Jell-O Cupcakes again this year. They always come out a little more turquoise than blue, but they taste delicious so who cares?! 

Middle-Sister-Wines-Sweet-and-Sassy-Moscato-4th-of-July-via-@poorandpretty

I love girly, super sweet wines, so I paired my cupcakes with the Sweet & Sassy Moscato, which has notes of white peaches, citrus and honeysuckle.

Celebrating-Independence---Middle-Sister-Wines-Drama-Queen-Pinot-Grigio-via-@poorandpretty

Suzi’s more of a Drama Queen Pinot Grigio girl, which had hints of apple and pear.

Middle Sister Wines characters

Celebrating-Independence---Sparklers-and-Middle-Sister-Wines-via-@poorandpretty

As is tradition, we spent Independence Day at our Dad’s house for his annual backyard fireworks extravaganza. We lit a few sparklers, ate a few cupcakes, and reminisced over our favorite sisterhood memories (me stealing her favorite blanket and getting away with it… Suzi helping me break out of the house when I was grounded…). We’re not as close with our youngest sister, but I’m so glad we have each other.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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Remembering Vivi, the Greatest Aunt

Vivi_feature

Vivi

It’s never easy to let someone go, no matter how long you’ve had them. On Monday, my family said goodbye to my Great Aunt Vivi, and I’ve been battling with my grief and bouts of deep sadness ever since. At 1:00 this morning, I cried on the phone with my Aunt Kathy, who put it best: “She wasn’t just an aunt. She was another grandmother to you.” And she’s right. This feels like losing my Nana all over again. Vivi has been the matriarch of our family since Nana’s passing in 1998, but she was a mother and grandmother to us long before then. One blog post couldn’t possibly convey my love for her, but I’d like to at least try. So today, I’m raising a glass, sharing a few memories, and toasting to a life well and fully lived.

Erickson sisters

You may remember this photo from my Nana Tribute a few years ago. Nana (my paternal grandmother) is on the left, looking at her older sisters Ginny (middle) and Vivi (right). Vivi was the eldest of her sisters, and the last of her generation.

Joe + Viv

Viv was quick-witted and always said exactly what was on her mind. She and her husband Joe (who passed away in 2007) were the most hilarious couple I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. One of my favorite Joe and Viv-isms is a story Joe would tell about how Vivi farted loudly in bed one night and Joe said, “I don’t know how I’m going to explain to the cleaners how I got shit on the outside of my pants!” Ha!!! :)

Though they had no children, Joe and Viv loved all of their 17 nieces and nephews, 32 great nieces and nephews, and 23 great great nieces and nephews (wow!) as their own.

South of the Border

They had a special spot in their heart for my Dad — the youngest of his siblings — and later, Suzi and I. Above, Vivi is flanked by Suzi (right) and I (left) at South of the Border in South Carolina on our way to Disney World in 1992 or 1993. Joe and Viv didn’t like to fly, so they drove us down to Florida and back. They loved recounting the story of how Suzi and I thoroughly trashed the backseat of Joe’s Cadillac so that when we got home he traded it in for a new one.

McDonalds at Viv + Joe's

I loved visiting Viv and Joe’s house. They had a few toys and office supplies to keep me busy, but I mostly liked shining up the chandelier in their dining room (what a weird kid!) or putting on all of Vivi’s necklaces and clip-on earrings (she never pierced her ears) or pretending to sell them to Viv and Joe. Going to Viv & Joe’s almost always meant having McDonald’s, which was a treat for us as kids. I used to stay home “sick” from school sometimes so I could watch movies with my Nana, and Viv and Joe would always come by around lunch time with McDonald’s. It’s no wonder I played hooky so often! I was totally spoiled.

Christmas 1997

And speaking of being spoiled, Vivi would take me shopping every year for pretty dresses for Easter and Christmas, and sometimes back-to-school clothes. The dress above (I think this is Christmas 1997) is almost certainly a Vivi-purchased dress. Nana is leaning over to inspect a present on the left and my stepbrother Zach is admiring my skirt (or trying to make his way to the Hot Wheels). When Viv took me shopping, Joe would drive us to the mall and as we went off to Lord & Taylor (Viv’s favorite store), he would plop down in the chairs in the middle of the mall and take a nap. We’d wake him up when it was time to leave or grab lunch.

Vivi + Stan

I apologize for the grainy quality of this photo — my photography skills have improved a lot since this was taken in 2009! Vivi never commented on my boyfriends much, until I brought Stan home. She loved Stan. She would always make sure he sat next to her, and she’d hold his hand the whole time they were together, and she’d tell him over and over again: “I never thought anybody was good enough for Sami, except you.” ♥ She’d totally hit on him, too! But, then again, after Joe passed away, Vivi would vocally fantasize about being with a certain local Catholic priest too, so her love knew no boundaries. The below sound clip is proof:

My Dad, cousin Steven, and I are discussing the guest list for Vivi’s 90th birthday party, and he’s on the list! (By the way, one of her favorite movies was The Thorn Birds…)

The same day we recorded the above, Vivi questioned our motives for visiting her, the proceeded to gush about me, then my Dad:

The “big fat Italian” she refers to so lovingly would be Joe. Real nice, right? ;)

Vivi had an excellent memory, and was a great storyteller. Over the past few years, I recorded a few snippets like the two above, and I have another one I’d like to share, but it may be disturbing to young audiences. Vivi’s claim to fame is her excerpt in Steward O’Nan’s 2008 book The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy, a study of the Hartford circus fire on July 6, 1944. Here’s Vivi’s story:

The file is large, so it may take some time to load, and there’s some distracting background noise later in the file.

Stan and I visited Vivi for the last time this past Saturday. It was hard to say goodbye, but I leaned in close to her “good ear” and told her I loved her. She wasn’t very responsive, but I know she heard me, she knew I loved her, and I always will.

Christmas 2013

“The ones that love us never really leave us.” ~Sirius Black, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (I love this quote from the movie). Vivi will live on in us through her stories, wit, and love.

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Recipe: Scandinavian Bulla Bread

Bulla Bread feature

Scandinavian Bulla Bread Recipe via @poorandpretty

A few weeks ago, my Dad mentioned these slightly sweet rolls his paternal grandmother used to bake when he was younger. “Bulla bread!” He said. He had never mentioned them before, but I’m always up for a baking challenge! His 50th birthday party this past Sunday was the perfect time to try my hand at them.

Bulla Bread 2 via @poorandpretty

Bulla’s origins look to be Finnish, but are made across Scandinavia. My great-grandmother was Swedish and Danish so this recipe was most likely engrained in her brain. (Kind of like Red Velvet cupcakes are for me). Take a dinner roll, add sugar and cardamom and that’s basically it. You can add raisins or cinnamon too, but having never made them before, I went for a basic recipe. I loved making them for my Dad, and watching he and his siblings reminisce while eating them. They made yummy breakfast treats the next day too!

Bulla Bread — makes 32 rolls. Recipe adapted from Snovej.

  • 2 cups + 2 tbs milk
  • 2 packages of dry yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar + 1 tsp, divided
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 5½ – 6 cups flour
  • 14 tbs (1 ¾ sticks) butter, room temperature or melted

1. Microwave the milk for about a minute and pour it into a big bowl. Dissolve the yeast in it, then stir in one egg and 1 cup sugar, and the salt and cardamom. Mix well.

2. Add flour 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition. After 4 cups, mix in the butter, then more flour until you have a nice dough that no longer sticks to your fingers. (This was about 5½ cups for me).

bulla bread dough pre-risen via @poorandpretty

3. When you’re satisfied with the consistency of your dough, cover it with a towel and let it rise in a warm place.

bulla bread dough risen via @poorandpretty

4. After 1-2 hours, it should have doubled in size. If not, let it rise for longer.

bulla bread dough kneaded via @poorandpretty

5. When it’s risen, pour the dough onto a floured surface and knead it, adding more flour if necessary.

bulla bread dough via @poorandpretty

6. Divide the dough into four equal-sized balls.

bulla bread dough roll via @poorandpretty

7. Roll each ball into a log about 8″-10″ long.

bulla bread dough cut via @poorandpretty

8. Slice each long into 8 equal pieces. I slice it in half first, then quarters, then eighths.

bulla bread ready to bake via @poorandpretty

9. Lay out your sliced dough on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Let rise for another 30 minutes or so.

baked bulla bread via @poorandpretty

10. Make an egg wash with your other egg and 1 tbs of sugar, and lightly baste your dough, then cook at 450º for 8-10 minutes.

Bulla Bread top via @poorandpretty

11. Sprinkle with sugar and enjoy!

For more ways to make Bullas, check out this recipe from Snovej.

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Los Mosquito Express: My Mexican adventure, days 6, 7, & 8

On day 6 of our Mexican vacation (Monday), I began my descent into madness. Actually, it probably started on day 5 in the cenotes – when my Dad was trying to take us off-course and my flippers were giving me trouble. I may have flipped out a bit (get it?!). But day 6 really did me in.

It started in the morning, when I counted 9 mosquito bites on my left leg alone. It became a running joke — every time we got on a tram to transport us within the resort, we would undoubtedly walk away with more mosquito bites (but certainly less than if we had walked). My Dad started calling the trams “Los Mosquito Express.” This marketing message from the Bahia Principe website definitely hit home: “you’ll lose yourself in the impressive natural areas, you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of the Mayan jungle.”

So after picking up a few more mosquito bites, Suzi and I went to the spa within our resort:

Scary Spa

We had signed up for the “Antistress Ritual” package — a water circuit and “Caribbean Relaxing” massage. We’d asked a few people what the water circuit was, but no one could explain it properly. We knew it involved a sauna and a jacuzzi, but that’s about it. That’s why we’re a bit afraid in this photo.

Turns out, the water circuit involved 5 minutes in a dry sauna (we probably did about 3), 5 minutes in a wet sauna (the whole time I was afraid we’d be eaten by the monster from The Fog), rinsing off in the coldest shower you could ever imagine (I rinsed off once and said I was getting out, but our masseuse told me to go in again: “Once more; I can see you!”), walking in a circle on rocks three times while similarly cold water sprayed on our feet (really), bathing in a small pool with frigid water and mini waterfalls that fell on our heads, and finishing off with about 15 minutes in a tepid jacuzzi. The massages made up for it though. I really, really needed one.

Dad at Dolce Vita

That evening, we ate dinner at Dolce Vita, the Italian restaurant near our pool. The only other people there when we sat down was a small wedding party — bride, groom, and their parents. We toasted them and they shared their wedding cake with us. Everything was wonderful until that night when all of us except Scarlett had, well… let’s just call it revenge of the Italian dinner. I wasn’t too happy myself, but I feel even worse for the wedding party that was there. What a way for the bride and groom to spend their wedding night!

After all this (plus a few more mosquito bites), I wasn’t in the best mood. So when Dad, Suzi, and Scarlett went to the Mayan ruins in Tulum the next morning, I stayed in our somewhat-cool, mosquito-less room and watched bad movies with Spanish subtitles. Here are some of their photos from the ruins (they said I didn’t miss much):

Tulum Mayan ruins

Tulum Mayan ruins 2

[I don’t want to bombard my home page with all of the photos from these three days, so see more after the jump…]

Continue reading…

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