Shop Small Saturday

Sasha Shop Small Saturday

While a thoughtful, well-worded note is always special, sometimes you want to send a little something extra that says, “I’m thinking of you.” Moreover, the holidays are upon us—that time of year when it seems you can never have enough hostess gifts on hand.

This is when living in the downtown area of my city comes in handy. A slew of perfect little shops with truly unique items are at my fingertips. And since Small Business Saturday is tomorrow, you can be sure I’ll take advantage of the opportunity to pick up a few remarkable prezzies to spread some joy in my travels this season.

For my local followers, some of my favorite downtown Lakeland steals include:

Vintage scarves from Black Swan Bazaar *

Decadent travel-size soaps (all natural, too! My favorite scent is Blackberry Sage) from Rafa Natural *

Handblown glass ornament from Brooke Pottery * (hey, if you’re going to do an ornament, do it right)

Handmade Ceramic Fortune Cookie (add your own personalized message) from Two Hens & A Hound on SoKen *

Whimsical change purse from Pumpernaks*

Travel-sized bottle of luxurious argan oil lotion from Liquid Hair Studio

Gluten-free Heart Thrive snack (for your friend at the party with a sensitive stomach who doesn’t want to miss out on the festivities) from Mitchell’s Coffee House*

A yummy BBQ rub from Whiskey Bent *

Handcrafted leather necklace from Boondock Studios (at the Farmer’s Market)

A blooming orchid, simple succulent, or a bottle of local honey (from the Farmer’s Market)

A gift card to Black & Brew * for the coffee lover in your life

Sofi and Sasha both love this year's Shop Small bag designed by Rebecca Minkoff

Sofi and Sasha both love this year’s Small Business Saturday bag designed by Rebecca Minkoff

Shops noted with an asterisk (*) are participating in Downtown Lakeland Partnership‘s #shopsmalllkld event; visit them (and a host of other amazing shops) tomorrow and you could win big (see the Facebook event page for details).

Follow Girl About Downtown on Instagram to see what goodies Sofi and I score!



These May Leave You Pantless

Marshmallows Uncovered

I’m a firm believer that your life has a soundtrack, and that certain foods will forever be associated with certain people or experiences in your mind.

Traditional Thanksgiving foods seem to carry strong emotional ties for most Americans (and don’t get me wrong, I can certainly put a dent in a bowl of stuffing), but one of my favorite autumn/winter food memories involves a party that ended in me driving home sans pants.

I’ve been blessed with friends whose minds and hearts exist in a different stratosphere than my own, and their creative talents and accomplishments constantly amaze me. In fact, they often rope me into doing certain things on the excuse of doing fun creative things (sneak into a closed railway yard to get photos with graffitied trains? Okay. Attend a knitting conference in another state to learn how to craft jackets in the style of Chanel? Of course). But when I was invited to a bonfire party so that my friend Christy could try out a new homemade marshmallow recipe, I never anticipated that my skivvies would be showing by the end of the night (thank goodness I follow my mother’s admonishment to always wear clean underwear).

I wish I had photos from the party, because, as with everything Christy does, it was pure eye candy, but alas, I was so enamored of the other guests and the varieties of marshmallows presented that I didn’t capture a single one.

What I did manage to do was get the recipe for these divine delectables from Christy, as well as seat myself squarely on someone else’s perfectly toasted S’more, resulting in an eventual drive home with no shorts on (I’ve never been so cognizant of speed limits in all my life).

If you want to create a memorable bonfire party this fall/winter with the fluffiest roasted marshmallows that elevate S’mores to a ridiculous level of “yum,” I highly recommend swapping those heavy grocery store mallows for these mouthwatering morsels; then just monitor your guests to ensure they can all go home with their pants on.

After testing and tweaking many recipes, Christy created one that doesn’t rely on corn syrup and that roasts up magnificently.


Marshmallow Ingredients

Christy’s Otherworldly Homemade Marshmallows

2/3 Cup of water

3 .25-oz packets unflavored gelatin

1 c. granulated sugar

1 c. Lyle’s Golden Syrup

Powdered sugar for coating the marshmallows

Prepare an 8×8 square pan by lining with a piece of parchment paper large enough to go up the sides of the pan. Lightly grease the paper and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Pour 1/2 the water into the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle the gelatin over the top and allow to soften while you make the syrup. In a pan, on the stovetop, combine the rest of the water with the sugar & syrup. Cook over medium high heat without stirring until mixture reaches 240 degrees. Turn mixer on to “low” and gradually pour the hot syrup into the gelatin mixture. At this point, you may add 1 t. vanilla or any alternative flavorings and extracts that you like. Gradually increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until mixture is stiff and very sticky (usually in the neighborhood of 10 minutes, sometimes more). Spread marshmallow fluff into prepared pan. You can smooth the top out with slightly wet fingertips if desired. Set aside to cool for at least an hour, but I have more success with letting it sit overnight. Once cool, dust the top with confectioners’ sugar and remove the marshmallow square from the pan, lifting it by the corners of the parchment paper. Use kitchen scissors or a pizza cutter dipped in water to cut into marshmallow into squares. Roll each marshmallow in additional confectioners’ sugar and store in a sealed container.

Wear THIS to An Art Exhibit in a Funeral Home

Some might say, “An art gallery in a funeral home? That’s a terrible idea.” To which I channel Under the Tuscan Sun and retort, “Hmm…terrible idea—don’t you just love those?”

Indeed, I am a complete sucker for wonderful terrible ideas, which is why I am so looking forward to the exhibit of Sarah Brewington’s Photography, Abby Jarvis’s poetry, and Michael McArthur’s music at the 2125 Gallery in the Lakeland Funeral Home tomorrow evening.

Adding to my intrigue is the exposure I’ve had so far to the artists’ works, which are anything but macabre.

So what does one wear to an art exhibit in a funeral home? Is black classic or too cliché? Is it bad form to rock bright color where others have travailed the murky waters of losing a loved one?

In another facility, I might shy away from anything too audacious, but when a website immediately assaults you with huge block letters reading, “Celebrate life,” you tend to think that these people are more about living fully and dying well, and isn’t that what artistic and sartorial expression is all about?

In that vein, I offer up to you the following recommendations for what to wear to a funeral home art gallery:

AT Jumpsuit Front

Yes, this is black, but you definitely won’t be mistaken for someone in mourning in a sharp tuxedo jumpsuit from Ann Taylor. I like this particular suit because it comes in petite and tall sizes (can I get an amen from all my girls who aren’t 5’5”?!). Add a bold cuff and earrings, a bright clutch, and you’re good to go.

Etro Saffron Dress

Conversely, (and given the natural elements in Brewington’s and Jarvis’s work), I might also go in a more bohemian direction. While my personal style could not be further away from boho, I saw this Etro dress in the November issue of Vogue and immediately thought if anything could tempt me in that direction, THIS would be it. This dress would be completely at home in an exhibit of this character. The wide belt and suede boots nod to the outfit’s natural inspiration but are polished, while the rich saffron pattern of the dress is solidly encamped in “free spirit luxe” rather than “I found this at the bottom of a clearance bin at Goodwill.” Bonus: the dress does the heavy lifting in the impact department, so you can just add a delicate gold earring and let the dress shine.

I hope to see you tomorrow night rocking your best YOU!