As we head into the last weekend of 2012 I’ve been planning my New Year’s Eve outfit, and I couldn’t resist taking to the internet for some style inspiration. What would be better than to ring in the new year with swoon-worthy J Brand Denim? Historically my New Year’s celebrations are quiet evenings at home, but I don’t let that stop me from dressing up. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the best of both worlds: the comforts of home and all the glitz of a glamorous affair. J Brand jeans are the fabulous, high-end dream to accompany my reality. The brand’s versatility appeals to both my practical and adventurous sides, making them the go-to for a night like New Year’s Eve.


This is, of course, the time of year when we all start to look ahead as much as we reflect, making plans and building dreams. This goes for our style just as much as anything else, and it certainly rings true for me. While classic and comfortable were staples of my style in 2012 and prior, a bold flash of attitude is on my list of things to achieve in 2013. Bold fashion excites me as we go into the new year, whether it’s mixing prints or taking chances on a fearless pair of shoes. I’ll always love my classics, but one of the best things about fashion is our ability to delve into new territory and emerge with entirely fresh ideas that may end up becoming classics in their own right. Whatever your style, forging into some uncharted trends and carving out a look that’s unique to you is the perfect way to welcome in 2013.

Whether you’ll be staying in or hitting the town, I hope you have your most fabulous and stylish New Year’s yet!

Disclosure: This post was a collaboration with MyWardrobe.com

( photo credit )

Congratulations to Cindi H., winner of the Skin Care by Alana giveaway! You should have an e-mail from me in your inbox; let me know if you don’t receive it.

As this year comes to a close there’s a lot to reflect on, from the global camaraderie of the London Olympic Games to the heart-wrenching tragedy of recent events. It’s all a reminder of just how dynamic life can be, how it can take us from the highest highs to the lowest lows in the space of three hundred and sixty-five (or sixty-six) days. It’s a reminder of how fast the world around us moves, how exciting – but also how fragile – it is. It can fill us with joy and it can take our breath away. But what I also know about life is that it’s one gigantic element that surrounds us all, and it’s what we contribute that will ultimately define it.

There’s a moment in the classic film Miracle on 34th Street when Kriss Kringle says, “Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind.” Christmas for me has always been a time of unprecedented happiness and hope, of rapturous joy, a time for believing in magic, and when seeing the beauty in the little things is an everyday affair. It’s a time of tolerance and kindness, something I like to hope I practice year-long, but something that has a sort of anthem during the holidays. And, for me, Christmas is about celebrating my Savior especially. Whether or not that’s the case for others, I truly believe there’s something for everyone to discover, to find joy in, and to connect to within this magical Christmas spirit. I certainly hope you’re all finding it this year. And I hope that “frame of mind” is one you can hold onto all year long.

While I finish things up here on The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower for the year I’ll be spending the last two weeks as an extended Christmas. (I never like the deflation I feel after the holidays when the lights start to go off and the decorations begin to come down, so I’m going to extend my celebrations a little longer. Why not?) I’ll be finishing up my final projects of the year, plotting and planning for 2013 both here and on Literary Inklings as I go. And those of you who’ve been waiting with such kind patience for my belated (and, in some cases, wildly overdue) e-mails will receive them. But beside that, I’ll be treating myself to a Christmas cookie or two, watching and re-watching some favorite holiday films, maybe pampering myself just a bit, trying new things (how about this Salted Caramel Vodka Hot Chocolate?), and always reflecting, giving thanks for my blessings, and most assuredly praying for those less fortunate. From the very depth of my heart I’m wishing you all a holiday filled with love and family, and a new year filled with beautiful adventures. I’ll see you in 2013!

Alana Mitchell is a licensed esthetician and day spa owner in Dana Point, California. In addition to running the spa she’s created the Skin Care by Alana website which functions as a full service online outlet for all things beauty, complete with blog, shop, Youtube channel, and apps for Apple and Android. Alana offers free shipping across the USA and welcomes calls to discuss your skincare woes and wonders. What we’re dishing about today is Alana’s fabulous 5 to Survive – Holiday Edition, a collection of beauty products curated by Alana to help you and your skin have a flawless holiday season. With everything from mineral make-up to organic essentials, this group of products is designed to give your face all it needs while you’re on the go. I’ll give you a full run-through on what’s in the collection, and scroll down for your chance to win a sample of the entire set from Skin Care by Alana!

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It’s 1962 in Paris and a fresh-faced Douglas Kirkland is in the city for the second time in his career as a photojournalist. He speaks no French and in general he feels a bit like a fish out of water, an inexperienced boy in a city full of sophisticated grown-ups. Enter his subject: Coco Chanel. Eight years after her legendary comeback, Chanel is an icon as ever she was; but even so, Kirkland’s assignment for the prominent style publication Look has been met with unbalanced opinions from his colleagues. At seventy-nine, Chanel is not what many in the magazine industry would call an exciting new story. But Kirkland’s task soon becomes something much more personal than a job: it becomes a transformation, a lesson in style as guided by the woman who simplified elegance and redefined fashion. He begins shooting her designs, approaching the woman herself with some trepidation, but soon Chanel’s famously bold attitude seeks him out and a trust is born between them, a companionable understanding that speaks of the teacher and the student. Three weeks later, Kirkland leaves Paris a sophisticate, with a new understanding of style and the mark of Coco Chanel on his life. Forty-six years later, the photos he took during this adventure become Coco Chanel: Three Weeks/1962.

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Downton Abbey Season 3
Photo: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

When it first aired in the United Stated, Downton Abbey captured the hearts of an instantly devoted audience. When its second season aired on PBS in January, 2012 as part of the long-running Anglophile series Masterpiece it broke records to become the most-watched drama in the history of the series. This Sunday, with only six weeks until the January 2013 premiere of Season 3, PBS is taking viewers back into the Edwardian world of Downton Abbey with a retrospective of favorite moments from the first two seasons and a satisfying look at what’s to come.

Downton Abbey Revisited is a gloriously detailed collection of interviews, previews, and insights hosted by the timeless Angela Landsbury, herself a great fan of Downton. Her enthusiasm will resonate with the show’s fans as she diligently looks back at the characters and stories from the first two seasons of Downton Abbey, offering viewers a valuable opportunity to once again reacquaint themselves with the varied cast and intricate storylines that made the drama such a resounding audience favorite.

Dame Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey Season 2

Photo: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE

The program also features interviews with the creative talents who bring Downton Abbey to life. Creator and writer Julian Fellowes talks in detail about the show’s beginnings with executive producer Gareth Neame: the two discuss the creation of the show and their desire to merge a period of elegance and tradition with a decidedly modern mode of storytelling. Julian also discusses the many facets of the story that have kept viewers in rapt attention, from the various romantic relationships to the turbulent social changes that strike the lives of the characters. Rebecca Eaton, the executive producer of Masterpiece, also offers her thoughts on what makes Downton Abbey such a powerful period drama.

Additionally, Downton Abbey Revisited includes appearances by much of the celebrated cast. Dame Maggie Smith (Lady Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham) and Penelope Wilton (Isobel Crawley) discuss the originality of the series and their characters’ incessant sparring; Joanne Froggatt (Anna Smith) shares her excitement over the show’s latest addition, the phenomenal Shirley MacLaine; Siobhan Finneran (Sarah O’Brien) gives insight into the cast’s off-camera camaraderie; and Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley, Lord Grantham) reflects on the show’s greatest moments. Also appearing are Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley, Lady Grantham), Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Crawley), Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley), Jim Carter (Mr. Carson) and Brendan Coyle (Mr. Bates) among many other familiar faces who all candidly discuss their experiences on the show and the drama-filled lives of their characters.

Dan Stevens and Michelle Dockery in Downton Abbey Season 2
Photo: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE

Relationships are examined – from Robert and Cora to Bates and Anna, and of course the tremulous love affair between Matthew and Mary – but there’s also a great deal of insight into the history that Downton Abbey depicts. Viewers are given an exclusive look behind the scenes with a tour of the downstairs set, surprisingly located a distance from the Hampshire estate where the upstairs scenes are filmed. Interviews with the show’s costume designers Caroline McCall, Rosalind Ebutt and Susannah Buxton, as well as hair and make-up artist Anne Nosh Oldham offer an in-depth look at the show’s monumental stylistic appeal, which has launched a staggering following in today’s fashion. Alastair Bruce, the show’s historical advisor, also shares his insight into the drama of the Edwardian era. The cast and creators give an unprecedented look at the third season through their interviews as well as several scenes from the upcoming continuation of the series. For the millions who watched Downton Abbey in its original run on PBS, the additional million who saw the series through the Masterpiece website, and the legion of devoted fans who have collected and diligently put to work their coveted DVDs, Downton Abbey Revisited is a must-watch program that will add heart and charm to the Downton Abbey experience.

Watch Downton Abbey Revisited – Preview on PBS. See more from Downton Abbey Revisited.

Downton Abbey Revisited airs on Sunday, November 25 at 8:00pm EST on PBS with an encore performance at 9:30pm EST. Downton Abbey, Season 3 premieres Sunday, January 6. Please check your local listings for more information.

Disclosure: A preview screening of the program was provided for the purpose of review