Top 12 TCL Recipes of 2012

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I know you’ve probably heard this a thousand times already, but I really can’t believe 2012 is over already. It’s New Year’s Eve, and I’m getting ready to head out with some friends to celebrate. But, I wanted to take a quick moment to reflect on some of my favorite recipes from this past year (in no particular order):

1 – Coconut Milk Hot Chocolate

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I made this recipe for National Hot Chocolate Day, but I love this for a quick-fix dessert any day of the week. The coconut milk gives this class concoction a fun flavor twist.

2 – Mom’s Beef Stroganoff

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I shared my mom’s classic beef stroganoff in January. I’ve grown up eating this meal, and it’s still a go-to and family favorite that I turn to when I want some easy but comforting for dinner.

3 – Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

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Oh, slow cooker, how do I love thee? This is a fun recipe that I’m sure I’ll be making to carry me through the winter.

4 – Healthy Pumpkin Pie Muffins

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This may have been the year of the muffin, and these pumpkin pie ones may be my favorites of 2012. I had one left in the freezer a couple weeks ago, and I happily ate it as soon as I found it. It’s okay to make these in the winter, right? And in the spring?

5 – Vegetarian Italian Farro Soup

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One of my most pinned recipes this year, this simple soup is light but satisfying for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. This recipe was also featured on Huffington Post.

6 – Healthy Cinnamon Apple Muffins

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I rediscovered my love of healthy muffins and made these apple muffins after returning with a basket full of fresh-picked apples from a trip to the orchard. I heard lots of positive feedback on these from you guys, and I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed them as much as I did.

7 – Autumn Granola (Oil-Free & Made with Canned Pumpkin Instead)

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I got creative with leftover canned pumpkin and made some oil-free granola that got featured on Yahoo! Shine. Woohoo! Or should I say Yahoo!?

8 – Healthier Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts

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My experiments with canned pumpkin also yielded these delicious doughnuts. I even found out these became the official breakfast of choice of my friend Lynn’s daughter. I know she made them every day for awhile there. I wonder if she’s still making them?

9 – Quick Cinnamon Rolls (without Yeast)

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My love of cinnamon rolls paired with my love of quick-fix eats yielded these yeast-free cinnamon rolls. Speaking of which, I totally should have picked up some puff pastry so I could make these for brunch tomorrow. Doh!

10 – Rosemary Garlic Farro

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A great vegetarian entrĂ©e or simple side. This reminds me that I need to make this again soon. And if you’re new to farro, this would be a great beginner’s recipe!

11 – Chicken, Barley, Swiss Chard Soup

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If it wasn’t the year of the muffin, then it was definitely the year of the soup. Soups are so versatile and make a great, healthy lunch, dinner, or even snack sometimes. Not only that, but I love making a big batch and freezing the leftovers for later. You’d better believe frozen soup and a piece of whole grain toast make up my go-to-post-busy-day dinner.

12 – Emergency Cookies

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These are one of the TCL recipes that I’ve made most often since its creation. Whenever I want cookies in a jiffy, I whip up a batch of these. It makes enough for two people to enjoy two cookies. It’s fast, it’s tasty, and it’s definitely one of my go-to desserts.

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I really must thank you for your continued support. Your comments, tweets, Facebook posts, and emails mean the world to me. Thank you for reading my blog and checking out my recipes. I really appreciate it!

Happy New Year!

Eat in Month 2013 Challenge

I’m really excited to publish this post for my fourth annual Eat in Month challenge! I can’t believe , not only that we’re on our fourth year, but that so many of you are repeat EIM-ers. I’ve heard a lot of excitement about the challenge on twitter, Facebook, and email. I just love hearing when someone new joins in or when a veteran returns. One of the best things about Eat in Month is how we tackle this challenge as a group. I love it when we share tips, challenges, and success stories. I’ll be adding helpful posts, tidbits, and tips here on the blog. But, I’ll also be adding some additional notes and reminders over on my Facebook page, so be sure to like The Chic Life on Facebook to get your hands on those goodies.

The Eat in Month Challenge Concept

Eat every single meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, snacks…whatever you choose!) “in”. The goal is to eat “in” more than you did before January to save money and eat healthy meals & snacks.

How to Play

  • Challenge starts January 1, 2013 and ends January 31, 2013.
  • The most important rule is to tailor the challenge to fit you best. Can’t play a whole month? Play one week or two. Still want to get coffees out? Go for it. We’ll each have our own tailored version of the challenge, and that’s great! Here are the rest of the main guidelines, but again, adjust as you need:
  • Cook or prepare all meals at home. If you’re away from home for a meal, plan ahead and bring something from home with you (i.e. to work) to eat.
  • Traveling? Some people choose to extend the challenge by one day for each day you are traveling (and need to eat out). Some choose to just exclude those days from the challenge. Your challenge, your rules. Play as you see fit.
  • Drinks – coffees to cocktails – decide whether these count in the challenge or not for you. Some people just focus on the food. Some people do both. In past years, I’ve been very strict and wouldn’t even get Starbucks in January. But, I think this year, my focus will be on the food – meals and snacks.
  • If you got it at a grocery store, it probably counts. Some people consider eating at a grocery store (think hot bar or cafe) eating out, while some consider it “in” since it’s a grocery store. It’s up to you! I’ve been eating meals at my local health food store for lunch, and they usually only cost about $6.99. They’re healthy and a good deal, so I may still partake in these possibly once a week.
  • If you want to err on the strict side, then grocery-store-prepared dishes are okay if they accompany a meal put together at home. Example of acceptable use of grocery-store-prepped item: you want to eat sandwiches this week but don’t have anything to go with them. You pick up some bean salad at the grocery store deli to go with your lunch. Another example: you want to make chicken salad sandwiches, but you don’t have or want to buy all the ingredients. You buy grocery-store-prepped chicken salad, take it home, make sandwiches and enjoy lunch.
  • Frozen meals can be eaten “in”.
  • You get one cheat pass – one meal (not a day) you can eat out during the month of January.

Tips

  • Get your pantry ready – I find it easiest to give in to take-out when I don’t have anything already at the house to cook. Stock your pantry with some quick-fix meals so you’ll be less tempted to go for take-out. Click here to read my Eat in Month Pantry Tips + Ideas post
  • Have snacks ready – If I’m hungry at work, especially when there are lots of quick options around, it’s easy for me to take a 15 minute walk to pick up a snack. By keeping snacks in my desk and in the office fridge, I can just eat those instead of seeking snacks elsewhere. Click here to read about my favorite snacks to keep at the office.
  • Plan ahead – Prep your pantry, create a meal plan for the week. If you have a meal schedule ready, you’ll be more likely to stick to what you already planned ahead to prep/cook/eat. You’ll probably also utilize those leftovers more efficiently, too!
  • Have quick meals in your back pocket – Go ahead and jot down 5-10 quick meals you can throw together using pantry & staple items. Use this list when you’re hungry, out of energy, and out of time. Try to keep your pantry, fridge, etc stocked with a couple of the items needed for these quick meal so you’ll always have something to eat when you’re in a bind. Think frozen ravioli, jarred sauce, and frozen vegetables, etc.
  • Keep it Simple – It’s nice to try to cook gourmet meals every night, but if you’re as busy as me, you just can’t do it as often as you’d like. Allow yourself to put together simple meals, even if it’s heating up a frozen dinner. We know you may have better intentions, but just do the best you can. Sometimes the simplest meals (spaghetti anyone?) are the best.
  • Make the better choice – Sometimes it’s about making the better choice, not the perfect one. Click here to read my post on this topic.
  • Bulk Bins – Check out the bulk bins for stocking your pantry. Click here to read my how-to on working the bulk bins.
  • I’ll be posting additional tips and tricks on the blog, as well as, on my Facebook page.
  • I created this Pinterest board (click) to share meal and snack inspiration – there are no pins as of right now, but I’ll add them as I find some pinspiration.

The Badge

I’ve created this challenge badge, which you’re welcome to use. Just grab the code below:

You can use the following code to add this banner to your site:

<a href="http://thechiclife.com/2012/12/eat-in-month-2013-challenge.html"><img src="http://thechiclife.com/wp-content/uploads/images/EatInMonth2013.gif" border="0" width="170" height="170" /></a>

The Players

Are you playing along in the Eat in Month Challenge? If so, leave me a comment, whether you’re playing for the whole month, a couple weeks, a single week, a couple days, etc. and your URL if you have a blog.

Have a blog? If you’d like, post photos and/or descriptions of your meals. If you have a food blog, you very well may be doing a food diary already! Remember, this is totally optional. I’ll probably post a few of mine throughout the month.
If you’re on Twitter, use hashtag #eatinmonth to check out updates from each other, get inspiration, request tips, offer tips, and help each other out.

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Thank you so much for reading! And for those doing the challenge, thank you so much for joining in. This wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without you doing the challenge, too!

Who’s In? It’s never too late to join! If January is halfway over and you just found out about the challenge, feel free to join in on the festivities! Better late than never! :)

Photos of Christmas 2012

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I had plans to blog throughout my Christmas vacation, but I obviously didn’t post much at all. Instead, I took break to hang out with my family, enjoy the free time, and just relax. It also didn’t help that I seemed to keep forgetting my camera whenever I went somewhere, including our big Christmas dinner. Though I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked, I did manage to snap a few photos here and there (with the DSLR and my shiny new lens, plus some with my iPhone)…

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I’m so excited about my news lens. I’ve been wanting a 1.4/f lens for the last few years, so I’m thrilled to finally have it to use. Now, I just need to get some kitchen experiments under way so I can play with food and photos! Oh, and I’m also really looking forward to using my new snuggie. I think it may be coming with me to work. Maybe I won’t need my space heater as much?

I definitely used the snuggie on the long car ride home. And speaking of car rides, my new favorite way to pass the time (when I’m not driving, of course) is perusing the AMA on reddit. Have you seen it? It’s fascinating! I read about a WW2 veteran, a police officer, Mark Cuban, an ER doctor, and an ex-homeless man, to name a few.

Hope your holidays were fun, relaxing, and wonderful.

I’ll be posting details about my fourth annual Eat in Month challenge later today! I’ll be posting tips on my Facebook page, too, so be sure to like The Chic Life on Facebook to get extra tips.

Happy Holidays!

Christmas Eve Filipino Feast 2012

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Merry Christmas from my parents’ house!

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Bailey’s been getting plenty of attention from my family, which he loves.

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My mom and sister decided to whip up a huge, Filipino feast for our Christmas Eve dinner this year.

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Mom made a dish she said we haven’t had in almost twenty years – morcon. Morcon is a dish made with flank steak that is rolled up with ham, kielbasa, hard-boiled eggs, and olives and then cooked in a tomato-based sauce. It sounds and looks kind of weird, but it tastes great!

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Here’s the spread.

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And here’s the finished morcon. We’re definitely not waiting another twenty years to make this one again. It was a winner.

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Sis is a dim sum fan, too, and she made a Filipino-Chinese fusion with steamed buns filled with pork adobo.

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These were so good that I had two more for an after-dinner snack! (dinner was really early)

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Lumpia is always welcome at a Filipino feast.

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They made this version with chicken and a wide mixture of vegetables, including cabbage, carrots, and zucchini. Yum!

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Here’s my plate – don’t forget about the pancit.

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{chowing down}

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Flan – a dessert we often had at holiday meals growing up. We haven’t had this one in awhile, either.

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{my piece – I’d forgotten how good this was}

Everything on the table was a winner tonight. I can’t imagine a better Christmas Eve dinner for our family.

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After eats, we moved on to open some presents for our guests – hubby and Matt.

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Bailey helped open presents.

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And after some gift-opening fun, mom, Sis, and I got started on a new food project – suman. We’ve never made suman before. Well, mom said she used to make it growing up. Suman is a Filipino dessert made with sweet rice, coconut milk, and salt.

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It was quite the process, but we did it. We ended up with twenty finished suman.

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The finished suman is then topped with sugar or served with sugar on the side. This stuff is good, and it really takes on the flavor from the bamboo leaf it’s cooked in, but I still prefer my Sweet Rice (the one made with brown sugar). Either way, it was a fun project to do with my family.

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I’m seriously geeking out on my Christmas vacation. I majored in Computer Science in college, but I’ve never really worked as a developer. But, I’ve been feeling the itch to code lately, so I’m trying to teach myself Python. I’d also like to take a look at some HTML5 tutorials since I’m only self-taught on HTML from several years ago. Who knows? I’m having fun, so I guess it’s all good. What have you been up to?

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Reader question: If you celebrated, what did you eat for Christmas Eve dinner? Do you have any traditional Christmas Eve eats?

Cinnamon Maple Peanut Butter Cookies {Recipe}

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New Holiday Cookie Recipe

Here’s another idea for a great cookie to make this holiday season – melt-in-your-mouth Cinnamon Maple Peanut Butter Cookies.

When I saw some organic peanut butter on sale for $1.99 a jar, I knew I had to get some. Specifically, I had to purchase some so I could experiment with a recipe I’ve always wanted to play with – the classic peanut butter cookie. In researching the recipe, I discovered there are two main types of peanut butter cookie – with and without flour. While the idea of a flourless peanut butter cookie sounded interesting, I decided to work up a batch that had flour. But, I wanted to change it up a bit. I used maple syrup for the sweetener and added a touch of cinnamon.

The maple syrup gave these cookies a really interesting and smooth texture. In fact, I first thought these cookies would be a fail. I noticed when I was rolling the dough balls in a bowl of cinnamon sugar that the dough was wetter than I thought it would be. It wasn’t difficult to work with, just not as firm as I expected. And the baked up cookie crumbled a little easier than I would have liked. The worst part – I’d made an experiment recipe to take to a pot luck hot dog party with some of my friends. Oh no…would they hate them?

I went ahead and brought the cookies to my friend’s house and hoped for the best. I didn’t ask any of them what they thought of the cookie because I felt like that would fishing for compliments and they’d say they were good even if they thought they were terrible. Still, several of my friends told me the cookies were really good. I didn’t believe them. Surely, they were being polite. Then, one of them told me how much she liked the flavor twist. She wasn’t sure what it was but when I confirmed it was maple syrup and cinnamon, she got really excited and said she loved maple syrup. Things were looking promising. But, I was still unconvinced that the cookies were worthy of being shared here on the blog.

It wasn’t until we were headed back to the kitchen to get our tupperware to take home that I believed this recipe could go up here on The Chic Life. As we entered the kitchen, there was a man standing there I’d never seen before, and he was gobbling up the cookies and saying they were delicious and that it was like they “melted in your mouth.” Yesssssss! For a stranger to say he liked the cookies without knowing I made them, that had to mean they were good. I told him we brought them and offered for him to take some before we left. He quickly grabbed another two. I offered more to my friends who had hosted they party, and they took some more, too. And with that, it was decided – I would share the recipe with you guys!

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Oh, and that whole crumbly-texture thing…definitely more of a melt-in-your-mouth quality. That’s what I’m going with, at least.

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Cinnamon Maple Peanut Butter Cookies

I switched up the flavors of the class peanut butter cookie by using maple syrup as the sweetener and adding cinnamon for a little extra kick. Rolling the dough balls in a cinnamon sugar mixture helps drive the cinnamon flavor home. The resulting flavor is familiar but new. The texture isn’t chewy, but more of a melt-in-your-mouth bite.

Prep time:
Bake time:
Total time:

*Vegetarian*

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar (preferably raw)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Whisk dry together
  4. Mix butter and peanut butter till creamy (I used a handheld mixer). Add maple syrup, egg, and vanilla and mix till just combined.
  5. Mix wet into dry till just combined (careful to not overmix).
  6. Use small sorbet scoop (or two spoons) to form small balls (about 1″ in diameter). Dough will be very soft, but gently roll each ball in cinnamon sugar mixture and return to baking sheet. Use a fork to press criss-crosses into the top of each cookie, pressing gently. Cookies should be about 1/4-1/3″ tall/thick.
  7. Bake 8-12 minutes depending on oven temperature variation (if using 2 racks in oven, rotate baking sheets halfway through baking process) Note: Mine were done at 10 minutes

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More Ideas

Here are more holiday cookie ideas:

And be sure to check out this holiday cookie round up by Snappy Gourmet (click).

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Your Feedback

And I LOVE your comments! Thank you so much for your feedback – whether you stop by here and leave a comment, post on my Facebook wall, tweet me, or email me. I love hearing from you!

Here’s a sweet comment from Facebook about these cookies – Thank you so much, Nicole!:

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And here’s a comment on Pinterest about this hot chocolate recipe – Thank you, Sherene!:

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Christmas Vacation

I got some last minute shopping done yesterday morning. I woke up super early to beat the mall traffic and take advantage of the extended hours. The strategy totally worked as the mall was almost empty. Yes! I have all my gifts lined up…now, I just have to wrap all of them. One of these years I’ll get this done earlier.

We’re getting ready to head out to visit my family for Christmas. I have the next week off from work, and I’m SO excited! I’ve been hoarding these days all year, and I’m so ready for a vacation! I’m hoping for a good mix of downtime with our families with some time to get stuff done at our house.

Reader question: Christmas gift shopping – what’s your style – early or late?

Also, what are your plans for the holiday season?

Holiday Sequins {Outfit} & Upcoming

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Hey everyone!

I’m checking in quickly to share a photo (and outfit) from this past weekend and a look at what’s to come on TCL in the next couple weeks.

Holiday Sequins

My company’s holiday party was this past Saturday and (*cue overly dramatic statement*) I had nothing to wear. My focus on the Parisian Wardrobe has me wondering about some of my past purchase decisions. I have plenty of dresses, but they all seem to be for the same occasion – work or a date. None were quite dressy enough for a holiday party, and I was feeling sequins anyways.

I decided to make a last minute trip to Summerbird in hopes I’d get lucky and score the perfect dress from the consignment boutique.

I’d been meaning to go to this consignment shop for awhile anyways, but I haven’t been able to make their pretty short hours. They’re only open while I’m on work hours, so Saturday was my only option. Luckily, I had a small window on Saturday to make the trip. I tried on all the work appropriate (not too sexy) party dresses in my size and came away with two possibilities: a bright, holiday-red number and *ding ding ding* a sequin option. It was a tough decision as the red dress almost swayed me, but I decided to stick with my original choice of sequins.

The dress was a total winner…and only cost me $60! I got so many compliments from my co-workers. I especially loved how work-appropriate it was. It wasn’t cut too low on high in any areas, and it had a nice shift dress fit. I was so thankful to have scored such an affordable and beautiful dress. This little dress is going to make a great addition to my Parisian Wardrobe as my go-to party dress.

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Outfit:

  • Sequin shift dress: Yansi Fugel (purchased at Summerbird)
  • Purse: Kate Spade
  • Earrings: handmade

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Upcoming Posts

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{Upcoming holiday cookie recipe!}

As for upcoming weeks, here’s what I’m planning to blog about if everything goes according to plan:

  • A holiday cookie recipe (see preview photo – can you tell what the flavor is?)
  • More Parisian Wardrobe posts – just in time for the new year, let’s start decluttering our closets
  • And I’m planning to pick up my Lightroom organization series so you can get your photos organized for 2013

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And I met a blog reader out and about in Charlotte. Sorry you had to see me under the weather, Elizabeth, but it was so nice meeting you! Hiiiiiiiii! :)

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Reader question: What do you look for in a party dress?

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