It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Cocktails

Noah Berg Photography

Thanksgiving was months ago (or so it feels) and Christmas 2015 is now Christmas past. I’m back in Colorado, but the celebrating hasn’t stopped because it’s still the holiday season and parties are in full effect, as are happy hours with friends, and because my company closes each year, Christmas Eve through the New Year (#blessed), girlfriend lunches, inclusive of wine, are in full force. Once again, I’m a lady of leisure and taking full advantage of this extended time off. And by full advantage, I mean I’m sleeping in late, working out late, and going to bed late (yeah right). My work calendar is off and my social, on. I hope each of you get to enjoy the tail end of the holiday season because we all know the reason for the season is eating, drinking, having the right to go shopping in the middle of the day.

PSA-This dress. I bought it a year and a half ago and wear it all the time. It’s super slouchy and comfortable, perfect for pairing with a vest or wrap. It’s exactly what you need for a long work day, full of back to back meetings at uncomfortable conference tables, a gluttonous holiday, or sneaky comfort while on a Friday night dinner date (pass the bread!). Get it while you can. {link below}

Noah Berg Photography
Vest: Kristen Blake (Similar Here) Dress: Bobeau Boots: Nordstrom





Home for the Holidays

Noah Berg Photography

Christmas is just two days away and I’m headed to Saint Louis to spend some quality time with my favorite people, my family. There will be dinners, and decorating, and laughing, and baking. We have so much to be thankful for this year, with a beautiful baby boy whose bright and adventurous personality is starting to shine and another on the way (I think it’s a girl!), due in May.

As a child,  Christmas was incredibly magical. My mom, who goes out of her way to make everything over-the-top pretty, over-the-top exciting, and over-the-top special, always put a great deal of time and effort into the weeks leading up to the holiday and Christmas Eve and day. My great-aunts and cousins used to travel from Texas to spend a week or two at our home; the house was warm from constantly burning fires, chaotic with laughter and loud voices, and smelled like pumpkin bread and peanut brittle. Belly laughs and high pitched screeches came from the kitchen late in the evenings as my dad teased my grandmother and her sisters, squealing, “Ohhhh Bobbbyyyy!”, with their Texas drawls. The ladies stayed up late playing cards and were awake early working away in the kitchen. On Christmas Eve my sister and I always slept together; excited as we went to bed, talking about Santa and the gifts we so dearly hoped would arrive late that evening, wondering if we’d hear reindeer hooves and Santa’s sleigh on the roof outside my window. Christmas morning started early, so early that my parents eventually put a “no earlier than 6:00am” start time in place. My sister and I would wake up while the house was still and dark, slowly tip-toe out of my bedroom, peeking over the balcony, trying to make out the shapes of what Santa had left us below. We’d wake our parents and we’d all head down the stairs, slowly, whispering about what we could see, “A BARBIE house”…”Lyndsayyyy, look, COLORING books”….”Brittany, woahhhh, a My Little Pony SLEEPING bag!”. It was always just the four of us during those wee morning hours; so dark, so quiet, and so special before the others awoke and the craziness of Christmas Day began.

As time passed, my cousins got married and my great aunts started staying in Texas to spend the holidays with their children and grandchildren and eventually our holiday gatherings  went down in scale, dramatically. Christmas is always a happy time,  because it’s so fun for our family to be together, but the holiday can be a little lackluster without children, the magic lost somewhere between holiday hangovers and last minute gift cards. Luckily, I didn’t realize this until we had a new little baby who took up a great, big space in our world.

This year, Brooks is a year and a half and as lovable, charming, and engaging as can be. He ohhhhs and ahhhhs and points his little finger at every Santa Clause, Nutcracker, and Christmas light in sight.  Tomorrow night I’ll be up late wrapping presents and setting up his Santa gifts, just as my parents and great aunts did for me years ago. The magic is back in Christmas, gift cards are out, and I get to be on the other side of the fun which turns out, is the most fun of all. Merry Christmas to you and your family and if there are no children, there’s always ornate decorations, over-the-top gifts, and mulled wine, lots of it. Hope you’ve been good, boys and girls.


Santie B

Noah Berg Photography
Noah Berg Photography
Coat: Vintage Bill Blass Scarf: Zara (Similar Here)  Jeans: Topshop Boots: Hunter Photo Credit: Noah Berg Photography




Manofatto Instagram

There is one week until Christmas. Does that make you feel:

A. Happy! I LOVE Christmas!

B. Afraid, confused, royally behind on everything, like you fail at life and probably shouldn’t show up. 

If you answered A-you’re probably a perfect person and we don’t have much in common, and you don’t need me, so goodbye.  If you answered B-hi, we’ll be close friends…proceed.

If you’re anything like me, you might be waiting until the last minute to buy your gifts because you’re avoiding spending money (you went overboard on blowouts and Lululemon again), but you’ll end up spending it last minute, so it really doesn’t matter. You also may be like me in the sense that you truly dislike the mall and shopping, when forced, and therefore avoid going, especially after Thanksgiving, and so you’ll end up circling the parking lot for 90 minutes on Christmas eve and giving bitch face to every reindeer antler headband wearing salesperson and tantrum throwing child you encounter. Ew, was that just me? I think it was. But really, why do I do this to myself? Being the organized, habitually punctual, and generally pulled together person that I am, I have no clue where this stems from, but it’s real and today, panic sets in.

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewing a local business owner at a hotel downtown while a holiday market was taking place. I decided to peruse the vendor tables, feeling a little less than impressed by most of what I saw until I hit the very last table. I struck up a conversation with the owner, discussed her business, told her I’d love to feature her on my blog, exchanged cards, and we set up a date…with wine. We were going to be great friends, I knew it.

Katelyn Stalowy (30) was born in New York, has lived in California, Italy, and presently Denver, but considers the Chicago suburbs home. She spent years working in corporate event travel and towards the end, felt a constant pull and desire to do something on her own; something creative and something for which she felt passion. What was it? Late one night over the holidays while sitting around a table with her sister, cousins, and best friends, Manofatto was born.

Manofatto is a shorthand way to say handmade in Italian. She learned it first in Ruvo di Puglia, Italy, from her great Aunt Antonietta, her idol. Aunt Antonietta is a classic Italian woman-making everything by hand in her tiny apartment, including wine, bread, sauce, and pasta and is the inspiration behind Katelyn’s business.

Katelyn’s love of products and her husband’s talent with woodwork (he builds the beautiful boxes..and is a firefighter-go Katelyn) come together to create one of a kind, beautiful and personal gift boxes.  If there is one profession I wish I were in, it would be this. Katelyn has a dream job, getting to thoughtfully sample and select American made products and items to customize these boxes by theme and occasion. A few of the themes that are most popular:

  • House Warming
  • Baby Showers
  • Birthdays
  • Engagements

Currently, there are over 25 themes and as she continues to receive custom requests, her list expands.

Katelyn dropped off three boxes on Monday morning, so I could have a photographer take some photos and if it weren’t for the fact that we had our interview scheduled that evening, at my  house, I wouldn’t have given them back (I should have never given her my address). Katelyn and I sat down over a glass of wine and spoke about our love for calligraphy, floral arrangements, community, products, branding…oh and Manofatto.

VBC: So Katelyn, where are you currently creating your boxes?

KS: The boxes are made by my husband in the wood-shop and the boxes, themselves, curated inside our shop.

VBC: Where do you sell your products?

KS: The majority of our business is online , 75%, and the other 25% comes from holiday and local markets in Colorado.

VBC: Do you have any new concepts or themes on the forefront?

KS: YES! I didn’t think we would do this, but I am THRILLED to be moving in this direction. We just did a ten year vow renewal. The box was was sent to 25 people and inside was the invitation, local chocolate, and organic lavender. We are currently working on kid boxes where we paint our box with chalkboard paint and put crayons, chalk, puzzles, candy, and lots of other small gift items inside. They’re a big hit.

VBC: Can your boxes be customized?

KS: Yes, I just did an engagement box and I got custom stationary, a custom bride planner, and added more bridal items. We can customize any box to anyone’s preferences such as a particular wine, product, anything.

VBC: What is a short term goal for Manofatto?

KS: To survive and thrive into year one. We took the leap, gave it a shot, and I want to see how we end up in our first year.

VBC: What is a long term goal for Manofatto?

KS: To have a sustainable business and continue enjoying what we do.

VBC: What has been the most challenging thing about being a small business owner?

KS: Juggling every single aspect of owning a business. From running social media, to fulfilling orders, buying products, to setting up meetings, finances etc. There are a million things to do every day and you have to find a way to make it all happen.

VBC: Being a small business owner, what has been the most rewarding?

KS: When you work for a big corporation, your impact gets lost in the shuffle and when I get positive feedback or I deliver a box to someone and they shed happy tears, I feel truly touched by what my brand has accomplished.

VBC: What is your mission?

KS: My main thought behind it all is to put the heart and thought back into gift giving. It is so easy to go on Amazon and buy a thoughtless and easy gift. I like to showcase American made brands and handmade products, that really means something.

VBC: What has your experience been as a small business owner in the Denver community?

KS: With the connections I’ve made through Denver Flea and the Denver Makers Convergences, I feel it is a really good support system. It feels like there are so many small business owners here and everyone is extremely supportive and not competitive. I make a lot of connections through the small business world through the products I buy. They come to my house to deliver items, I go to their homes to pick up items, it’s great.

VBC: What advice would you offer those just starting out with their new business or who desire to work for themselves?

KS: Take the leap. New business owners are going to work really hard, you will have to juggle a lot of things, but there is so much satisfaction in it. A good friend of mine recently told me, “Know your price and show pride in your work”.

VBC: What do you want people to know about Manofatto?

KS: The main thing that sets us apart is every single box is made from hand. Our boxes are made, stained, and sanded in Denver, Colorado and each is personally curated by the owner, me.  I truly appreciate every order, whether it’s $75 or $250. I appreciate making every single box and appreciate the fact that people are putting their trust in me and the support of small business. It really means the world.

A couple of other things to know about Manofatto:

  • They offer beetle kill boxes for a premium fee. The wood is sourced from a farm in Castlerock, Colorado.
  • You can add a floral arrangement to each order (local only)
  • They make complimentary home deliveries in the Denver area
  • Follow them on Instagram,you won’t regret it.

Are you feeling any better about your lack of Christmas gift  ideas? If not, here are a few ideas from me to you:

Best Friend. Female Boss (Hello, promo!). Teacher. Mother In Law. 

Jackie Cooper Photography

Boyfriend. Brother-in-law. Neighbor who hangs things for you.  

Jackie Cooper Photography

Mommy to-be (I have nothing to share)

Jackie Cooper Photography




So, place your orders now (Katelyn is busy, as are you) and thank me later. Keep Manofatto in mind for all of your gift giving needs, not just for the approaching holiday, but throughout the year. These boxes are fun to gift, will introduce you and your loved ones to great American products that you’ve probably never heard of, and support small businesses in Denver and around the country.

God bless the USA and God bless pumpkin pie.








Sunday Supper

Italian Sausage Final

Growing up and still today, Sundays are a special day in my family. It’s a day we come together to eat, and drink, and relax. Although I don’t live in St. Louis, I carry on our Sunday tradition by preparing home cooked meals, sometimes starting in the morning (slow cooked meats and stews) or early afternoon (meatballs and bolognese) attempting to draw the process out as long as possible. Often, when a recipe is less complex and time consuming, I’ll bake banana bread, pumpkin bread, or chocolate chip cookies.  Things are most enjoyed when they aren’t pressing or required, which is why Sunday cooking brings me ultimate joy. I thoughtfully choose my recipe in bed over morning coffee. I peruse the grocery aisles slowly, taking more time than necessary to review my options and select my ingredients. I start my recipe at leisure and enjoy the afternoon at home; football in the background and candles burning in the foreground. Comfort food. Comfort sounds. Comfort days.

I spent this past weekend in the mountains, skiing Beaver Creek and Vail. It was a cold weekend and not even my four pocket heaters that I had stashed around my body could keep me warm. I got back to Denver in the early afternoon and went to the grocery store craving something warm, something hearty, and something other than traditional American comfort food (Beef Stew, Pot Roast, Tenderloin and Mashed  Potatoes) that I’ve prepared the past three Sundays. Since lasagna is a Sunday staple in my house, I decided to try out a new Italian recipe. What came to my mind was a pasta dish full of flavor….Italian Sausage, Peppers, and tomato cream sauce, mmmm yes…so I googled those three words and found a great recipe that I’d love to share-

Bow Ties with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cream

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain.
  2. Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Cook sausage and pepper flakes until sausage is evenly brown. Stir in onion, red pepper, and garlic, and cook until onion is tender. Stir in tomatoes, cream, Italian seasoning, and salt. Simmer until mixture thickens, 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour as needed to thicken.
  3. Stir cooked pasta into sauce, and heat through.
  4. Sprinkle with basil, I used an entire plastic package of fresh basil which I sliced and added to the sauce fifteen minutes before serving. 
  5. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese (lots)

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetItalian Sausage Sauce


Italian Up Close

There were a few complaints on the website that the sauce lacked flavor and I can assure you I did not have this problem. As I suggested, you should (must) add the red pepper, season the meat with salt and pepper, season the sauce with Italian seasoning, add in fresh basil and make sure to add the pasta to the sauce. This dish is not meant to have the sauce poured over the noodles at the last minute, allow the pasta to soak up the flavorful sauce for about 15 minutes prior to serving. If you follow my suggestions, I can assure you a simple yet delicious home-cooked dish that will deeply satisfy your family, or your boyfriend, or your neighbor, or your maintenance man, or your fish.

For all you calorie conscious ladies (and gents) out there, I need to be completely transparent by saying I usually give this stuff away come Monday morning. I can’t keep this stuff in my house, are you kidding me?




Forever 31


Shirt: Free People (old) Leggings: Zella  Boots: Frye Photo Credit: Noah Berg Photography

Okay first of all, I am thirty. Not thirty one. I just want everyone to know that before you read any further, but yes, I’m in my thirties. Barely. But there. No longer in my twenties. Thirty. Oh God.

I was visiting the new (and incredible) Restoration Hardware in Denver a couple of months ago and as I was making my way down the grand stairway, I looked at myself in a mirror the size of a food truck and said, “Woah, I look old”.  My friend immediately attempted to comfort me by saying, “No you don’t!”, and I said, “No, no, not like in a bad way, but like…matuuure. I look like a woman who could be the mother of… high school kids”. It was so weird; almost like I was looking into a mirror of the future and seeing myself as an adult, only it was present day and I was looking at me…I guess as an adult? It must be said that I was wearing a black turtleneck (yes, that one) and a vintage Bill Blass coat that can be best described as the coat Kevin’s mom wore in Home Alone (visual), so perhaps that added some years, but I saw her…I saw Brittany, or should I say Ms. Rowan, at forty.

As we age our personal style evolves, or at least it should. I don’t shop in all of the same stores I did when I was twenty one and I tend to buy classic pieces with more structure, but every now and then I see a look and I wonder, “Am I too old?”.

A couple of weeks ago I wrapped up work on a late Friday afternoon and started to get ready to meet a friend for happy hour and a movie. The evening required comfortable clothing, but a cute look given the fact that it was a Friday night and we were heading to a restaurant downtown. I paired a billowy top with some leggings and boots, added a few accessories and light makeup for a look that felt appropriate in a social setting with wine and oysters, yet comfortable in a recliner chair inside a theater. The time came to fix my hair and as I flipped it to one side as usual, recalled the half bun I’d seen around. I shrugged it off; absolutely not Brittany. I know when to shut it down and my shut it down alarm was ringing loud and clear. After a little back and forth, I chose to ignore said alarm and see what it looked like, you know…for fun. It wasn’t bad and I wasn’t sure, but I did know that if there was a time to experiment, it was tonight when the bulk of my evening would be spent in the dark. Perfect. Could I do it? Reinforcement needed.

I texted fellow thirty somethings, my sister (very conservative, brutally honest) and girlfriend (less conservative, still honest) and not only did I get good feedback, I also found that my girlfriend was fighting the same bitter war!

Me: Guys, I need advice. And be realz. Heading to happy hour and then a 7pm movie. Going super casual but still trying to be cute. Can I pull off the half bun or is this my first encounter with being too old to be trendy?

(It really needs to be said that I don’t say the word “realz” for real)

Sends photo

Sister: I think it’s cute. (she’s very cut and dry)

Me: Really? Okay, you are the harshest critic so I think I’ll go with it. Thanks!

Sister: Mmmmm okay

Carlye: Okay, so I tried the half bun last week. I did it in private when I went to the doctor because I was scared of it too and figured the gyno had bigger things to judge. You rock it!

Ugh, what a relief to know I wasn’t alone. Also a huge relief to know I had chosen friends who are also aware of aging gracefully (half buns are very graceful).

Carlye: Keep me postie on the half bunnie feedback!

*It should be noted that Carlye wore the half bun a week later (in public) and received a compliment from her beau. Yes, girl.

So where is the line drawn? How will we know what is appropriate and what is not in the coming years? Can we pull off less as we age more?? Should I start only wearing Talbots to ensure I am never on an offender list?! What if I don’t have a bitchy daughter to tell me when I shouldn’t wear something?! How will I know!?!? It’s so easy to judge when you’re not being judged. Enjoy it while you’ve got it, twenty somethings.

I wish I could end this by saying, be yourself. Who cares? Wear what makes you feel good! But I can’t. Because I care. And I feel good when I look good.

As I transition into my thirties I will try to limit myself on peaking trends, leave costume goods such as hippie headbands and flash tats for festivals (you guys I’ve never worn flash tats anywhere other than a festival, I swear), and if I do experiment with something that is “in the moment”, will try my best to pair with understated and classic pieces.

Good luck to you. Better luck to me.