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Last Minute Gift Ideas (and sales!)

J.Crew has free shipping, 40% off sale, and 30% off full price. Two of my personal favorites:

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Ava printed pumps | $169 + 40% off

Structured knit zip dress | $158 + 30% off

Structured knit zip dress | $158 + 30% off

C.Wonder has $68 sweaters and pajama sets – PLUS 30% off everything.  Definitely need to rush order some cute PJs for Christmas Day lounging!

Astrological PJ Set | Was $88 now $68 + 30% off

Astrological PJ Set | Was $88 now $68 + 30% off

Lands End has everything 40% off site-wide today. Pick up some cozy boots or a cute fleece.

Anthropologie has the most amazing gifts. Period. Two days left to get these gorgeous gifts by the 24th with standard shipping:

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Antipova Cuff Gloves | $118

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Terai Folding Chair | a.k.a. the perfect occasional chair for any room |$198

Tory Burch – Free express shipping if you order by Thursday 12/18:

This year's best hostess gift

Tory Burch: In Color | My favorite hostess gift of 2014 | $50

Nordstrom: Free delivery for Christmas Eve on every item – no minimums:

Pretty set of Voluspa candles | $40 | another great hostess gift

Pretty set of Voluspa candles | $40 | another great hostess gift

Stella & Dot – too many adorable stocking stuffers to count (order by 10PM on 12/18 to ensure delivery by 12/24):

Renegade Cluster Bracelet |$59

Renegade Cluster Bracelet |$59

Daphne Pearl Necklace |$98

Daphne Pearl Necklace |$98

(modeled by yours truly at the Tree Trimming Party)

Good luck on the last of your shopping!

xoxo

Annual Tree-Trimming Party

December is one of my most favorite months. Not only is it one of the most gorgeous months to be in the City, it is chock-full of holiday festivities. For the last seven years, I’ve been hosting an annual tree-trimming party on the first weekend of December.  Born initially of homesickness, this party has become one of my most favorite hosting events of the year.

This ladies-only event truly allows me to bring together some of my most favorite people, mixing groups and making introductions in the comfort of my apartment.

Highlights of this year’s soiree:

  • A make-your-own Prosecco Bar, complete with mixers of St Germain and Grand Marnier,  and toppings of fresh rosemary, cherries, and raspberries
  • A trunk show from Stella & Dot, featuring an exclusive first look at their spring collection
  • Manicures by CityMANI
  • A “cold-weather accessory” gift exchange

Nibbles included a cheese and charcuterie tray, vegetarian sweet and sour meatballs, Jayme’s cranberry rosemary dip, spinach and feta mini pies, and sushi.

Dessert was cheesecake pie, brownies, and Dana’s incredible chocolate caramel oreo tart (similar recipe).

The Stella & Dot trunk show is open online until 12/28. Here’s the link (and there’s free shipping if you spend $100 or more): http://www.stelladot.com/ts/mxa26

A great time was had by all.  Click on the first photo to open up the party gallery:

xoxo

Holiday Gift Guide – For the Guys

This week, I’m introducing my holiday gift guides. Between performance review season at work, staying fit, looking fabulous at each and every event, cooking, cleaning, and entertaining, there’s an unfathomable amount of pressure during the hectic holiday season. Here’s hoping these gift guides simplify.

Here’s my gift guide for the guys, a group which (for many of us) sits at the top of the gifting challenge list. The guys in my life are truly content with what they have, don’t ask for anything, but also like to be surprised. Ahhh!

For the techie guy:

Braun Projecting Clock

        Braun Projecting Clock | $105

For the ski-lodge guy:

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Barbour Windale Wool Sweater | $199 | Nordstrom

For the entertainer:

Outdoor Fondue Pot $79.99

      Outdoor Fondue Pot  |  $79.99

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Brooklyn Butcher Blocks | $279 | The best.

For the guy with a dedicated bar area in his apartment:

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The new Corkcicle Air allows you to chill, aerate, and pour wine (25% off with the promo code NYC)

For the guy who appreciates game night:

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        Vintage SCRABBLE® | $279 

For the guy who is always impeccably dressed:

Ship in a Bottle Cuff Links | $450

Ship in a Bottle Cuff Links | $450

Other ideas: 

Happy shopping!

Stay tuned for my next Gift Guide!

xoxo

New York Wine & Food Festival

Thanks to my amazing friend Susan, I was invited to attend the NYC Wine & Food Festival this year.

Besides the hundreds of amazing food and wine vendors to taste test, there were cooking demos and book signings from some of my favorite chefs. And I left with a fantabulous gift bag full of snacks and treats that will keep me going for days!

Paula Deen was entertaining and sweet – I genuinely felt like I was standing in her kitchen.  With the help of her husband, she made a three meat pasta casserole (“I just put meat in it until it can’t hold no more”). She also shared her recipe for chocolate chip cookies (“I tried seven different recipes!”). Though there were many more audience members than food, she walked around the crowd handing out broken samples of chocolate chip cookie to try to feed as many people as possible. When she learned that the audience didn’t get copies of the recipe, she read it aloud.  I did my best to transcribe it here. I’ll be testing it out on my book club next weekend!

Paula Deen’s Extra-Large Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1 TB vanilla
3 TB water
2.5 sticks salted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2 cups nuts (pecan or macadamia)

Standard cookie instructions…combine dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another. Combine, then add chips and nuts. Using a BIG cookie spoon, scoop onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet (Paula fit 8 scoops on a standard sheet). Using a small piece of parchment paper, smoosh the dough with the palm of your hand. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes for a nutty, crispy take on an old favorite.

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Paula Deen and her sweet husband, Mike

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Paula reading her chocolate chip cookie recipe

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Alex Guarnaschelli

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Morimoto

For the tastings, I experienced the goofy-but-entirely-useful-wine-glass-on-a-lanyard concept. At first, I didn’t want to put it around my neck, but what else does one do when attempting to sample an organic meatball while precariously holding a glass of pinot?

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A sampling of happy vendors:

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Which do you think I chose?

Which do you think I chose?

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Left: Veggie pasta with Garlic & Leeks Right: Beef & Pork Bolognese

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Barilla chef whipping up tasty pasta. Can I just live here?

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Tyler Florence signing a copy of his book, “Fresh”

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I had such a wonderful time and can’t for next year!

xoxo

 

Vintage Finds at NYC Big Flea

Delighting in the warm fall day, I ventured out to take in the sights of the 2014 New York City Big Flea Antiques Market.  What fun!

Over 600 vendors from across the country set up at Pier 94, to put their wares on view for the largest antiques market in Manhattan. The event is organized by the same group that started the wildly successful DC Big Flea. This wonderful playground of antiques and specialty food only lasts for two days.

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The best way to properly hunt for treasures amongst so many vendors is to proceed in an organized, logical fashion. I recommend walking up and down each lettered aisle in sequence, stopping to look on both sides of the aisle.  Take photos of things you love along the way.

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Chanel

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Royal Daulton

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Wedgewood

Then, once you have finished your first cursory sweep, stop for a glass of Persecco and a lobster roll at the famed Grey Lady in the center of the pavilion.

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Grey Lady

Sustenance cannot be overrated in this endeavor.

While seated at the bar, cycle through your photos, prioritize what you have/want/need, and go back through the pavilion in the same way. This gives you a chance to reevaluate each piece you saw and also appreciate the beauty of the landscape along the way.  My absolute favorite stall was this one, decorated as though you were stepping into a very chic urban living room:

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I ended up taking home some incredible vintage barware: a glorious gold water pitcher and a set of eight cocktail glasses.  While the pitcher will sit happily in the midst of my decor, the glasses are a gift for a close friend. I hope she adores them as much as I do!

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I hope you’ll join me at next year’s NYC Big Flea – mark your calendars for April 18-19, 2015!

xoxo

New York Fashion Week Spring 2015

There’s nothing quite like it.

The rush of the fountain at Lincoln Center as you approach.

The click-click of the street style photographers.

Mounting the stairs, smiling.

Passing the under the lighted beacon that announces the privilege of entrance – Mercedes Benz Fashion Week.

The buzz of the crowd.

The dimming of the lights…

I was thrilled to attend two shows this season – Anna Sui and Erin Featherston.

Anna Sui proved that the modern boho isn’t going anywhere. My favorite part of the show was the splendid pairing of models – male and female – for their trip down the runway. Combined with the thump of house music, it lent a bold energy to the laid-back, rockstar-cool of Anna’s designs. Trend alert: we’ll be seeing lots of moon and star references for spring.


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My vote for most-wearable Anna Sui look:

photo courtesy: style.com

photo courtesy: style.com

 

Erin Featherston’s show made me want a) a pair of crisp white pumps, just like each one of her impeccably chic models, and b) to bring back Blair Waldorf-esque headbands. It was truly an homage to femininity and Erin’s classic style. Photos of my two favorite looks are at the end, thanks to style.com, who obviously had a much better angle than I did.

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photo courtesy: style.com

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photo courtesy: style.com

The show-closing song was Alright by Supergrass.

 

And my dear fashion partner-in-crime, without whom Fashion Week could never be so much fun:


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xoxo

Sunday Night Baking – Homemade Oreos

One of my favorite ways to cap off the weekend is to do a bit of baking on Sunday. Baking demands one’s full attention, so there is little room for thoughts of the impending Monday morning. I always end up feeling both relaxed and productive (provided the recipe doesn’t flop, of course).

Allow me to set this evening’s scene: fresh from a run and a shower, I piled all my hair on top of my head and threw on a great summer maxi dress. As the sounds of Frank Sinatra fill my apartment, I set out all the ingredients and go about my task.

Tomorrow’s occasion is a pizza party for one of the guys at work who is getting married next weekend. Even though there isn’t a bridal shower equivalent for guys, any wedding is an excuse to throw a party!  In keeping with the Americana of a pizza party, and because a salty slice or two (or three) generally leaves me craving something sweet, I chose to make Smitten Kitchen’s Homemade Oreos.

As a baker, I always hope for at least one wobbly, misshapen cookie (or piece, or slice) that will serve as my official “test”.  This recipe did not let me down. It made 19 sandwiches, 18 of which fit perfectly in my Tupperware container. Success!

For the record: I twist my Oreo apart and eat the plain cookie side first. Save the best for last, naturally!

 

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Watch the buttery dough get nice and shiny

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Dollops of “stuff”

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Packed up and ready to go!

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For those who are curious, my manicure is Deborah Lippmann Naked, one of my all-time favorite classic shades.

Happy baking everyone!

xoxo

Veuve Clicquot Polo Match

A bit of a delay in getting around to posting these photos…but a fabulous Manhattan summer event nonetheless. Already looking forward to next year!

Hat: Vineyard Vines, Dress: J.Crew

(Click on any of the photos to enlarge them and start a slide show)

 

Road test: Nike Lunaracer 3

I think we can all agree that physical fitness is integral to our personal health. Without veering into controversial territory, we can probably also agree that physically fit, healthy people are more visually appealing in the Ballroom. I call your attention to Gisele Bundchen at the 2014 Met Ball Gala for any who are apt to disagree.

But what about in the Boardroom? There’s a WSJ article from January 2013 which tries to articulate the relationship between executives and physical fitness.  Does one’s physical appearance of fitness (or lack thereof) affect colleagues’ perception? Whether a factor of simple human nature or some advanced concept of societal pressure, all but the most saintly are prone to judgement of others.

Perhaps even more importantly, our physical appearance affects our perception and opinion of ourselves.

Being fit is equal parts physical (muscular structure, weight, height, gender) and emotional (confidence). One of my favorite lines from the WSJ article is, “Executives who were part of the study say it’s difficult to say how much of the perceived bias stems from their physical weight and how much from their own projected insecurity [emphasis added].” This means that no matter how many studies are done and how close you are to having the perfect BMI or perfect fat percentage, to some extent, your own confidence and security can help drive another person’s perception in a positive direction.

My message is simple: make the time to work out but don’t go crazy. Let those good endorphins fill your day with confidence.

While I am by no means a fitness fanatic, I strongly advocate being fit and healthy. Some days, I choose to pursue fitness gently – whether that be stretching while watching TV or going for an hour walk after dinner. Other days, I’ll run a few miles in my favorite park.

Now that summer has officially arrived, I tossed out my (very old) Brooks running shoes, and bought a new pair of Nikes.

I couldn’t be happier. The lovely salesgirl at Lady Foot Locker helped me to choose the right shoe for my arches (high), my weight, and my target mileage per week (15). My Brooks trainers were extremely low profile (and quite beaten up) so my heels had started to ache after a run. My new choice, the Nike Lunaracer 3, is an ultra lightweight stability running shoe with a modest cushion in the heel. No more aches!  Other perks: breathable fabric, a stitched tongue that doesn’t move, and laces that don’t have to be double-knotted (which sounds so minuscule, but stopping to tie one’s shoes mid-run is totally deflating!).

As to the color and style, let this be the final word: whenever I see the flashy pink sitting by my door, they beg me to put them on and take them outside. I put on my Pandora Top Hits radio and hit the asphalt.

Cheers to a long and lean summer!

xoxo

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Kentucky Derby Party – Part II

Now that I’ve given you all the photos and fashion from Derby day, here is the menu (and recipes!) that conspired to make Kentucky Derby day such a rousing success:

  • Mint Juleps
  • Grilled Pimento Cheese and Fried Green Tomato Sandwiches
  • Watermelon and Feta Bites
  • Charles’ Pan-Fried Chicken (my dear friend H. brought this special delight)
  • Mini Grits and Greens (homemade by the one and only J.D.)
  • Laurie Osteen’s Coconut Cake
  • Other savories: a shrimp platter, Late July Sweet Potato Chips, Maille Cornichons, sweet tea

 

The Perfect Mint JulepIMG_1286
adapted from The Food Network (makes 10-12)
I am so happy I read through the recipe first. This must be made 24 hours in advance for proper marrying of flavors!

Ingredients
4 cups bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark. You’ll need two 750ml bottles)
1 bunch fresh mint
1 cup distilled water
1 cup granulated sugar

Directions

To prepare mint extract, remove about 50 small mint leaves. Wash and place in a small bowl. Cover with 3 ounces bourbon. Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes. Then gather the leaves in paper toweling. Thoroughly wring the mint over the bowl of whisky. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times.
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To prepare simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of distilled water in a small saucepan. Heat to dissolve sugar. Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.
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To prepare mint julep mixture, pour 3 1/2 cups of bourbon into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the bourbon.

Now begin adding the mint extract 1 tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste-generally about 3 tablespoons. When you think it’s right, pour the whole mixture back into the glass bowl or a pitcher and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to “marry” the flavors.

To serve the julep, fill each glass 1/2 full with ice. Insert a spring of mint and then pack in more ice to about 1-inch over the top of the cup. Then, insert a straw that has been cut to 1-inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.

Pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice. Serve immediately.

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grilled-pimiento-cheese-and-fried-green-tomato-sandwich-gpc-646Grilled Pimento Cheese and Fried Green Tomato Sandwiches
adapted from Bon Appetit (makes 4)

INGREDIENTS: PIMIENTO CHEESE
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar 1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons chopped roasted red pepper
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic paste
Kosher salt

PREP: PIMIENTO CHEESE
Mix mozzarella, cheddar, mayonnaise, cream cheese, roasted pepper, hot sauce, and garlic powder in a medium bowl; season with salt. Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.

INGREDIENTS: FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
2 large green tomatoes, sliced 1/3-inch thick (I used 3 small tomatillos instead)
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon paprika
2 cups panko
Vegetable oil (for frying; about 3 cups)
4 ciabatta rolls, split
8 slices bacon, cooked until crisp

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: A deep-fry thermometer

PREP: FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
Place tomatoes on a large paper towel–lined baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Whisk eggs and hot sauce in a shallow medium bowl. Whisk flour, garlic powder, and paprika in another shallow medium bowl. Place panko in a third shallow medium bowl.

Using paper towels, pat tomatoes dry. Working in batches, dredge in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Coat with egg mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Coat with panko, pressing to adhere.

Pour oil into a large deep skillet to a depth of 1 inch and heat over medium heat until thermometer registers 350°. Working in batches, fry tomatoes, turning halfway through, until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes per batch. Transfer to a paper towel–lined baking sheet to drain.

Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Spread cut sides of each roll with pimiento cheese. Place rolls, pimiento cheese side up, on a baking sheet and broil until cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Build sandwiches with rolls, cooked bacon, and fried green tomatoes.

IMG_0055Watermelon and Feta Bites

INGREDIENTS

~2 lbs of cubed watermelon
6-8 ounces feta cheese
4-5 tablespoons of whole milk
1 organic cucumber

PREP

With the small end of a melon baller tool, cut little half rounds out of the center of each cube of watermelon. Whip feta cheese and milk together in a food processor until creamy.  Scoop the cheese into the indentations. Garnish with a tiny slice of cucumber. Place on a platter and serve.

Mini Grits and Greens
adapted from Southern Living by J.D.
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GRITS

  • 1 package of instant grits
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz.) freshly shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

TOPPING

  • 8 oz fresh spinach leaves
  • 3 oz pancetta, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

PREP

  1. Make instant grits according to package directions, using chicken broth as opposed to water. Whisk in Cheddar cheese and next 4 ingredients, whisking constantly until cheese melts. Keep warm.
  2. Stack spinach on a cutting board. Tightly roll up leaves, and thinly slice into 1/8-inch strips. Quarter chorizo lengthwise, and cut into small pieces.
  3. Sauté pancetta in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 2 minutes. Add spinach, vinegar, and sugar. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until greens are bright green and just tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Place about 1 Tbsp. grits into each mini dish, and top with spinach mixture. Serve immediately.

 


Laurie Osteen’s Coconut Cake

from Bon Appetit (serves 10)

When I read this recipe in an old (2013) issue of Bon Appetit, I tore it out immediately and marked it “Kentucky Derby Party.”

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INGREDIENTS

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • All-purpose flour (for pans)
  • 1 15-16-ounce box yellow cake mix
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT:  Three 8-inch-diameter cake pans (I ordered mine from Amazon)

PREP

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat cake pans with nonstick spray. Dust with flour, tapping out excess.

Whisk cake mix, eggs, oil, and 1 cup milk in a large bowl until no lumps remain. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans; smooth tops.

Bake cakes until a tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix coconut, sugar, sour cream, salt, and remaining 1 tablespoon milk in a medium bowl to combine; set frosting aside.

Transfer pans to wire racks; let cool 5 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks and spread frosting over tops of warm cakes, dividing evenly. Stack cakes. Let stand at room temperature, covered with a cake dome, or loosely tented with foil, at least 4 hours before serving.

DO AHEAD: Cake can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

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Until next year, Derby lovers. xoxo.