20 Summer Staples From The Nordstrom Half Yearly Sale

To let you in on a little secret, I love a good sale for two reasons:

1. The obvious - you get something you need at a fraction of the price

2. The not so obvious - you have a little extra money left over to buy something you want

In my case, it's usually something 'splurgy' like Chanel makeup. When I worked for a beauty magazine a little over a year ago, I had the opportunity to try hundreds of different types of beauty products at any time, but I still truly believe that Chanel makes the best bronzer and blush on the market. Because of this reasoning (however skewed it may be), I couldn't resist adding in two of my favorite (full-priced) Chanel makeup products for summer to my selection of summer wardrobe staples. 

Scroll through the slideshow above to see a selection of summer staples available at 40% off through Nordstrom's 'half-yearly' Memorial Day sale going on now through May 31st. 

Bedroom Closet to Custom Home Office in 24 Hours

First of all, I want to preface this post by saying that I've never painted a closet before, don't know anything about mixing paint colors for rooms and hanging things without the help of someone more skilled usually involves me drilling heavy things like flat screens into sheetrock (no one should ever do this) or sticking something up with command strip velcro (nothing against command strips but they really aren't that strong). I say this because I know my limitations, but at the same time I'm pregnant and nesting and really wanted a home office, like yesterday, so I convinced myself I needed to get this done within 24 hours.  Yes, 24 hours.





We live in a very small 2 bedroom apartment with very little personal space. Fortunately, we do have plenty of closets, which made the closet to office decision an easy one for me. For my office, I chose a small (3 ft x 4 ft) closet in our bedroom right next to the door to our back patio. I think subconsciously I figured if I ever got claustrophobic in the tight space I could run outside really quickly.  

Now to the paint... I wanted the room to feel calm and definitely didn't want to stick with the beige/cream paint color currently in the closet. I grew up in a house filled with ceilings painted in Restoration Hardware Silver Sage; a color that brought more height to the rooms. I did a little research online and found that Benjamin Moore's Wythe Blue paint is a very similar match to Restoration Hardware's Silver Sage. Another confirmation came from design friends who told me that a calming blue would work wonders in a tiny space. 

Step 1

It was around 10 am when I selected my new office (or closet) and paint color. I then set off for my neighborhood Home Depot expecting to pick up a can of Benjamin Moore Wythe Blue paint and a few paintbrushes. First, I hijacked an associate in the paint section to find out what one really needs to paint a room. I told him I needed Benjamin Moore Wythe Blue paint and some paintbrushes to paint a closet. He told me they don't carry Benjamin Moore but he could match Behr paint to a very similar shade of Wythe Blue. Perfect. As the machine mixed the paint, the associate took me around the paint section and pulled all the necessary accessories I needed; a rolling brush, a sponge looking brush for edging, a paint tray, a plastic tarp for the ground and blue tape for the walls (see photo above). He also gave me some wooden sticks to mix the paint and a can opener for the paint can for free. So nice. Just 30 minutes later I was headed back home ready to get the project started. 

Step 4

As you can see in the photos, the first coat of paint didn't look perfect but thankfully with paint you can always make mistakes and then paint over it again- which I did, twice. 

I didn't have a step ladder, but I did buy a long wooden stick that screws into the roller brush (at the Home Depot associates suggestion) so I was able to paint the walls and ceiling without much difficulty. While the paint dried, I headed off for Ikea around 3 pm to purchase a desk and chair. 

I wanted to find a desk that would almost look like it was built into the back of the 48" length closet. Fortunately, I found the Micke desk for only $79.99, measuring at 47 1/4" I knew it would be a tight fit, but perfect if I could get it squeezed in there. 

Tobias Chair

Next, I looked for a chair that would disappear into the space. I found that in the Tobias chair

first night with lamp

As I mentioned earlier, I'm pregnant and after all of this work I was a little exhausted, so I took a little break and waited for my husband to get home before we started building the chair and desk together around 6 pm. Between the two of us we were able to finish building the Ikea furniture by 8 pm that night! 

final finally

There aren't any outlets in the closet so I brought in a lamp from another room until I could find something more suitable for the space. The following morning I went to Lowe's and purchased a track light and then Container Store for some office organization tools like a calendar and file holder. By noon that afternoon I was in business!

Bob Armstrong Dip

As someone who was raised in Dallas, I never really knew exactly who Bob Armstrong was, but I did know about his famous queso dip. Offered as an appetizer at Matt's Rancho Martinez, and catered to many a Dallas party, Bob Armstrong Dip is seriously the best queso I've ever had the pleasure of trying. 

In honor of Texas Independence Day, I thought I'd share a little background on this addicting queso concoction and offer up a recipe adapted from Homesick Texan

About 43 years ago or so, Robert “Bob” Armstrong walked into Matt’s El Rancho in Austin and asked the owner’s son, Matt Martinez, Jr., to surprise him with something new. Bob Armstrong was the Texas Land Commissioner at the time, and was not only a powerful guy but also a regular customer. Matt wanted to make him happy. 

The story goes that Matt went into the kitchen, grabbed a large bowl and ladled into it some taco meat. Next, he hid the taco meat under a generous helping of creamy chile con queso and finished with dollops of guacamole and sour cream on top. He then took the bowl out to Bob and presented him with his kitchen creation. 

At first Bob looked at the bowl, wrinkled his nose and said, “That’s just queso. I wanted something different!” But Matt insisted he try it and when Bob dipped his chip into the queso and discovered the layer of taco meat, he grinned and proceeded to eat the whole bowl without further comment. 

The next day, people came into Matt’s El Rancho asking for a bowl of Bob Armstrong’s dip. None of the wait staff knew what the heck they were talking about until Matt Martinez, Jr. figured out they were asking for the off-the-menu queso he’d made for Bob the day before. Apparently, Bob Armstrong had returned to the Texas state capitol and told everyone they had to try Matt’s queso with taco meat, guacamole, and sour cream. And at that moment, a chile con queso legend was born. 

In later years, other queso compuestos, as that genre of chile con queso is called, also rose to prominence—quesos such as Kerbey Lane’s Kerbey Queso topped with guacamole and pico de gallo, and Magnolia Café’s Mag Mud with its refried black beans layered into the silky cheese. But Bob Armstrong Dip, as Matt’s queso creation is now officially known, may just be my favorite. 

You can now find Bob dip in both Austin and Dallas, where Matt Martinez, Jr. later moved to open a few restaurants of his own. 

Ingredients for the taco meat:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 bell pepper, seeded, stemmed, and diced
1 jalapeño, seeded, stemmed, and diced
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of cayenne

Ingredients for the guacamole:
2 Hass avocados, peeled and pitted
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro

Ingredients for the chile con queso:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 jalapeños, seeded, stemmed, and diced
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 cup chicken broth
1 pound American cheese, shredded
1 cup grape tomatoes, diced
Sour cream, for garnishing
Tortilla chips, for serving

To make the taco meat, in a large skillet heat the oil on medium-low heat and add the bell pepper, jalapeño, and onion. While stirring occasionally, cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. 

Add the ground beef to the skillet, along with the cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Stir until everything is well combined and then cook the ground beef for 15 more minutes, or until browned. Taste and adjust seasonings. Turn off the heat and drain any excess grease. 

Meanwhile, to make the guacamole, mash together the avocado, lime juice, and cilantro. Add salt to taste. 

To make the queso, in a saucepot heat the oil on medium-low heat and add the jalapeño and onion. While stirring occasionally, cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. 

Leaving on the heat, stir in the cumin, black pepper, and cornstarch until the dry ingredients are well combined with the vegetables. Pour in the chicken broth and while stirring cook until the sauce has thickened, which should happen in a couple of minutes. 

Turn the heat down to low and working in batches, slowly stir in a handful of the cheese. After it’s melted into the sauce, repeat the process until all the cheese is added. Stir in the tomatoes, adjust seasonings, and add salt to taste. 

This makes a lot of queso, so you can either serve it in individual bowls or in a larger dish, such as a 9-inch square dish. To assemble, layer along the bottom of the dish the taco meat, then pour in the queso and then top with the guacamole and sour cream. Serve warm with chips. 

10-12 servings

Adapted by Lisa Fain from Matt Martinez’s book Matt’s Culinary Frontier