Monday, July 30, 2012

Cocktail Hour - Flirtinis

One of my signature drinks is the Flirtini.  I've been making this cocktail for many years - ever since Carrie and friends drank it with the 'Up My Ass Players'(a group of tranny hookers) on an episode of Sex & the City.  Any cocktail that can be drank with a bunch of tranny hookers on a rooftop sounds like a recipe for a good time!  By the way, Sex & the City is probably my all time favorite TV show.  I've seen every episode at least a dozen times and maybe even more.  No shame here.

You can barely taste the alcohol in this fruity little cocktail, but make no mistake, it packs a punch!  Most of my friends know that if you come to a party at my house, you'll probably be offered a Flirtini and you'd better be ready for a wild night. 

Most of the time, I make a large pitcher of these instead of mixing each drink individually.  This frees me up from tending bar all night and I can focus on my guests.  I've even been known to bring Flirtinis with me on camping trips.  Why forego all luxuries while camping?

Amanda's Flirtinis

1 48oz pineapple-orange juice
1 bottle of champagne - I've used all kinds - extra dry, brut, prosecco (I recommend testing to find your favorite)
8 shots of vodka (don't skimp on a cheap vodka here, you already run the risk of a champagne hangover)
Chill all ingredients before mixing

Gently mix all ingredients, except for Grenadine, in large pitcher, you don't want to stir all the bubbly out!  Pour into martini glasses, add a few drops of Grenadine and garnish with a pineapple wedge.

You could also serve the Flirtini in a champagne glass for optimal bubbly action, but I've always served it in a Martini glass in honor of its name.  Sometimes I skip the Grenadine and the pineapple garnish, but they do make the drink look very pretty.  My beautiful Martini glasses were a Christmas present from my mother in law and I just love them!

A funny little note about Flirtinis: they appear to be a very girly drink, however, I've had many a man imbibe right along with the girls because male or female, this baby tastes YUMMY! 

See a clip from the Sex & the City episode that inspired me to serve Flirtinis to my guests for over ten years.  Sante!

Monday, July 23, 2012

What is a blog and why?

A couple of weeks ago, I was telling my friend Jody about my blog, which the naughty girl (and bridesmaid in my wedding) had not checked out yet.  Not to worry, all is forgiven - she has a small child.  In my attempt to define a 'blog' to her and tell her the purpose of mine, I realized that I needed to communicate my intentions in this space.  Why am I writing this blog?

Originally, I decided to restart my blog because I am a writer who hasn't written anything just for fun in years.  Oh, I write press releases, copy for marketing collateral and the occasional article, but I haven't written anything for myself since I was a child.  I needed a creative outlet.

When I began to envision the 'theme' of my blog and brainstorm on blog topics, I quickly realized that my blog was going to serve a much bigger purpose...not for the kids in Cambodia, not for women's rights in was going to be mostly just for me.  Many of my friends and family members know that I have fought depression since I was a teenager and unfortunately, I've been medicated during most of that elapsed time.  For some reason, my brain, seritonin, dopamine, past, insecurities, goals, expectations of myself, weight, relationships, hormones, you name it - can cause me to feel diproportionately sad.  I have to force myself to try and see things in a positive light because it is my natural inclination to view the dark side of a situation.

What I realized is that I want my blog to function as a catalyst to make me focus on the great things in life; a sort of grattitude journal or space, if you will.  Several years ago, I tried to keep a grattitude journal (a la Oprah), where I listed five things a day to be grateful for.  I would sporatically add to it, but never quite made it a daily habit.  I did notice that when I was keeping the journal, I would seek out various people or things for which to be grateful.  At the end of the day, no matter what was happening in my life, I could always find five blessings, without fail.  When my sister and I were little, we watched the Disney movie 'Pollyanna' over and over again.  You'd think that her ability to find the good in everything would have rubbed off a little more.  In the movie, she even influences a preacher to stop talking about the wrath of God and start ministering about His love.

My goal is for this blog to help shift my focus to all of the wonderful, beautiful and fabulous things in life, thereby forcing me to pass over the inclination towards feelings of sadness or anxiety.  I love that this can be both an opportunity for me to be creative and a way to record the many blessings in my life.  A blessing can be as simple as a nice, warm bed to sleep in or my husband washing my car.  Some of my favorite blessings are time spent with friends and family or even just a memory, such as my grandmother telling me how much she liked the pretty red blouse I wore at Christmas before she passed away.

If you find me writing about frivolous topics or how much joy my dogs bring to my life, just know that behind the stories, the parties and the fashion sillyness, I am seeking to be grateful even for life's littlest blessings.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sunday Brunch

This weekend I was supposed to go to brunch with my friend Cara.  The night before, I decided to invite her over to my house to eat instead.  Originally, I had visions of Magnolia Pancake House in my mind, but DH and I tried to go a couple of weeks ago and the line outside the door quickly prompted us to change our plans.  I thought a nice, casual brunch chez moi could be a lovely alternative.

Since I love plates, china, flatware and all things 'tablescape', I set two places for us at my kitchen table.  I am obsessed with robin's egg/Tiffany blue, hence the placemats and the wall color in my dining room.  The butterfly-embriodered napkins are from World Market.

I just love brunch.  Most of the time, we eat breakfast in a hurry, grabbing an on-the-go granola bar or container of yogurt.  I've had a protein shake for breakfast almost every day this week!  Not too tasty, nor too luxurious.  We more regularly savor nice dinners and the occasional long lunch, but neglect to enjoy a delicious breakfast.  Some of the tastiest foods in all of cuisine are served at the morning meal.  Nothing compares to crisp waffles, eggs benedict, or flaky, buttery croissants.  My all time favorite breakfast is veal and grits, a traditional southern offering, found regularly on brunch menus in New Orleans. 

For myself and Cara, I kept it simple with scrambled eggs, sausage links and big blueberry waffles.  We also had Cacao Berry pink tea by Zhena's Gypsy Tea.  I love this tea so much!  It's quite flavorful, so there is no sweetener needed and it claims to have wonderful antioxidents especially beneficial for women. 

Brunch was delish, but the best part was catching up with Cara and talking about the different things going on in our lives.  She even offered to help me paint my furniture next weekend!  Hopefully she won't regret that offer!  Have you ever invited someone for brunch at your house?  What did you serve?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Grocery Shopping Fun?

Ask my husband and he'll tell you I am no fun when shopping for groceries.  As much as I love to cook and bake, I abhor the grocery store experience.  The stores are crowded with tons of people, the aisles are small, checkout lanes are never open, tons of mass-produced food products...I could go on and on.  I actually get grocery store anxiety every time I visit.

I tried going to the Farmer's Markets on the weekends to purchase our fruits and vegetables, but I can't leave there without spending lots of money - I think DH and I get overly excited when we go.  I really do prefer to eat locally as well as organically, when possible.  Alas, I haven't been able to turn the Farmer's Market thing into my regular (budgeted) food shopping routine.  After all, if you can't go on Saturdays, you miss out.

I have found a solution, although it is one that may seem questionable to some:  HEB Central Market.  I absolutely love shopping there.  I get a kick out of the beautiful and exotic vegetables and fruits as well as all of the rest of their gourmet items.  Their displays are brilliant and their fresh foods can not be beat!  Shopping there makes me feel like I am carefully selecting foods to prepare a nice meal, instead of the mad rush and jockeying I do at a normal grocery store.  I imagine this is the type of experience Ina Garten, Emeril Lagasse and Tyler Florence have when they shop for fine ingredients for their recipes.

If you've never been to a Central Market, you absolutely must go.  You should at least go check out their prepared foods section - incredible!  Some people complain that it is more expensive than regular HEBs, and my experience is that some items are more expensive, but then, you are not necessarily comparing apples to apples.  I actually found that some items are less expensive, if you can believe it.  To have an un-stressful, and even fun, experience, I don't mind paying a few extra dollars.  Check out some of the cool things I spotted at Central Market during my shopping trip this week:

Aren't these so weird?  They are beans called 'Dragoon Tongues'.  You can see by the price that they are kind of expensive, but they may be fun to try out at least once!

I love these French Radishes!  These are the kind that Ina Garten uses for her gorgeous vegetable platters and now I know where to find them!

Central Market also has a FAB kitchen wares section with lots of beautiful dishware.  I always check out this section when I visit to see what's new.  Isn't this elephant-shaped teapot too cute!  At $13.99, I thought this was very well priced!

Look at this enormous cheese wheel!  I couldn't resist and bought a wedge to add some yummy flavor to my meals this week.

A fun area of Central Market is their bulk foods section.  They have everything from granola, grains and beans to dried fruit and honey.  I opted for the honey since we were running low.

This bottle of honey (from the Austin area) cost me just $2.87, a great price considering that we paid $8 for a jar of honey at the Pearl Farmer's Market.

It is frustrating that I don't live closer to Central Market, but I do work pretty close to it.  I've decided to take the stress out of my grocery shopping and turn it into a pleasurable one by stopping by after work each week for the 'Central Market Experience'.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Polish

Mondays are really tough for me.  I thoroughly enjoy my leisure time on the weekends and Monday just takes that all away!  I have found one trick that will make me smile through the dreaded eight-hour reality check that is Monday: fresh nail polish.

Nail polish, while a seemingly simple and frivolous object, can bring so much joy to my life.  For one thing, the options are endless!  I know for a fact that I don't have every shade of red known to man or nature.  Having neatly polished nails just makes you look and feel 'put together'.  Selecting a pretty shade to adorn your nails is also part of the fun, especially in the summer.  Summer allows for both bright and pastel colors, but obviously, bright is lots more fun.  Just looking down at my pretty pink nails puts me in a good mood, even if it only lasts until Wednesday!

This week, I chose a new shade of pink to brighten up my Monday.  My favorite nail polish is the OPI brand with their fun and silly color names.

Elephantastic Pink by OPI

A few of my favorite summer OPI colors (left to right): Elephantastic Pink, I Think in Pink, California Raspberry & Cajun Shrimp

Do you have a favorite brand of nail polish?  What about a signature or favorite color?

Weekend in Dallas

I took a trip to Dallas this past weekend to visit my beloved college (Texas A&M) friends, former roomies and co-workers.  I had the best time staying with my friend Jody, her husband Dan and their son, Dylan.  It was so fun to see Jody and Dan again and reminded me of 'old times' - as in almost 10 years ago!  Their son, Dylan, is just precious and it's always neat to see your friends' children. 

On Saturday night, Jody and I met our former co-workers (and my former college roomies) at Esparza's in downtown Grapevine.  Grapevine is such a cute town, with great boutiques and restaurants - all housed in old buildings in the downtown area.  It was fun to hear about what's going on with their work, family and other happenings.  Let's just say there wasn't an uncomfortable silence all night or lack of a topic of conversation.  We covered everything from our sex lives to our housekeepers! 

I miss them all so much and hope that someday I can live nearer and see them more regularly.  They each have such beautiful personalities.  Tiffany smiles all the time and would drive 1,000 miles to help you in your time of need.  Shelley is that girl who instantly draws you in.  Jody is soulful as well as the big sister I never had.  They are all truly special, friends of a lifetime.  Love you girls and gig 'em!

Tiffany, Jody, Shelley and Amanda

P.S. - Can you tell it's hot in Texas?  We all have our hair up!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

It's a Fab Friday

I kicked off last weekend with some naughty shopping. No, I wasn't shopping for lingerie or adult novelty items. I was just shopping to downright spoil myself. I felt an urge to hunt for sales at the outlet mall and it did not dissappoint. I've been in a real preppy mood lately, so I visited Kate Spade for a flirty fix. It was a floral, preppy, vibrant mecca of gorgeousness - all included in their incredible sale. I really wanted a bright summer bag and I found just that.

I love this flirty, coral handbag. It's such a departure from my last bag purchase - a black Michael Kors with tons of studs and grommets all over! I will absolutely carry this to lunch with the girls. It has soft, beautiful leather, so I'll need to take precious care of this little darling.

I have been wanting a metallic, structured straw clutch for some time now. It's just so fun and girly, with a little bit of edge thanks to the gold metallic leather. I'm envisioning dinner in a vine-covered courtyard or some other event al fresco.

Believe it or not, shopping isn't ALWAYS about me. I love, love, love to shop for gifts to give others. This little T-bone doggie-toy (a la Target) had to come home with me. I knew someone who would just LOVE it!

My husband rolls his eyes every time I buy a new toy for my pups. If this face smiled at you everyday, would you want to spoil him rotten too?

Hope you all have a fantastic weekend and that you self-spoil just a teensy bit.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Amanda's Vision Board

Today I tackled a project I've been both preparing for and putting off for a few months - my new Vision/Inspiration Board.  I created my first one about two years ago, when I hosted a party for several of my friends to come over and do the same.  We had lots of fun telling eachother about our goals and dreams as well as putting together our boards.  When I reflected back on my board from last year, I realized that I actually had met several of the goals I put forth for myself.  See my very first board below.

I read a very cool blog about Vision Boards on Tranquility du Jour quite some time ago and she gave fantastic instructions about how to start your board.  First, ask yourself, "what do I want to be, do and have."  Write these things down.  Then, flip through tons of magazines and find images that either speak to you (for whatever reason) or represent the items you wrote down.  I read somewhere that when putting together her board, a woman tore out a photo of a beautiful house and didn't know why, but wanted to put it on there.  She wasn't looking to move or buy a new house, the photo of the home just spoke to her.  Sometime later, she bought a house that looked just like the one in the picture she placed on her board.  She didn't even remember it until she saw her old board when packing to move.

This is the power of imaging.  Images can motivate us to create or accomplish whatever is represented in them.  That's why they tell you to, "think yourself thin."  You know, picture yourself in the bathing suit or what have you.  It's because your mind tries to accomplish what you envision.  That's the basic purpose behind creating a vision board.  You can tell from mine above that I wanted to work out, read, travel to Paris, buy a house in New Orleans, go skiing and travel with my Darling Husband (DH).

I started out with a stack of magazine tear-outs that I'd been collecting for several months.

I looked for not only images that I liked, but also phrases or sentences that aligned with my goals.  I sifted through the stack several times and selected what I thought were the images and words that were the most important to me.  I went through such magazines as Oprah, Self, Fitness, Oxygen, Elle Decor, House Beautiful and Southern Living.

Some tear outs didn't make the cut, even though I loved some aspect of them.

I started with a large piece of foam core (you can buy this at any craft store), YES! paste (I've only found this at Michael's) and a pair of scissors.  Oh, and a wine glass full of Pellegrino.  Pretty easy and low-cost!

Trust me when I recommend the Yes! Paste - it is fantastic and won't make your magazine cut outs wrinkle or dry with those unsightly waves.

After I collected all of my images and motivational phrases, I realized that there were some major goals missing from my stack.  Namely - images of NYC, which I plan to visit in December with DH.  I couldn't leave NYC off of this super-important project - too vital.  I also had not found images of the silverware for which I am saving monthly so I can purchase a whole set in a couple of years.  Also, very important.  So, I headed over to the laptop and quickly printed off some NYC & silverware images and voila!  See if you can tell what some of my goals are.  Click to view the full sized image.

I won't make you work too hard for it!  Here are some of my goals:

1. Save money to travel to New York City to celebrate my 10th anniversary to DH in December 2012
2. Travel to Europe in the Spring and visit both Paris and London
3. Ride horses as many chances as I can get.  Eventually, I would like to buy a hourse and learn to compete in equestrian-style events
4. Save money each month so I can purchase a full set of sterling silver for my dinner table
5. Buy a chandelier in New Orleans
6. Purchase window treatments for my living room
7. Work out and lose weight (story of the last 15 years of my life), so I can wear dresses like Anne Hathaway
8. Meet new people and regularly host parties for my new and old friends
9. Purchase a gorgeous silver tea set and host a super-girly Afternoon Tea Party for my stylish friends
10. Life is short, so do it in style!

When I set out to create my new Vision Board, I noticed that many of my goals were still the same, yet some had changed.  See if you can guess which was which by the completed project.

I hung my last Vision Board in my closet and unfortunately, I didn't see it as much as I would have liked.  This time, I hung it in my bathroom (which is very unlike me, because I do like for things to be pretty - always) so that I can see it everyday and muse over it while blow drying my hair each morning.  I think this will make it much more effective and even though it's not officially art, it's filled with beautiful imagery.

Here it is hanging in my bathroom.  I don't know why I consider hanging it in there such a big deal.  We have applied about six different paint samples on the wall and can't decide which to use - they've been there for at least three months!

I hope this inspires you to make your very own Vision Board.  If you have made one, please take a pic and post it so I can see!