Thanksgiving Dinner: To Feast or Fight?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving is all about eating dinner with family together at the table. This means there are bound to be some sticky conversations or for some little talking.

Here are some tips for creating a great dinner conversation:

* Let’s say that cousin Joe brings his hoochie-of-the-moment to dinner. Strike up some chatter by paying her a compliment. Tell her that you like her airbrushed nails or two-toned hair. It’s okay to lie a bit in this situation.

* Everyone loves a vacation. Ask family members about their last trip or any upcoming trips.

* Purchase a copy of People, Time, Sports Illustrated and a local newspaper. Read all of these on your way to dinner. You will be able to chat with everyone from Aunt Ida to Uncle Bob. I was actually surprised two Christmas’s ago when my pap said “I think that Angelina Jolie is pregnant.”

* If there is a student at the table – college, high school or even pre-school, ask about their classes and teachers.

* Spending turkey day in Pittsburgh? Just talk about the Steelers. Bonus points if you can share a story about a recent run in with Big Ben, Jeff Reed, Heinz Ward or the Bus.

And a few conversation “don’ts:”

* Try not to bring up religion, politics or the economy.

* If things get really bad, pretend to sleep. Blame it on the turkey. Don’t play sick – you may offend the chef.

* Be careful with the booze. You don’t want to get dirahha of the mouth.

Ways to change the subject or avoid the topic:

* If someone starts asking you questions that you don’t feel comfortable answering, simply say “can we talk about that later?”

* Let’s day the family gets into a heated debate over politics. Do your best to remain silent. If someone calls you out, tell them you are just listening to everyone’s opinions.

* Don’t attend dinner. Order Papa John’s and stay at home.

(sources:, San Diego Union Tribune,; picture from
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of visiting the Bonkowski residence, you would know that I live off of a major “route” that goes through Robinson Township. However, while the area may be a little busy, we have a little turkey problem in our hood. Because they are building more houses and tearing down woods, the turkeys roam my yard – they’ve even chilled out on our porch.

Since Thanksgiving is one week away I thought I would salute our unofficial “pets” by dedicating this Thirsty Thursday to Wild Turkey.

Wild Turkey is a Kentucky Bourbon owned by spirits giant Pernod Ricard.

Also known as “The Dirty Bird,” “Gobble Gobble,” “Thunder Chicken,” and “The Kickin’ Chicken,” the Wild Turkey line features a few varities that are over 80 proof – the standard for a Kentucky Bourbon.

Some other facts about Wild Turkey:
- The original distillery was built in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky by the Ripy Brothers in 1905.Of course the distillery shut down for a brief time during prohibition, but stared rolling right after the repeal.
- Wild Turkey was bought out in 1971 by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Co. who then sold it nine years later to Pernod.
- In 1940, Thomas McCarthy took some samples of the bourbon with him on a turkey hunting trip. The following year, his friends asked for “some of that wild turkey whiskey,” and the name of the brand was born.
- Is always aged in new white oak barrels. By using new wood means the bourbon draws in tastes of vanilla and caramel while aging making those its predominant characteristics.
- Bourbon standards in the United States allow distillers to add artificial coloring, but Wild Turkey chooses not to.

While most recipes containing Wild Turkey are really manly (i.e. Three Wise Men Go Hunting), but below you may want to test these two cocktails the night before Thanksgiving (or as some jagoffs call it “Wild Wednesday”).

Thanksgiving Cocktail1/2 oz. Brandy, apple
1 1/2 oz. Wild Turkey
4 oz. Cranberry Juice
1 tsp. Lime Juice
1 wedge Lime
Build over ice in a Collins glass. Garnish with a lime wedge

Fuzzy Blue Gobbler1 part Curacao, blue
1 part Schnapps, peach
1 part Wild Turkey
Shake everything with ice; strain into a cocktail glass


(sources: wikipedia,,
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Celebrity Spirits

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Over the last year, rehab has become a cooler celebrity hot-spot than Les Duex. From Britney to Lindsey to Eva Mendes, it seems like ever week a new starlet is hanging out at Circe Lodge in Utah.

While some stars are leaning on a sponsor to stay sober, other celebrities are become more involved in the alcohol industry. Here are some famous people whose names you may see behind the bar at your favorite watering hole (or down Diesel).

Donald Trump: Of course The Donald had to put his name on a bottle of something and vodka was his poison. Let me just say this brand markets itself as “quadruple distilled.” I learned from the Absolut folks that vodka can really only be distilled twice – anything after that really doesn’t matter or effect the taste.

Roberto Cavalli: Cocktails are basically a fashion accessory at a club, so it makes sense for fashion icon Roberto Cavalli to get into the spirits biz with a vodka brand, right? Roberto Cavalli stays true to his heritage by using Italian water and grains in the blend. The bottle is also designed by Cavalli himself.

Dr. Dre: Not only is he a badass rapper and an original gangsta, but Dr. Dre launched “Aftermath Cognac” this fall in a partnership with A&M Records and Drinks Americas. Make sure you have a pimp cup on hand to drink The Aftermath.

Snoooooooppppp: Of course Snoop Dog is following in Dre’s footsteps with his own cogna coming out in the next few months. One of them should really create pre-mixed gin & juice in a can. I have a great advertising jingle in mind.

Danny DiVito: After his drunken appearance on “The View” Danny now bottles and sells limoncello.

Willie Nelson: Let me tell you – Willie knows how to party. First his reputation for being a pot head, then his bourbon brand? Willie seems like a good time. His bourbon is called Old Whiskey River.

In the wine category, there are a ton of celebs that back brands. The list includes
- Francis Ford Coppola
- Athletes Greg Norman and Mike Ditka (Best Damn Red is a real variety)
- The late Paul Newman
- Martha Stewart (right)
- Celebrity Cellars also sells wines adoring images of Madonne, Kiss, The Rolling Stones, the face of Madonna, and Barbara Streisand.

(Sources: Houston Chronicle, Luxist, Washington Post, and celebrity cellars)
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Merry Go Round the World

Monday, November 10, 2008

Reader Brian recently asked for my opinion on a “Stock the Bar” party. I told him that this theme works well for a housewarming or a couple’s shower, but is hard to pull off on a random night. I mean you don’t want to force your friends to bring you a $20-30 bottle of alcohol and then serve them keg beer and tortilla chips.

Brian’s real goal was to have a party where he could serve a number of new cocktails and spirits for his guests to try. In brainstorming, we came up with idea of an Around the World party. While this may or may not end up as Brian’s final theme, it inspired some great ideas.

Consider these tips below to host your own Around the World party.
* Invite friends by sending them a blank passport that they will get stamped at each station.
* If you budget doesn’t allow for you to support the countries, ask friends to host a different stop.
* When guests arrive, create a “security check” when they walk in. Act as a TSA agent and take your friends’ coats. You can also hand them mini-airline bottles of alcohol for their “trip.”
* Create 3-4 stations around your apartment or house. For a bigger space, add more stops on the tour.
* Print and laminate flags from each of the countries to display at each stop.

Here are some tour stop recommendations:

* Hola Senorita: Recreate Mexico with a great salsa, guacamole and a paloma. After my co-workers went on a trip to Tequila, Mexico, they said that the Paloma was more popular with the locals than a traditional margarita. Add an activity to this stop with a piƱata.

La Paloma
- 2 ounces tequila
- 1/2 ounce lime juice
- pinch of salt
- grapefruit soda (or Squirt)
Combine the tequila (reposado, preferably), lime juice, and salt in a tall glass. Add ice, top off with grapefruit soda, and stir. If you have some troubles finding the grapefruit soda (Mexican brand Jarritos), you can use Squirt as a last resort.

* Guten Tag: German’s love beer. Serve some specialty brews at this stop paired with giant soft pretzels. Bonus points if you have beer steins for guests to drink from.

* Bonjour: Nothing says France like French fries and Champagne. At this stop, create a photo opp for guests by purchasing a large portrait of the Eiffel Tower.

* Bellisimo Italy: A pizza station will be a hit for the stop in Italy – especially to satisfy those late night muchines. Complements the slice of pie with lemoncellio shots and red wine.

* Ni hao: For a stop in Asia, sample pot stickers and sake. Or you can hand out pieces of orange chicken on toothpicks like the do in the mall!

* Irish Eyes are Smiling: Irish people are known for being drunks. At this stop offers travelers some Guinness and Irish Coffee. Serve mini bowls of Lucky Charms!

Irish Coffee1 1/2 oz Irish whiskey1 tsp brown sugar6 oz hot coffeeheavy cream
Combine whiskey, sugar and coffee in a mug and stir to dissolve. Float cold cream gently on top. Do not mix.

The more props you have on hand at each station, the more fun the pictures will be. After the event, send friends a mini-photo album as a thank you and a way for them to remember their “trip.”

(Sources:, Images:,,,, )
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A is for Apple

For a party earlier this month, I attempted this recipe for mini-candy apples. While my finished product can use a little work to perfect, I thought I would share this cute and easy recipe from Family Fun.

Mini Caramel Apples

- 4-inch lollipop sticks
- Melon baller
- Granny Smith apples (one apple makes about 8 mini apples)
- Butterscotch or peanut butter chips
- Chopped nuts, nonpareils, sprinkles, shredded coconut (optional)
- Small paper candy cups

Step 1 First, cut the lollipop sticks in half at an angle (the pointy end will go into the apple pieces easier). With the melon baller, scoop little balls out of the apple. Each ball should have a section of apple peel. Push half of a lollipop stick into the peel of each ball. Pat the apple pieces dry.

Step 2 Melt the chips according to the package directions. Dip and swirl the mini apples in the melted chips, then roll the apples in nuts, sprinkles, nonpareils, or coconut, if desired. Place the mini apples in paper candy cups to set.

The apples were super easy to transport and were a hit for those that wanted something sweet, but nothing too filling.

And remember, caramel apples aren't just for Halloween!

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44th President

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

So I took my readers advice and went to Grant Park tonight. I stood outside for 5 hours to see a glimpse of our new president, but was worth it.

(Above: you can see Obama behind the brown podium)

Here's a recap of my Election Day:

* I voted before work on some shady Illinois voting papers where you color in an arrow. Apparently some polls have computers in this state, but us residents of one of the richest hoods in the city don't have that technology. I filled in my arrows in the lobby of a hotel on a coffee table.

* Stayed at work until 5:00 p.m. Yes, I know this doesn't seem special, but basically all companies in the City of Chicago let their employees go home at 3:00 p.m. to beat the 1 million people coming into the city for the rally - except mine. This actually turned out to be beneficial because my group of 8 went straight to the park.

* The scene on the way to the park was like a baseball game. Vendors were selling t-shirts, buttons and hot dogs. Chicago experienced a seasonably warm night with temps in the 60's during the evening.

* Arrive at Grant Park (the site of Lollapoloza and where I broke my finger playing softball). The City of Chicago starts letting people go through the 4 security checkpoints: Ticket, ID, purse and finally the metal detectors. Let me just say this was more intense than airport security. Then we arrive on the field to an awesome spot - right between the TV view and 50 yards from the stage.

* While we waited (standing) for 5 hours the time flew. Reader Amy sent state updates that excited the group. We were watching CNN and apparently the other channels were calling states a lot earlier. The other amusement was the dramatic CNN updates. Around 10, we were expecting the news of the polls closing in the west coast and rather than determining a blue state...BAM, CNN made the announcement that we had a new Commander in Chief. The crowd went wild as you will see below.

* Brady and I walked two miles home after the rally. Main streets and bridges in Chicago were closed with people peacefully celebrating. I've just never seen this before. I mean anytime I see big crowds is drunkards after concerts and sporting events.

So I started this post at 1:31 a.m. central on election night. I just took a shower to deodorize myself from smoke and wet field, but I must say get this last thing out now.

Tonight, I am so impressed with what I witnessed. The crowd was so peaceful, happy and most importantly diverse. There were whites, blacks, Asians, lesbians, gays and families all together just so excited and energized. It was a great, great feeling and I wish you all could have experienced this with me. I was and am truly proud to be an American.

Here is a video I took below of the jumbo tron. As I mention above, I shot this right after the sudden CNN announcement that Obama won.

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Happy HallowBradyBirthSteelersRuleElectionDay

Monday, November 03, 2008

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Vote Tomorrow

I am taking suggestions for Election Night signage and activities to do while I wait for Oprah to announce Obama.

This is my ticket to tomorrow night's rally. I couldn't get it to paste so you could see my name.

Don't forget to vote!
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Hello Birthday!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Today is the birthday of one of my all-time favorite cartoon character...Hello Kitty!

My cousin introduced me to Hello Kitty in 1st grade and I was hooked. I was even more obsessed because, at the time, there was only one place in Pittsburgh to purchase Hello Kitty items, so being in love with Kit was very exclusive.

In honor of Miss Kitty's birthday, Sanrio (the makers of Hello Kitty) are selling t-shirts that benefit the Humane Society. Buy yours here.

Here are some fun facts about Hello Kitty according to Wikipedia:

* Her full name is Kitty White

* First item baring HK's cute mug was a vinyl coin purse in Tokyo in 1974

* Hello Kitty has appeared in a number of television shows. IN 1991, Hello Kitty and Friends aired on CBS. The plot featured HK living as a little kit with her mom, dad and twin sister Mimmy. Her sis wears the same outfit in a different color and a bow on the opposite ear.

* In May of 2008, Hello Kitty was named a Japan Tourism Ambassador, representing the country in China and Hong Kong
* HK is a triple threat - she's hot, she can act and she also sings. Hello Kitty's branded album with a collection of artists is on sale at Walmart and iTunes.

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