A Very Brandi* Christmas

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Matching sister outfits
Gram's fireplace

Jillian was good

Penelope likes to wrap

Girls' gift exchange

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The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

Monday, December 22, 2008

If you haven’t noticed, I am using lines from the classic Christmas movie “Elf” as my subject of my gift postings. J Bo and I still crack when Will Ferrell climbs the escalator in those yellow tights.

Sometimes hearing what other people want for Christmas inspires you to add things to your list or sparks ideas for your family and friends. Today, I feature items that are on some my dear readers’ gift lists.

Amy: Crate & Barrel gift cards to purchase a new coffee table.

Brady: Snow boots

Brian: A nice TV

Dana: A flip video camera and new bag

Sacks: Pimped out digital camera

Trish: WVU Tire Bowl tickets and a new laptop (Brandi* would actually like a new WVU Football coach)
ME: A blinging guitar for Guitar Hero and a beach cruiser bike

I started making Christmas lists for my parents again back in 2005 because I asked for just money and my mom still felt the need to buy me presents, many of which I returned, so that I had something to open on Christmas Eve. Oh yes, Christmas Eve (we will get back to that). Brady thought that my lists were a little dumb until he realized that I actually get things that I want, wear and use. While you might feel a little cheesy making a list for your family, it gives them options and ideas. I recommend putting about 20 things on there – it gives everyone a nice selection and they will have some left over ideas for your birthday.

The Bonkowski girls open our gifts on Christmas Eve because “Santa stops first at our house because the children are extra good.” It’s our little tradition.

(Ethically, my journalism degree tells me that I probably should have got everyone’s permission to publish this list on my blog, but guess what!? The only people that read this are those who have my blog link and others sent here from Brian’s blog!)

(Pics: theflip.com, beachbikes.net, elfyourself.com)
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Hot Off The Press

Saturday, December 20, 2008

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I'm a human, but I was raised by elves.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sometimes I fret over finding the perfect gift. Other times, I just buy something and trust that the giftee will return the present if they don’t like it.

With Christmas around the corner, here are some ideas for people those people that see to “have it all.”

Tickets: If you know an upcoming band of performance is coming up that the receipent enjoys, the experience of going to a concert is a great gift. Also consider events like “Dancing with the Stars” and sporting events. (p.s. I wrotethis before J Bo came up with the awesome parents gift idea - great minds think alike)

Dates: If it’s your significant other that has everything, create the “12 Dates of Christmas.” Give your loved one 12 different things to do. From movie, bowling and play tickets to dinner gift cards, your man or lady friend will love the creativity and it will give you plans to break the winter blues.
Food & Alcohol: Let’s face it. We all need to eat and drink. Why not buy the person some gift cards for places they enjoy dining, bars they frequent or the local grocery store. This is one area where I feel gift cards are welcome. If you know their favorite beverage, pick up that spirit or a bottle of fine wine. A lot of spirits companies sell special holiday-themed gift sets this time of year.

Monthly (fill in the blank) Club: More than ever, there are a ton options out there for monthly clubs where your gift recipient receives something in the mail. My favorites include flowers, wine, beer, cocktail mixers (Stirrings), cookbooks, movies, steak, fruit, chocolate, tea…the list keeps going. Pick something your friend of loved one likes or they want to learn more about – like wine.

Charity: For those unlucky readers that need to buy something for a person that is super-rich, when in doubt, donate to a charity in that person’s name. Brady’s little mustache thing introduced me to DonorsChoose.org and let me say I am obsessed. Searching though what America’s teachers are looking for is heartbreaking. For example, a teacher here in Chicago was raising money to buy her class the Queen Latifia anti-gang violence book. I had to pry myself away or else I was going to spend the weekend begging for money on Michigan Ave.

Click back this week for some more gift ideas.

(Picture source: Parents.com)
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12 Cocktails of Christmas (part two)

And the 12 Cocktails of Christmas continue!

Five golden rings
One of the best parts of this song is belting out “Five Golden Rings.” Someone wearing five golden rings on their fingers would be considered a “Golddigger” in my mind. Therefore, here is a feirce recipe for a Golddigger. This drink contains Goldschlager - cinnamon schnapps that has little gold flakes floating in the bottom. I must warn you – this one sounds disgusting.

- 1/2 oz Jack Daniels
- 1/2 oz Goldschlager
Pour in shot glass and serve

Four calling birdsI am not really a fan or birds. Pigeons to be exact. I think they are gross and dirty. So when researching this category, I stumbled upon “The Dirty Bird.” While this drink would probably make me puke, I would recommend it to those who like White Russians, because it’s basically the same thing!

The Dirty Bird
- 1 oz vodka
- 1 oz coffee liqueur
- cream or milk
Pour the vodka and coffee liqueur in an old-fashioned glass filled with ice.
Fill with milk or cream.
Shake by placing a mixing tin over the glass and giving it one or two good shakes.

Three French hens
Okay, I am not going to go into any cocktails that require eggs (nog is the exception). There are some real gross things out there from modern mixologists. I am not sure if you know this, but in some European countries, they actually call a bachelorette party a “hen night.” Therefore, let’s toast the Ménage à trois of hens with a French Martini that includes Champagne.

French Martini with Champagne -1 shot chambord
- 1 shot pineapple juice
- 1 shot vodka
- Champagne
Add chambord, pineapple juice and vodka to a flute glass, and then fill with Champagne.

Two turtle dovesThis recipe from Ingrid Hoffman from the Food Network is a little complicated and it serves four rather than two. However, it’s called “The Dove.”

Dove Cocktail
- Lime wedge, for riming glasses, plus more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup white tequila
- 1/2 cup orange liqueur
- 1 cup pomegranate juice
- 2 limes, juiced
- 1 lime
- Splash club, orange, or grapefruit soda (depending on desired sweetness)
- Pomegranate seeds, optional
- Rim 4 tall Collins-type glasses with lime wedge and then dip in sugar.
Fill glasses with ice cubes.
In a large measuring cup combine tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice and pomegranate juice. Divide cocktail between the 4 glasses. Top with soda and garnish with lime wedges and pomegranate seeds, if desired.

And a partridge in a pear tree
ABSOLUT Pears is a must here. When the flavor launched, there was a lot of buzz, but also some confusion. Bartenders and at home entertainers were having a rough time figuring out what to mix it with. Here is simple recipe that I would totally garnish with a clean, wood branch.

Absolut Pear- 1 part Absolut Vanilia
- 4 parts Lemon-lime Soda
- Pear
Fill a highball glass to the rim with ice cubes. Pour absolut vanilia and lemon-lime soda into a mixing glass. Fill the mixing glass with dry ice cubes and stir. Strain the drink into the highball glass. Garnish with a pear (slice).

(Recipe Sources: AbsolutRecipes.com, foodnetwork.com, idrink.com, wikipedia.com, cocktails.about.com, drinksmixer.com, Photo Sources: greenfieldpaper.com, artofdrink.com, thedrinkshop.com)
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12 Cocktails of Christmas (part one)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

When I was four-years-old, I was in a preschool program that also had a Kindergarten for five-year-olds. I was a little advanced for my age, so with my parents approval, I got to go to Kindergarten early. At Christmas, we preformed a play for our parents in which I portrayed the part of 10 Lords of Leaping in the 12 Days of Christmas. Every time I hear the song, I think of my first acting role. I even have a Christmas ornament that proudly displays my achievement. I like to think of it as my first Oscar.

A few years back, I saw a recipe-themed story in a newspaper called “The 12 Cocktails of Christmas.” I love this theme, so I am going to reprise it for you my dear readers. Incase you forget the classic holiday tune, the final verse goes a little something like this:

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me

Twelve drummers drumming,

Eleven pipers piping,

Ten lords a-leaping,

Nine ladies dancing,

Eight maids a-milking,

Seven swans a-swimming,

Six geese a-laying,

Five golden rings,

Four calling birds,

Three French hens,

Two turtle doves,

And a partridge in a pear tree

Because the post is rather log, I am going to give it to you in two parts. The first six cocktails are…

Twelve drummers drummingWhen I think of drummers, I think of hard core rockers. These people chug out of the bottle. But for the purpose of this post, let’s salute drummers with the Drum Shot from idrink.com

Drum Shot- ½ part 151 Rum
- ½ part Jagermeister
Mix ingredients in shot glass and “prepare to be tough.”

Eleven pipers piping
Pop bottles with the pipers like you won the championship game. When I mean bottles, I mean bottles of some Piper Heidsiek champagne. I am making this one easy, because the cocktail recipes are going to get a little tricky here.

Ten lords a-leaping
Ah my favorite present. Toast my acting debut with the “Oh Lord” cocktail. I have a feeling that is what my family was saying after my performance.

Oh Lord- 1 ounce Tequila
- 1 ounce Coconut liqueur
- 6 ounce Orange Soda
Pour Tequila and Malibu rum into glass with ice, pour orange soda over the booze. Really easy to make, and is what happens when you run out of everything else to drink.

Nine ladies dancing
Oh what sluts. Just kidding. But let’s pretend these ladies have red hair and don’t like to dance until they are wasted. That means do shots.

Red Headed Slut- 1 oz peach schnapps
- 1 oz Jagermeister
- Splash of cranberry juice
Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, strain.

Eight maids a-milking
Oh yes it's ladies night! Gather the maids together and toss back some egg nog. There are some great pre-made options at your local grocer, or you can make it from scratch with this recipe from Alton Brown of The Food Network.

Alton Brown’s Homemade Egg Nog
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
- 1 pint whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 ounces bourbon
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 4 egg whites*
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved. Add the milk, cream, bourbon and nutmeg and stir to combine.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat to soft peaks. With the mixer still running gradually add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Whisk the egg whites into the mixture. Chill and serve.

Cook's Note: For cooked eggnog, follow procedure below.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over high heat, combine the milk, heavy cream and nutmeg and bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and gradually temper the hot mixture into the egg and sugar mixture. Then return everything to the pot and cook until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Remove from the heat, stir in the bourbon, pour into a medium mixing bowl, and set in the refrigerator to chill.

Seven swans a-swimming
Why are you staring at my swannnn…sorry. I just had a Billy Madison moment. Thinking like Billy, let’s make things simple here by just going with a wine. A wine from the Black Swan Winery.
Six geese a-laying
The obvious choice here is a cocktail with some Grey Goose. While I am not typically a fan of the vodka because of its taste and brand positioning, I’ll include it here – tis the season for peace!

Grey Goose Vodka Martini
- 3 ounces Vodka
- 1 ounce Dry Vermouth
Shake with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an olive.
Check back on Thursday for part two.

(Sources: drinkmixer.com, foodnetwork.com, drinkswap.com, cocktailDB.com, blackswanwines.com, marieclarie.com, greygoose.com, idrink.com, drinkstreet.com, plumparty.com, epicourious.com)
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Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The 2008 Brandi* homemade holiday cards are on their way to your mailbox, well those readers that I had addresses for.

You might recognize this year's design as "the most favorite reindeer of all..."

And now for the unveiling:

Taaaa daaaaa! Boy, do I love reindeer games!
I've had some readers inquire about how long it takes and how much it costs to produce my almost famous cards. Here is the 2008 breakdown:

- $50 on supplies (paper, 50 cards, envelopes, glue, bling)

- $25 for stamps (50 stamps)

- 8 total hours of design and print time

I hope the cards put you in the festive mood! If they don't do the trick, I hope you are one of the lucky ones to own Brandi*'s 2007 Holiday Mix CD : )
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Lips with the Furrrrrrr

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Chances are, if I ask most of you to describe my man friend Brady in three words, “trendsetter” wouldn’t be one of them. In fact, it probably wouldn’t even come up in the top 20 words my dear readers spit out.

For the second straight year, Brady is growing some lip fur for charity. That’s right folks; Mustaches 4 Kids (M4K) has sucked my boyfriend in for a second straight season.

Mustaches 4 Kids is a simple charity. For several weeks starting in November, guys in across the U.S. grow mustaches. Friends and family help the grower by giving cash to support the stash. Last year, all profits went to Off the Street Club, but this year the grower can pick a non-profit. The Chicago M4K chapter meets weekly at stashe’ check-points where the organization takes pictures to show the progress.

The organization was obliviously created so people would ask the grower “why do you have that hair growing above your lip,” but no one realized in 2008 a mustache would be in fashion. For instance, Brad Pitt rocked the lip carpet on “The Today Show” last week and his fellow “Sexiest Man Alive” George Clooney has been sporting a lip blanket.

Readers, I ask you to give my boyfriend a Lincoln so that he can shave the damn thing off on Dec. 16th. Please. When he says that he is doing this for the kids, it is starting to scare me because he looks like a child molester.

I know times are tough, but you can donate here:


(sources: m4kchicago.com, eonline.com, moustashe.planetbrett.com)
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Stay Wet USA

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tomorrow, December 5th, is truly a cool day to get totally wasted.

Cinco de Drinko, er December, marks the ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment which legalizes alcohol in the United States. This year marks the 75th anniversary of this joyous occasion.

The origin of Prohibition in the United States dates back to May 1657 in Massachusetts. Some people were pissed that others were throwing back too much rum, wine and brandy. Others getting sauced went against religious beliefs and then there were a small percentage of smart doctors said that alcohol caused physical and metal health issues. Regardless, over consumption of alcohol became illegal in Boston.

Flash forward to the later part of the 1800’s. The Methodists believed that alcohol and sex went hand in hand. Okay, really the Methodists said that watering holes typically had prostitutes. This than lead to the formation of women’s groups that would protest bars, destroy liquor and harass customers until the saloon stopped selling alcohol. Those bitches meant business. The “Prohibition Party” also formed at this time. It’s kinda funny because the words together seem like an oxymoron.

Like the issue of Gay Marriage in the ’08 election, during the 1916 race both Woodrow Wilson (D) and Charles Evans Huhes (R) ignored the Prohibition Issue. In December of 1917, Congress got together and with more “dry” people than “wet” Prohibition was passed by both houses.

Thirteen boring years later on December 5, 1933, prohibition was repealed with The Twenty-first Amendment. As it states, the amendment... “explicitly gives states the right to restrict or ban the purchase or sale of alcohol.” This then led to a plethora of laws, in which alcohol may be legally sold in some but not all towns or counties within a particular state.

I’ve recently seen a lot of alcohol companies and modern-day saloons preparing for Prohibition Parties tomorrow. Of the PR, I love the campaign from Dewars. From the old school pics to the whitty copy, these people know how to party like its 1933.

Here’s to the Repeal & the 21st Amendment! Stay wet!

(Sources: Wikipedia, dewarsrepealday.com, foobooz.com, thegreatdepression.co.uk)
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Ways to Survive Holiday Travel

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Let’s just say that I experienced a mini-travel hell on Monday night. I handled it like Jackie O. visiting France, but I must say at one point I almost cried. If I didn’t prepare, I could have been stuck in a closed airport (that actually had the lights out) for seven hours before being put on a plane, just to watch them de-ice it and then boot me off.

Air travel can be crazy this time of year. Here are some tips for dealing with holiday travel.

• If your flight gets cancelled and they force you to leave the plane and talk to an agent at the desk, while you are waiting in line, call the airline’s 1-800 number at the same time. Let me just say this saved me at least 30 minutes to an hour on Monday night (and time meant everything at 2:30 a.m.).

• Check your computer at home for delays before you leave for the airport. When I saw that my flight was pushed back four hours, I called Southwest and asked what the chances were of it getting moved up. The guy said “very slim, but check each hour.” That man saved me sitting around for seven hours. I got to nap at home and watch Gossip Girl.

• If your flight is on a long delay, when you arrive check the monitors to see if there is an earlier flight. This worked for Brady and I last month. Our flight was pushed back three hours, but we flew standby on the earlier flight and made it – shaving about four hours off our trip.

• Be prepared for the worst – especially during high-traffic travel times. After my bad luck year of 2007, I feel that I handled Monday so well by just expecting to be delayed or to have my bag lost. Don’t go in with the expectations that you are going to have a perfect trip.

• Have a security check point routine. Because I’ve been on close to 20 flights this year, I’ve got it down to a science. While you are waiting for the people to check your ID, take off your coat/sweatshirt, shoes and get out your baggie of liquids. This will speed up the next step of sorting your carry on’s and going through the metal detectors. Also, consider the order you send your stuff through – always put your shoes in first!

• After you get through the detectors, please pick up your stuff and redress away from the community table. I hate when people hold up the line while trying to get redressed (ah hem Brady).

• Be careful with headbands. I have one that loves to set off the metal detectors.

• Remember that no liquid rule – that means snow globes. The TSA people are grinches during the holidays and don’t even give in to a girl crying.

• On your flight, get the drink without ice – you get more that way. If you want it cold, ask for the ice in another cup.

• When you are on Southwest and you can pick your own seat, be a hero and take the security row. You get more leg room.

• Finally, if you get stuck in the airport for six hours, make friends with a bartender and get wasted (vodka on the rocks). Just be sure to pee before you get on the plane. You are sure to get stuck on the runway and want to pee your pants.

And in the words of my bus driver tonight “It’s the holidays people.” You’ve got to deal with the crowds and be patient!
(Photo from: cartoonstock.com)
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