Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile

Monday, December 21, 2009

The other day I was looking for photos to make yet another collage of pictures sure to embarrass my friends and it hit me – no one takes a bad picture anymore with the use of digital cameras. All bad pictures are deleted or never shared. So for this next gift category – Prettiest Smile – the field of potential winners is rather deep.

For your friend who always looks awesome when flashing their pearly whites, or the friend that could use some help, here are some suggests for the person with the Prettiest Smile.

Polaroid Pogo ($199.00): People were outraged when Polaroid cameras went into extinction. Well, the company did away with the old staple to make way for a fun digital camera. Low and behold the Polaroid Pogo. I love the capability to print pics onsite and hand them out to your pals. This nifty gadget would also come in handy to capture fun pics at your next party.

Estee Lauder Lipstick Luxuries Gift Set ($37.50): To keep those lips perfectly tinted, present your talkative friend with a set of lip glosses.

GoSmile ($9.99): Reader Dana introduced me to Go Smile back in 2007 and I’ve been in love ever since. These refreshing toothbrush-like tubes can help refresh your breath after a meal, while giving your teeth a little whitening. The price point makes GoSmile a great stocking stuffer.

Donation to Operation Smile (any amount): Put a smile on your friend's face by making a donation to help better the smiles of children across the world. Operation Smile helps provide free surgeries to repair cleft lip, palate and other facial deformities.

(Photo Sources: Polaroid, Estee Lauder, Sephora, Operation Smile; Lips from PhotoBucket)
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Time's Never Wasted When You're Wasted All The Time

Monday, December 14, 2009

The class partier. This category was probably the most sought after and most fought over title. This class personality is no longer allowed in my high school's yearbook because some PTA mom realized that kids were drinking their way to this honor.

You know, Bubba and I should have been finalists for this. I mean we went to the prom wasted and Bubba once had beer cans fall out of his locker. I could also add my and Dana's pre-game band festivities (Mad Dog in Subway cups!) and the time we went to school still drunk after he Super Bowl to my impressive resume.

Sorry for that trip down memory lane. I know you all dominated drinking in high school, so this one's for you.

Bloody Mary Gift Stack ($39.99): In addition to Processo, Bloody Mary’s are my new favorite “it” drink. I love anything spicy and they totally beat sweet drinks. Get this gift set for anyone who loves day drinking!

Hangover from Hell Eye Mask ($14.99): This item is perfect for the “Bonkowski Flu” aka saying you are “sick” when you are really hungover but don’t want to admit it.

Beverage Belt ($24.99): This belt is a fashion must have for that binge drinker on your list. You won’t have to keep going to the fridge with this baby.

Eat ‘N Park, Sheetz or WaWa Gift Card: Sorry to my Midwest readers, but basically this gift suggestion is to buy your favorite lush a gift card to a late-night eatery. Let’s hope the drunk remembers this card is in their wallet!

I Love Parties ($29.50): There is no need to hide your addiction to parties with this adorable I Heart Parties shirt from Victoria’s Secret.

(Sources:,,, Eat N’ Park, Sheetz, WaWa, Victoria’s Secret, Martini's from
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Biggest Loser

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

In high school it was so easy to be active. From sports to dance teams to gym class, teens are always on the go. Now in the working world…not so much.

For that "Best Built" person who loves to stay active, but hates paying costly gym memberships, here are some fun accessories to stay fit.

Yoga Mat ($21.99): A cool yoga mat is a must have for any yoga-er! The more decorative and pretty the better. That way, if you suck at class, you will still look cute!

Dancing with the Stars, Dance off the Pounds ($9.99): Who doesn’t love a little Dancing with the Stars action! After seeing Kelly Osbornes transformation this season, to me this is a great gift!

Fitness Magazine Subscription ($16.97): I was always a bit skeptical that Fitness Magazine was strichtly for body builders until I received a free issue. I must say, there are some great tips and user-friendly work out ideas and tips. It’s a great read!

Tennis Racquet ($39.99): Tired of the same fitness routine? Shake things up by trying a new sport, like tennis. Racquets and tennis balls are pretty cost effective, but you might run into an issue trying to find some courts. I’d check with your local YMCA for deals.

Samsung ($39.99): While I am a faithful iPod shuffle user, the Samsung Flash is an attractive alternative. This little gadget holds 500 songs AND plays FM radio! Bonus!

Sled ($19.99): Roll with me on this one for a second. When you go sled riding, you typically go down a hill. Well you need to walk back up the hill again to go back down, SO sled riding is a great cardio activity for the winter! Plus, you are bound to break a sweat with all of those layers!

(Photos: Mat, Racquet & Sled –, Magazine – Fitness Magazine, MP3 – Samsung, Video –, star from istock photo)
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Hairography: Best Hair

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Every class had a few of these gals. Those ladies who could jump out of the pool with wet hair and have it dry gorgeously straight. Or the same chick who would have poker straight hair when the humidity would hit 80. Well all envy the girl who has the Best Hair.

More than ever, there are so many hair accessories out there that make the perfect present. Here are some options:

Anthropologie ($32.00): The details on this headband make it worth the buck! This festive piece can dress up or down any outfit!

Forever 21 ($3.80): Available in an array of colors, the price on this bow headband is make it a must purchase in multiple shades!

Coquette ($48.00): Designed by a former dancer in the New York City Ballet, this Coquette headband makes me swoon. You can totally see Rachel Piskin’s dance background throughout her designs.

Adrienne Landau Earmuffs from Bluefly ($49.00): While these fuchsia earmuffs may take the attention away from your beautiful mane, the color will bright up your dreary winter!

Juicy Couture ($55.00): It’s important to keep your head warm in cold weather, but it’s also necessary to keep your hair cute and stay fashionable. This Juicy had should keep you warm and looking cool.

Charter Club Cloche ($26.99): At $27.00, this hat is a steal! Especially since it’s on sale at Macy’s. You’ll probably get another $10 with a coupon! The red color is so very festive.

(Sources:,,,,, Snowflakes from iStock Photo)
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Best Dressed Gifts

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Everyone knows that girl. She always looks so put together, she stays on top of the current trends and has the most fabulous closet of clothes and accessories. She is a true fashionista.

While this Best Dressed gal loves to add new dresses and necklaces to her clothing collection, she can be super difficult to buy gifts for. Here are my suggestions for the super stylish chick in your life.

From top left moving clockwise:

Sephora Color Play Palette ($24.00): What glamour girl couldn’t use a pallet of pretty colors to get her through the holiday party season? At a price of under $24.00, this is a steal!

NanLawson Handmade Illustration, Etsy ($8.00): I love the idea of giving a friend a framed print as a gift. I know what you are thinking…but what if they don’t like it or what if it doesn’t fit their other décor...I feel like a print like this could go great in someone’s office or even bathroom. I’m sure they will find a place!

If you have time, you can go for a full customized photo of your favorite glamour gal from Etsy seller Brooklit.

Pierre Dumas Excellent Shoe from Piperlime ($49.00): Fashionistas will have a cutegasam over an adorable pair of heels. These fun red rosette shoes are great for any trendsetter to pair with an LBD. To research your friend’s size, pretend like you want to borrow one of her current pairs!

Love, Loss and What I Wore ($5.19): The title of this book had me at hello. I’m not even sure what it’s totally about, I just mentally pair big moments in my life with what I wore. First Date – Jean overall/flower skirt combo from Express. First Day of College – Grey Capri pants and an orange tank (bold color choice, I know). First meal as an engaged woman – black and white poofy dress from Anthro. I can go on and on!

Or the new book, “I Love Your Style,” ($20.00): According to a review of this book, “I Love Your Style” features, “…secrets of unexpectedly elegant, singular women from all walks of life. It's candid, canny and cool.”

J Crew Glitter Belt ($24.99): This festive belt can pair well with jeans, dress pants and/or to clinch the waist on a flowly dress.

Anthropologie Necklace ($48.00): This necklace is amazing! Whether it is paired with a cute dress or a plain tee, your fab friend will (in the words of RZ) “die” over this gift! “It’s bananas.”

(Image Sources (Clockwise): Sephora, NanLawson, Pierre Dumas/Piperlime,,, J Crew, Anthropologie)
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Shot of Brandi* Gift Guide

Monday, November 30, 2009

While my mom says that “Black Friday is for amateurs,” it officially kicks off the shopping season. This year, Black Friday marks a milestone for me – my 10-year high school reunion. I did not attend, but it did inspire the Shot of Brandi 2009 Holiday Gift Guide!

Starting tomorrow, I will feature a series of posts that will be themed for different class personalities. There will be gifts for “Best Dressed,” “Most Likely to Succeed,” “Biggest Flirt,” “Class Jock” and many more.

The news tells me that the economy is getting better, but I feel like people will still be thinking of price when making a purchase. So it’s my goal to make each gift option under $100.

If you have any ideas, please feel free to email me your gift suggestion!
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Name Game

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I’m a sucker for a lot of things. Clothes with ruffles, bows and sparkles. Anything Hello Kitty. Cupckaes and food on a stick. The color pink. Shoes. The list goes on.

So when it comes to wine with creative names, taste and flavor are forgotten and my hands go after brands with eye catching titles and bottles.

Here are some creative wine options I’ve recently laid eyes on:

The Coolist recently had a feature on the top 30 wine labels. This is where I fell in love with Boarding Pass Shiraz. The bottle (above) features, well, a boarding pass with an adorable tagline. “Boarding Pass is a free ticket to the taste of South Eastern Australia – like going on a journey without leaving home.”

Any glamour gal will absolutely love Marilyn Merlot. This bottle is perfect for a girls night out or a fabulous hostess gift.

Another great pink from The Coolist – B Frank Wine. With a MadLib-like lable, you can help fill in the name of the wine with a frank statement.

For the person who loves a road trip (or just likes to drink), enter Happy Camper wine. I wish I had this for those days of drinking in the woods at Kamp Keystone.

Looking for a wine for a newlywed friend? Try the Mad Housewife selection. Not only is the packaging adorable, but Mad Housewife won three medals in the International Wine Competition.

Hosting a Naughty or Nice holiday party? Serve Seven Deadly Zin’s
Happy Drinking!

(Sources: Boarding Pass Shriaz via NotCot, Marilyn Merlot, Mad Housewife via web site)

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Entertaining Reads

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I am soooo excited about the five bloggers I will introduce you to on this Tech Tuesday. These fine ladies are a true inspiration for any party planning obsessed gal like myself. Some of the parties these bloggers feature are truly unique and fabulous. You may want to bookmark these ladies and visit them for ideas next time you have an event to celebrate.

Hostess with the Mostess: I discovered Jenn, the author of this blog, back in 2007 when I wanted to her serve as a spokesperson for a program I was working on at the time. While we couldn’t convince the client to use a “blogger” as a spokesperson, we ended up supplying alcohol to a television segment Jenn did in San Diego on Super Bowl entertaining. Long story short, Jenn eventually blew up. She is planning parties for celebrities, is now a paid spokesperson for Chambord and I believe has a book on the way. Jenn doesn’t plan all the events on her blog. She features ideas from her thousands of readers. This site is a must visit for party themes, décor and fun entertaining tools. Jenn, the true Hostess with the Mostess, posts about 2-3 times a day.

Stem Events: The reason I love Amy, the author behind this blog, is because unlink a lot of event design blogs, Stem Events has décor and ideas that are achievable on a typical middle-class budget. Amy is a mid-western gal who regularly features centerpiece and décor ideas, along with some creative party themes.

The Party Dress: This blog had me at its name. I’ll let the “About Me” tell you why this blog rocks. “Simply stated – I am a girl that loves to throw a party. I write about things that get my creative juices flowing in hopes that it will inspire you to create special celebrations in your own life.”

Creative Party Place: To my future MILF friends out there. You must brush up on this blog if you want to roll with the other PTA mothers in the next 10 years. Let’s just say the bar has been raised so high on kid’s parties, you should forget saving for your child’s college and consider putting away a few grand for future birthday parties. From SPAjama parties, to geshia girls to superheros (with custom capes for all the attendees), kid’s parties are the new super sweet 16. I’ve really got to step up my game to achieve my dreams of a one-day PTA president.

Hip Hostess: Not to be confused with Hostess with the Mostess, Hip Hostess is the mastermind of two NYC gals who run an event planning company. In addition to some hip events, these chic gals often blog abou cool finds for home décor and gifts.

(Photo sources: hip hostess, hostess with the mostess, )
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Brandi*'s Newsstand

Monday, November 16, 2009

This weekend, I caught up on my magazine subscriptions/pile of books that has been stacking up in my apartment. Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to solely save the magazine industry by subscribing to a number of titles. Those I don’t get in my mailbox, I sometimes purchase when traveling or if they have an eye catching cover.

Here are some of the magazines that I think are worth the subscription:
* Vanity Fair
* Food & Wine
* People
* Biz Bash (It's a free pub! I love looking at the events!)
Some are just good on a monthly basis. This list includes:
* Rachel Ray
* Martha Stewart (MS puts the good stuff is on the internet)
* Wedding mags (even if you aren't married, they are good to look at for event ideas)

So based on this past weekends mass magazine reading, there are a few awesome things I wanted to share with my loyal readers.

* Every since the big Recession started, people now think more before making a purchase. In the September issue of InStyle, the magazine offers four tips to consider before making a fashion purchase: 1.Is it versatile? 2. Is it seasonless? 3. Is it well made? 4. Is it timeless?

* Lucky Mag gave a shout out to the Web site Sorting with Style. This is a must visit for any obsessed organizer like me.

* While this may be a little late, Harpers Bazaar listed the key pieces for fall. They include: a strong shoulder blazer, sequined jacket (YES!), tailored evening shorts, a micromini, cropped & baggy jeans, a neon vest, doubled-up cuffs, over-the-top bib necklace and touch-chic booties. I don’t recommend wearing all these trends at once!

* New buzz word – hatecation. This comes from People StyleWatch’s “What’s In & Out” section. A Hatecation is a vacation from being a hater and embrasing a more positive, welcoming attitude. I like!

* In the October issue of Glamour, Designer Nate Berkus transformed a NYC studio apartment. I love his tip for storing clutch purchases. Use a magazine file boxes to organize the purses. That way, your options are visible.

* Glamour also had three great tips for all-day energy. 1. Your lunch should be between 400 and 600 calories and full of fiber. 2. At least 20 percent of your plate should be protein (think beans or nuts). 3. Don’t eat more than four hours after breakfast. The longer you delay, the more you may overeat.

* Finally, I leave you with this awesome quote from the September issue of Vogue. In a story on Robert Isabell, the “King of Chic Events,” who recently passed, the last line says, “Some people give parties. Others, like Robert, are hosts to life.” I obsess.

(Sources: cited magazines, Photos: Gawker, thisnext)
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Kiss the Cook

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tech Tuesday has become a real popular post here at Shot of Brandi*. Reader Amy has been a fan of some tips and reader Lauren is lovin’ her new Google Reader.

As promised, I wanted to share some of my favorite blogs with you. Today, I’ll feature some of the amazing food blogs I frequent.

For those of you who are just starting to read more blogs, let me tell you the food ones are where it is at. The amount of recipes, ideas and photos these bloggers give you are so valuable. Once you start visiting these people, you will never go back to a recipe book again – trust me!

The Kitchn: No, I didn’t spell that wrong. The Kitchn is a blog from the creators of Apartment Therapy – a popular home blog. I LOVE the recipes featured here. They are easy to make and the blog includes a ton of pictures.

Serious Eats: Reader Megan introduced me to Serious Eats because they always blog about Chicago pizza places. This blog has some cool food recommendations and highlights food trends from across the country. While a lot of posts are a good thing, Serious Eats posts 8-10 stories a day, so you need to check this one often.

Joy The Baker: Seriously my favorite blog for all things sweets. I want to gobble up every recipe Joy (right) adds to the site. This girl is so young and talented! She just makes me want to quit my job and become a professional baker.

Bakerella: The originator of the brownie pop, check out this site for up and coming desert options. Bakerella is totally ahead of the trends. Of course, my favorite option is to the right.

Cupcakes Take The Cake: This site is food porn for a cupcake lover! While I love the creative cupcakes, this blog tends to post way too many photos and not enough recipes. However, it’s a popular blog worth mentioning.

Finally, while it isn’t a recipe-focused blog, you MUST check out Cake Wrecks. I’ve blogged about this before, but in the words of my idol Rachel Zoe, “I die.” This Web site features cakes gone wrong. There are a plethora of supermarket masterpieces here...enjoy!

(photos: joy the baker,
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Hoot Hoot

Monday, November 09, 2009

Back in the early 2000’s I was a sorority chick. I picked Chi Omega because the girls were nice and liked to consume adult beverages on a nightly basis. I didn’t go through formal rush, so I wasn’t aware of all of the houses colors, flowers and symbols.

When I landed in Chi Omega, I was disappointed to learn that the symbols and flowers consisted of owls, skull & crossbones, carnations and finally the colors yellow & red (or more formally known as cardinal & straw). At the time, all of these things were sooo passé.

In the last five years, things have changed. While yellow & red will most likely never be in style, carnations are back, skull & crossbones are cool and finally owls are taking over the fashion & accessories world. I just can’t walk past an owl decoration without thinking of those scary owls in the Chi Omega house. Here are some of my favorite owls I’ve recently seen.

Hostess with the Mostess has two memorable owl-themed posts. The first is how to make some adorable owl stirs, while the second is an owl-themed baby shower.

So yes, I own this owl from a Sake set (above), but it’s just so cute and from my favorite store – Anthropologie. I also love the Antho owl jewelry.

I know that some of my Kappa friends that read this blog (hi Sprys!) also cherished the owl during their sorority days. If you are planning an owl reunion party, try the owl place cards from Paper Source (right).

I’m not sure if this owl spotted on the Décor 8 blog is spooky or spectacular, but welcome your sorority sisters to your new house with an owl umbrella stand.

This is a must have on my bridal registry – an owl pitcher. I can’t wait for an alumni tailgate to fill this little hooter up with keg beer!

All my Chi Omega readers knew I would be that crazy, owl-lovin’ alum. We all just didn’t think it would happen this soon!

(Photo Sources: Owls in a Tree, Anthropologie, Paper Source)
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Happy Halloween!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

I hope you all had a Happy Halloween!
Below you will see the big reveal of my costume. I was a.....


I made my felt masterpeice based off of this version from Pottery Barn Kids. I wish I had a shot of the hot pink sequin heels, but this one should do.
Oh and Brady - he was Joaquin Phoenix from his infamous David Letterman appearance earlier this year.

(Photo from Batlimore Sun)
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Friday, October 30, 2009

It's 6:00 p.m. on Friday, October 30th.

If you are like my fiance, you still don't have a Halloween Costume.

For those of you who are still trying to put something together at the last minute, may I introduce you to some suggestions from

I discovered this link via the Thrillist newsletter and I fell in love. If you remember a few weeks ago on a Tech Tuesday, I introduced you to what a meme is. So you should all be educated!

Here are some of my favorite suggestions:

* Aretha's Hat: I know this gem was from way back in January, but who could forget Aretha's fashion choice at the inauguration?
* Keyboard Cat: Okay, we all know this video is fake, but who doesn't love Keyboard Cat!? He even has his own line of t-shirts! I would dress as a cat with a blue shirt and wear a keyboard around your neck.

* Star-Face Tattoo Girl: This story wasn't as huge as the others, but this chick said that she "fell asleep" while getting this tattoo. I like stars and all, but this is extreme.

Happy Halloween!

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Monster Mash

Thursday, October 29, 2009

If you are looking for a last minute item to bring to a Halloween party, may I suggest an alcoholic punch.

I somewhat love the idea of bringing a punch to a party. You are contributing to the stash of drinks, you can transport the beverage in a pitcher and pending on the spirits brands you select, it can be cost-effective.
Here is a recipe for Green Monster Punch from the I would recommend serving the punch in a plastic cauldron. To really kick things up a notch, add some dry ice to the table (but not in the punch!).

Green Monster Party Punch
- 3 packages Lime Kool-Aid
- 1 bottle Vodka
- 1 bottle Fruit juice (any)
- 20-25 pieces Fruit, mixed
- 1 gal Sherbet (any flavor)

Mixing instructions:
Mix all ingredients(in any order) in a large tub, which can hold several gallons. Stir so that the Sherbert is completely dissolved. With the exception of the kool-aid and sherbert, as much or little of the other ingredients may be used.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

According to the social media Web site Technorati, there are more than 112 million blogs and 175,000 new blogs are created everyday.

Let me first of all ask you to re-read that line and let it sink in.

Secondly, thank you for reading my blog.

So most of my readers are tech-savvy enough to know what a blog is. Based on qualitative research, I know most of you read Shot of Brandi, some celebrity blogs and a few other sites here and there.

For someone like me, who is required to read the media everyday for my job, blogs is a word I say probably up to 100 times a day. Marketers want to target bloggers because more and more people are turning to blogs to get opinions on products and to discover new things.

Yes, it’s all a bit overwhelming, but blogs can be very helpful. For example, if you like to cook, there are a plethora of blogs that feature recipes and new kitchen gadgets. Are you a slave to fashion? There are bloggers that devote their space to posting their daily outfit and demonstrate how they achieved the look. Do you lust over cupcakes like me? Yes, there are a number of blogs for that too.

What I am trying to say is there is something to tickle everyone’s fancy in the blog world. Here’s my advice on how to find a good blog.

* Google a keyword of something that interests you and add the word BLOG. For example, try “baking” and “blog” and you will find “Sweet Treats Baking Blog” and “Jenny Bakes.”

* Google also has a specific blog search option. At the top of the Google homepage, there is an arrow that gives “more” options. There you will find the blog search. My search for “baking” and “blog” actually turns up one of my favorite baking blogs – Bakkerella.

* is a blog directory. When you visit this site, you can search by subject and AllTop will give you a list of blog that cover your desired topic.

* After you find one blog that you like, look at sites the blog recommends as “favorites.” Chances are your new favorite blogger is active in the blog communities and may have some good online “friends” with amazing web sites.

* Do you have a magazine that you LOVE and wish you could read more of? Visit the publications’ web site to see if they have any blogs. The same goes for your local newspaper. These outlets often have a whole batch of content that never makes it into the hard copy of the publication.

These are just a few tips for finding blogs about your hobbies or things of interest. I leave you today with my best advice for becoming a blog reader: Start small. Pick five or so blogs that you find and read them on a weekly basis.

(Sources: Technorati, Photos: Best Blogs Image from, blog image from )
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Readin' About Reader

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My name is Brandi, and I’m obsessed with my Google Reader.

I’ve mentioned my love for Google Reader on my very first post of 2009, but I’m not sure if you all know what it is.

So according to Wikipedia, a Google Reader is a “Web-based aggregator, capable of reader Atom and RSS feeds online of offline.

Here’s the Brandi way of explaining it.

So let’s say you see a blog or Web site that you like. Back in the day, you would bookmark the site, or save the URL and visit it to read new content.

Well now there is this thing called RSS feed. That means, you can subscribe to the blog almost like email. When something new is posted, you will get an alert.

Or, this is where Google Reader comes in. The Reader is basically a hosting site where you add in the links to the blogs/Web sites you want to read and the Reader updates itself when a new document is posted.
In a nutshell, once you have a Google Reader page set up, this is what you do:
1. Find a blog you like
2. Copy the URL or address
3. Paste the address into your Google Reader (where it says "Add Site")
4. Continue to add more blogs (if you would like)
5. Select a custom category for your blog
6. Check your reader often

Like I said, it’s almost like email in the fact that you can read new posts and save old ones. I pasted an example to the left. Please note that this is NOT mine (I do not read about sex). I just posted this so you can see what the dashboard looks like.

Because I read non-stop for my job and for my own enjoyment, I spend about an hour a day going through some amazing articles on my Google Reader. My blogs are divided into subjects like:
- Home Decorating
- Entertaining
- Wedding
- Cooking
- Fitness
- Nutrition
- Job Related

If you have a desire to read blogs more often, I highly encourage you to set up a Google Reader account and check it at least once a week. I obsess over the Google option, but there are other sites out there that allow you to host RSS feeds.

In the next few Tech Tuesday weeks, I’ll tell you how I find new blogs and share with you some of my favorites listed in the categories above.

Happy reading readers!
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I’m Still Feeling Corny

Monday, October 19, 2009

As a follow up to last week’s post about candy corn cocktails, I wanted to share a few more ways to incorporate candy corn into your Halloween entertaining.

In a 2007 feature, Yum Sugar showcases the Tick-or-tini – a cocktail in which the different spirits layer to create a candy corn martini. To achieve this look, it takes some crazy mixers and careful pouring.

Infusing vodka is super popular, so The Food Network decided to infuse some with candy corn. This recipe really intrigues me. I just might start brewing a batch next weekend.

Life is a Banquet has a lesson in candy corn pudding. This is totally adorable.

Of course my home girl MS has a candy corn pom pom craft (right). This would be adorable hanging over a Halloween candy buffet.

And finally, I saw this trend a few years ago and in the words of my new idol, Rachel Zoe, “I die.” The candy corn vase filler from Hostess with the Mostess.

(Photos: YumSugar and Martha Stewart - links above)
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Isn't My Drink Corny?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The hot subject around food blogs right now is Candy Corn. There are a ton of recipes floating around that teach you how to make your own batch of the candy treat. There are bakers experimenting with cupcake toppings and cooks using CC as an inspiration for dishes.

Of course one recipe that piqued my interest was a Candy Corn Cocktail.

Here is a version from If you follow the link, there is a video that shows how to make the drink.

Candy Corn Cocktail
3/4 oz vanilla vodka
1/2 oz creme de cacao
1/2 oz butterscotch schnapps
2 oz orange juice
1 tbsp dark cocoa powder
First, ring 6 oz Martini glass with orange juice then with Cocoa powder. Pour 1/2 cup of ice into shaker, then spirits, and Orange Juice. Shake vigorously and pour into glass. Garnish with Orange Peel Twist and 3-4 pcs of Candy Corn skewered on a plastic sword.

(Candy corn photo from Wikipedia)
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Treatless Trick of Treat

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

During my years as a Trick or Treater, I always loved it when a neighbor would surprise us kids with a non-candy item. You know, like a tooth brush or a coupon for a Wendy’s Frosty. I guess I just like it when people think outside of the candy box and come up with something creative.

If you are looking to give kids something that doesn’t satisfy their sweet tooth, here are some fun, inexpensive items to hand out this Halloween.

· Pencils or Erasers
· Play-Doh
· Stickers
· Fruit Snacks
· Coupons (i.e. movies, mall, stores, etc.)
· Apples
· Raisins
· Crayons
· Glow-in-the-dark bracelets and necklaces
· Popcorn balls
· Vampire teeth (so hot right now with Twilight and all those vamp shows)
· Erasers
· Temporary tattoos
· Bubbles
· Packs of hot coco
· Yo Yo’s
· Juice boxes or boxes of milk (yes, it is shelf stable)
· Festive note pads

A lot of these items can be purchased in bulk from a place like Sam’s Club or online at Oriental Trading. For smaller batches of Trick or Treaters, you could even purchase some items from the Dollar Store.

If this post made you miss being a kid and getting all of that delicious candy, visit my post from last year on Trick or Drink - the 21+ way to celebrate the holiday!

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14 Years of Dance Lessons

Friday, October 09, 2009

And I bust my moves out on Chicago TV! If only "American Bandstand" were still around.

View more news videos at:

Oh and the guy gave me his card and asked me to come back next week. See Brady, I can dance. And Dana, Point 1 Brandi. You've never danced on TV in your pj's.
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Ha Ha Halloween

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Today is October 7th. Maybe this post is a little late. Then again, for my fiancé and his friends, this post might be a little early.

Here is it kids. The annual Shot of Brandi* Halloween suggestions.

Dead CelebritiesInsensitive? Maybe. Overdone for ’09? Maybe. Easy? Yes.

· MJ: Totally obvious. Shout out to Brady’s mom who said that she liked my previous MJ post and may use one of the ideas for her upcoming Halloween party!

· Farrah Fawcett: So I typically think Charlie’s Angles is uncreative, but this year it’s Shot of Brandi* approved.

· Patrick Swayze: This is my favorite idea, but of course denied by Reader Brady – I wanted to be Jennifer Grey and Patty Swayze from the final night at Kellerman’s. So easy for a guy – just black on black. For the lady – a pink girly dress and ‘80’s hair.

· Ed McMahon: Go to Kinko’s. Get a giant check printed. Buy some balloons and suddenly you are the Publisher’s Clearing House prize team. Bring along your own video crew (thanks Reader Brian)

· Golden Girls: As a tribute to Bee Author, dress as the Golden Girls. I'd so be Rose.

2009 has been a big year for ladies in music – which inspires some great costume ideas.

· Beyonce’s Single Ladies: Three girls. Three black body suits. Enough said.

· Lady GaGa: Everday is Halloween for GaGa. Pick a look – my vote is for the Kermit the Frog look.

· Jessica Simpson: I love you J, but you had a rough year that can be made fun of easily. Wear too small daisy dukes with a tight flannel and hold up a missing dog sign. I’m mean.

· The Cast of Glee: While this might be a little tricky to execute, dressing up as The Cheerio’s is easy! There are also costumes from the group songs – like the “Push It” pep assembly.

· Dancing with the Stars: An easy couple costume.

· Ellen: Be sure to wear your dancing shoes.

· Biggest Losers: I’m so mean. Buy the shirts from NBC and stuff yourself silly with pillows.

Pop Culture

· Octomom: With the Jon + Kate madness, people have forgot about the trainwreck that is Octomom.

· Kate + 8: Speaking of Kate, with a quick wig, you can be Kate!

· Susan Boyle: Reader Brian rejected this idea of mine, but I love the idea of a guy dressing up as the YouTube sensation.

· Swine Flu: This is Brady’s idea. Dress up as a pig with a surgical mask.

· Vampires: Duh.

So 2008
· Sarah Palin
· Playboy Bunnies – enough already.
· Amy Winehouse
· Britney Spears (this one was over years ago)
· Spencer & Heidi

Well darling readers. I just want to give you the heads up that my costume is not included in this list. You’ll have to wait and see what I whip up for 2009.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

For today’s lesson in technology, we will focus on internet meme’s.

Other than being a super fun word to say, Wikipedia’s definition of an internet meme is “a catchphrase or concept that spreads quickly from person to person via the Internet, much like an esoteric inside joke.”

So in easier terms – it’s those YouTube sensations or things your aunt eventually forwards to you.

Recently, there has been a number of popular meme’s. Maybe if I point out a few, it will help you understand the term…

· “Imma Let You Finish…” Made popular by Kayne West’s famous Taylor Swift interruption, there is a blog dedicated to spoofs on this unforgettable incident. At this link,, you will see a Kayne West “interrupt” celebrities, movies, television shows and even cartoons. Readers can submit their own illustrations.

· Dance, Dance: For the last three years or so, choreographed wedding dances have been invading the crazy world wide web. However, this summer one video in particular took off. I won’t pain you to feature it here or link to it, but you know which video I’m talking about. Wedding dances hit an all-time low with this lame Pittsburgh-sports themed dance:

· Rick Roll: I’m not really sure who created this, but a Rick Roll is basically when you punk someone into thinking they are seeing something cool, but really it’s a link to the Rick Astley’s video for ‘Never Gonna Give You Up.” For example, I send you a link that says “OMG, I’m featured on the cover of the Chicago Tribune,” but you click on it to find a link to the “Never Gonna Give You Up” video. You’ve been Rick Rolled. The New York Yankees have Rick Rolled their fans, a Rick Roll spoof was featured on a float at last year’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (Rick Astley actually made an appearance on the float) and YouTube Rick Rolled people on April Fool’s Day.

· FAIL: One of my favorite meme’s is the Fail Blog. Basically people post pictures of people, things or animals that “fail.” Recent examples include bad store names, bad parents and bad headlines (“government sues itself”).

And for good ‘ole times, remember “Dancing Baby” from 1996? Yeah, that video that was passed around by anyone who had the internet or email…well that baby is considered one of the first ever memes. The baby even made an appearance on Ally McBeal.

(Sources; mental floss,,, Baby picture from
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Liquid Diet - Drinkable Dessert

Thursday, September 24, 2009

For the first Thirsty Thursday of fall, today's drink is the Pumpkin Pie Cocktail.

Created by Chef Kenneth Mclure of numerous bars in New York, this drink was featured in New York Mag way back in 2005.

This recipe is fairly easy to make, but the pumpkin schnapps may be a little tricky to find. I did a little research and there is a variety brewed by Hiram Walker that you should be able to find at a big liquor store.

PUMPKIN PIE COCKTAIL (by: Chef Kenneth McClure)

- 2 parts Absolut Vanila vodka

- 1 part pumpkin schnapps

- Splash of cream (or substitute a splash of orange juice)

- Nutmeg

Shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with nutmeg and cherry.

(sources: NY Mag, photo:
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Ice, Ice, Bowl

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

During last week's post on punch, I mentioned that that ice bowls are easy to make. While I’ve never made one myself (yet), the directions look pretty simple. However, I would suggest putting these on display outside, so they don’t melt in your house.

Make your own Ice Bowl (from the queen of all things Martha Stewart)

What You’ll Need:
· 2 glass or stainless steel bowls (one should fit inside the other)
· Garnish of choice (edible flowers, herbs, orange, lemon or lime slices, etc)
· Water
Directions:· Add the garnishes to the large bowl
· Place the small bowl inside the larger bowl
· Pour water between the bowls to ½ from the top
· Add more garnishes to the top
· Freeze overnight
· Let stand at room temperature on a dish or towel until the bowls separate easily (10-20 minutes)
· Lift the top bowl
· Flip over the bottom bowl to remove your ice bowl
· Freeze a little more if needed
· If your food should be dry, put a glass bowl inside your awesome ice bowl
· Place a dish towel or tray underneath to catch drips

(Photo & directions from Martha Stewart)
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Mamma Said Knock You Out

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Last week, I received my first PR pitch. Okay, it really wasn't a pitch, but PR pro and reader Beth suggested that I post this punch recipe that she recently made for a shower. She said people couldn't stop raving about it.

So Beth, this Thirsty Thursday is dedicated to you and your punch.

Party Punch (Recipe from

3 (3 ounce) packages fruit flavored gelatin mix
4 cups white sugar
13 cups boiling water
2 (46 fluid ounce) cans pineapple juice
1 (16 ounce) bottle lemon juice concentrate
2 (2 liter) bottles ginger ale, chilled

In a large bowl, combine gelatin and sugar. Stir in boiling water until mixture is dissolved. Stir in pineapple juice and lemon juice concentrate. Divide into 2 containers, and freeze until solid.
To serve, place gelatin mixture in punch bowl, and chop into pieces. Pour in ginger ale.

Additional comments from today's contributor, Beth:

"I used three cups of sugar and added cut up strawberries and raspberries. mmmmm. would be better with vodka but it was for a baby shower at work so that didn't fly."

The picture to the right is a decorative ice bowl from Innovative Ice. I'll tell you how to make one of those later!

(Sources: Beth,, Photo: innovative ice)
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Oh Yes It's Ladies Night...

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

*** Attention Male Readers: Stop reading now. Come back tomorrow. ***

Tonight I had the chance to finally make it though all of the massive September magazines that I either subscribe to or have purchased. As any slave to fashion knows, this is the month when magazines produce ginormous issues filled with fall/winter fashion. So today, I decided to recap what I’m seeing.

Color Me Happy: Neon pink is everywhere! While this is a color that’s hard to pull off because it drowns out some people’s face, I’ve the pink show up as a skirt paired with a black top and black tights. I just love the burst of color in a typical boring brown and black time of year. Here’s Taylor Momsen from “Gossip Girl” pulling off the look to the left (I don’t recommend going this ‘goth’).

She’s Got Leggings: According to Rachel Zoe in September’s Glamour, leggings are still okay – just make sure that you top “covers your bum.” I agree. Especially when it comes to what you are wearing to work. To echo that, the Bloomingdales fall fashion mailer says that leggings and second skin pants are “Absolutely, fundamentally key layers to be worn with every single fall look from slinky tops to clingy dresses, blazers, minis, over-the-knee boots and beyond.”

Bling Bling: The 80-year-old grandma in me LOVES that sequins are still in! From full on dresses to tanks to skirts, keep wearing those looks that were hot last winter. You know, I have a sequin skirt from 2001 that I held on to and wore to a party last winter. These pieces may be a little pricey because of the hand-crafted sewing, but seriously – they are a great investment. Oh and when you wear sequins, I recommend keeping the accessories minimal.

Leather Ladies: Yep. Leather is in. Mel – you should have asked Brian for some leather apparel for your anniversary (3 years is leather!). From bomber jackets, to leggings to over-the-knee boots, leather is hot for fall.

Blazer of Glory: A strong-shouldered blazer is a key piece to have in your fall wardrobe. Let me just say that blazers are lifesavers during this in between weather – especially when you are going out and don’t want to lug a big coat.

Bling Bling Part 2: I love this trend. Accessorize a plain t-shirt with an over-the-top bib necklace. The reason this is one of my faves is because you can pair a necklace with a basic t from Old Navy and ta-da – it looks so much more expensive! Also pair with an LBD to dress it up! To the left is a plethora of bib necklaces featured on Who What Wear daily (a great newsletter!).

Gosh, this post excites me so much. I wish I could go back-to-school shopping!

(Sources: Glamour Mag, Bloomingdales “Hot” mailer, Harpers Bazaar, Photos:,Who What Wear )
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Beef: It's What's For Tailgating

Monday, September 07, 2009

If you've been to a Bonkowski tailgate, then chances are you've sampled some of my mom's famous Italian Beef.

Yeah, yeah, my Chicago readers are rolling their eyes thinking "nothing compares to a Chicago Italian Beef..." but this recipe is good. So good in fact that it was featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (thanks to Mrs. Tracy!). Here's the link:

I think the record goes to Steve for eating three or four of these in the course of one tailgate. I'm sure he passed out during that duration as well.

Sue Bonkowski's Italian Beef
3-4 lbs top sirloin round roast
1 jar peperoncini (remove stems) including juice
1 can beer (mom uses Coors Light)

Bake about 5 hours in a crockpot

The round roast can be kind of expensive, so stock up on it when its on sale and freeze it. Oh and you can make the beef and then freeze it for awhile. This recipe may sound a little intimidating, but I was able to make it for the awesome 2009 Super Bowl!
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Who's Bad?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Yesterday would have been Michael Jackson 51st birthday. Mike and I recently got back together after the American Idol episode where contestants sang his tunes. I downloaded a bunch of MJ’s tunes and PYT became my jam of 2009.

I know you are probably sick of seeing MJ coverage, but after he died a Facebook status update sparked this blog posting.

A co-worker of mine announced plans for a “Dress like your favorite Michael Jackson song” party. I LOVE this idea and there are so many possibilities. If you don’t want to host this party now, I would suggest making it a Halloween party theme. When you add a theme to a costume party, people feel less pressure to come up with a creative idea.

Here are some “Dress Like Your Favorite Michael Jackson Song” costume ideas.

* Thriller: Duh. This was only one of the single most popular MJ tunes. Make sure you know the dance moves.
* Billie Jean: Dress in full 80’s gear with a sticker that says “My name is Billy Jean” Or a shirt that says “Not your lover.”
* ABC: This would be an awesome pic for a school teacher friend. Buy a solid color pants/top and shorts/top combo and paste ABC’s all over your outfit.
* Black or White: Another no-brainer.
* PYT: This would be best pulled off by a guy who dresses as a teenage girl.
* Man in the Mirror: It would be great to carry around a mirror with you OR a photo of yourself in a frame that looks like a mirror.
* Dirty Diana: Like Billy Jean, you can wear a “My Name is..” sticker and appear really dirty.
* We are the World: Wrap yourself in a map.

If you start running out of ideas, the costumes related to the crazy life that was Michael’s are endless…
* Blanket
* LaToya
* Janet
* Elizabeth Taylor (my pick!)
* Characters from “The Wiz”
* Bubbles (his monkey)

Feel free to add your own ideas below! I would love to see pictures if any of you host or attend one of these parties.

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Lemonade...5 cents

Friday, August 28, 2009

As a follow up to my last post about National Lemonade Day, I stumbled upon this genius invention from Target - a DIY lemonade stand!

This would make an awesome birthday present for a niece/nephew or little cousin. For parents, maybe a great hello-summer gift. Hey - it shows those little ones the importance of a job/business at an early age!
Oh gosh, what I would give to decorate one of these bad boys.
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