Mix Masters

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cino de Mayo is next Tuesday. Unless you are my mother, most of my readers know that this Americanized holiday falls each May 5th (Sue studied French, not Spanish).

Whatever day and way you choose to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, I’m sure your party will include a margarita of some sort.

If you don’t feel like making margs from scratch, there are a number of great ready made options out there.

Margaritaville Margarita Mix ($6.99): For the cost and taste, this would be your best option for a premade mix without alcohol.

Stirrings ($9.99): I love Stirrings flavors and they also sell salt & sugar rimmers.

Margarita King ($15.99): With a name like this, how can you resist.

1800 Margarita Mix ($13.99): This mix includes 1800 brand tequila inside.
Just mix these up with some tequila and ice in your blender and party like a Mexican (minus the swine flu).

(source: Samswine.com)
Read More

There Was A Farmer....

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Division Street Farmers Market officially kicks off in a week of two. Brady and I were gushing at how happy we are that the countdown has begun.

If you are able to shop for fruits and veggies locally, here are some suggestions.

Blueberries: According to Tufts University, a cup of blueberries can improve short-term memory, better than any other antioxidant-rich foods.

Strawberries: An excellent source of vitamin C and flavonoids – which provide health benefits that fight off cancer and heart disease.

Pomegranate: A cup of this magical fruit juice has four times the antioxidants of green tea.

Apples: Can decrease risks of cancer, heart disease, asthma and diabetes because of its high doses of fiber, potassium and vitamin C.

Beans: A Glamour Magazine story once cited a study that women who ate black, pinto or kidney beans (which are high in folate) were 69 percent less at risk for heart disease. Beans are also full of fiber which helps prevent colon cancer.

Broccoli: A cool-weather vegetable, broccoli is high in vitamin C and soluble fiber and contains strong anti-cancer properties.

Avocado: The good fats in avocados help absorb five times more heart-healthy lycopene from food.

If you are heading to a farmers market, bring lots of cash. The majority of the vendors don’t accept plastic.

To find a market in your area, visit localharvest.org.

(Source: Martha Stewart Magazine, Glamour; Photos: daisyfarms.net and timeoutchicago.com)

Read More

Derby Days

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I love the Kentucky Derby. I think it’s a mix of the fabulous clothes and the adorable horse names. Maybe it also reminds me of my drunken days at Sigma Chi Derby Days….ahhhh those were the times.

Well if you would like to have your own, grown up Kentucky Derby Party, here are some tips.

Saturday, May: Kentucky Derby
* The 135th running of the 1009 Kentucky Derby is on Saturday, May 2nd at 6:04 p.m. est. on NBC.

* I obsess over the clothes women wear to the grandstand of the Derby. It’s my dream wardrobe. Make floral attire and pastels a must at your party. This will totally work in 2009 as flower-patterned clothes are totally “in.”

* Looking back, there was one (and only one) good thing that came out of my brief stint dating Rob Y. and that is HORSE RACING. You must get your friends super drunk and then attempt this game. If you play it sober, it just isn’t as fun. Wikipedia explains how you horse race.

* Serve the traditional Derby foods & drink with favorites like Derby Pie and Mint Juleps
For a twist on the traditional recipes, you can always make Mint Julep Cupcakes (right).

* For any additional inspirations, visit the Official Kentucky Derby Party Web site. They have some videos on how you can make your own Derby Hat.

One day I’ll make it to Kentucky for this. One day ; )

(Sources: Wikipedia, Derbypie.com, Coconutlime.blogspot.com, drinksmixer.com, Image via YumSugar via CupcakeQueen on Flickr)
Read More

Your On The Clock

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This weekend kicks off a number of random “holidays” that give people a good excuse to have a party!

If you feel like having friends over and are looking for a cute theme, over the next three days, I’ll give you some tips on hosting an NFL Draft Party, A Kentucky Derby Shin Dig and a Cino de Mayo Celebration.

Saturday, April 15th: NFL Draft.* Call your friends over to watch the draft while drinking…well draft beer of course. Order a keg…or if you’re a pussy you can get a party ball lol. The key is to have "draft" beer on hand. Don't forget to frost the mugs.

* Use this as an early excuse to get your tailgate on. The weather in the mid-west is on schedule to be beautiful…bring your TV outside if you can and host your tailgate in your yard. Dust off your bags game if you already haven’t.

* If you don’t feel like grilling, order wings from your favorite local joint and have 4-5 apps you can cook up during the long day.

* Make a “draft bingo” game. Create different boards with predicted picks. The first person to go BINGO wins! Buy some festive beer mugs as prizes.

* The NFL Draft symbolizes boys leaving college to become men in the NFL. Throwback to your college days (for some) and play flip cup, beer pong, asshole and circle of death. Limit the game times for in between picks when a team is “on the clock.”

* If you want to host a sophisticated party, turn it into a draft beer tasting. Sample different craft beers from around the U.S. and world.

(sources: image from collegeandpro.com and doubtaboutit.com)
Read More

Joy in the Baker!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I know, I know, you all hear me say all the time I read between 200-500 blogs a day. I tried to gauge the real number and my google reader won’t tell me. I guess it feels bad for me.

Well I’ve decided to start featuring some of those gem, so you, my reader may add them to your RSS feed or visit them one time.

Today’s awesome find is Joy the Baker and let me tell you the recipes featured here are a true Joy.

Here are a few recipes I am dying to try.

S’mores Brownies

Oven Baked Fries with Herbes de Provence

Ice Cream Cupcakes
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Strawberry Vanilla Cake Bites

P.S. – I love how a lot of the recipes come in bite size options! That way you don’t have to feel guilty after you indulge!

(source: Joythebaker.com)
Read More

Get in the Organic Spirit

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Given that it's Earth Month and Earth Day is next Wednesday, you're probably seeing more tips on ways to go green and live a more natural lifestyle. Well, I recommend making your partying more green with some cocktails. These three beverages promote sustainability, use organic ingredients and would fit nicely with a 2010 St. Pat’s “Go Green” party theme or maybe an Earth Day gathering? Humm….

When the “Green” trend starting picking up speed in 2007, a number of distillers created organic alcohol brands. To be certified organic, no pesticides and fertilizers can be used on the grains and no chemicals can be used using the distilling process.

While I can’t say these have been “Shot of Brandi* Tested,” I would recommend trying them at a bar (if possible) before purchasing a full bottle.

Tru Organic: The first USDA Organically Certified spirit in the United States, TRU offers consumers three flavored vodka’s and an organic gin. The TRU site claims that its vodkas are “organic, packaged in 100% recycled, recyclable or biodegradable packaging.” TRU’s parent company, Modern Spirits, donates a tree for every bottle sold.

Organic Nation: Hailing from Oregon, Organic Nation Vodka and Gins are made with local, organically certified products. Organic Nation Gin is one of only four organic gin spirits produces in the world. Organic Nation’s parent company, Cascade Peaks Spirits, is currently developing a ginger vodka, coffee liqueur, chocolate liqueur and organic whisky to add to its growing portfolio.

ModMix: If you are looking for new flavors of cocktail mixers, you must try Modmix. The line of six flavors includes citrus margarita, French martini, lavender lemon drop (yum!), mojito, pomegranate cosmopolitan and wasabi bloody mary. All you need to do is add the mixer and you have a signature cocktail that guest will think you slaved in the kitchen to make.

(Sources: USAToday.com, cascadepeakspirits.com, Truorganicspirts.com, yourdailythread.com – photo, Modmixbeverages.com)

Read More

Tea for Two and Two for Tea

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Something about spring makes me think of big floral hats, kites, picnics and tea parties.

Yeah, tea parties can be stereotyped with five-year-old girls playing dress up, but adults can have fun too. Here’s how.

* I once saw a party planner** create a tea bar. The planner set up a variety of different flavors of loose tea leafs in clearly marked bowls. Guests had the opportunity to create their own tea combination, place the leaves into a special brew spoon and mix up a personalized cup. We live in such a non-fat, no-whip, white chocolate mocha world, that this gives your friends the chance to personalize their drink without hiring a barrista.

* Apparently there is occupation out there of “tea leaf readers.” A google search may reveal some of these special trade people in your area. Tazo Tea, the brand of choice at Starbucks, has a similar concept on its Web site. After entering your favorite tea, hair color and what crayon color you prefer, a little man/tea reader will give you a line of wisdom. Ask your friends to RSVP with their answers and create tea readings as a cute present.

* Tea parties should be stress free and fun. Hire some blissful entertainment like a manicurist or a make up artist. After all, these parties are early in the day, so guests will likely be heading out afterwards.

* Personalize mugs are a fun favor that friends can use during the party. Sites like Kodak Gallery and Zazzle.com allow you to create cute mugs for your friends.

* Small foods like mini-tea sandwiches and salads are perfect for a tea party. Just remember to keep it light and simple.

(Photo Source: SarahSovereign.com, **Tea Bar Credit: Okay look, I read 200+ blogs daily, I can’t remember where I saw this. If this was your idea, so sorry I didn’t credit you- email me and I will!)
Read More

Play Ball!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Today baseball season officially begins in Chicago. While the wind and rain blew around Wrigley, the Cubs opened their home-schedule with W this afternoon.

Wrigley Field is an all-around traditional stadium. There is a non-electronic scoreboard in the outfield and an organist plays between innings. While there are a number of baseball traditions, one thing that goes hand in hand with baseball is a hot dog.

The Windy City has its own style of hot dogs. After living here for 4 years, I just found out its touristy of you to eat your dog with ketchup. That offends this Heinz girl.

So for your next Chi-Town visit or to make at home, here’s the deal on the Chicago Dog.

According to Wikipedia, “A Chicago-style hot dog is a steamed or boiled, never broiled all-beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun.”

The dog should be topped with the following ingredients:
- Mustard (yellow)
- Onion (chopped white)
- Sweet pickle relish (usually a dyed neon green)
- A dill pickle spear (kosher)
- Tomato wedges
- Pickled sport peppers
- A dash of celery salt.
* Sometimes cucumber slices are added.

Like I mentioned, ketchup is prohibited.

The hot dog brand of choice is Vienna Beef, which was first sold at the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The typical dog weighs 1/8 pound.

Vienna Beef has a sweet little Periodic Table of a Vienna Chicago Style Hotdog Condiments on its web site. You can access that here.

(Sources: Wikipedia, Photo: HotDogChicagoStyle.com)
Read More

What's In Your Bag?

Monday, April 06, 2009

I remember back when I was in college (wow, I sound old). It was before cell phones...digital cameras...computers (just kidding). We didn't need to carry purses out - just our ID and money rubber banded together. We would tape our dorm key to the bottom of the door, so we didn't even need to bring that out.

Now that I'm older, I find that my purse is getting bigger and bigger. Some of my friends pratically bring out suitcases (ah hem Speiler).

No matter the size of your bag, there are somethings you should carry with you...

Safety Pin: They call it a safety pin for a reason. You never want to get caught out with a major fashion faux pas like a broken bra, dress strap or zipper. A small pin can help a number of fashion emergencies.

$20: I once met a girl who told me that she always carries a secret $20 bill in her wallet – just incase she needs cash. While I wish I stuck to this habit, it’s a very smart idea. Especially if you are in a place when you often take cabs. I do keep a spare $2 behind my bus pass just incase it doesn’t register when I’m trying to board the bus. You might want to also carry a few quarters – just incase you need to make a call at a pay phone…yeah, I said pay phone.

Numbers: Speaking of a pay phone. It’s rather sad that Brady and I are going on year six of dating and I don’t know his phone number by heart. In fact, I think I only know my dad’s cell number because it is so dang easy. I recommend writing a few key numbers down on paper – or even printing them at a micro size, so you can slip the important numbers in your wallet. You never know when or where you might lose your phone or it dies.

MILK: Lately I’ve become notorious for losing things and forgetting things at home. You may think I am ignoring your call…chances are my phone is in my apartment. Anyways, it once came up at work for girl’s to remember MILK before they head out – Money, ID, Lipstick, Keys.

Misc. Items: While these items aren’t requirements, you might be someone’s lifesaver if you are carrying the following: Gum, mints, antibacterial wipes/gel, tampon, dental floss, a pen, business cards, asprin and a camera!

(picture source: Avalisa via art.com)
Read More

PB&J Day

Thursday, April 02, 2009

If you are recovering from an April Fool’s Day Hangover, maybe this can help. April 2nd is National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day. I thought I’d honor this day with something different – a PB&J Cocktail!

Peanut Butter & Jelly CocktailRecipe courtesy of 1001cocktails.com
- 1 part frangelico
- 1 part black raspberry liqueur
Pour ingredients into a stainless steel shaker over ice, and shake until completely cold. Strain into an old-fashioned glass, and serve.

This is a great way to toast the holiday – especially if you are still boycotting PB because of all of the recalls!

(photo from esquire.com)
Read More