Shot of Christmas

Friday, December 31, 2010

While Brady and I received a plethora of wonderful, creative, thoughtful and amazing holiday gifts, I felt that one was very blog worthy.

As I mentioned earlier, my best gal pals and I had a holiday gift exchange. This year's theme? A gift that begins with the first letter of that person's name.

Devoted reader Lindsay was my Secret Santa and her gift was Blog-reated....

A Shot Of Brandi Christmas!
Above you will see a selection from the gift - which was in an eco-friendly bag. Clockwise from the top: The girliest and most perfect apron, a vintage Mountaineers pennant, gumball machine, illustrations from Kristina Hulkrantz - which will be PERFECT in my color-coordinated cube and vintage Barbie note cards (that match my new calendar from the MIL).

I just have the best, most creative friends! People always ask me where I get all of my ideas - I surround myself with awesome people!

Thank you all for being faithful readers over the years! I love hearing tips and tricks that you've found from my blog and I love the death threats I get for not updating it!

In the words of reader Brian, "Here's to hoping that Shot of Brandi* makes it mainstream in 2011!" I actually don't want this to happen, but I thought it was cute : )

Happy New Year!!
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Popping Party Dip

My bestest high school friends, our families, former teachers and a drunk uncle celebrated Christmas Eve Eve with an awesome party that induced our annual gift exchange, wine, shots, crying and cheesy holiday photos in front of the tree. Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa and he rewarded us with an awesome holiday party!

I successfully replicated my mom’s dear friend Janet’s recipe for Jalepeno Popper Dip, so I thought I would share the recipe with you all.

Here is the recipe for everyone.

Janet’s Jalepeno Popper Dip
Two 8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
One 4 oz chopped green chilies
5 whole jalapeno chopped (I used a jar)
1/2 cup parm cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Mix everything together, sprinkle the parm and panko crumbs on the
top and bake at 400* for 20 min. then but under the broiler until golden
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"Pretty Girl" - Psycho Mom in Black Swan

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I interrupt this holiday cheer for a fashion-related post.

Last Friday, I was able to finally see Black Swan – the ballet psycho thriller starring Natalie Portman. While leaving the theater, I felt a little disturbed on a variety of levels, I must say I was memorized by the fashions wore throughout the movie.

The costumes were created by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy - the ever so chic duo behind the label Rodarte – which I sadly learned all about from Tavi, the 12-year-old fashion blogger. The sisters totally nailed the pure white swan and dark, goth black swan costumes with glam glitter and perfect pizzazz.

For the last year or so, ballet-inspired looks have been hitting the runway and stores and with the success of this movie, I think this trend is one that will carry into 2011. They key to this: balance. Don't incorpate the bun, ballet flats and poofy skirt together!
Let’s take a look at some ballerina-esque fashions that you can incorporate into your everyday wardrobe.

· Tutu Dresses: Puffy, full bottomed dresses can be done in a classy, yet playful way. Like the above for former Project Runway-er Kara Janx. It totally has a tulle skirt, but it lays flat and the corset top is super cute. The second dress, from Lotusgrace, is a more refined look, but the full skirt gives is that ballerina fee;.

· Full Skirts: Puffy skirts have been around for awhile now, but look for skirts to take on more volume. How cute is the one above from Nina Ricci!?

· The Bun: Another runway staple – the sleek bun is making a comeback. This trend started during the spring 2009 shows back in 2008, but it’s still gaining momentum. Nicole Richie styled her hair in a full bun at her recently nuptials. And while I’m not really a fan (I know what you are thinking – are you girl!?), but SJP has some fab buns.

· Legwarmers: This trend has been dipping in and out for awhile, but I’m not sure if I love it. I get the function, but not overly excited by the look. The pair above is an overpriced set from Neiman Marcus. Maybe if NM’s buyer selected them, they are okay?

· The Shoes: YSL has elevated the ballet with its new “Love Ballerinas” line. Available in a variety of colors, the shoe has a square toe that resembles a true ballerinas pointe shoes.

· Baby Tutus: I beginning to believe that baby girls come out of the womb in a tutu. According to Facebook and the mom blogs it seems like tulle tutus are a baby must.

Oh and I expect a ballerina to be a hot Halloween look in 2011!
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I Come Baring Gifts

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Repeat after me – I will not go to a party empty handed.

That’s my rule and I’m sticking to it and I encourage you all to do the same!

So if you are looking for some last minute host and hostess gifts, it’s your lucky day. Here are a few suggestions.

· If you are taking a bottle of wine or liquor to a party, jazz it up with this adorable faux fur coat. The photo is a bit difficult to see, but this posh little wrap will dress up any inexpensive wine.

· For the person that always loves to entertain, what about a formal entertaining book. This is a place for the host to formally record memories from each shin dig – like what was served, who attended, etc. A great place to jot down what recipes worked, what didn’t and what everyone’s favorite drink is!

· Hostess gifts must not be extravagant. Take these super cute Reindeer stir sticks from Plum Party. They are sure to bring a smile to the face of any stressed out host!

· My obsession with Anthropologie is clear. Not only are their clothes adorable, but they have some really cute home goods that are perfectly priced. Two of my favorites – the initial mug and holiday shop dishtowel. The mug is so cost effective that I would pair it with some gourmet hot coco.

· I DIE over the idea of giving mistletoe as a gift.

· Other simple ideas: a CD, a grocery store gift card to restock the pantry, a bucket of cleaning supplies for the day after and a manicure to the hostess to restore her hands!
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Let's Have Some Fun, This Beat Is Sick...

Friday, December 17, 2010

It's Friday and let's have some fun (I'm listening to Lady Gaga to prepare for the weekend)!

This gift list I put together includes a number of fun items for that fun friend on your list.

• Um, if the “Thank You For Being a Friend” Golden Girls Necklace doesn’t scream fun, I’m not sure what does. Oh yeah, maybe the Betty White Calendar? Either of these gifts are perfect for my friend Melly who has every season of the Golden Girls on DVD!

• Bowling has kinda rolled off the radar in celebrity gaming and now Ping Pong is all the rage. Henri Bendel sells this super cute and luxe set, but I am sure you can find some gear at almost any local sporting goods store.

• No, this is not a pink Foreman Grill. Behold! The Cupcake Maker. As the princess of all thing cupcakes, you would think I would be super jazzed over this little gem, but I think I need to try it to be convinced. And besides, who wants another gadget for the kitchen!? Regardless, the fun level is high here.

• You would think that I’d be all about bells on clothes during the holidays due to my love of all things cheesey, sparkly, rufflely and cute, BUT I draw the line at apparel that makes noises. Once exception: the Kate Spade Jingle Bell Headbad. So fun, clever and cute!

• Know someone into Harry Potter? Then the Wand Remote Control is the perfect gift. I wonder what spell fixes your Comcast cable when it goes out!

• Legend has it that the hubs once threw a hissy fit after receiving underwear and socks for Christmas. In his mind, these are a necessity – not a gift. From Fred Flare I give you – The Worst Gift Ever. A package that includes both underwear and socks…perfect for Brady!!
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I Put A Lot of Thought Into It

Thursday, December 16, 2010

To me, the meaning of a thoughtful gift is something that goes the extra mile. Something that is special to the person receiving it. The gift may involve a special memory or moment that you share with the giftee or even something that you make yourself.

This category requires some history thinking. Here’s some ideas to get your brain moving.

• Is there a special food from afar that the recipient lusts? Say DP Dough from Morgantown, Chicago Pizza or a White House Sub? Surprise them with their favorite dish!

• Speaking of far off places, I hate to bring it up again, but a trip is an amazing idea! It could be a short car ride to a resort that brings back memories or that trip of a lifetime to another country! Or Disneyland anyone??

• Trips can be expensive, so a framed photo from a special place is also a good idea!

• Reader Trish gave me a good idea inspired by her Christmas list. Like me, Trish never had her college diploma framed. So that’s on her list this year!

• If the person on your list does something on a regular basis, pick up the tab! For instance, buy a gift card for their next salon or manicure visit.

• Turning pictures into digital files or scrapbooks is always a nice gift.

• I LOVE the idea of buying a credit for a class, like cooking or a foreign language! Or, you may want to consider a blogging class!
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Things Are Getting Weird

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

In fifth grade, I was voted "most unique dresser." I'd like to think I still have a unique style. Love it or hate it, it's unique.

That's what today's gifts are all about. They are unique. Some may hate them, some may love them and some may say WTF, but it's all in good fun. And who cares what people think anyways, right?

Giddy up!

· For a cold-weather person, how fun are these predator vs. prey mittens? Chris Hansen should come out with a version of these based on his Dateline show lol ; )

· Reader Lindsay alerted me about the Falling Whistle. All the proceeds of this cute necklace go to a good cause. Cute and charitable? Yes, please!

· Those fancy craft beers that are popular often require a bottle opener. My recommendation is this fancy bottle opener from Anthro. Pair it with some of that super awesome beer!

· I have a hairball and I LOVE it. Nope – I’m not a cat (but I would love to be – eat and sleep all day – sign me up). These balls feature a number of hair bands wrapped into a ball. I got one of these at an event and it’s awesome. I need to remember to throw it into my gym bag.

· I’m not sure how your friend or family member would feel about this, but hey…it’s unique! Printing Facebook takes all of your friends’ profile pictures and makes a nifty little poster with all of their mugs.
· As my hubs, I need to be warm, cozy and comfortable at all times – with an emphasis on bedtime. If I am not, I get cranky. If you know someone like me, whom you probably don’t because let’s face it – I am one strange gal – then they may love the idea of a pajama warmer as much as I do! Ignore the website – it’s a bit infomercial creepy.

· Since “Of the Month Clubs” are so hot right now, go with a Brandi* fav – Dylan’s Candy Bar’s Candy of the Month Club.
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Memories light the corner of my mind...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I know these gift posts are getting all exciting and stuff, but no worries. Unlike Hugh Jackman on today's Oprah, no one has been injuried during the enterence to this post.
Today, I am covering memorable gifts.

· When I think of memorable, I do tend to think about trips or events. I know those aren’t always in the budget, so why not something related to that past trip. Like, if you went to visit a really great city…like say, Chicago and you wanted to remember it. What about a bracelet!?
· Take direction from the Jason Sacks playbook and go on a vacation. What’s more memorable than a family trip!?

· More and more of my friends are joining me in the blogging community. Do you have a blogger in your life? Then consider a Blog 2 Book. You don’t need to be tech savvy to create this – just enter in your blog URL, hit a few buttons, make a date range and..Whooola. Blog to a book!

· Looking for a way to always keep a loved one near? How about a locket with a photo of that person. I like the varieties on Planet Jill, but for some more unique finds, check out Etsy.

· As a build to this idea, commemorate a date with this super fun calendar necklace from Dalla Nonna Jewlery.

· The guys in my life really don’t wear suits often, but if that special someone you know does, what about a pair of cufflinks that bring back memories. I like the variety from Rotenier. I’d give Brady the Spider Monkey and Banana cufflink to remind him if he pisses me off that I am going to come at him like a Spider Monkey. The example above includes a bottle cap and opener (did you meet over some beers!?) and the Chicago Water Tower and a slice of pizza. Such a cute conversation starter!

Another memorable stocking stuffer is a yearly ornament. One blog I read recommends buying ornaments that relate back to a story from that year. Then attaching a tag to that ornament with the story and then placing it on the tree. Each year, when you put up the ornaments, you can read the stories and reminisce!
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Use Me

Monday, December 13, 2010

Welcome to day one of the Shot of Brandi holiday gift guide. Today's feature is useful gifts!

· I don’t want to start out with a pricey gift right out of the gate, but trust me when I say this – a good scarf is worth the investment. I look at the pieces of clothes that got me through Chicago winters and a sturdy scarf was one of them! I love Burberry scarves because this look is a good for a girl or a guy – kinda like CK One was in middle school.

· According to the runway reports, cat eye sunglasses are going to be huge in 2011, so get ahead of the trend and get your gal some new sunnies. Prada started the movement back to cat eye glasses, so I’ve gotta give them credit here.

· Hunter Wellies are the new Uggs. Do they look cute? Not really. Are they functional? Yes!

· I love a new cookbook. Two that caught my eye over the last year include. The Art of Simple Food and American Fashion Cookbook. The first focuses on fresh, local cooking, while the second proves that people in the fashion world eat!

· Another thing that I feel like one can never have too many of – blankets. While this would need to pass my officially “feel” test, these blue and gold blankets look awful cozy.

· Right now, I can’t have enough reusable totes. I use them for everything – groceries, food/beverage for visiting friends, gym clothes – you name it. You no longer need to tote around a plastic Wal-mart bag!

Some other useful ideas?· Lottery tickets
· Calendars
· Magazine subscriptions· GPS
· Food
· Alcohol
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Glitter in the Air

Friday, December 10, 2010

Style expert Bobbie Thomas even said it on The Today Show this morning – sequins and sparkle are in! I love this trend because it brings out two things in me - the inner 95-year-old bingo player in me that is wearing a sequin holiday vest and the girl that is way beyond obsessed with glitter. Glitter was a banned substance in my house growing up because I used to get it everwhere (think walls, hardwood floor cracks, carpet, hair, etc.). Some things never change - Your holiday cards are coming soon ; )

Sequins and glitter have been spread all over clothes and accessories for over the last year now. Like all trends, this one comes and goes, so I’m happy that I’ve held on to my “vintage” Limited black sequin skirt from circa 2000. What’s old is new, right!

I thought I would give you a sparkly, glitterly post this Friday. A number of pieces can be worn during the work day and then transform for that after hours holiday party. Oh and in honor of today’s post, I am wearing a sequin cardigan!

Oh and please note: I know these prices are a very high, but if you Montour girls remember from prom, sequins are expensive! There are a lot of other great options out there at retailers that don’t have websites and some junior stores, but I am currently boycotting a few of them. You will see my upcoming angry post about that subject at a later date.

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Holiday Cheers with Beers

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Small batch brews have been making a name for themselves over the last few years and I love the seasonal ales that have been sparking up during summer, fall and winter. Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to indulge (and over-indulge) in some Great Lakes Christmas Ale.

Christmas Ales are very festive for any holiday gathering! Here are a few others that you may consider grabbing a six pack of for your next fete.

Great Lakes Christmas Ale: While I typically just chug my beer, I’m told if you sip this stuff you can taste honey, fresh ginger and cinnamon. Yumm...But catch this one while you can – it’s only available in November and December! Shout out to my girl Lindsay who brought us some of this good stuff fresh from Cleveland, where it is brewed!

Goose Island: Well hello there Chicago beer! It’s nice to hear your name! Goose Island is a popular brewery in the Windy City that makes some delicious beers. While I am a fan of 312 (Chi-town area code), so I would recommend sipping this holiday ale. I am pretty sure I had this before and I think I’ve only spit out one beer in my life, so hey – it’s probably good!

Since we are going all local beer on this post, why not throw in the next one.

St. Nikolaus Bock Bier – Penn Brewing Company Holiday Celebration Beer: A Pittsburgh beer maker, you may only be able to find this in the Steel City. According to the Penn Brewery website, this beer is a very rich, dark bock with subtle tones of chocolate and burnt malt. Without sipping this one, I feel like I could make a sound that best describes my thoughts on its taste. Call me and I’ll sound it out for you.

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"Youuu know whatttt time IT IS!!!" (in best Oprah Voice)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


The Mister and I were talking a few weeks ago about Christmas gifts. I asked him what he thought made a good gift. He’s a sensible man, so I figured he would have a decent answer. Brady said “thoughtful, unique, useful and memorable.”

I totally agree with the hubs, but I’d also like to add one more word. FUN. So for this year’s Shot of Brandi gift guide, next week I am going to take on each of these categories! Each day, I’ll feature fun, thoughtful, unique, memorable and useful gifts!

The magic starts on Monday ; )

Picture Souces here here here here here here
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The Not So Dandy Andy Warhol Gala

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

I wrote this post a few months back, but didn’t get around to posting it. With the holiday party season in full swing, I thought these party tips could be of some use!

In my many years of reading the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a negative review of a party by the local lifestyle editor than the recap she penned about a recent Andy Warhol Gala.

You all know that I love me some Warhol, but it looks like the event organizers made some simple mistakes that all beginning party planners can make. Let’s see how we can learn from their mishaps.

• Do keep in mind the guest to bar ratio. This event had 2 bars for 400 people. That means if everyone wanted a drink, that’s 200 people per bar. That’s straight up Bent Willy’s in Morgantown on Thursday night. This is a big no no for my dad. He wanted three bars at our wedding for 200 people to eliminate lines.

• Big space = big décor. Large venues are great, but that just means more space that you need to fill up with décor, draping, lighting and…PEOPLE! The $500 ticket price on this event wasn’t helping with the people and because it was charity, not much was spent on the décor.

• Don’t get too big for your britches. If ticket sales are low, consider finding a way to downsize your space. Could you bring in wall dividers to make the room look more intimate?

• While I’m not too sure what the “indifferent service” meant, this made me think about your staff. Prior to an event, I recommend rallying the troops. If you are the lead planner, personally meet your staff and get them excited for the night. Make sure everyone knows what the special food and drinks are in advance. If you have any key talking points for the night, be sure they are aware of those too. And always make sure your staff knows where the guest bathrooms are. Guests tend to always ask!

• The reporter notes that there was bad acoustics. This is a toughie. If you plan on using sound at your party, check the volumes from all angels of the room. I planned a big event for a client in Chicago at a warehouse that is currently a photo studio. Music was a difficult task for us and we conducted multiple site checks with the DJ. Get expert advice if it’s important shin dig and conduct a test!

• If you are paying for a “celebrity” guest or DJ, run their name by at least three people in your target audience. If they are unaware of the celebrity, you may want to rethink your selection. In this case, while I know who Questlove is (barely), I don’t know too many people in the area that would.

I don’t want to be a total negative Nancy, and please know that I didn’t attend this event. I'm sure there were a lot of reasons and obstacles that contributed to things going a bit aloof. Everyone makes mistakes when planning events – that’s part of the learning experience. I just want to point out a few tips that one can discover from this review in the Post-Gazette!
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In Da Club

Monday, December 06, 2010

It all started back in about third grade. I joined The Babysitters Club. No, I wasn’t in with Dawn and Stacey, but I got three books from the series delivered to my house each month. Every once in a while there were some other goodies like stickers, bookmarks – you know, stuff any pre-teen girl would love.

Well now that I’m approaching 30, there are some new clubs out there that are piquing my interest.

Shoes: What gal doesn’t love shoes? Well for a pretty price, Net-a-Porter has a shoe of the month club. There is a cheaper alternative out there, but it’s being hocked by Kim K-dash. Her over-exposure for doing just about nothing annoys me, so I won’t mention it, but you can Google it!

Makeup: If you are in a makeup rut, Birchbox is for you! Each month you get some new makeup samples. I must say, I’m a firm believer in those little samples. I’ve found some of my favorite mascara’s and eye shadows after a little trial package.

Jewelry: While I’m not in love with some of the options on the site, there Jewlmint from Kate Bostworth and stylist Cher Coulter. Each month, you’ll get a new piece of jewelry.

Cashmere: Last year, J. Crew offered a jewelry of the month club for a holiday, but this year it’s all about the Italian Cashmere.

While the clubs above are a bit fashion, some of my other favorites include:

• Chocolate of the Month from Chicago-based Vosges Chocolate

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Water Cooler Talk

Saturday, December 04, 2010

I mean how cool is this water cooler filled with booze? Totally a way to liven up that water cooler talk at almost any office!

This awesome cooler was used at a Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art benefit last May.

(Via Biz Bash)
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Easily Obsessed

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

• Sometimes Brady asks if I’m really a little girl. The answer? Yes. Among the childish things I love are those Silly Bandz the youngin’s are wearing. I have some pretty sweet West Virginia ones, but how freaking cute are these ones from Marc Jacobs?!

Let me start off my second obsession with an alert – just because I found this adorable baby outfit doesn’t mean that I want one. Yes, we've been getting that question from multiple mouths. Don’t hold your breath on the arrival of little Smith because you may go blue in the face – it’s gonna be awhile. Now, on to the cuteness! Aren’t these onesies from Etsy absolutely adorable!? The “Little Man” wedding kit is the PERFECT solution if you have a teeny tiny ring bearer at a wedding or getting your kid all fancy for a party.

• Let’s “face” it, silhouettes are having a big year (lol…I crack myself up). I love the cute designers from Le Papier Studio. A Chicago company (we miss you), Le Papier makes custom prints for affordable prices!

• I’ve gushed here about the group Improv Everywhere here before, and their latest stunt is just as amazeballs as the rest. Check out the bell ringer hijacking!

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