Popping Up in Paris

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Last week, beyond gorgeous images from Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week have hit the web – making me more and more giddy each day.

Aside from the dashing dresses, unexpected designs (um, Jean Paul Gaultier channeling the late Amy Winehouse?) something that caught my eye from three events was BALLOONS!
At the launch of the Karl Collection for Net-a-Porter, models carried black and white Karl balloons.

For the Meadham Kirchhoff show, the designers created a candy shop, complete with pastel balloon structures.

The French Magazine Grazia passed out dog balloons outside of the shows (and how cute are the street team’s outfits!?)

So if the French couture designers are making balloons chic, does that mean that they will be less of a party decor faux pas now!?

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Trendspotting 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

It’s part in my nature and part of my job, but I really love trendspotting. All of these massive lists come out and list what will be fashion, food, etc. trends for the year.

I was doing some thinking about trends and here’s what I’m seeing:
·         S’mores. This gooey treat is still hot. You will see s’mores stations at more parties and s’mores as favors at more weddings. Also on the rise – Nutella. Oh and I have a super fun S’mores
·         PinCrafts: People turning online pinning via Pinterest into real world crafts and cooking will explode.
·         School. More people are going back to school. It doesn’t matter the age or if the person has a degree, people are sick of their careers and want a big change.
·         Moonshine is “in.” FINALLY something hip that Appalachia has been doing for years! I’ll never forget my first time with moonshine. Unmarked bottle from an old man inside Mountaineer Field. I wouldn’t have had it any other way (Lynn Lai made me do it, mom).
·         Oreos. Did you know that Oreo is the number one cookie in the world? I found that crazy! Anyways, I see people using more and more Oreo cookies in recipes. Same with Rice Krispies.
·         Marryoke. Yep. First it was the bridal party dance, then it was the surprise flash mob. Now, according to the Washington Post, it’s Marryoke. The wedding videographer captures people signing the same song all night and mashes the video together. A lip dub if you will. I’m waiting for the trend of weddings to stop becoming a performance to end ; )
·         Food Trucks. Still popular.  
·         Sandwich Shops. We will continue to see gourmet chefs open up classy sandwich shops (a la Grahamwich Chicago)
·         Batuka is some form of exercise that is going to be the new Zumba. 
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Party Like its 1992

Friday, January 27, 2012

Some fashion expert said this week that everything that was old 20 years ago, is always new again. That fashion runs in a 20-year span.

If this holds true, we are currently channeling 1992.

Since the internets weren’t really around back then, I consulted my friends at Wikipedia and in 1992 the fashions of the 1980’s were still present – spandex pants, denim button down shirts, penny loafers and NEON.

Isn’t that crazy!? All things that are popular right now. Chambray shirts, leggings (still), black leather jackets – even Keds are always trying to make a comeback.

For fun, here is me around circa 1992. This was one of my modeling days (um, my mom signed me up – I think everyone was picked). There is so much about this look that is all wrong, yet probably right at the time. The wind breaker, the stop watch hanging from the zipper, the two toned socks. And I mean who cannot notice what the hair stylists did by thanking things to a whole new level by doing a French braid around my head and injected neon jelly bracelets around my head.

As a lover of all colors, if I had to pick one trend (vs. the explosion that was on my body in ’92), I’d go with NEON. I love the bold colors out. As Vogue calls it – a fashion rebellion. Times still suck and rather than wear all black and be depressing, we are saying eff you – I’m going to wear sequins and bright colors!

Without further rambling, here are my favorite neon items out right now:
·         Earrings via Etsy
·         Christopher Kane Clutch via Saks (lower-priced imitation-ish thing here)
·         Blazer via GapKudos to Gap for its partnership with Pantone. I may or may not own this whole collection by the end of the season.
·         Chair via ABC Home
·         Shoe via Zara
·         Sunnies via Nordstrom

·         Dress via Topshop
·         Dress via Asos
·         Shoes via J. Crew
·         Dress via Outnet
·         Marc Jacobs belt via Net-a-Porter
·         AG jeans via Piperlime

Will someone PLEASE wear the Jason Wu neon to the Oscars? I’ll be waiting!!
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I'm Like the Ringleader, I Call the Shots

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I’m still playing my little Word of the Day game as inspiration on Pinterest and Tumblr. Yesterday, I had a fun word that produced some great ideas. So great, I had to share here on my Mothership social networking site.

The words was:

Here are some ideas that I discovered.

For parties, don’t just think about decorating the floor and tables. Turn things upside down with these fun umbrellas hanging from strings! (source)

Cute Circus party invitations that feature tickets and a big tops! (source)

I’ve got this big thing going on right now with black and white strips, so obvi I love this cotton candy display. (source) And check out this cotton candy topped cupcake from Real Simple.

Speaking of those stripes – how fun, chic, and playful is this black and white striped tent!? (source)

The perfect Circus party favor? Animal crackers! (source

I LOVE this wallet-friendly table top décor from Oriental Trading. It’s a big top tent for your table! Not only does sit totally play to the them, But it will cover your treats! 
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Bourbon & Bowties

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

This blog is girly. I get it. It’s rather difficult to be someone that you are not. And I, my friend, am not a man (although sometimes I do think and talk like one).

But the other day, I was thinking of two words for a party and I thought it could be a manly and fun theme – “Bourbon & Bowties.”

While things are rarely original anymore, I did a quick search and discovered people are already doing this for charity functions, but let’s just roll with this party as best as Shot of Brandi* knows how – to totally theme it out. This is how I would execute it.

And how crazy is this fate – I started writing this post on a Sunday and on Monday, my new Wine Spectator came in the mail (yes, I’m a subscriber lol) and it had bourbon as its cover story! FATE.


·         For me, I would recycle my handmade moustaches and emergency bowties from my Oscar’s birthday party for this bash. Both were super easy to make with some craft store specialties like foam paper, sticks, ribbon, hot glue and pins.
·         Provide directions on how to tie the perfect bow tie. You can put them in a cool frame like the one above.
·         For the invitation, there are a lot of bowtie ones out there – but this is a popular baby boy shower theme. I say hijack the template, but make it more man vs. baby.
·         Use bourbon barrels to decorate! You can use them as tables or a base to a bar (see pics below).
·         Buy some airplane mini’s of each flavor and give your guests their favorite brew as a favor! You can even print some fancy “Official Bourbon Taster” certificate (or something more snazzy than that) 

·         Okay, this is the most important part of the party. After all, you are basically staging a bourbon tasting here.
·         For the bourbon beginners, I’d say pick a variety of brands (vs. variety of years). Let’s go with the six that are on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
o   Four Roses
o   Heaven Hill
o   Jim Beam
o   Makers Mark
o   Wild Turkey
o   Woodford Reserve
·         Get some bourbon tasting glasses.
·         Provide sheets for guests to grade the bourbons on:        
o   Appearance (color)
o   Aroma (swirl that glass)
o   Entry (swish it around in your mouth)
o   Finish (what happens after you swallow – and I hope it’s not puke)

·         Here are some recipes for your fete:

·         Surprise your guests with awesome bourbon facts, like:
o   Bourbon is America’s native spirit – it’s one of the only spirits actually invented in the USA
o   Rye Whiskey came from Europe to the Americas, through Pennsylvania and then landed in Kentucky where it was mastered.
o   Each bottle of Maker’s Mark is hand-dipped in red wax – no two bottles are exactly alike
o   Knob Creek Bourbon is named after Abraham Lincoln’s hometown
o   Jim Beam isn’t named after the guy that invented the bourbon. His great, great grandfather Jacob Beam actually created it in 1795! AND Jim Beam is still made with Jacob’s recipe to this day!

·         You may notice on the bottles that there is a difference between whisky, whiskey and bourbon. Here’s a cheat sheet:
o   Whisky: Scottish English, British English and Canadian English
o   Whiskey: Irish English and American English  - also made of at least 51% rye, malted rye, malted barley or wheat
o   Bourbon Whiskey: made from mash that consists of at least 51% corn
o   There is also Tennessee Whiskey – this is Jack Daniel’s, George Dickel, Collier & McKeel and Benjamin Prichard’s. All of these are bottled in Tennessee.
·         Note that there are American brands that use the Scottish spelling. When that happens, they were typically created by a Scottish person!

P.S. – I know a lot of these facts because I worked with bourbon brands for three years – including some of the ones listed above ; )

Oh and boys - I know what you are thinking. Still too girly. OH WELL!!! Ha. 

Let’s play a game. I’m feeling a little uninspired with party themes. Almost everything has been done (although I haven’t featured it – I’ve seen it. Trust me). SO you want me to play out a theme? Email me. I’ll create it! 
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Put the FUN in Fundraising

Monday, January 23, 2012


So near the end of 2011, I decided that I needed to read the newspaper more. I mean, my office gets four papers delivered and seriously no one reads them. So being one of the elder people in our group, I decided to take on the reading challenge. Let’s just say that recently, I’ve been failing.

However, I took a few with me on a long car ride and pulled out a Wall Street Journal story about fundraising. Specifically, all of the things that people try and sell you at work to help support their kids. Did you know that $1.7 BILLION DOLLARS is spent in the U.S. on products for school and youth ground fund-raising annually?   

It got me thinking. A year back, Shot of Mom asked me if I had any creative fundraising ideas. I sent her a few things that were actually on this list. Their organization went with something pretty cool – a dip fundraiser from Serendipity just outside of Pittsburgh.

So if you are looking for a creative fundraiser or just a regular idea, here were a few things on the list that I would totally consider buying from the November 16th Wall Street Journal:
·         Candles
·         Cheese and cheese spreads
·         Coffee
·         Cookies
·         Cookie dough
·         Greeting cards
·         Holiday ornaments
·         Magazine subscriptions
·         Meat snacks – editor’s note – I may not buy this, but it sounds delicious lol.
·         Plants and flowers
·         Sauces
·         Stationery
·         Window & wall decorations (could be cool if they are local sports or high school teams) 

And don't forget that it's that time of the year and those little Girl Scouts are lurking with their cookie orders! 

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Sundays with Sue: Little Beer

Sunday, January 22, 2012

This afternoon I was over Sue’s and she kept telling me about “Lil Beers.” I just wasn’t understanding this concept, so she had to repeat it to me a number of times. So I thought, I’ll explain it all to you today as part of Sunday’s with Sue.

Lil Beers apparently has nothing to do with Beer. It’s a drink served in a short glass to resemble a little beer.

Drinks Mixer lists the recipe for Little Beer as follows:
·         1 oz of Licor 43 liqueur
·         Cream (although Sue thinks it's Baileys)

What is 43 liqueur you ask? Well I asked the same thing!

Licor 43 is a sweet, bright citrus, vanilla Spanish liqueur with a combination of 43 ingredients including citrus and fruit juices, as well as herbs, spices and vanilla. Yowyza.  This stuff dates back to the time of the Romans (even though its Spanish? Maybe because its headquarters are in Spain).

So if you see this bottle or are feeling cozy with your bartender – ask for one of these next time you are out and want to try something new. OR if you are at the Bronze Hood in Robinson, PA, tell ‘em Sue told you to order one!

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Wine Cave

Thursday, January 19, 2012

In the December Issue of Martha Stewart Living, there was an article titled “Making the Case,” that focused on eight budget-friendly wines to buy for the holidays. A number of different blends were featured and that got me thinking – what are some different varieties of wine to have on hand that could please any guests taste? 

The Martha story mentions the flowing types of wine for a holiday stockpile:
·         White
·         Value house white
·         Value bubbly
·         Rose
·         Value house medium red
·         House rich red
·         Easy-drinking red
·         Organic red

Will Lyons wrote a November 2011 story for the Wall Street Journal on starting your own wine cellar. Will suggests that a good cellar will have three (or four pending on how you look at the story) categories of wine:
1.      Wines for a variety of drinking occasions and palates. These wines are to share with friends
2.      Wines for aging
3.      Wines for investment & to simply own

The wines for various drinking occasions should be light and easy to thrown down. Buy Sauvignon Blanc, white Bordeaux, Pinot Grigio and I say thrown in a Cab.

The batch of aging wines should include some medium-strength wines that can paired with meats at dinner parties. These can aging wines can be aged for five years or more with the goal of the wines to improve with time. Think Bordeaux, Burgundy, Australian and New Zealand Syrahs and Portuguese reds.

Finally, for investment wines, Lyons suggests high-end Bordeaux (vintages from 2005, 2009 and 2010). He says if you buy a few cases, you can always sell one – and it could pay off the cost of the other two!

(Sources: Martha Stewart Magazine – December 201, Wall Street Journal – November 2011)
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Spice Girl

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In the Strip District of Pittsburgh (it’s a strip of food places – not strippers. Although, there is a strip club around there….humm)

Anyways, where was I?

In the Strip District of Pittsburgh, there is a spice store called Penzey Spices.

I love me some store pamphlets, so I picked up one on my way out of this store and boy was I amazed. The store’s newsletter is like a spice bible. It provides so much background on a plethora of spices and how you can use them in your cooking and baking. Here are some of the best tips I learned…

·         Bay Leaves: These are perfect for adding to a chicken, pork roast, turkey or ham. Use 2-3 leaves and remove after serving.
·         Baking Spice: Apparently this stuff adds flavor to hot cereals, pancake batter, cake, brownies, muffins, pies and coffee cakes. Add up the spices in the recipe and just use the same amount of Baking Spice.
·         Celery Salt: Good for roast beef, pot roast, steaks on the grill or in a meatloaf. I prefer this rimmed around a bloody mary!
·         Cayenne Red Pepper Powder: This can be used in place of whole chili peppers in a barbecue sauce and chilly.
·         Crushed Red Peppers: I ate some of these tonight! I am obsessed with putting these on pizza, but Penzey also suggests adding them to spaghetti, omelets and beans.
·         Chili Powder: Great for Mexican dishes.
·         Cloves: A must for studding hams.
·         Cinnamon: An essential spice – you can put this in everything you bake and even some things that you drink – like hot chocolate! Cinnamon sticks are also great for stirring hot drinks!
·         Garlic: I won’t tell you what to use this for because it is gross. LOL.
·         Jerk Pork Seasoning: Great for Jamaican-style pork chops or tenderloin on the grill.
·         Mustard: Traditionally used for pickling, canning and sausage making.
·         Black Peppercorns: According to Penzey, if there is one spice that should be in your kitchen, it should be pepper. It adds the greatest amount of flavor to dishes!
·         Lemon-Pepper Seasoning: Most commonly used to season fish.
·         Oregano: Put this on baked chicken, pork and fish. It can also be added to a simple salad dressing or marinade.
·         Paprika: Adds a flavorful, colorful touch to meat, fish and poultry.

Some other spice tips:
·         Keep whole spices for four years and ground spices for two.
·         Do NOT store your spices near a heat source – on top of a fridge, stove, dishwasher, microwave or sink. Also keep your spices out of direct sunlight.

Penzey’s also sells cool gift boxes, like:
·         Bakers Assortment: cinnamon, coco, baking spice, vanilla
·         Original Mini: cinnamon, ground pepper, garlic powder and flavor seasoning
·         Some Like it Hot: hot chili powder, spicy hot curry powder and northwoods fire
·         Spicy Wedding Shower: Cajun seasoning, English prime rib rub, lemon-pepper seasoning, garden salad seasoning and wedding charms

(Source: Penzey Spices  ) 
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Sound The Party Horns!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January 15th is a monumental day my readers.

Five years ago this week, I started this little blog.

(vintage Shot of Brandi header)

Reading back on my past posts, not a lot has changed. I still love Sharpies. I still love polar bears and cupcakes.

I guess a few things have changed – I learned how to add hyperlinks to my blog posts, I moved cities, I now have more than 700 unique readers (in total – not monthly)

So in the last five years, what were the top five Shot of Brandi* posts? Here they are readers:

5. Poppin Bottles – My first VLOG! I hear that the readers like the videos! I may need to add more. I think they just like reader Lindsay!

4. Election Day: 2008 – the recap from attending the election night rally in Chicago

3. Happy Hallow Brady Birth Steelers Rule Election – one of the more longer titles, I think Brady has a little Shot of Brandi fan club that increases blog readership! Maybe we can get him to become a contributor.  

2. Push it Real Good: This one is all thanks to Reader Lauren – one of my loyal readers from the start. She posted a link to Shot of Brandi on Facebook and I got a ton of new readers! THANKS LAUR!! And hi new readers!

1.      My 101 in 1001. I think people were checking in on my list ; )

I want to thank all of you for reading my blog, emailing me ideas, sending me private emails about posts and pictures of crafts that I’ve inspired you to make. I really do this as a hobby to capture things I like to talk about and knowing that some of you look forward to my posts keeps me going. So seriously – THANK YOU.

Here’s to five more (and many more after that) years!

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