Reader Mailbag: Gone Fishing

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

No, not that fishing. 

Reader (and Chicago celebrity) Jason Sacks writes:

“You should do a blog post on Catfishing”

You know what I say – my readers ask, they shall receive!

I must admit, I still watch Teen Mom. Right now the current season is on Monday night at 10:00 p.m. est. Frankly, there is nothing else I watch in this time slot, so I’m typically multi-tasking while listening to Jenelle get yelled at by her mom. A few weeks ago, I noticed that Teen Mom was followed by a show called “Catfish.” After about two episodes, I was hooked. It took Brady about three or four shows, but eventually he too was reeled in (editor's note: all puns fully intended).

The premise of the show is this:
·         Hook, line, sinker: a young adult meets someone online, falls in love and wants to meet them in person
·         Young adult contacts a man named Nev (the “host” of the show) and asks Nev (who works for MTV) to help them meet their lover.  Nev is to catfishing as Chris Hansen was to sexual predators.
·         Nev and his film crew meet the young adult and get the scoop on the love affair
·         Once Nev gathers the info, he and his team do some “research,” report their findings to the young adult and typically contact the other person to schedule a meeting between the lovers

Now this is where this story always gets interesting. I’d say eight times out of 10, the person the young adult is in love with doesn't turn out to be who they thought (i.e. scary creeper). Lesson learned: There are other reel (lol) fish in the sea. 

Nev hosts this show because he too was catfished. He thought he was talking to some smokeshow (hottie) from Michigan, when it was really some mom with a fake profile. Nev’s whole story was featured in a documentary that was filmed by his brother and debuted at Sundance a few years ago.

The reason this whole “faux profile” thing is called “Catfishing” is explained in Nev’s documentary. The husband of the lady that created the fake profile said, “when live cod were shipped to Asia from North America, the fish's inactivity in their tanks resulted in mushy flesh, but fishermen found that putting catfish in the tanks with the cod kept them active. Vince feels that people like Angela are "catfish", who keep other people active in life” (via Wikipedia).

If I’ve learned all there is to be a parent from Teen Mom (no, I’m not with child, Sorry Mom!), then I’ve learned all there is to be a catfish expert from Nev.

If you are talking to someone that you met online, here are some signs that they may not be real:

1.      They won’t talk to you on the phone: In one episode some cute athlete guy says that his online love can’t talk on the phone because she doesn’t have one…um, it’s 2013. I know six-year-olds with mobile phones. Tell your crush to go out and buy a $25 pre-paid phone from Walmart and call you. Also – pay phones still exists for like $50. While I’m at it, can’t you ask your neighbor to borrow their phone?

2.      They won’t Skype with you: If they are talking to you on a computer, it’s likely that computer is equipped with a camera. Ask the person to Skype with you. If they say they don’t have a camera, suggest the local Apple store or library. If they still keep saying no, ask them to send you pictures other than the ones included in their profile. You see, most people that create faux profiles only have a handful of pictures that they post.

3.      GOOGLE THEM: This is so simple…Google the person. See what a search of their name pulls. If they have a name like “Dave Smith,” type in some other things in the search box like where he’s from, maybe his occupation, school info, etc. It’s likely everyone has SOMETHING else about themselves online than just a Facebook profile.

4.      Google Image Search: This one is a bit more complicated, but once I show you how it’s done, it’s simple. Remember how I said above to ask for more pictures of the person? Well if they won’t give you any OR agree to any of the things above, save their profile picture and run a Google image search. See my step-by-step instructions below. Your search may turn up identical pictures that may have been stolen from someone else’s profile. Yes, there are sick people now that steal people’s Facebook pictures to make their own faux profile. Sick world we live in!

 A few other ways to uncover a Catfish:
·         Look at their friends (if the list is open). Are they friends with relatives?
·         Read comments on their wall and photos. Who comments on their photos?
·         Find out when the profile was created. Are they new to Facebook? Are they friends with people from high school and/or college?
·         Ask them to talk about their family and job.

A lot of this seems like common sense, but if you watch the show, it’s rather crazy how these things don’t occur to the young adult that is in love!

Anyway, I hope sharing these tips educated you on the topic of catfishing so that you either aren’t duped OR can ensure that your child doesn't fall victim to internet fraud! 
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Cooking with Brandi* in 2013

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I like to cook. Let me repeat, I like to cook. However, I wish I had more time to cook up meals during the week. I do recognize what is preventing me to cook more during the week and I won’t disclose that here.

Anyways, I kicked off 2013 with cooking more! It wasn’t a resolution, just finding time to pursue cooking!

Here are some of the goodies that I’ve whipped up!

·         S’Mores Cookies – I still have some of these bad boys in the freezer! I was downloading fonts from a long time favorite site – Kevin & Amanda, when I realized the couple has this super awesome blog with great recipes. The S’mores cookies were super easy to make. Note that I used chocolate chips vs. mini kisses. I’d also like to point out that these cookies are thick vs. flat like most chocolate chip cookies

·         Spinach Lasagna Roll Ups – I’m utterly obsessed with the Skinny Taste blog. I’ve been following it for some time now and seriously save every recipe that is posted to the site. A few weeks ago, I tried these Skinny Spinach Lasagna Roll Ups and boy, they were good…and event better heated up the next day! VERY easy to make.

·         Cheesy Jalapeno Popper Baked Stuffed Chicken – Of course another Skinny Taste receipt! Reader Dana and I discussed a similar recipe, but I had already booked marked this one, so I tried it. I like spicy things, but the hubs doesn’t. Not sure I’ll remake this one, but it was easy and I thought it was good!

I had some other recipes planned, but then the Smithkowski house ended up with the plague, so needless to say we each hated food for a few days! More test & learn recipes to come! 
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I'm Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I try not to discuss my job a lot on this blog, but I will tell you that my client was an alcohol company for about three years. During this time, I began talking to my bartenders more.

I’d “interview” them to find out what drinks and shots were currently trendy. I found it rather fascinating how quickly shot trends passed and were picked up by my friends.

There were Jager Bombs, Alabama Slammers, Red Headed Sluts, Patron, Vegas Bombs and the list goes on. Based on experience and the word on the street, is that Little Beers and Fireballs are the current “it” shots of the moment.

Since we’ve already chatted Little Beers, let’s talk Fireballs.

There is not much that goes into a Fireball shot – it’s basically Fireball. Yes, Fireball is a Cinnamon Whisky that you just pour into a shot glass.

What’s it taste like? The brand tagline speaks for itself…

According to the brand’s website

“Fireball Cinnamon Whisky needs no introduction. If you haven't tried it, just imagine what it's like to get a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to the face if his legs were on fire and tasted like cinnamon. Live it, love it, shoot it -- your dad's whisky never tasted so smooth. What happens next is up to you”

Fireball was apparently created in the 1980s in Canada by a bartender that was trying to cure frostbite (sounds a bit like our weather now!). The alcohol content is 33%. 

So next time you are out with your friends and someone says “Let’s do a shot,” be a badass and try a Fireball! You just may want to keep a glass of water handy to help put out the flames!
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Sweep Away 2012

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Each year, my besties and I have an annual gift exchange (almost 10 years running!). While we buy a gift for one person, sometimes we share little goodies like nail polishes, ornaments and of course my annual Christmas mix tape (I mean CD!).

This year, Reader Lindsay gifted us with these adorable broom ornaments. I thought I would share this with you all as a potential DIY project for next year or a Happy New Year present for January gatherings.

The tag on the broom reads:  
“A broom is a silly ornament, but full of lure it is…
Sweeps away the old year and start anew.”

I did a quick search and the metal brooms may be a bit tricky to find, but there are real brooms that you can decorate like the one below from Etsy

Cheers to closing the books on a fantastic 2012 and here's to an even better 2013! 

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Shot of Flu

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I’ve been hit by the plague. Not so much the flu epidemic that they are covering in all forms of media, but another fun “virus” that brings with it aches in parts of your body that you didn’t know existed, some cool stomach sounds, hot/cold flashes and absolutely no appetite. No, I’m not pregnant and yes, I do understand that the no appetite is a blessing in New Year diet disguise.

Last night, on the eve of Thirsty Thursday, I found it ironic that I, Shot of Brandi, was getting a flu shot vs. doing a shot!

So knowing that this plague is sweeping my office and others, I wanted to share beverages to drink if you’ve had the unpleasure of receiving this virus too.

·       As you know, I love me a good Bloody Mary. My friends at WebMD say to drink vegetable juice. I recommend garnishing it with some celery stalk to make it feel like it’s spiked.
·       The smart people at Brown University say: sports drinks to replace minerals lost, soft drinks without caffeine (7up), weak tea and apple juice. Avoid milk, coffee and orange juice.
·       Not so much a beverage, but WebMD says to eat Popsicles.
·       The government says to avoid alcohol. Fun suckers. 
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Flirty Thirty, Dirty Thirty...Ideas for 30th Birthday Parties

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Last week, Shot of Brandi and Shot of Mom were challenged to come up with 30th birthday party themes. I never turn down a challenge, so I did some internal brainstorming and here’s what I came up with!

Editor’s Note: I believe the best themes come from something that is “you.” Do you have a favorite color? TV show? Passion or hobby like cooking, crafting, etc.? Start there and then build out a theme. If you are still stumped, then keep reading ; )

1.      Neon: 2012 was a big year for neon. American Apparel has been selling bold colors for some time, but big retailers like Gap, J. Crew and Express hopped on to the trend. This is my top choice because:
·         Attire: Those gals and guys into themes shouldn’t have a tough time finding something to wear to this party (see retailers above). For those that like to do the minimal to participate can add neon bracelets or necklace. Easy, right?
·         Décor: Go nuts at Oriental Trading. They have neon everything – including glow bracelets, necklaces and balloons. Easy again.
·         Drink: Brands like DeKuyper make it easy to create bold drinks and jello shots. Don’t forget some three olives Dude.

Image sources: Asos sequin bow dress (on sale!), Sequin Bowties, Bow invite via Paperless Post, Emergency Bow Ties via me!

2.      Sequins & Bows: This is a VERY Shot of Brandi* theme (pretty much describes my whole closet), but almost anyone can pull this off.
·         Attire: Pretty self-explanatory here: sequins and bows. Girls likely already have something in their closet. For the guys, this can mean bow ties.
·         Décor: I’m a bit over the whole moustache trend (sorry), BUT I’ll allow an exception here.  Add bows to balloons and on centerpieces. You can also buy some inexpensive sequin trip to add as a table runner or around vases.
·         Drink: This party calls for some bubbly in bow adorned wine and martini glasses. For the guys, whiskey drinks.
·         Twists to this Theme: Feathers & Fedoras, Lace & Leather

3.      Let’s Have as Much Fun as Two 15-Year-Olds: Okay, this theme is a mouthful, but I saw this slogan on a birthday card and couldn’t stop thinking of the possibilities.
·         Attire: What did you wear when you were 15? For me, I’d adorn some Abercrombie and Express logo items. Looking back at pics, most of my 15-year-old fashions are back in style...jean shorts, crop tops, 
·         Décor: Throwback photos from your 15-year-old days. I’m sure some St. Ides Special Brew would make an appearance in my images.
·         Drink: This is where the fun starts. I’m not sure they still make that Special Brew, but I know they still make Mad Dog. Add in Peach Schnapps, some cans of Natty Light and Keystone and you’ve got a Bowling Night party right there. I also recommend adding some big kid drinks. You likely can’t recover like your 15-year-old self.
·         Activities: Circle of Death, Beer Pong and Flip Cup tourneys are obvious, but why not throw in a “run from the cops race”

Some other themes:
·         Bacon & Beer: Bacon dishes and craft beer tastings
·         Plaid Party: Everyone wears plaid
·         Say Good Bye to the Roaring 20’s: Think flapper theme
·         1930’s party: Very similar to the 20’s party, but prohibition was repealed in the 1930’s and there a lot of cool cocktails you can play around with. And the year is pretty rad - get it…you turn 30…the year 30…LOL
·         Decade themes: 80’s, 90’s, etc.
·         1983 Party: People turning 30 in 2013 were born in 1983. Think of things that happened that year…
o   MJ introduces the Moonwalk
o   Sally Ride is the first woman in outer space
·         Roller Skating: THIS is what I wanted to do for my 30th, but I couldn’t find a place in Pgh that would allow us to bring in alcohol. Yes, I called around (“Hi, I want to have my birthday here…it’s for me, I’m turning 30…can we bring alcohol?”)
·         Bottles and Brushes (paint party): There are a number of places locally that host these
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