Gift Ideas: BEST. GIFTS. EVER.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Tangled was on repeat in our house a year ago and I’m glad it was - it’s a super cute movie. And, if you ask my daughter what her favorite part of our last Disney trip was, she will tell you the “Rapunzel Bathrooms.” I guess she wasn’t impressed by the teacups.

Anyways, it’s a cute movie and Disney World needs to up its game and include some more Rapunzel items. Until then, here’s some gift ideas inspired by the one with the long, golden hair! 

  1. I Do My Hair Toss - With Rapunzel, it’s all about the hair. For your mane-obsessed friend or family member, how about a Dry Bar gift set (or gift card!), Slip scrunchies or headband (I’m totally having a headband moment).
  2. When Rapunzel firsts meets Eugene, she hits him over the head with a frying pan. I’ve found that after 10 years some of my pans needed a little refresh! I’m going to suggest this set from All Clad since they are a Pittsburgh-area brand! 
  3. Rapunzel loves the special “floating lights” that fly every summer on her birthday. Ever since we honeymooned in Cabo, I’ve been obsessed with star lanterns similar to this one from Pottery Barn. Since that’s kinda random, let me suggest this lantern purse based on the ones in the movie! 
  4. Everyone is all about those experience gifts. What about some bow and arrow lessons? I saw some people take lessons over the summer at North Park via the ‘gram. I did a little research and there are some places in Pittsburgh where you can shoot indoors - like Bucks & Bows or The Archer’s Edge. There is also a Rapunzel bow and arrow set that is part of our toy collection.
  5. Mandy Moore is the voice of Rapunzel in Tangled and if you are a fan of her music, you just might be in luck. She’s touring this spring and it actually kicks off in Pittsburgh! Check out all dates here
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Gift Ideas: The Fairest Of Them All

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

When we took my daughter to Disney for the first time (she was around 16 months), the first Princess she spotted was Snow White. Several months later, she asked if she could watch the movie, so I obliged. Man, I forgot that this is a heavy cartoon! For this exercise, Snow White and her dwarf friends provide oh-so-much inspiration for gifts! 

  1. Mirror, Mirror - The first Anthropologie Home Outlet in the U.S. recently opened near me. My expectations for the store might have been a tad too high, but one thing they have is amazing mirrors. If you aren’t close by, check out the Anthro website for options (that go on sale all the time!). This Hello Beautiful mirror makes a cute gift option under $50.
  2. 7 Dwarfs Mini Lipstick Set - I’m not one of those women that have a signature lipstick shade, so this set could potentially help me find the perfect color for my pout! The small size is also great for festive clutches! 
  3. Sweet Dreams - Like Sleepy, settle down for a warm winter’s nap with this Ugg Weighted Blanket
  4. No Sneezy - For the family that is always dealing with sickness (ME!), how about a diffuser. I’ve read good things about the CAMPO Ceramic Diffuser and just might be adding one to my list. 
  5. An Apple A Day - The poisoned apple sends Snow White into a deep sleep. Give a friend or family member the gift of their very own apple orchard with this Apple-Tree-To-Be kit!
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Gift Ideas: Belle of the Ball

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Continuing the theme of Disney Princess-inspired gifts, let’s move on to one of my favorite princesses - Belle.


  1. Books - Belle is obsessed with books - and girllll I can relate. While I’ve been trying to use the library more to keep our collection down, I love a good cookbook gift. Some newly released cookbooks include: The Joy of Cooking 2019, Entertaining with Disney and Beautiful Boards. I’m also obsessed with You Are A F*cking Awesome Mom, by Leslie Anne Bruce - It’s the perfect gift for a new mom or someone expecting! Finally, I was surprised how much I loved Michelle Obama’s Becoming and there is now a journal to add to the gift
  2. Hannah Anderson Tulle Skirt - I’m a fan of what I’ve decided to call “Discrete Disney.” Like a piece of apparel that doesn’t scream the character. I love this line of Hannah Anderson princess gear and it’s on way sale!
  3. Kate Spade Belle Boulevard - Almost 10 years later and I finally used my wedding china two weeks ago! Inspired by my recent dinner party, the name of this collection (Belle Boulevard) and the one and only Mrs. Potts, a teapot is a cute gift for a tea-lover on your list. 
  4. Magical Rose - The real MVP of Beauty and the Beast is the magical rose. Nowadays, when I think of rose, my mind goes to a good rose. There are several cute bottles out there that would make a great present for a girlfriend or hostess gift. Some options: White Girl Rose, Summer Water and Rose All Day. Also, how cute is the Babe holiday box!? 
  5. Art of Shaving Beard Kit - For the “beast” on your list, how about the Art of Shaving Beard Kit!
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Shot Of Brandi Holiday Gift Guide

Monday, December 02, 2019

When thinking about a holiday gift guide, I got a little stuck (blame it on the 5,000 tabs open in my head right now). So I looked around my house for inspiration and, well, I was inspired.

Even before Disney+ came into our lives, Disney movies have been taking over our television screen for a few years now. I don’t mind - it allows me to revisit the classics and also take in some flicks that I’ve never watched.

So let’s kick things off with gifts inspired by the ultimate princess, Cinderella. I mean, she does have the biggest house in Disney World, right?

  1. With this girl, it’s allllll about the shoes. If your budget is endless, how about these beauties from Jimmy Choo or J. Crew Glitter Boots. For those of us with a shoestring budget (get it), Cinderella Toms or Kate Spade Keds.
  2. They See Me Rollin’ - When I spotted this motorized princess carriage for the first time, I gasped. It’s so amazing. If the price tag is a little too royalty for you, there is also a Little Tikes carriage coup! 
  3. Cinderella’s life isn’t always lavish. When her evil stepmother makes her clean the house, Cinderella may appreciate some new supplies! One of my goals in 2020 is to switch to “cleaner” cleaning supplies, so I would totally love a gift card to Grove Collaborative. There are also several natural product starter kits like Thrive Market, Branch Basics or The Laundress
  4. When shopping for Disney-related products, items can get a little loud. You’ll soon learn that I’m a fan of “Discrete Disney” - Items that are Disney-themed, but don’t scream DISNEY. For a Cinderella-themed room, I love these framed photos from Pottery Barn Kids. There are several items in this collection, like this Cinderella Jewelry Box.
  5. Stay in a Castle - Thinking about Cinderella’s Castle in Disney, a giant gift would be the opportunity to sleep like Cindy. When I think of castles, I think of Ireland. Aer Lingus Vacations offer several Ireland packages that give you the opportunity to spend a night in a castle!
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Strawberry Fields FOUR-Ever

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Before my daughter turned three last year, an idea for her 4th birthday party hit me. Her name - Lennon - was of course very closely inspired by a certain musician / band. She’s a fan of the Netflix show Beat Bugs, so knows most of their songs. I knew we’d have to do ONE Beatles-themed party at some point in her life. And, this was the perfect time.

I give you - Strawberry Fields FOUR-ever! 

I scoured the internet and it doesn’t appear that anyone ever used this exact theme (or posted about it), so I thought I’d show some of the party elements here for others!

I’m typically not a fan of double themes, but I was able to make these two work with each other vs. against.

I kept the decor strawberry themed. For the “field,” I made about 30 strawberries out of construction paper that I actually had on hand! I printed a pattern from an internet search and spent a rainy afternoon cutting. I then hot glued the strawberries to sticks. Super easy. 

I decided against helium balloons this year and thank goodness I did. Apparently that helium shortage is real. Most of my usual places are out (i.e. multiple Party City locations, Dollar Stores, etc). The day before the party, I used a little hand air pump to blow up balloons. Then, I added little black dots and green construction paper stems. I created small bushels of balloons for the pillars of the picnic shelter. 

In case of rain - WHICH we totally had - I made a little “Join the band” craft. Kids could color their own guitar, get a faux tattoo, pick a pair of John Lennon glasses and walk Abbey Road. I cut the guitars out of poster board and added string so they could "wear" them. I had a vision of taking each kids’ picture to make a “backstage pass,” but my husband brought me down a level! 

Knowing that we’d likely face elements - like wind and rain - I kept the table decor simple by printing out quotes from Beatles songs. 

Truth be told, no one really took advantage of my “Penny Lane” game, but again, rain. Lol. I purchased a bundle of strawberry graphics from Etsy and had a large sheet printed at Sam’s Club. The idea was kids could throw pennies and try to get them on a strawberry. Apparently I didn't even take a picture of this, but I wanted to share the idea!

Now, for the best part. I love a good pun and this menu was FULL of puns. 

For drinks, we had:
  • Help, I need some water
  • I feel wine 
  • Lovely margaritas 
  • Helter Seltzers 
  • Here, beer and everywhere - and even a beer called 8 Days a Week! 
  • Hey, Juice (we needed something without alcohol for the kids!) 

The shelter is next to a small playground where the kids spent most of their time. We also had a strawberry piñata per the request of the birthday girl! 

Last, but not least, my mom made favors for both the kids and moms! Kids received a strawberry-themed basket of goodies, while moms got a strawberry candle!

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Dancing Queen: Dance Class Treat

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

We are closing out another year of dance class and that calls for a celebration! I’m always trying to brainstorm ideas for a class treat that isn’t just a piece of candy. I know that some schools request a non-food treat and that can be tricky for parents too!

With the help of my almost 4-year-old, we picked out these princess crowns from Amazon that come with a small wand and ring. I put the want and ring into a bag and tied them to the crown with a bow and card.

BTW - is TGFA a thing? Can it be? TGFA = Thank god for Amazon!

For the card, I wanted something clever that tied the item into dance class - so low and behold, I give you - DANCING QUEEN! Lol. I purchased the crown clip art from Etsy. Paper Sphinx is my go-to for clip art!

Anyways, this was an easy, cute, item for those end of year dance class favors!
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What I’m Doing While Not Blogging Part 3: Reading

Friday, June 07, 2019

Reading more wasn’t a “resolution’ that I made, but in January I started taking advantage of our awesome local library more. They have a great selection and I just can't purchase anymore books. I read them once and then they collect dust. Exception = Harry Potter. I will forever own those.

Thinking about how I use my screen time, most of it is devoted to reading. Reading news or magazine articles. Reading blogs. So as a way to put down the screen a bit, I started reading more books.

So what have I been reading…

All We Ever Wanted - Surprisingly I haven’t read more Emily Griffin books. This might have been my first one. Loved it. The book focuses on the mom of a high school boy and deals with topics parents face today thanks to cell phones. Also, the relationship between the husband and wife. Quick, good read. Recommend it.

The Library Book - Very interesting, true story, about how the Los Angeles Public Library burnt down. Sadly, this book was a new release and due back to my local library pretty quick, so I didn’t get to finish it. It was a bit of a slower read for me. I can’t totally recommend it.

Little Fires Everywhere - Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington started filming this adaptation, so I had to read it before Hulu show comes out! Loved it. The book is set in the Shaker Heights suburbs of Cleveland. The author, Celeste Ng, actually spent some years living in Pittsburgh, so there are some local references! It’s the story of an artist mom and her high school daughter that move around a lot and end up in Shaker Heights. The story focuses on the relationship between the future Reese and Kerry characters and their children. It’s good. Read it. Now.

My Oxford Year - A somewhat self-explanatory title lol. This book is about a woman that spends a year studying at Oxford while still contributing to a political campaign in the states. It’s more love story vs, politics. Actually, politics plays a very minor role in the story. Anyways, while studying, she meets a guy. Will she stay in Oxford or go back to the US? You’ll need to read. Loved it. I want more. I want this to be a movie. I was actually surprised how much I liked this!

What Alice Forgot - This story is by Liane Moriarty, who wrote Big Little Lies - which I read when Lennon was born and pretty much forget the story. I blame sleep deprivation! I think the HBO show is confusing me too because it’s strayed so far from the book. Back to What Alice Forgot. I loved this story. Some parts were a little slow and it started to remind me of All We Ever Wanted in weird ways, BUT this is a story of Alice - who was working out, fell off a cycle bike and hit her head. She wakes up and can’t remember the last 10 years of her life. She and her husband are separated, her sister doesn’t like her much and she has three kids she can’t remember. The story then goes back in time to help Alice remember what she “forgot.”

Victoria - I remember discovering this author, Daisy Goodwin, from some article headline that said “If you miss Downton Abbey, read/watch this” and Victoria was on that list. It’s likely because it was made into a PBS series - which I watched after reading this book! That’s a long way of saying - if you are into Downtown Abbey, old school royalty with some fact/fiction/love, this book is for you! The first season of the PBS series followed the book pretty close and I loved it! I wish there were more books for the other seasons because I started to get lost. This was one of the first books I read this year and went on a Daisy Goodwin kick - following it up with The Fortune Hunter. Loved that too. I want more! 

I think that about covers it! I’m looking forward to knocking down some more books this summer! If you read something good that I should add, let me know!
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What I’m Doing While Not Blogging Part 2: Crafting

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

When my daughter was a baby, we started doing a Mother’s Day craft together for her grandma’s and great-grandma’s. Keeping the tradition alive, this year we made succulent vases!

I picked up a 4-pack of these ceramic vases, gave the kid some acrylic paints (i’m crazy) and let her have at it without much instruction (i.e. don’t get paint on my table). 

She chose to paint each vase 1 color. Once they dried from the multiple coats of paint the kid used, we added some flair. I used a hot glue gun to add the gems, but the kid picked them and told me where to glue! 

I found the mini succulents at Home Depot!

I added a little homemade Q&A card with each gift and voila! A homemade Mother’s Day gift!

We started crafting for the "pun-niest" party that I've ever hosted - my daughter's 4th birthday! I can't wait to share with you the details!
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What I'm Doing While Not Blogging: Part 1 - Exercise.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Hello? Is this thing on?


I’ve mentioned before that I have pages and pages and binders and binders of unpublished blog ideas. If only there was more time and resources!

I have a few blog posts up my sleeve for this week in a series I’m going to call - “What I’m Doing When I’m Not Blogging…” I wish I had something more creative. I’m open to suggestions.

Let’s start with the first thing I’m probably doing when not blogging. Well, that’s not true. I’m probably “Mom-ing.” That is a verb, right?

The other thing I’m probably doing my shock you. I’m working out.

I used to totally roll my eyes when I saw people sharing their workout on social media. Like everyone really needed to see that you ran 5 miles this morning while I was still in my pjs. Cool, bro.

Now, I’m a somewhat changed woman. I finally found a workout class that I’m super happy to share a screenshot of my “performance” with my husband and sister once I’m done - with a funny gif of someone falling off a bike.

A bike because, I’m officially obsessed with cycle class.

Before I begin, let me say that I’m not someone that doesn’t like working out. My first job when I was 14-years-old was working the front desk at a gym. I also had a membership, a workout plan from a trainer and occasionally took aerobics classes (yep, I said aerobics).

I’ve always tried to remain active - to balance my love of wine and chocolate - but as you get older and work long hours at a desk, and try to keep tiny humans alive, it gets harder. Throw in an unexpected heart condition that I learned about in 2015, it certainly made my workout plan a little different (everything is okay - I just have some limits!).

Back to Cycle.

In the summer of 2017, a cycle studio became one of my public relations clients. This “forced” me into taking two classes. Then, they opened a studio by my house and I’ve been going on the regular.

If you’ve never participated in a spin class, read on. If you have, you can continue to read, but this may be boring.

I had taken a spin class at a gym before, but nothing like this! The difference is CycleBar is a boutique studio - spin classes is all they offer!

At this studio, you submit your shoe size when you register and they supply spin shoes. It’s kinda like bowling. Yes, it freaked me out a little at first, but you need to wear them because you can clip into the bike pedals. Trust me, you need to do this!

When you book your class, you book your bike. It’s important that you check in and sit at your assigned bike. That’s how you get your results. More on that later.

Most classes are 45 minutes, but they do offer 60 minute classes. Each class typically has a 10-ish minute warm up and a little cool down at the end. For most of the 45 minutes, you are pedaling along to different songs and exercises on a bike. No, you aren’t sitting in the saddle the whole time (that’s what we in the biz call the seat).

The “bar” in CycleBar comes from the two weighted bars at the front of each bike (you can kinda see them on this awful pic below the handlebar). I wish I told you that I found an exercise class where you sip rose and burn calories, but not here folks. This “bar” is all about those arm muscles. During one song, the instructor leads you through an arm workout - typically it’s like 5 straight minutes too. 

I’m not a CycleStar by any means, but after each 45 min. class, I typically burn around 600 calories. During one fluke class, I managed to burn 1,025 and I have the screenshot to prove it. 

Oh yeah, about those stats. They are delivered to your inbox after each class and some mysterious math that has to do with your height, weight, RMPs on the bike and resistance. They also email you your CLASS RANKING. So you know where you finish among your fellow riders. 

When I first started classes, I’d ALWAYS finish last. But in the words of my favorite music artist of the moment, Drake - “Started from the bottom now I’m here!” Here = third to last lol. 

If you made it this far and never tried cycle, I’d totally recommend it! I’m personally pretty shocked how much I enjoy it. I’m not bored, 45 minutes is totally doable, my studio offers a lot of different class times, the instructors are great and make awesome playlists and you feel great after your ride. The fact that they send you scores also makes you want to go back and do better - it’s highly motivating! 

I could go on and on, but I'm going to end this and think about my next workout. Kidding. Kind of.

If you go: 
  • Don’t forget socks. Also, the room is always super cold in the beginning, so it's totally normal to wear layers! 
  • Bring a water bottle. No need to fill it - they have fancy water machines. They supply a towel. 
  • Make your ride, YOUR ride. If you want to sit down and pedal the whole time, you do that.
  • Wait for a sale to buy rides - it can be a little pricey. Do the math to figure out the most cost effective price per class for your schedule. 
  • Scope out the room for fans. Book a bike near the fan! 
  • I wear slide sandals with socks. Yep. But it makes putting my shoes on quick and easy!
  • Don’t expect to lose a lot of weight. I’ve been cycling 2-3 time a week and I know my clothes fit a little better, but I’m not seeing the numbers move on the scale. I hear this is common, but there is muscle forming somewhere! While dropping some LBS would be nice, I’m in this for the “healthy lifestyle’ thing ; )
One day, my instructor said something that stuck with me. For some people, the hardest part of the workout is making it through the door. I've completed 54 classes without a "buddy" and I know it can be intimidating to try things on your own. You can also have a million excuses for hitting that cancel button. Consider trying it one time to see if you like it! 
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Off The Hook Tuna Recipe

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Many of you know that my day job is not blogger - SHOCKER, right!?

Thank god it isn’t because I blog like once a month if I’m lucky now.

My day job is focusing on public relations - and actually content - but for paying clients.

Let’s just say that one of my clients is a “local boutique grocery store that specializes in seafood.”

Earlier this year, I spent some time with one of the team members on a television segment that focused on an easy seared sesame crusted ahi tuna recipe. You guys. I’m hooked.

This recipe is so easy. And, cooking semi-raw tuna is so easy. In fact, I don’t even follow a recipe now.

I took some snaps before I cooked this dish last week, which by the way smoked up my house. I’ll probably wait a few weeks to make it again when I can air out the place.

Here’s what I did:

  • Bought the tuna fresh - not frozen. If the tuna looks sketch, ask the fish monger if it’s “sushi grade” or just tell them you plan to eat it semi-raw.

  • When I was about to cook the tuna, I coated it in a little soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, pepper and lemon.

  • Then, I rolled the outside of the tuna in sesame seeds (I need to get some of the black seeds still).

  • I put oil in a pan and got it really hot. Like smoking hot. (Hence, why I almost caused sprinklers to go off).

  • You then cook the tuna for about 45 seconds on each side and you are DONE. Dinner in under 5 minutes!

I know my “recipe” is a little wonky because I tend to improvise, but here are some recipes from the experts:


Simply Recipes

Food Network
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Ra! Ra! It's a Pom Wreath

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Today we are going to talk poms.

I have a little history with poms. I guess the cheer ones came first in the early ‘90’s. Then, I moved on to the yarn ones in high school. You see, as a majorette in the band, a rite of passage was making your first pair of poms for your boots. This required a lot of yarn. We wrapped it around our legs, tied the bunch with a string and then cut them. To finish the look, we added a sequin wrapper!


Fast forward to today.

I’ve been seeing pom wreaths, poms on shirts, poms on hats...poms are having a moment. I thought - I could make that. Then, I discovered the plastic pom makers. No legs required!

During a snowy, cold weekend, I bought some yarn and pomed away. Before I used my fancy pom makers, I did watch this super helpful tutorial.

I paired pink, red and magenta yarn together for a heart wreath (I already had the wire wreath at home). I’d say that this first attempt is missing something. Perhaps white poms? Or, maybe a multi-color yarn?

This is probably a no brainer, but when you tie the pom, you leave some extra yarn to then tie on to the wreath. You can see that I used a wire wreath. Some poms went a little rouge, so I had to work hard to place them on the wreath.

By the way, I barely scratched the surface on these big rolls of yarn. I have so much left! If you are making a small wreath, no need to invest in the big rolls.

I’d say, with the plastic pom makers, 3 rolls of yarn and the wire wreath, I made this for under $25. Next time, I won’t need the pom makers!

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My Sunny Valentine

Thursday, January 31, 2019

You guys know that I live for a good themed class treat. I feel like Valentine’s Day is a holiday where I can really get my creative juices flowing.

Last year, I already rolled with the gem-themed cards and ring pops, but saved another idea - heart sunglasses!

As soon as I possibly could, I ordered these sun-themed Valentine cards from Minted. I mean, I totally love a standard Valentine Card from Target, but I can’t help myself with personalized paper goods. Yes. I’m that extra mom.

I ordered heart-shaped sunnies from Amazon. All pink for dance class and multi-color for school. I do fear some kids may get testy with the color variety (there are some blues and greens), but oh well.

I’m planning to punch a hole in the envelopes, while avoiding the card (already testing it) and attaching the card with a ribbon.

In the end, for 30ish "treats" I came in a little under $50. So, about $1.66 per kid. A little pricey, but worth for my future homeroom mom portfolio.
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Knotty or Nice - Christmas Party Favor

Sunday, January 13, 2019

When it comes to the holidays, I try to know my limits. I can only commit to so many gatherings, cooking baking, shopping trips...the list goes on. Adding to the stress, the end of the year is always a bit hectic at work too. This year, I also vowed to stay healthy - which meant some extra trips to the cycle studio.

Knowing that the kid has holiday parties at school and dance, I tried to brainstorm early something different other than candy. I was rather proud of my dance class idea, so i had to share.

I found these $1.50 hair bows (on sale) at Target and I knew they’d be perfect for Lennon’s dance class. I scoured the internets for a cute saying to put with the bows, but couldn’t find one. So I made this up and it worked for a Christmas party favor!

With only five girls in Lennon’s class, I walked away with this party favor under $10!

I know, I know, the holidays are over. But in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I forgot to blog this. Save it for next year ; )
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