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we are women who love entertaining, reading, cooking, and drinking great wine. Follow us as we quest to forge city-life, career, and a full schedule with our domestic aspirations all while maintaining friendships with strong, independent women around our area! With the help and inspirations from our book club socials, we will blog about books, cooking, entertaining, friendships, and anything that will help you come up with unique ideas to form a womens social circle of your own!

This is your link to other women who love the simple pleasures of life, home, and friendships.

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June 20 - Movie on the Pier

June 29 - The Forgotten Garden

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Monday
May142012

Creative Mondays 

Week 3 - How did you do?

Another great week here for The Bookhostess - while the weather was a bit damp, cold and rainy I was able to make some excellent progress in my creative journey. This week I decided to highlight two of the tasks at hand - I hope you had great success this week as well. And for those of you who may need a refresher here is the blog we used for inspiration.

 

1. BREATHE - This w as one that seemed simple enough but in practice faired to be a bit more challenging than expected. If you are anything like me you find it hard to take a moment for yourself or a moment to relax at all. I found that yoga helped me a bit with my breathing along with some great meditations - the tips I got below were very helpful. Take a look and let me know what you think. 

The key to deep breathing is to breathe deeply from the abdomen, getting as much fresh air as possible in your lungs. When you take deep breaths from the abdomen, rather than shallow breaths from your upper chest, you inhale more oxygen. The more oxygen you get, the less tense, short of breath, and anxious you feel.

  • Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
  • Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
  • Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
  • Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.

If you find it difficult breathing from your abdomen while sitting up, try lying on the floor. Put a small book on your stomach, and try to breathe so that the book rises as you inhale and falls as you exhale.

 

2. DRINK COFFEE - This one was my favorite and the one I enjoyed the most (so far). I normally drink coffee on the way to work and on occasion around 3pm when I hit the wall. But this week I tried to really enjoy the coffee and my time drinking it. I discovered the french press and found that my coffee tasted better and I truly enjoyed the intense taste and was even more excited when I discovered the travel french press.

 After I discovered the travel french press I began to explore local coffee shops and then I stumbled upon this great article listing the top shops in the US. Hopefully there is one near you. 

Top Local Shops in the USA!

1. Coffee By Design - Portland, Maine

Sixteen years ago Mary Allen Lindemann and Alan Spear opened this tiny coffee shop in Portland, Maine with the idea of building a place for the community. Over the years, the shop has grown from their original Congress Street location to three other shops and a micro roaster where they process all their beans. But despite their mini-expansion, the independent store remains homey and popular for Mainers as they continue to serve the community one cup of Fore Street coffee at a time.

2. El Beit- Brooklyn, New York 

The name El Beit means  “home” in Arabic, and that’s precisely the vibe this Brooklyn café exudes. The shop opened in early 2008 and since then has served a constant flow of killer coffee made with the ubiquitous Clover machine or with a French press. The beans come from 49th Parallel, a roaster in Vancouver, but all the pastries they serve are made locally at their sister store.


3. Espresso Vivace - Seattle, Washington

Seattle has always held the reputation of being the coffee king, so picking one of their numerous cafes wasn’t easy. Espresso Vivace was chosen for its rich history in the Seattle scene, and for their rich Northern Italian espresso. Since 1988, owners David Schomer and Geneva Sullivan have made the art of espresso their life and have delved into roasting, pulling, preparing, pouring and grinding for the perfect shot. Each of their three locations remain unique too, one is a sidewalk bar, another a European style café and the third a more modern coffee shop featuring a cool design.

4. Firestorm Cafe and Books - Asheville, North Carolina

Coffee shops have often been associated with poets, activists, college students and any artistic type looking for a caffeinated connection. And, given that the patron saint of Firestorm is writer and feminist Voltairine de Cleyre, this stereotype fits perfectly with this café in Asheville, NC, and not in a bad way. The cafe opened in 2005 with the goal to be worker-owned, and for the past six years, they have achieved that goal while also using Counter Culture Coffee to make a mean cup of joe.

5. Flipnotics Coffeespace - Austin, Texas

The artistic aura that Austin puts out has been drawing people in for decades and, like any good, creative-minded person, they need caffeine. At Flipnotics they get that and for the past 19 years this quirky café has served the needs of musicians and artists with cups of steaming Fair Trade organic coffee and by hosting live bands. Also, while the shop remains laid back, that doesn’t mean the baristas are lazy, in fact, the coffee mavens here make some of the best lattes and cappuccinos out West.

6. Pablos Coffee - Denver, Colorado

As independent coffee shops started closing up in Denver after the corporate coffee boom, Pablos has remained strong since 1995. Owner Craig Conner first catered to the theater crowd at his original location next to the Denver Performing Arts Center. Now the shop has moved and taken root in the historic Alamo Placita neighborhood and not only serves up quality cappuccinos, lattes and café solo, but they roast their own beans daily. Aside from keeping the community caffeinated, they also host an annual pancake brunch extravaganza for their customers.

7. Philz Coffee - San Fransisco, California

Owner Phil Jaber has been researching coffee for almost 35 years, and nothing shows off his aptitude for the bean more than his system of “by the cup” brewing he does at Philz in San Francisco. First, you pick your beans from a detailed list that includes options like the medium-blend Philharmonic or the dark-roasted Jacob’s Wonderbar. Then they grind and set it to drip. For the past eight years this has been the drill, and though they have added a few more locations, it’s still a personalized and true coffee shop experience, right down to the worn out couches and strategically placed laptops littering the joint.

9. Press - Dayton, Ohio

Customers flock to this Dayton, Ohio coffee shop for a number of reasons: One, they hire skilled baristas to make outstanding drinks; two, the beans they use change constantly to keep things fresh; and three, they don’t cater to the masses with silly drinks like the frappuccino (because really, that’s not coffee). They use beans mainly from Counter Culture and newcomer Dogwood, and the shop sports numerous plugs for those hard at work freelancers, and of course, they also hang local art on the walls. All of this adding up to the perfect indy coffee shop.

10. Ristretto Roasters - Portland, Oregon

They had us with their Beaumont blend espresso, which gets described as a “deep dark chocolate and ripe berry” blend. Yum. But it’s not just their beans that make this Portland spot jump out, it’s the pure love and joy owner Din Johnson put into his shop. Johnson first got into roasting coffee in 2000 in his home. That hobby grew until he needed an actual store to house the roaster, so, in 2005 he created his coffee shop by hand, picking out everything that gives it the clean, cozy vibe. Though they have two locations now, Johnson can be seen entombed in the glass-walled roasting chamber at his original shop.

 

Friday
May112012

FETISH FRIDAYS

Hooray for the weekend!  I don't know about you, but I am exhausted from this work week and I'm looking forward to some downtime this weekend to catch up on some reading.  I've had The Night Circus on my bedside for about a month now and I'm finally going to get to open it up this weekend.  To end this week, here is a list of our favorite stories from around the web:

 

Favorite Wine Link: How to Pair Wine with Cookies.  Everyone thinks wine should be paired with sophisticated foods, but what about your simple cranberry oatmeal cookie?  This little cheat sheet will help you pair your favorite cookie with a great wine.  This would be fantastic after a long day at work and all you want to eat are cookies and wine.  Or maybe that's just me?

 

 

Great Opinion Piece: Abandoning Books with No Remorse.  I'm one who will read a book until the end, despite if I like it or not.  Granted, if I don't like it, I will skip through paragraphs to get to the meat of the chapters.  What about you?  How long do you read till you decide that the book is worth it?

 

 

 

Favorite Food Link: Vanilla Rum-soaked French Toast & 15 liquor soaked recipes.  Are you noticing a theme here with this Friday's favorite links?  Yes, I'm in desperate need of a drink, so I'm looking at alternative / genius ways to take in my alcohol consumption. 

 

BOOK MERCHANDISE LINK: Pamela Fugate designed bag


FAVORITE NEW VIDEO LINK: "WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE" INTERPRETED BY CHRISTOPHER WALKEN.  In Memoriam of the great Maurice Sendak who passed away this week, I wanted to do a "where the wild things are" post since it is a childhood favorite of almost everyone I know.  This reading by Christopher Walken is pretty hilarious.  Rest in Peace, Maurice Sendak.

 

 

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!!!

Tuesday
May082012

CREATIVE MONDAYS - Week 2 

Two weeks down .. only 50 more to go? How did you do this week? Are you feeling more creative or inspired to create? It definitely is tough to keep up and with our busy schedules this week, we decided to focus on the next 2 on the list.


KATHLEEN'S PROGRESS: This week was a bit harder as I already did most of the tasks assigned but I took that as a challange. How could I do the tasks differently or in a more creative way? It took some time and some pinterest searching but once I got a handle on it I was off.

1. Take Pictures - I have always enjoyed taking, printing and editing photos of others especially while on vacation or driving around town. I don't know what it is but I adore travel photos but I insprie to take better pictures. Without fail when I get home and look at my photos I feel a bit let down and disappointed - but this ends today! With the help of this blog and this amazing article I found - I WILL be a better photographer.   

  • Include signage in you pictures. The name and price of the fruits and vegetables at farmer’s market written in the local language, creatively painted store signs, a newsstand featuring local papers, even the city street signs will give your images a lively sense of place.

  • Include people in your frames. Try to feature local people rather than tourists. Folks buying their daily paper, selecting flowers at the market, having coffee at the outdoor cafe or chatting as they walk their dogs. And if you have the time for doing some street photography, pick a spot and wait a bit.  Something interesting will surely happen and a story will unfold for you to capture and take home. The human element always adds interest to your images.

  • Create a photo story with a handful of frames. Start by taking a wide shot of an antique market to set the stage, then shoot a few close-ups of items for sale, people exchanging money, children laughing, the old fellow smoking a pipe. These are the travel images that will make your photo album more memorable and more unique.  They can also be an interesting montage if displayed on your walls back home.

  • Avoid those boring family group shots in front of landmarks.  Instead, take action shots of your kids eating the end of fresh baguette in France or your husband playing bocce ball with the locals in Italy. Those are the pictures you’ll cherish for years to come. They will evoke your travel stories and fun memories, making you smile every time you open the photo album.

  • Resist taking those traditional postcard shots. When visiting a famous landmark such as the Eiffel Tower, try shooting a different perspective. Take close ups of the metal beams and the bolts. Photograph repeated patterns. Be creative and tell a story! Shooting lots of architectural details will nicely compliment any traditional picture of those famous landmarks in your photo album.

  • Practice your food photography on location. Get a table by a window at the restaurant, and turn off that awful flash. Shoot the local cuisine. Then enjoy your meal!

  • Pick a theme or two each day. This will help keep you focused – no pun intended – and you won’t feel so overwhelmed by trying to capture it all in one day. Feel free to change your theme du jour if you discover something more interesting. Hey, it’s your trip!  So, if you are shooting architectural details in Rome and the perfect street scene catches your attention, by all means, shoot that, too. My point is that when you discover a new place, it’s impossible to absorb everything in a few days.  Besides, if you do, you may end up with boring photographs or nothing at all.
  • Be a gear minimalist when traveling. Carry just one camera and one lens because that perfect shot will inevitably happen while you are switching lens, and you’ll miss it. You’ll thank me and your back will thank you! Every time you change your lens outdoors, dust gets on the sensor and, if you are like me, you don’t carry the highly flammable sensor cleaning solution when you travel. Remember the power of limitations. Want to travel light and use only the 50mm lens all day? You have feet and they make a great zoom!



2. Create an Cork Board -This one I loved immediatley and while I had something similar at home already - I felt it needed some updating. I turned to both Pinterest and Etsy for some great ideas. But before I could do anything new I had to find some cork boards - and of course Etsy was my savior!

For those of you who have never done this my advice to you .. start with a blank slate then begin to add in photos, drawings, invitations, magazined clippings - anything that you see that "speaks to you." Don't think of this board as final - you can change and update it as you go or as you mood changes. I keep mine in front of my desk and next to my wall calendar - it is a great place for me to turn for new ideas or as a reminder not too be so serious. As I am focused on redocating my apartment at the moment I have selected some home based "inspriation boards" - take a look and let me know what you think. 

 

 

THU'S PROGRESS:  So this week was all about photography and inspiration boards.  Kathleen covered some great pointers on photography tips that anyone and everyone could incorporate.  I, personally, am trying to better my food photography.  This blog is full of pictures of our food from our book meetups, but I feel like they aren't "food-porn" worthy.

One of my favorite food photographers is Sweet Paul.  His blog is full of beautiful pictures and food stylings that make me drool.  Once in awhile he will offer a food photography class for about $450 per class.  I decided that as soon as I see the offer, I will sign myself up for one!


Another one of my favorites is Margaret & Joy.  Take a look at this beautiful food videography:

Lastly, I wanted to update my progress on the home office situation.  This week's creative inspiration was very fitting for this update.  This week's creative challenge was to create a corkboard / inspiration board.  Kathleen showed some beautiful corkboard and picture collages full of inspiration from pinterest.  I, too, used pinterest to find Home office inspiration.  Take a look at how these home offices incorporated the use of an inspiration work board on their walls.

I ordered a beautiful magnetic chalkboard off of etsy to help me keep both my schedule, notes, and inspirations intact.  I loved the antique / shabby-chic look of a framed chalkboard.


 

How did you do this week??

Friday
May042012

FETISH FRIDAYS

HAPPY FRIDAY!! What a week it has been - lots of Hockey to watch and some Basketball too. I grew up a Devils fan and now that both teams are "in it to win it" I am torn - Keep it up guys you look great! The excitement from the games is gearing me up for a great weekend ahead. But first I want to share some of the wonderful sites, photos and videos that I enjoyed this week.

Please take a read and if you have great internet finds - let us know!

 

WINE LINK of the Week:

About a year ago I decided I wanted to learn more about wine and be able to appreciate the wine making craft. I enrolled in classes @ the International Wine Sch ool and shortly after the wine bug bite me. I then discovered Lot 18 a members only website that has provided me with excellent wine along with a wealth of wine knowledge.

They provide access to high-quality, hard-to-find wines and gourmet foods at attractive prices, as well as wine- and gourmet-themed travel excursions and exclusive dinners at top restaurants across the country.

Joining Lot18 is free and can be done right on their site. The best part of the site are the detailed and informative reviews they have on each wine available. Beyond wine they also offer excellent food and some wine related travel excursions.


FAVORITE NEW BLOG of the Week:

Oh She Glows This is by far my favorite blog and one I check on a daily basis. At one point in my life I was a vegetarian but I had horrible ea ting habits and never knew what to make for myself. I eventually began eating meat again but always wanted to return to a simple diet filled with veggies and fruits.

During a book club I heard about a Canadian Blog that had a tasty recipe for a GREEN MONSTER. I had no idea what it was but it sounded tasty and weird. The smoothie uses a almond or soy milk base blended with spinach or kale and a variety of fruits and ginger. They have become a staple in my diet and I can't imagine a day without my Green Monster smoothie. Now if I could only get everyone I know hooked too!

This is a great source for vegan and vegetarian recipes - besides the smoothie I adore the vegan oats. A simple overnight no-cooking needed recipe. Who doesn't love that?

 

PHOTOS of the Week: I enjoy photography and aspire to take better photos. I have installed instagram on my phone and also enjoy looking at local photographers work both in galleries and online. I am drawn to both travel photos and candid family and animal shots. These are my favs this week - I like to save them to my desktop and look at them throughout the week - some for laughs other for inspiration.


FAVORITE Video of the Week - The Movie UP : I don't know about you but I get sentimental every now and again. And this week I found myself scanning Youtube for some videos that would "hit the spot." If you have not seen the movie UP - I highly recommend it. The move reminds us all how precious life is - seeing this video again has reignigted my need to travel, experience new things and hugs the ones I love a bit tighter. I hope this video does the same for all of you.  

 

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!!

Monday
Apr302012

Creative Mondays

Last week we introduced our 52-week Creative Mondays project based off of the tumblr site, 365 Ways to Stay Creative.. We each attempted to do 3 of the first 7 creative tasks this week, but it was a bit harder to keep up than we thought. Hopefully, we can convince more of our members to join in on our challenge and let us know what they have done.


KATHLEEN'S CREATIVE PROGRESS:

Week one was great .. for your reading pleasure I have recapped three of the weekly creative tasks.

 


1. Take risks - do something out of your comfort zone.This was by far the most challenging both in deciding on my task and in completing the task. I work in a fairly conservative office and decided to "push the envelope" by wearing some bolder patterns and colors on casual Friday. While I felt a bit uncomfortable and out of my element on my drive into the office I was surprised at the responses and compliments I received from my co-workers. I ended the day feeling better about myself and a bit braver. Here are some ideas for workplace attire from Piperlime that showcase bold patterns and colors - and are all comfortable enough for desk work.


 

 


2. Carry a notebook with you - Ideas tend to come up out of the blue and can be gone in a flash if you don't jot it down. This was the easiest and most effective of all tasks I completed this week. I found myself creating list, drawings and jotting down other random stuff while I was eating lunch, walk around town or sitting in traffic. At the end of the week I was amazed at how much I had gotten down on paper and how energized I felt as well. While I began the week using an old "office" notebook I have now moved on to a more lively and colorful recycled notebook. Take a look at some of the offerings from Ecojot - they are all made from recycled paper and cardboard.


 

3. Read the Dictionary - read just one page and learn one new word. Use it all week. Make it yours. While the notebook was the easiest task to complete this one was the most enjoyable - mainly because it added a few new words into "Words with Friends" and "Scrabble" word bank. It also got me thinking of new and creative ways to use the dictionary. I turned to Etsyand discovered a variety of inventive "dictionary art" pieces - all that made me want to revamp my den and create a reading nook for myself and my dictionary.


 


 

THU'S CREATIVE PROGRESS:


This week was hard for me, because I already did some of the items on the first week before knowing about this project. I already carry around an "idea" notebook and sometimes, if I don't have one handy, I just type it up on my smartphone. I also sort of read the dictionary / learn a new word because of my word-of-the-day calendar that I get every year. So you see my conundrum?

For this week, I chose Make a New Sound and Listen.

1. Making a new sound was really hard. It had to be a unique sound that no one had ever done before. It had to be something like what Natalie Portman did in Garden State:

Even though mine was not as emphatically original as Natalie Portman's character complete with unique dance moves, I created my noise based off of a mixture of Yoga breathing, sighing, and Oms. I did this every day in the morning before my 5:30am Boot Camp class, in order to get myself motivated and ready to work out - which is really hard to do at 5:30am when it's still dark outside!! I also made the noise during the day at work (albeit, VERY quietly) when I needed a break from the computer and my desk. Sometimes loud sighing releases so much bad stress out of your body, you do feel very rejuvenated afterwards (I learned that from my sister - the yoga instructor by night). Try it sometime, you'll feel a lot better after you do it!

2. LISTEN. You may not realize it, but majority of the time that you THINK you are listening, you most likely aren't listening, but rather thinking of what to say in response to what you sort of just heard. True Story. Sometimes if you just listen and take people's advice, majority of the time, you learn something you can apply to your every day life or a new idea can come of it.

Kathleen and I found a great website called Let's Lunch. The concept is simple networking over lunch breaks. If you have business ideas, or just want to know more about a certain industry, or trying to get into a certain industry, this is a great way for you to network and learn A LOT. Kathleen and I plan on doing a lot of lunches to network and learn more about what we can do to grow our blog and our audience :) Listening to people who have the experience, throwing ideas around, listening to their critiques and concerns, makes us and this blog better.

3. READING NOOK TO CREATIVE NOOK

Lastly, in trying to hone into my creativity, I decided instead of making myself a reading nook, I need to make myself a CREATIVE nook / office space. We live in a 2 bedroom condo with my husband occupying the 2nd bedroom for his own office (he works from home every so often). I needed my own space that wasn't our bedroom. In the living room of our place, is a small 4 feet by 8 feet dead space that 2 skinny bookcases occupy. Originally, I wanted to put a small cozy chair by the window as my reading nook since the bookcases were already there. However, after much thought, I really would need my own office space with all the things I am involved in. I mean, sitting in front of the TV on my laptop isn't as productive as you would think it should be ;)

I've just ordered the perfect sized corner desk for a small space. Now I'm just looking for a stylish, yet workable chair that will match my living room space. This proves to be tougher than I thought, because I can't have a huge comfy reading chair as my desk chair due to the space constraints; yet I LOVE the idea of using an accent chair as the desk chair instead of a boring, old office chair. Here are some envy-worthy home office spaces I found via Pinterest for inspiration.

However, if you don't have the luxury of 150 square feet of space or more for an office space, a simple desk and wall space would suffice. Here are some other inspirations for SMALL home offices:

 

So, what did you work on last week to stay in a creative state-of-mind? Please share with us!

Friday
Apr272012

NEW FEATURE: FETISH FRIDAYS

It’s a NEW FEATURE for our Fridays!!  Oh, how I love having features on this blog and (call me a nerd, if you want) I love the alliteration in the name of the feature.  No, it’s nothing kinky, it’s just a roundup of our favorite stories from this week – all related to the things we love: books, wine, and food.  If you have any favorite stories from this week that we didn’t highlight, PLEASE share it with us!  We love to see and read new stuff on the interwebs.


BOOK ARTICLE OF THE WEEK: "HOW TO BE A DISCERNING READER"

 

WINE LINK of the Week:

Leftover wine?  Make Wine Syrup featured on TheKitchn!!  While I think most of us would not have any problems polishing off a bottle of wine once opened, let’s just say you have a bottle of cheap wine leftover from a potluck that you probably wouldn’t drink (again, maybe it’s just me, but no bottle of wine is ever refused for drinking), this recipe would be great.  You can use it as a salad dressing, a sauce for any meats – heck, I’d pour it over some cheese and serve it with crackers!  Wine in drink form and food form = always a good thing.

 

FAVORITE NEW BLOG of the Week: Paper & Salt

This is one of the most genius blogs I’ve come upon.  She recreates meals / dishes that are featured in the book.  I love all of the recipes and all of the photos and book quotes related to it.  I especially love this recipe for Lemon Pudding Cakes inspired by Sylvia Plath.  Her take on why Lemon Pudding Cakes is appropriate for Sylvia Plath is very amusing.

 

FABULOUS BOOK PARTY of the WeekJane Austen Book Party

Ooh, Jane Austen.  Where would I be without your tortuous romantic novels of the early 1900s.  Your literary themes haunted my adolescence for years of AP English writing.  I wished my teenage life was as drama-filled as the Elizabeth in Pride & Prejudice; and that I could use such words as "peculiar" instead of "that sh*t be cray-zay", fulsome instead of "BS", and prognosticate instead of "guess" in every day life.  This fabulous shindig was featured on Dear Lillie.

 

BOOK - INSPIRED MERCHANDISE:

I'm prognosticating (see? I just used a Jane Austen word!) that you now want to throw a book-inspired party and now you need some more ideas for decor?  Here are some fun-yet-peculiar items that will tickle your fancy.

 Make a DIY Table runner from pages of an old book.  Have a fun childrens book with no use?  Turn them into cute picture frames

 

Order these adorable book plates for your next gathering:

 

FUN Food: GRILLED CHEESE MONTH

Did you know all of April was GRILLED CHEESE MONTH?  I know exactly what  you are thinking: #best-month-ever!  Grilled cheese is probably on the top of my list for childhood favorites that I will eat until my dying day.  But they’ve upped the ante with grownup, foodie, fatty grilled cheese concoctions and this is food porn galore.  There’s only a few more days left of Grilled Cheese month, so go out and honor this childhood favorite (except for those who are lactose-intolerant)!

French Onion Soup grilled cheese, Spinach Artichoke grilled cheese, Green Bean Casserole grilled cheese, Fig & Manchego grilled cheese, Donut grilled cheese, Grappa-soaked Grapes grilled cheese.

 

FAVORITE NEW VIDEO OF THE WEEK:  BOOK PEOPLE UNITE

 

HAVE A HAPPY WEEKEND!!!

Thursday
Apr262012

Wine of the Month - Middle Sister

 

MIDDLE SISTER WINES

"The Wine Sisterhood believes wine should taste good, be a fair value, and make life more enjoyable for anybody who chooses to partake.” This is a motto I think we all can live by! I first found this wine perusing Target down in Kissimmee, Florida while on vacation last year. I was immediately drawn to the funky label and, as a middle sister myself (older brother, younger sister), needed to try it! I happen to be with my sister at the time, and when I showed her the Chardonnay entitled "Smarty Pants," she said that I had to get it, because it suits me. Nice, huh!? Well, I am the lawyer in the family! Then when we saw that they had reds too, she grabbed "Rebel Red," well, because, it suited her! She is the musician, you know!

We were not disappointed! These were great everyday wines. Drinkable, affordable, and most important, fun! What more could you ask for in a wine!

After enjoying the wines, I wanted to know to find out more. Who were these “Middle Sisters”? I went to their web site and discovered their mission statement -

“The Wine Sisterhood was founded by a group of female wine marketers, colleagues, and friends who share years of experience creating successful wine brands. Their mission is to create an innovative,

interactive community that puts consumers in charge of developing wines they really want to drink. Through use of the blogopshere

and social media, the Wine Sisterhood has been able to tap into the collective creativity and inspiration of their many sisters (and misters!) and have created a dialogue between those who make wines and those who buy them.”

If you get a chance check out their great website http://middlesisterwines.com/

I already loved the wine but reading that sold me - this a company that I can get behind!

Another great feature of the brand is the characters they have created - each wine has a different "sister" on the label. My personal favorites are below but you can check their site for all of the "sisters."


Rebel Red – A bit about this sister ..  birth order is commonly believed to have a profound and lasting effect on psychological development? And that the middle sister has a greater chance of having a special wine named just for her? A sassy blend of our three favorite red varieties perfect for sipping before, during and after our favorite family meals. Some people are just born lucky. Now give me back my blouse.

California Blended Red (38% Zinfandel, 34% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Syrah, 2% mixed red varietals)

Overall Rating: 9 out of 10 for a table wine

Price: $11.49

Palette: Berry fruits, like blueberry and blackberry

Color: Jewel toned purple

This is a great everyday red. Very smooth taste and low tannin. Flavorful and fruity with hints of cherry and blueberry. Forward fruit – and the flavor lasts. This is a reliable red table wine. It has great flavor and just about everyone I share this wine with, loves it!

Food Pairing: This wine will enhance most dishes, but especially grilled steaks, sausages or ribs. Also, it would pair great with grilled veggies, and even pizza, pasta, and burgers. And I must say, it goes fabulous with a good cannoli.

One of my favorite recipes for grilled veggies that I think this would go great with is as follows:

Ingredients:

  • 1 large Onion
  • 1 package of button mushrooms
  • 1 bag of baby carrots
  • 1-2 green peppers
  • 1 package of grape tomatoes
  • 1 package of string beans
  • 1 package of red bliss potatoes

Directions:

Cut the peppers and potatoes into small pieces. Par boil the carrots, potatoes and peppers. When fork tender, drain and add all veggies to a casserole type foil pan. Generously pour olive oil all over the veggies. Generous Salt and Pepper, Garlic Powder and plenty of Parsley Flakes. Stir and mix well. Add pats of butter if feeling daring. Cover and place on grill. After about 10 minutes or so, remove cover and stir veggies till cooked through!


Smarty Pants – a bit about this sister .. some girls are born beautiful. Some girls are born rich.  And some girls are born smart. The smart girls grow up and use their brains to make money to buy great clothes and travel abroad and throw dinner parties…where they serve chardonnay that they didn't spend a fortune on…in wine glasses brought home from their last trip to Paris. Some girls are born smart. And we think they're the luckiest girls of all.

California Blended White (76% Chardonnay, 24% Mixed White Varieties)

Overall Rating: 8 out of 10

Price: $10.49

Palette: Pear, apple, citrus

Color: golden yellow

Review: This is a delicious white. Apple and pear flavors, no oak. Very smooth. Fruity with a heavy citrus finish. Great every day, drinkable white.

Food Pairing: Lite fare like chicken Caesar salads or crab cakes. Anything that goes well with citrus, so various fish would also go well with this wine. I think this salad from Slowtray would be an excellent enhancement to the crispness of the wine.

 

 

 

Monday
Apr232012

Be More Creative

 

After reading "Just Kids" I started to reflect on my own life and my own creativity. Where had it gone? What had happened to the journal writting, the cards I used to make and most importantly the short stories I would dream up in my head?

It had all become muddled with work, stress and even less impressive - an unhealthy obsession with celebrity gossip.

Then I discovered this "29 ways to be creative" - and I was energized and motivated. 

If you look in the web, there are several sites that show the same list with some added variances.  I really liked these key highlights (taken from Seven Sentences):

  1. Allow yourself to make big mistakes.
  2. Get away from your computer.
  3. Talk to strangers, engage with a different demographic of people.
  4. Make up songs in the shower and sing them loudly in the car.
  5. Don’t be afraid of appearing crazy.
  6. Stop trying to be someone else’s idea of perfect.
  7. Know who you are and refuse to despise your own beginnings.

A great list right?  Well, we wanted to take it to another level.  We found this challenge on 365 ways to stay creative.  Each day, the author lists something creative to do and it's fantastic.  We are going to start with DAY ONE.


I ask you now to join some of us as we begin our 52-week creative journey - please follow us as we document our attempt to reconnect with our creative side every Monday morning.

Thursday
Apr192012

Just Kids

 

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Grade: B

Summary: It was the summer Coltrane died, the summer of love and riots, and the summer when a chance encounter in Brooklyn led two young people on a path of art, devotion, and initiation.

Patti Smith would evolve as a poet and performer, and Robert Mapplethorpe would direct his highly provocative style toward photography. Bound in innocence and enthusiasm, they traversed the city from Coney Island to Forty-second Street, and eventually to the celebrated round table of Max's Kansas City, where the Andy Warhol contingent held court. In 1969, the pair set up camp at the Hotel Chelsea and soon entered a community of the famous and infamous—the influential artists of the day and the colorful fringe. It was a time of heightened awareness, when the worlds of poetry, rock and roll, art, and sexual politics were colliding and exploding. In this milieu, two kids made a pact to take care of each other. Scrappy, romantic, committed to create, and fueled by their mutual dreams and drives, they would prod and provide for one another during the hungry years.

What we Liked: The novel is honest, sensitive, serene and humble. A wonderful tale of a young woman who was innocent, wide-eyed and determined to make a change.

Many of us know or have heard of Patti Smith as the "Godmother of Punk." But learning that she fled to NY with nothing as a lost woman with no sense of self or direction was eye opening and a great discussion point.

We found many similarities in this novel to that of the "Paris Wife." In her early years in NYC her first lover and partner was none other than future photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The environment she suuronds herself with is filled with artists and authurs learing to craft their image and art. Very similar to the life painted for us in the "Paris Wife."

The novel was interesting and inspiring. It was more than a trip down memory lane. It reminds us that everyone has to start somewhere, and success is never easy or certain. The novel wonderfully captures an era of New York City that has largely faded to the mists of time and memory. It is a time and place many of us would like to visit for a while.

Beyond the storyline this novel sparked our inner child and our need for art. Many of us appreciate art and music but have never thought about the struggles one may make to create such beauty. This story brought that struggle to our attention and without giving too much away - it will do the same for you.

What we didnt like: Most of us enjoyed the novel but some of us had trouble finishing the novel and found her name dropping to be tedious and some of her stories to be a bit far fetched. The most unbelievable being that she came up with Janis Joplin's nickname Pearl. If you can move past the name dropping and possibly fabricated tales to see the meat of the story you will be rewarded.

 

Discussion Themes: Art, Music, Old NYC, Relationships and "What is Art."
Food Theme: Indulgent food
Final Thoughts: This was a wonderful read that gave us great discussion topics and lead us into a heartfelt conversation about Art, Music and Creativity. As women who juggle life, career and the demands of "making it" we tend to lose sight of what matters and forget to foster our inner creativity. This novel brought our creativity and need for art into the light. Each of us enjoyed the evening, the discussion and our re-introduction to the need for creativity.

Thursday
Apr052012

Velveteen Rabbit Inspiration

HAPPY EASTER!! Spring is almost here! This year we were duped with some warm weather and now we are back to the chills and winds of winter. But I know spring will do its best to get here soon. To me spring is about longer days, warmer air, sunshine, tulips and rabbits. While I am not a highly religious person I do adore all things Easter related. And what is Easter without a rabbit – and no rabbit is more gentle or touching than the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.

This is my favorite passage from the Velveteen Rabbit:

“What is REAL?" asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day... "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real." 

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.  

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"  

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.

"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand... once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

The Velveteen Rabbit reminds me of a simple life filled with love and vintage trinkets. I thought it would make an excellent theme for a garden party, child’s party or a shower.

Invite your guests to your garden party with these adorable invitations from Kristeen LaBrot events and Serendipitycreative

 

No party is complete without some festive and spring inspired garland. I found some great inspiration at The Crafting Chicks, Carpe Salem, Martha Stewart, and iDiy – personally the lace captures my heart and makes me want to sip some delicate tea under an oak tree.

 

Garden parties are a great opportunity to tryout bite sized recipes. Our book club has held a few events focused on bite sized portions and they are always a hit. Here are some of my favorites. Tea sandwiches are easy to make and even easier to eat. Try one of these at your next gathering: Radish, Smoked Salmon, Cucumber and if you are feeling adventurous you can try the Blue Cheese and Walnut.

 

Pair the tea sandwiches with some light and colorful salads- infusing fruit into any salad will make it garden party ready; Strawberry salad, Spring salad with Grapes, and Goat Cheese and Blueberry.

 

No garden party is complete without some delicate and dainty desserts for your guests to nibble on.  If you want to stick with the Velveteen Rabbit theme throughout try using Vintage rabbit cupcake toppers from Seasonal Delights, re-create the amazing cake featured on the Hostess with the Mostess or take it up a notch and whip up this amazing Dessert Table.

 

For those who prefer traditional garden party fare I have selected some tasty and easy treats – sure to please. Dried cranberry shortbread, Rasberry Cream Tart or Cranberry Orange Scones.

 

Now serve it all on some vintage china or mix and match patters to create a whimsical table setting for
all to enjoy.