Dec 022012

Winter is here and what better time to start cozying up to your favorite red! Today I’m sharing my beloved wine glass with you. Friends are always asking me where they can get one. What makes it so special? It fits an entire bottle of vino!  I must confess I do not drink an entire bottle of wine at once, however I’m a sucker for a great novelty.  It’s now my “go to” hostess gift or “budget gift” that is very “rich in style”. Stock up and have them on hand for that perfect gift.



The ideas are endless:
  • Get them etched with Mr. and Mrs., a special date or a wine quote at your local engraver for a one of a kind gift. (or etch them yourself if you’re the crafty type)
  • For dual usage fill the large wine glass with candies, nuts or a dip at your next cocktail / wine party.
  • Use them as candle holders or a flower vase.
  • They make a great vessel for wrapping gift certificates to your local wine tasting bar, restaurants or home decore stores.
  • They make the perfect storage for used wine corks too!
Jun 272012

I’ve fallen in love with the quirky cooking show, Extra Virgin, starring Debi Mazar and her Italian native husband. I recently tried one of their mouth watering recipes, bolognese lasagne with a besciamella sauce. It is divine! I’m going to be upfront with you, it’s a simple yet time consuming recipe. However, one bite and you’ll know it was worth all the effort.  The main thing you’ll notice that sets this recipe apart from most, is the lack of cheese. Instead you use a besciamella sauce that is made from butter, flour and milk. It turns what would be an ordinary dish into an extraordinary one!

I followed the recipe as directed, except I omitted the nutmeg simply because I don’t like it. If you need a meal to impress, look no further… Serve it with a simple salad and rustic Italian bread. Of course, don’t forget the vino!

Recipe Here

(courtesy of Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar)

Jun 202012

Recently, my sister asked me to come up with a creative idea for guests to sign my nephew’s graduation party book. In addition, I was also in charge of the photo gallery. I thought the obvious thing to do was have everyone sign a guitar (the party theme was music / The Beatles), and also have a photo collage, but that just felt too predictable and lazy. It seems like when I have a deadline, ideas never come, but when I have nothing going on, the ideas flow endlessly.  Anyway, I was having a serious case of creativity block, and even looking at Pinterest while drinking wine wasn’t helping. Fortunately for me, my genius son (yes, I’m one of those moms) came up with a brilliant idea! He said to combine the photo album with the sign-in book using thought bubbles. How perfect! Not only did it meet my sisters criteria, but it was whimsical and fun! It ended up turning out great, and it was also a good way for the diverse guests to mingle with one another as they had fun reminiscing over old photos and trying to come up with clever comments. I’m happy to report it was a huge success!


Here are the basic steps:

  • Gather all the photos you want to use into an album on your computer (I personally use iPhoto)
  • Create thought and speech bubbles in Photoshop or similar program
  • Then place thought bubbles on your selected photos in Photoshop
  • Finally, I used Blurb to create my photo album (Blurb is more economical than iPhoto books, but a little more complicated if you’re a rookie)

In order to do it my way, you need to know how to use Photoshop or have access to someone who can help you. It’s very simple if you do. Otherwise, you can create the same type of album but you will either have to hand write the thought & speech bubbles, use a stencil or stickers.

Perfect for:

  • bridal showers
  • weddings
  • graduation parties
  • high school reunions
  • baby showers
  • special occasions


I left several pages at the end of the photo album for more autographs. I titled each page differently as you can see in the photos.


I couldn’t decide what should be on the back cover, if anything. Then it hit me, a photograph of the back of my nephew! Think outside the box…it’s fun!


I used a photograph of my nephews party invitation as the cover for the guest album. I also mixed in many photographs without thought or speech bubbles throughout the album. (as seen in photos at top of article) I will be honest, this isn’t a project you whip out in a few hours. It does take some careful planning when gathering photos, Photoshop work, and putting it all together. However, if you’re looking for a one of a kind unique gift or keepsake, this is a sure winner that anyone will appreciate for many years to come. I hope this guest book idea whets your appetite to create an unforgettable guest book for your next special occasion.

Jun 152012

Today I’m sharing my latest repurposing project that’s perfect for your next party! Take old records and melt them down to bowls. They not only look groovy, but are very functional. My sister made these for her son’s graduation party recently. His party theme was the Beatles, so these were the perfect accessory. The process to make them is very easy too!



How to get your groove on:

  • fill them with snacks and candy (be sure they’re wrapped food items for safety)
  • a great storage for t.v. remotes
  • loose change anyone?
  • “where did I put my keys?”…a thing of the past
  •  place your small gift or gift card (think iTunes) in the bowl and wrap with cellophane

If you don’t have any unwanted records laying around in your attic, you can pick them up for next to nothing at a garage sale or thrift store. Have fun and don’t forget to crank your tunes!

Mar 182012


Looking for something different that you haven’t experienced in your culinary life as of yet?

Outstanding in the Field is a roving adventure – literally a restaurant without walls. They set the long tables at farms or gardens, on mountain tops or in sea caves, on islands or at ranches. Occasionally the table is set indoors: a beautiful refurbished barn, a cool greenhouse or a stately museum. Ingredients for the meal are almost all local and generally prepared by a celebrated chef of the region. This really is a great way to experience the farm to table trend.

I personally have not had the pleasure of sharing a meal at one of their tables. They’re not always in your area and dip deep into your pockets. However, it is on my list of things to do…eventually. I’d also like to mention I have no financial gain by sharing this information with you. It’s just something I found to be interesting that I wanted to share with my readers. MARK YOUR CALENDAR, MARCH 20th TICKETS GO ON SALE! Look at their schedule now and plan ahead. Tickets sell out in minutes.


DIYD: (do it yourself dinner)
  • If you know the day you can burn a few hundred bucks is not in your near future, but you’re inspired by the idea, why not try to recreate your own “farm to table” dinner.


What to do:
  • Location! Location! Location! Find a special space whether indoors or out that is a little more adventurous then the dining room. Think-the beach, along the river, in a cactus forest, on a ranch, at a local park, in a privately owned library, under a big tree, in the middle of the street at the end of a cul de sac, on a basketball/tennis court. Think outside the box and have fun!
  • After your location is established, decide on how many guests you will be serving. A romantic dinner for 2? A family reunion for 20? You decide! Once the number of people is established be sure you have enough long banquet tables and folding chairs to recreate an outdoor dining room.
  • Customize the dining décor to your own individual liking. For me, I would use as many candles as would fit! Others may use hay stacks for the benches with crisp white linens draping the tables. Have fun and remember there are no rules! (Martha won’t be attending)
  • Next, decide on your menu. Choose seasonal items that you can get at your local farmers markets. If you really prepare in advance, you can even grow some of your own ingredients yourself.  Try to select items that can be prepared fully in your kitchen and brought to the sight in coolers or warming bags.
  • Remember the details such as weather conditions, bugs, restroom availability, parking, dietary restrictions/allergies , wine pairings, music, throw blankets, etc…
  • If you like the idea but don’t want all of the work, cater the event and have it delivered to your site.  Try to find a store or restaurant that makes farm to table meals. The concept and ambiance will still be enjoyed by all.


Buon Appetito!

Mar 142012


peanut butter cupcakes

As many of you may know, I am more of a savory gal than sweet. ( I’m not talking just personality here!) So when and if I recommend something on the sugary side, you’ll know it must be really good and relatively easy to make. I love to cook, but hate to bake. Who needs to bake when you have your sister living down the street that could give Elizabeth Falkner  a run for her money?

Today, you’re in for a treat (no pun intended)! I’m sharing my sisters “fake it, chocolate peanut butter cupcakes”. She (Colleen, a.k.a. my sis) cuts some corners to save you time and energy, without sacrificing taste and quality. I promise you won’t be disappointed with these mouth watering, belly bulging cupcakes! I never said, low-fat, just really yummy and easy!

Happy baking!

Feb 292012












First, I must thank my dear friend for treating us to such a fabulous dinner! I must admit the thought of prunes and olives was not mouth watering at first. If you can get past the ingredients list and just make it, you’ll be in for a delicious surprise, I promise. For those of you looking for the perfect make-ahead dish, look no further. You marinate this the night before and just pop it in the oven the next evening. It’s so easy but will taste like you spent an entire day slaving in the kitchen. Don’t forget to serve it with some fresh Italian crusty bread for dipping in the juices. (the best part) My friend made a fresh green salad and oven roasted asparagus on the side. It was the perfect combination! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did…

Buon Appetito!









Feb 142012

Ina Garten's Rosemary Nuts












Looking for an easy, gourmet protein to have on hand for your next cocktail shindig? Look no further…Ina Garten’s rosemary nuts are the bomb! They only take a few minutes to make and your guests will devour them.

  • 3/4 pounds cashew nuts
  • 3/4 pounds almonds
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne (less if you don’t like spicy)
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoon melted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the nuts on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until they are warmed through. Meanwhile, combine the rosemary, pepper, sugar, salt and butter in a large bowl. Remove the nuts from the oven and coat with the mixture in the bowl. Serve warm or room temperature in a bowl. Garnish with a fresh sprig of rosemary.

Ina Garten’s original recipe here. I made a few changes to her recipe as you will see. I add almonds, more cayenne and butter. At this point I really just “eye” my measurements. Once you make them a few times you’ll end up putting your own spin on the recipe.

nuts cartoon joke

would make cute gift tag











Make a batch of these for the perfect hostess gift. Package them as “nuts and bolts” in a can. For an easier option, grab a clear bag and tie it with a string that has a few construction nuts attached. Simple, fast and creatively cute.

nuts and bolts in a can







Dec 222011

hourglass wine glass










As an avid entertainer and shopper of unique gifts, I am really excited about my latest find that fits both categories perfectly.  These novel, but classy hourglass wine goblets would be appreciated by anyone who loves wine, game night, enjoys cooking or spending time with friends. That must be why I own them and love them so much!









Things to know:
  • The sand timer lasts ten minutes.
  • You must hand wash them.
  • They arrive in four colors of sand which is brilliant because this basically marks whose glass belongs to whom.
  • They are a very nice size and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality.
  • As a small side note, I adored the box they arrived in. It would be great for a man or woman while still being stylish. Small touches like that are important to me if I’m gifting them.
Other unique and different gifts I found for:
  • I use to belong to a diy wine club, which consisted of a few girlfriends getting together to whine, while drinking wine.  These would have been fabulous for us. Give the gift of starting your own girlfriends wine club and giftwrap each glass individually with your wine club invitation. (think: whine time)
  • No re-fills until the sand timer is over! (jk)
  • Let the wine breathe until sands are gone. According to, letting your wine breathe for five to ten minutes before drinking it will improve the wine in many cases.


Nov 302011

wine charms with the next iron chef photos










I recently threw a shindig to kick off the new season of The Next Iron Chef. Although it’s too late to replicate this for a premier party, you can take everything I did and use it to throw your own season finale party. The finale will be aired December 18th.
Make your guest list and send out an Evite. If you want some suggestions on what to say on your invitation click here.

evite invitation example

A copy of my Evite. Click on to enlarge.

a clothes pin stamped, eat.


















What went down:
  • Everyone chose a chef from this seasons NIC and made an appetizer from one of their recipes.
  • After having fun tasting all of the gourmet goodies, we voted to see who was “our” Next Iron chef.
  • I made wine charms with all the contestant chefs photos on them. Also attached to the glasses were mini keys that unlocked a box with a secret ingredient for them to take home. You had to take your key and keep trying to open locks until you found the one yours opened. This was a lot of fun and a great party favor for the occasion.
  • After eating and mingling we watched the season premier together.
mini locks you can find at the dollar store

miniature locks that I found at the Dollar Store

photos of the iron chefs on tags for the wine glasses

small shipping tags with chefs photos







diy wine charms with photos of the different chefs

DIY wine charms with keys to unlock their secret ingredient box

different unique food items for secret ingredient party favors

"off the beaten path" secret ingredients for the party favor box



ballot to vote for your favorite appetizer

ballots for guests to choose they're favorite appetizer of the evening

party favor box filled with a secret ingredient

DIY party favor boxes filled with a secret ingredient






mini skewers with food tags for the appetizers brought

mini skewers with my guests (chefs) names to place on their appetizers




an apron that a guest wore that says, "may the forks be with you"

"may the forks be with you" apron a guest wore











I hope you will be inspired to host an Iron Chef party for your family and friends!

Party food photos here.
Free downloads here to help you make your own party.