Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New York City: iPhone Edition

Here are the best things about visiting New York City, in no particular order:


Proximity to Family


People Watching


You see my point. Yes, this weekend I was fortunate enough to take a trip to New York City which I am usually able to do at least once a year. The occasion? Visiting my dad (he lives there), visiting my friend and her adorbs 6-week old baby (she lives there) and going to my cousins baby shower (she lives in NJ). Basically I jam packed a lot into 3 days and it was pretty sublime. 

Here's my recap of the weekend (from my iPhone). Note that these photos are also in no particular order...apparently "out of order" is the theme of this post.

View from my pops apartment in the Upper East Side. Not too shabby.

Dad welcomed me with an Italian lunch at a local restaurant around the corner from his apartment, Antonucci. I just love how NYC is filled with little nieghborhood treasures.

Oh the bread...I could write an entire post about the bread in NYC, specifically the crustiness perfect for dipping into olive oil, sauce or butter. 

For my main course I had veal scallopini with gnocchi and brussel sprouts (remember, this is lunch...totally normal to have several courses for lunch on a Thursday). Let's just say I don't like brussel sprouts but they were perfectly carmalized and delicious. And the veal? Fuhgeddaboudit.

For dessert (again, yes, dessert for lunch on  Thursday) I had an excellent tiramisu with the most adorable presentation. Don't you love the fork imprint in the espresso powder?

In other Italian restaurant NYC news, my dad treated myself and my friends to a delicious dinner at his favorite spot Elio's in the Upper East Side. The food was most excellent there as well. I was hoping to see Tom Selleck as he apparently has a special booth there, but he wasn't there. Fortunately my trip did not go celebrity-free as I walked past Julianne Moore (pretty, skinny and carrying a Barneys bag) and Michael C. Hall from Dexter (taller than I expected and quite good looking). 

I also had delicious pizza at an East Village hotspot, Motorino. A short wait but completely worth it. Good pizza is a rarity to find down South, don't even get me started.

So we've covered Italian restaurants and pizza, the only logical topic to follow is bagels. Let's just say that I don't even eat bagels because if it's not good why waste the one million calories, right? I had 2 bagels while I was in NYC and they were legendary. 

First bagel was in the West Village at Murray's where they literally yelled at me for ordering wrong a la The Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. Who cares, it was carb-licious and worth a scolding. Coffee pic below, clearly I had already scarfed down the bagel.

My second bagel of the trip was from Tal Bagels and was also worth every calorie. My bagel of choice: Everything Bagel with bacon, egg and cheese. Obv.

If you have any question as to why my main focus in life is food, please see exhibit a below - giant pasta painting on my dads wall. It's literally life size.

Now on to family and friends. As I mentioned, one of the reasons I came to NY was to see one of my BFFs who just had a baby. Here we are at Eataly, my favorite NYC tourist trap (shocking, I know). You can see my previous post on Eataly HERE to learn why I love it so very much.

After many NY visits and attempts, I finally connected with my middle school BFF who I haven't seen in literally 10 years. Ashley and I didn't miss a beat and talked a mile a minute to catch up on 10 years over Prosecco. 

My cousin Theresa (you can read about her wedding HERE) is having a baby girl in July and I spent time in NJ for her baby shower. It's always fun to see my family to catch up for happy occasions! 

One of the other wonderful things to do in NYC (out of the millions of wonderful things to do) is to see a Broadway show. After all the talk about Book of Mormon, I knew I wanted to see it so my dad got us tickets. The term gut-busting laughter comes to mind. This show is not for the faint of heart or the easily offended, but this musical was freaking hilarious.  See it if you get the chance.

So that's it! A jam-packed, food-filled jaunt to the Big Apple! 
I hope you enjoyed the view from my iPhone! 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Prickly Pear Margarita: Local Restaurant Feature

Is it in bad taste to start the week off with a cocktail? 

The correct answer is.... Not if the cocktail tastes and looks as good as this.

Just so you know, I drank this beauty on a perfectly acceptable day and time - Friday afternoon. The weekend was in front of us in all its relaxing glory. Now it's a rainy Monday morning.  Le sigh.

Instead of thinking about Mondays, let's focus on happy things -  like how Kristen LeQuire and I have a new business endeavor that involves going to restaurants and photographing cocktails for my blog. That's a little more pleasant, don't you think? 

When my friend and photographer Kristen and I were brainstorming about our next photo shoot, she came up with the brilliant idea of featuring cocktails from our favorite local restaurants. Isn't that a smart idea? It's a win-win for everyone involved - Kristen and I get to drink a delicious cocktail, we feature a great restaurant and I get beautiful photos for my blog. Our first restaurant is Bricktops located in the Southpark area of Charlotte, NC where we live. 

Bricktops is one of my fave restaurants in town, especially for brunch. Their Bel-Air Eggs Benedict has avocado on it and their eggs are always perfectly poached! Their signature cocktail is the Prickly Pear Margarita and it's not only gorgeous to look at, it's delicious as well. In case you are wondering, the Prickly Pear is a actual fruit - who knew?? 

How gorgeous are these photos by the way? 

I love how you can see the lime being squeezed into the drink - Kristen is so talented in capturing these little details. 

We had the bartender write down the ingredients for us so you can make your own Prickly Pear Margarita in the comfort of your own home.


2.5 oz Prickly Pear Tequila 
1 oz Cointreau
3 oz Sour Mix 

Shake it up and pour into a chilled martini glass and enjoy!

Here I am enjoying.

On an unrelated note, we also had a margarita flatbread which was delicious. God I love guilt-free weekend eating. 

So there goes our first installment of Kristen and Jackie Do Cocktails - it's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it. Hope it made your Monday a little more pleasant!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Flower Friday: Ombre Bud Vases

Hello and Happy Friday to you! Or should I say Happy Flower Friday! If you're wondering what the heck I'm talking about, I've decided to do a new series here on the blog dedicated to my love of all things fresh flowers called Flower Friday. Alliteration - holla! Flower Tuesday just doesn't sound as good.  Every other Friday I will showcase a different type of simple arrangement to show you how you can add fresh flowers to your house for instant happiness. You may have guessed about my extreme love for fresh flowers from my last post featuring my easy party tips!

I hope you enjoy the series, and I know I will because I have an excuse to always keep fresh flowers in the house - it's for work, duh.

The first edition of Flower Friday focuses on the wonderful world of Ombre. If you're unfamiliar with the term, it means that the same version of a color goes from light to dark, or dark to light. Lately the trend has appeared everywhere from celebrity hair styles ...

...to delightful cake layers!

To be honest, my hair looks ombre too but that's because I haven't gotten it colored in months. Sometimes laziness and lack of wanting to spend $200 for a cut/color can pay off by looking trendy .

To put an ombre spin on flowers, I found three little bud vases in the dollar bin at Michaels (aka a gold mine for misc. party things you probably don't need). I stuck some springtime lillies in them and voila - a creative and quick arrangement that would look great on a mantle, in a bathroom or really anywhere you need a little somethin' somethin'.

In this case I went with ombre colored vases in clear, light blue and dark blue, but you could always do ombre colored flowers. Light pink, medium pink, dark pink - you get the idea.

I love it! Hope you enjoyed the first edition of Flower Friday and there's more where that came from. I hope your Friday and your weekend is filled with flowers and other happy things! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Easy Party Tips

It's no secret I love to throw a party and when I do, I use a few simple tricks to bring that extra wow factor. I'm talking super easy things that take your party up a notch without having to plan ahead or better yet,  spend tons of extra money.  I've got loads of party tips, but for now I'm going to give you three party tricks that will make your life easier and make people think you are the hostess with the mostess. Plus, since you'll have all this extra time, you can sit back with a glass of vino and wait for your party guests to arrive with no stress. Score! 

Scrapbook and Specialty Paper 

I love the specialty paper aisle at stores like Paper Source and Michaels. Not because I'm a scrapbooker but because it's a super cheap way to add a pop of color or pattern to a party. I especially like using the paper for place mats like I did at this uber fancy dinner party...

..and layered place mats using different colors and sized papers here at this strawberry-themed party.


Ribbon is another easy way to add something extra to your get together. I spend a lot of time in the ribbon aisle dreaming up ways to use new ribbon...I think I need a life? Or maybe I'm just really awesome. Here are a few ways I've used ribbon in the past:

At my recent Aladdin Mason Colllection party I tied ribbon to the backs of chairs which looked great and was super easy to do. Party Tip - don't tie the ribbon to tight or it will be hard to get off and you'll totes break a nail. 

For a teacher retirement party, I found specialty ribbon that fit the theme and tied napkins/plastic silverware with it. Using ribbon is a great way to dress up paper napkins and silverware. 

At my nieces baptism party I glued paper flowers onto a single pink ribbon on the back of the chairs for a pretty pink look.


No surprise here, everyone loves flowers. But I especially love to use them in unexpected containers - like the beer steins I did for Mr. Fo's birthday awhile back.

I also like to think outside the box when it comes to floral arrangements. For a blueberry themed baby shower I added real blueberries to floral arrangements to complement the theme. 

And depending on the occasion, flowers in a mason jar (like here at Trish and Andrew's wedding) can be so very sweet. And notice the ribbon wrapped around the mason jar - that's a combo of two party hacks right there! 

I hope you enjoyed my little tips and tricks for enhancing your party. If you're interested in making this a regular series, let me know! 

Friday, March 28, 2014

How to Throw the Perfect Spring Brunch: Part 2 - Easy Spring Brunch Menu (featuring the Aladdin Mason Collection)

Can I admit I'm kind of sad that this in my last Aladdin post? I've seriously loved sharing the gorgeous photos of my Spring brunch featuring Aladdin Mason Collection mason jars. I've already shown you my tips for decorating a simple spring brunch HERE and now as promised I want to share the cocktail and drink menu for this no-hassle brunch. 

Here was the food set-up. I used a lime green runner and colorful baskets, crates and cake stands to add color and different heights to the display. And of course, fabulous tulips. I love how they naturally drooped to the side.   

On the menu? I picked easy to pick up food that was light and of course, pretty to look at. 
We had muffins, mini quiche, granola squares and fruit skewers. It was the perfect assortment and really stress-free because almost all of the items could be made the day before. 

The fruit skewers are beautiful but in the effort of full disclosure (because that's how I roll) a real pain in the arse to make. And also dangerous - those things are sharp. If you ever need a weapon you can just stab someone with one of these skewers, they WILL draw blood, I promise.  All this said the beautiful photo below makes the effort all worth it, the skewers really are prettier than a bowl full of fruit.

Now on to my next favorite topic, cocktails. Mimosas is an obvious choice for a brunch cocktail, but I decided to mix it up by making it a grapefruit mimosa. People have mixed feelings about grapefruit but I promise the tartness of the grapefruit mixes really well with the sweetness of the champagne. It's incredibly refreshing. The Aladdin Mason pitcher might be my favorite product of the whole line and I love the blue/green color of the tumblers too. Perfection.

I love the below picture where I am pouring the mimosa into a tumbler.  My favorite part is that I have my phone in the photo, which is pretty standard for me - it's like my third arm. I think I have a problem. In this case I had my phone ready so I could hashtag #aladdinparty whenever the moment felt right. 

To show off the equally fabulous one-gallon Aladdin Mason dispensers, I set up a spa water station which looked awesome (in my humble opinion). The best part about spa water is a) you feel like you are at a spa and b) the fruit infuses the water so quickly, you really feel like you are drinking "strawberry water." I chose lemon/lime, orange and strawberry infused waters and they were a big hit.

I love the way this big orange slices look in the water, don't you?

That is my simple menu - a few pretty brunch items and a couple of drink options, that's it! Throw a couple of tulips in the background and of course serve your drinks in Aladdin Mason Jars and you've got yourself a banging par-tay. Here are a few more beautiful photos from the day.

Aladdin generously provided goodie bags for each of the guests to take home some Aladdin swag. I dressed up the bags with ribbon and colorful tissue paper. 

Here's what happens behind the scenes at a photo-shoot - someone (aka me) has to hold up the fancy diffuser to block the sun. 

Friends hugging each other.

And also friends being beautiful - isn't my friend Amanda gorge? She has the best hair. And she's super buff because she does crossfit - she could totally benchpress me.

Speaking of beautiful, can we talk about this? My beautiful sis-in-law Drew (owner of the gorgeous yard we were in) and her daughter (my niece) Brooke? 
They're like model mom and daughter, am I right? 

You guys. This was SO MUCH FUN to throw this party. Thanks again to my talented friend Kristen LeQuire for her gorgeous photos. I'm obsessed with it and want to do it every weekend. If you're bored this weekend just throw a party. It will be fun, I promise. Have a GREAT weekend and enjoy the spring weather if you are lucky enough to get any! XOXO. 

Disclaimer: I have partnered with Aladdin via MomTrends for this party and blog post. They provided me with the Aladdin products as well as compensation. The opinions expressed in this post are my own.