Archive | October, 2011

“Winning”: Halloween 2011

31 Oct

PoppaNut and I have always been a fan of “Two and a Half Men,” and we have always loved watching Charlie Sheen. The best part was that his real life was quite often like the character he played in the show. So, when the real Charlie went through his very public breakdown, PoppaNut and I knew we had to dress up as him and his goddess for Halloween.

And that’s exactly what we did. We found a “Tiger Blood” shirt off and added a few accessories from Spirit to make PoppaNut’s costume. Mine was a little tougher … I went into the Body Shop to find a trashy dress and a ton of bling accessories. And I cut up a wig in order to make my long, blond hair extensions.

In the end, I think our costumes turned out quite good. PoppaNut put a little flour under his nose to complete the Charlie Sheen costume, and we were ready to head to Jami’s house.

Jami always throws an amazing Halloween party. And this year was no different. In fact, she made a large tree in her living room, out of wood and crafting supplies, and she built a graveyard at its base. She covered her large fish tank as well with decorations. It was really unbelievable. The fog machine added a little haunting element to it, too.  

To finish it off, she had a ton of spooky Halloween treats to keep us nibbling all evening. Everyone was dressed to the hills, and we had the best time with all of our friends!

And that’s life in a nutshell … PoppaNut and I were “winning” this weekend in our hysterical outfits. I think you’ll agree! Happy Halloween to everyone!


Sundays Are for Sauce

28 Oct

PoppaNut often tells me stories about his childhood. And one of his favorite memories is Sundays at his mom’s house. His mom would make sauce all day long, while Anthony watched football.

For those of you who are not Italian, let me explain this sauce concept. Before I met PoppaNut, I bought my marinara sauce in a bottle on the grocery-store shelf. And honestly, I never considered another option.

Well, that changed when I attended my first Christmas party at PoppaNut’s father’s home. My father-in-law made the most amazing marinara sauce (just called “sauce” by Italians) I had ever tasted. And still now, his vodka sauce haunts my dreams! I literally count down until I can have another bowl! So, that is when I first learned about “sauce.”

 This homemade marinara requires a skilled chef to execute. There are secret recipes and hidden ingredients, and I certainly haven’t mastered this art. I have tried, but I know I just don’t make sauce like my in-laws.


When my mother-in-law was in town last, I tried to spy on her and watch how she made it. She slowly stirs the sauce all day, carefully tasting it along the way. But try as I may, I still can’t master it when she leaves.

Luckily, PoppaNut has taken mercy on me, and taken his hand at making the sauce. And it is unbelievable! He tends to it the same way his mother does, so carefully and skillfully. He takes such pride in every pot he makes, and he loves to see me light up when I take the first bite.


So, every Sunday, PoppaNut carries on his family’s tradition of serving pasta with homemade sauce. It’s a wonderful tradition that we can incorporate into our home, and it makes us feel closer to his family as well. Plus, it allows me to stick with what I do best … making dessert!

And that’s life in a nutshell … while your extended family might not live right down the street, you can find ways to incorporate their traditions into your family.


Time to Carve Pumpkins

25 Oct

I’m so happy it is time for fall. I just love when the holidays roll around, and you get to do all these fun activities as a family. This past weekend, PoppaNut and I went to our favorite pumpkin patch in search of four perfect pumpkins.

Why four? Well, one for PoppaNut, one for MommaNut, one for Peanut and one for Cashew! The puppies need their pumpkins, too! And PoppaNut likes to humor me, so he doesn’t mind me getting pumpkins for them either.

We picked out the perfect ones and brought them home! Sunday night, we got the carving tools out and began our work. PoppaNut remembered that we had an old stencil set, and we used that this year. Last year, the stencils were a nightmare. We couldn’t get them to tape onto the pumpkins and the tools broke in minutes. But this year, we had quite a bit more luck. PoppaNut carved a spooktacular ghost with “Boo” written in the middle. I managed to make a zombie face. The little dogs got initials.

Peanut and Cashew didn’t know what to think. I put their pumpkins down on the ground for them to explore. Peanut investigated a bit but Cashew was scared to death! Halloween is certainly not Cashew’s holiday of choice.

At the end, PoppaNut put candles in all four of them, and we hugged as we watched them glow. Three years since our first Halloween together I’m more in love with my life and my hubby than ever before. I’m a very lucky girl!

And that’s life in a nutshell. Holidays are fun, but the memories you make during those holiday activities are the moments I treasure most.


Guinness Cupcakes

24 Oct

Yes, I did title this blog correctly. I’m talking about Guinness cupcakes today. I had sampled these little luxuries some time ago, from a dear coworker. Well, I decided it was time to bake something for Halloween … and what could be more frightening than combining liquor with baked goods. So, I added it to my weekend list and I got started.

First, I needed all things cupcake to get started. PoppaNut and I headed to my favorite place on earth: Home Goods. I found this amazing cupcake display. Plus, I found a package of Halloween cupcake papers and decorations for $5. And I just know that these little extras will make all the difference in the final display.

I lay out all my ingredients and I get to work making the Guinness cupcakes with Bailey’s Irish Cream frosting! To die for!!!


For the cupcakes:

•1 cup Guinness beer

•2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup)

•3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

•2 cups all-purpose flour

•2 cups sugar

•1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

•3/4 teaspoon salt

•2 large eggs

•1/2 cup sour cream



For the Frosting:

•1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup)

•4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted (to remove lumps)

•5 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream (or to your taste)



•Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two cupcake pans with 24 cupcake liners.

•Combine the butter and Guinness in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts.  Add cocoa powder and whisk until smooth.  Remove from heat and set aside.

•Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Mix together with a whisk.  In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs and sour cream.  Beat just until combined.  Add the beer mixture to the eggs and beat again, just until combined.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing on low speed until combined.  

•Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full with batter.  Bake for 17-20 minutes at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  

•To make the frosting:  Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar to the bowl and continue beating until completely incorporated.  Add the Bailey’s and mix until smooth, adding more if necessary to get the desired consistency for frosting.  Frost the cupcakes as desired.  

Once I was done, I added sprinkles and decorations from Home Goods, and placed them on the display tray I found. I have to say, they didn’t last long. Once PoppaNut got a hold of them, they basically disappeared! But, I’m so glad he loved them and I actually really enjoyed making these little treats for Halloween. Perhaps this is a new family tradition!

And that’s life in a nutshell … Guinness can really go with cocoa … if you have the right recipe to pull them all together.


Remembering Dan Wheldon

18 Oct

Once upon a time, I was the managing editor at a luxury-lifestyle magazine in Tampa Bay. I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of famous people and interviewing notable celebrities. Every April, our issue would focus on famous men who lived in Tampa Bay and gave a lot back to charity.

And the April 2008 issue was no exception. We decided to feature Dan Wheldon, a St. Petersburg resident who had made a name for himself in the racing world. He was 29 at the time, and he invited several people to his home for the story. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the shoot and interview as well.

At his home in St. Petersburg, Dan Wheldon greeted us all with a smile. With a writer and photographer in tow, we started setting up for our first shot. Dan had two cars out front, one that he won as the grand prize of a race.

Dan was smaller than I expected, but his personality was larger than life. In fact, he looked quite a bit like Tom Cruise in person. Susie, his fiancée at the time who later became his wife, was a delight. She helped set up several shots, and you could see that she really kept him calm.

Most people don’t know that Dan was a bit of a neat freak and wasn’t crazy about shaking people’s hands. And a a room full of magazine types probably didn’t help. But you wouldn’t have known it from Dan because he was just as gracious as could be.

Susie kept in touch with me after the shoot, and she had invited me to the Grand Prix in St. Petersburg the following year. I couldn’t attend for some reason, but I appreciated the gesture anyway.

There are some eerie quotes in the article, which I’ll share here. “The moment you lose respect for speed, you’re in big trouble.” “Imagine having a dream and then actually achieving it. A unbelievable feeling.” “People see us zipping around at speeds that are otherwise illegal. That adds to the thrill, of course, but it’s definitely dangerous. I’ve literally seen drivers pass away.” “The life I live is because of the fans. Any time I can give back, I try to.”

Dan Wheldon went on to marry Susie and have two beautiful children. My thoughts are with his family through this very difficult time. It was a pleasure to have met Dan and I appreciate all he gave to our community.

And that’s life in a nutshell … you never know when your number might be up so life it to the fullest each and every day.


Serving as Maid of Honor

17 Oct

My cousin Ashley has officially walked down the aisle, and I have officially served as a maid of honor. Most of you have read along as we conquered the bridal party and bachelorette gathering. And since most of you attended the wedding, I’m not going to run down every little part. Instead, I’m going to tell you what you didn’t know from attending. This is the behind-the-scenes recap of the weekend’s festivities.

No. 1: Where’s the Marriage Certificate … So, Ashley learned you can’t get married without your marriage certificate. When the bride and groom showed up without it at the rehearsal, they were sent home on a scavenger hunt. As Ashley destroyed her apartment, she found the certificate in an unlikely place: under a huge case of bottled water. But, she found it and arrived back to the rehearsal in time to do two run-throughs.

No. 2: I’m No Martha Stewart … I made Ashley’s fake bouquet with ribbons from her bridal shower. Well, as everyone found out, I’m no Martha Stewart. As Ashley and Randy rehearsed, ribbons fell right off the paper plate holding them. I monkeyed around with it for a while before throwing in the towel. At least it looked pretty when we arrived!

No. 3: We Love Our Gift Bags … the bridal party received from nice loot from being a part of Ashley and Randy’s big day. Bridesmaids received cozy slippers, chocolate, popcorn, a bottle of wine (Ashley’s favorite kind) and the movie “Bridesmaids.” It was all in bags with our names on them! Sounds like a perfect Saturday night recovery bag. The guys got a nice engraved flask with a bottle of liquor. It was so thoughtful!

No. 4: Surprise, There is a Limo … Ashley had no idea that a limo was picking us up at her mom’s house and take us to the venue. We put Bryan to work, making him change the radio stations each time a commercial came on. We took a lot of photos, and Kaylee loved it as well. It was a fun time!

No. 5: Google Comes in Handy … So, you never know when you might need to consult Google for a little added direction. That was the case when we didn’t know which side you pin the flowers for a corsage and for a boutonniere. Thank god Google knows and was able to advise us as Ashley pinned flowers on our grandmother’s jacket.

No. 6: Oh Say Can You See … Everyone can get a little emotional at a wedding. And that certainly happened with the bride’s father saw her for the first time. But, the bride had a trick up her sleeve. She heard if you sing the Star Spangled Banner in your head, it keeps you from crying. Needless to say, we were all singing by the end of the night.

No. 7: Speeches Are Hard … As MOH, there came a time when I had to stand up to give my speech. Man, that was so much harder than I thought it would be. I managed to make people laugh and cry during mine … which I think means that it went really well. It was my few minutes to tell the bride how amazing she is, how happy I am to have so many wonderful memories with her, and how I can’t imagine my life without her. It was also my time to tell her how happy I was for her. I certainly got choked up! Now, if only I would have remembered that nifty trick.

No. 8: That Cake-Topper Is Heavy … The cake cutting went without a hitch. But what you don’t know (and I don’t think the bride knows this either) is that the cake vendor was having a terrible time getting the topper to stay put. It kept falling over while we were setting up for the wedding. My sister and I were standing by when it toppled off at one point. With the bride far away, I alerted the bride’s mom, who quickly got it handled. Way to go, Debbie!

No. 9: I Almost Had a Janet Jackson Moment … Yes, it is true. The top of my dress was nearly ripped off by the end of the reception. First, it started to break when I picked up Madison and walked her down the aisle. Then, as I was dancing my little tail feather off, it ripped again. Luckily, Tammy had a handy safety-pin and I managed to keep everything held together.

No. 10: Bring on the After-Party … Bar Orlando hosted one amazing happy hour after the event. With tequila flowing and a steady amount of guests, this party kept going til 4 a.m. We were quite the party animals!

And that’s life in a nutshell … Being Ashley’s maid of honor was certainly an HONOR and I’ll cherish the memories of that night for the rest of my life. Congrats again to Ashley and Randy. I love you!


Here Comes the Bride at the Casino

11 Oct

As you all know, I’m prepping for my big role as the MOH (Maid of Honor) for my dear cousin Ashley. And as customary, that calls for a bachelorette party.

Location: Hard Rock Casino. Date: Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. Who: Everyone in the Tampa Bay Area, but Especially the Bride and Groom. What: A Night of Crazy Times and Even Crazier Memories. In fact, it felt like being in the “Hangover” without Mike Tyson being in attendance.

Let’s start at the very beginning … when we had no clue what we were in for. PoppaNut and I arrived at Ashley and Randy’s place, and a town car arrived shortly after. I gave Ashley a little bachelorette gift to kick off the night, a gift bag with Patron, a bridal sash and two bride/groom shot glasses that can worn around the neck. “Dress the bride up so everyone knows it is her night … CHECK!”

When we arrived at the Hard Rock, we headed straight to Council Oak to see the Pinkhams perform live. Terri gave a shout out to the young couple, and we had a few glasses of wine while the party began. “Get the bride feeling good before dinner … CHECK!”

Next, it was time to get everyone some food … cause there is no way you can continue to party all night when you start at 7 p.m. without some major carbs. So, carbs we ate! the Hard Rock Cafe played host to our late-night meal.  “Get the bride to eat some food before the party continues … CHECK!”

And after a full meal, you can work up quite a thirst. It was time to head to the center bar for what else … TEQUILA! Are you noticing a trend in my blog lately?? So, tequila shots for the whole group. “Bring hot sauce/tequila/orange slice amazement to the bridal party … CHECK!”

In our very sober state of mind, we were ready to lose some money. The boys played roulette (or poker … no one can seem to remember!!) with a trilingual dealer and us girls headed to the dance floor. By the way, I won $60 earlier in the night on some Finding Nemo slot machine. “Win some money … CHECK!” We all regrouped and continue to dance until my feet literally felt like they were bleeding. But I can’t complain … it was well worth the pain!

Around 2 a.m. PoppaNut and I took our old asses home to bed. The party continued after we left, but that was about all we could handle. With PoppaNut dozing off in my lap on the raining town-car ride back to Ashley’s home, I thought about what an amazing night it was. I thought about all the fun times Ashley and I have spent together over the course of her whole life and it made me smile.

And that’s life in a nutshell … while you  might think heading to the casino for a bachelor/bachelorette party might be a gamble, you’ll be surprised at how much you actually win in the end … with rich memories and luxurious fun!


Meeting Thompson Square

10 Oct

So, it appears that PoppaNut and I have turned into celebrity followers. Now, this is not our doing … they seem to be attracted to us! Maybe it’s our funny personality or perhaps it’s our goodwill nature or maybe we are just in the right place at the right time. I tend to prefer the first two options, but whatever. Whatever it is, it is working for us, because we had the pleasure of meeting Thompson Square two weeks ago.

Thompson Square is a country band, singing the song “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not” among others. We love their music, and it just so happens that they were performing at the Round Up. Well, PoppaNut’s gym is just a block up the road and Thompson Square called to see if they could work out there. Of course, PoppaNut said yes … FREE OF CHARGE.

Well, the band was so grateful to be able to work out at the gym, that they gave us free tickets to the concert with an invite to see the bus after the show! I couldn’t believe it. First, I have tried to get PoppaNut to go to the Round Up for a long time … and now HE was the one asking me to go! How could this get any better!

I got my cutest pair of heels on (that I could line-dance in), and we headed up. A few beers and a couple Root-Beer shooters later, it was time to meet the band. You’ll see from the photos that we met a few characters along the way as well.

Once we got on the bus, I asked the lead singers (a husband-and-wife duo) what happens if they fight and have to get up on stage to perform. All I got was blank stares and silence. Ok, strike 1 for me … apparently that wasn’t the ice-breaker that I was looking for. Let me try this again. Somehow … and don’t even ask me specifics … I got on the topic of tequila.

Well, now we are talking. I shoot out my tequila recipe … graciously given to me by Melissa and Matt (THANK YOU!!), and I tell Thompson Square that taking their tequila with hot sauce and an orange slice will change their life. They seem intrigued and promised they would try it. A few minutes later, we were off the bus … left to think about our time with Thompson Square.

I was certainly grateful that they allowed us to see the bus, and I was amazed at how kind they were. The next day, PoppaNut wrote on their Facebook page that we hoped they enjoyed the orange slice with their tequila and they LIKED the post!!! How crazy is that!!

So, that’s life in a nutshell. Sometimes, you have no idea where a night will take you … but that’s the fun of it!  You might just end up on a tour bus sharing tequila recipes!


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