Mini Wine Bottles

I have a passion for things that are either comically large or comically small.

That’s me with a very large wine bottle. Right there I’m trying to hold it in, but you can tell that I’m just loving how unexpectedly over-sized it is.

As much as I love big bottles of wine for their comedic value and the quantity of actual wine inside of them, I have recently developed a new affection for very small bottles of wine (yes, you heard me! I love wine bottles both very large and very small!!! Keep reading for the rest of the details!)

I love mini wine bottles (like this Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc that comes in packs of 4) because it allows me to reenact key scenes from Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (to be clear, that’s the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids sequel, not some kind of snarky, comedic terrorist snuff film… because even terrorists want to laugh? Maybe they don’t- I don’t know any terrorists. I DIGRESS).

For me, the mini wine bottles are like the hundred calorie packs of Oreos. A little portion control to keep you honest. Individual wine bottles are also the ideal size to sneak into a movie theatre, which according to my mother, is “not cute anymore.” Ya know, one college diploma and suddenly I’m some adult who can’t drink cheap booze during any occasion!

Regardless, these things are perfectly sized for a purse or deep pocket. Much more efficient than taking a bag of wine out the box and trying to fit that in your pants.

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Pink Ombre Cake

I’ve got a lot of time on my hands.

HOW MUCH TIME, DARA?!

This much!

I made this pink, ombre, Lisa Vanderpump homage for my mom’s birthday on February 5th. This thing took 5 hours for me to make from start to finish, but it’s worth it if you have little going on in your life and need something to feel good about.

I used this recipe (doubled. Great recipe, by the way). There’s nothing I can tell you about how to make the colors like they are, other than you need time and patience with food coloring, but you can try this for the assembly.

I’d post more, but I’m in the midst of part 2 of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion, and I’m really wrapped up in this new Brandi/Lisa alliance… There is not time to blog!

Here’s some more pictures, though. Sorry to anyone who follows me on Instagram- I was blowing up your feed yesterday. (Follow me on Instagram @daralaine)

    

NYC Trip

After yesterday’s excruciatingly long post about something that only a small group of people can understand and appreciate, (that’s a great blogging tip– write long, drawn out posts that only appeal to a small sector of your audience. Take that to the bank) I thought I’d cleanse your palates with something a little easier to read with lots of pictures.

Last Wednesday I drove to Jersey City (where I was staying) to go to an Emerson College Networking event in NYC with my friend Jillian (go read her new blog, The Cool Kid’s Table). Now, the only thing I enjoy more than making plans with friends is when the other party breaks them last minute and I can get back into my Sad Dara clothes (garments with no shape and/or elastic waist band to aid in comfortable weight fluctuation), but this time I was all pumped up to drive 4 hours to the land of the Manzos.

Why was this time so different? Well, other than the fact that I was happy to see Jill, we had reservations at The City Hall Restaurant in Tribeca for their Restaurant Week 3 courses for $35 menu. Listen, I’ll drive up to two hours for something like Sonic tater tots–even if Jill cancelled, I would have shown up for my discounted gourmet food alone.

{NYC skyline from Jersey City}

{Blood orange margarita}

{Candy cane beet salad with fried goat cheese}

{Henry braised short rib with beans and an onion ring}

{Chocolate bread pudding with Nutella ice cream and cherry compote}

The trip was a success except for the fact that despite the networking event I still don’t have a job (turns out that at these things it tends to just be a lot of people who also don’t have jobs), and I did not see one Manzo or Laurita family member.

Sitting Alone in Public

Back when I had braces, one of my favorite things was after an orthodontist visit, I would go to Friendly’s with my mom or dad (as a chubby kid, all of my favorite things involved red meat, french fries, and not being in school. Kids are mean!).

Apparently, though, Friendly’s is a real hot bed for lonely senior citizens. Every time I went there, there was some old man or woman sitting alone eating, and I would torture myself by making up some sort of scenario where their spouse had died or they never married because their one true love died in the icy Atlantic Ocean as the Titanic sunk beneath them (remember, this was the late 90’s. Having a lover die in a ship wreck ‘Caprio-style was the height of romance).  Heart breaking.

While old people sitting alone drinking a fribble is tragic, it’s not so for the young. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how they would feel too weird eating at a restaurant or going to a movie alone.

I feel like people who are afraid of sitting alone think that people around them will think they’re a loser, but that’s not the case. The other day I was sitting at a bar in a restaurant with my dad and this woman -probably in her late 20’s- was sitting alone at the bar. First of all, she was pounding back sushi like a champ. I’ve never seen anything like it- very admirable. She was drinking wine and doing work on her lap top, and I never thought she was a loser. I thought she was my bad ass lady hero.

I don’t think anyone should feel uncomfortable about sitting alone, as long as you don’t eat at an Applebees. Or an Outback Steakhouse. That does actually look sad. But sitting at the bar at a swanky restaurant or at a cafe and you’re all sorts of Carrie Bradshaw

… I promise I’m going to stop with the Sex and the City references. That was it. That was the last one.

Gift Ideas for Poor People

If you’re anything like me, you’re poor. The holidays are a really hard time for poor people. Suddenly you’re expected to spend money that doesn’t exist. On other people, no less. Or maybe you have just enough money to buy gifts for your family, but you have friends you know are getting you something, so now you have to get them something (which is the true spirit of the holiday season). Or maybe you had plenty of money but you spent it on yourself.

One thing working in your impoverished favor, is that during the holidays, no one can fault you for a bad gift if it appears that you put thought into it. That is our goal here today: gifts with feigned thought put into them. Gift baskets are great for this purpose.

Now, I know when you think gift basket you’re thinking fancy pears and Boursin cheese, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The beauty of a gift basket is you can make it as expensive or inexpensive as you want, and the fact that you gathered things in a basket gives off the illusion that you put a lot of thought into your gift.

The most important aspect and step one of these gifts is the basket. Look around your basement. If you really are an American, there’s a cheap basket from a yard sale somewhere in your house. If somehow you don’t have a basket, it’s past yard sale season and you’re going to have to buy one. Try a craft store.

So with that, gift basket ideas for those of all varying poverty levels:

1. Movie Night Basket

For the super poor: Look around your house for an old DVD still in its cellophane (this actually points to a greater lesson: always keep your DVDs in cellophane until you’re ready to use- you never know when you can use Legally Blonde 2 for a last minute gift. You won’t miss it). Steal 2 cans of soda, candy, and popcorn from around your house.

For the poor: Go to Walmart and look through the big bin of $5 DVDs. Bonus if you can find something fun like Spice World, but you’ll probably just end up with White Chicks. Look for random candy around your house, maybe buy a box of Goobers. Get two cans of diet coke from the super market vending machine, buy a couple of rum nips, and a box of popcorn.

For the barely employed: Movie passes or a season of something like Breaking Bad. Buy a 6 pack of glass Coke bottles (put two in the basket and keep the rest for yourself), rum nips, assorted boxes of movie candy, a box of popcorn, and those little popcorn flavor shakers. Instead of a basket a cute idea is also getting one of the buckets of popcorn you can get at Blockbuster… if you can find a Blockbuster.

2. Fiesta Basket

For the super poor: Hopefully you have an unopened bottle of tequila or some nips around. If not, you probably wont’t get out of this cheap. If you do, then take a lime from the fridge, steal a bunch of salt packets from McDonald’s, get a bag of tortilla chips and call it a day.

For the poor: Get like, 5 nips of various tequila brands (pass it off as a tequila tasting. I think that sounds pretty legit), buy chips, salsa, and then go to the dollar store and buy some maracas.

For the barely employed: You can get a bottle of Chi-Chi’s light margaritas for 7.99 (don’t spring for some brand name Skinnygirl. You’re not made of money). Get a taco making kit at the super market (they probably have that, right?), and then obviously the maracas so they have something to do after they finish the Chi-Chi’s.

3. Wine Basket

For the super poor: Your options include 3 Buck Chuck or regifting a bottle if you can. Don’t worry, there is no shame in 3 Buck Chuck. It’s still alcohol. Again, steal what you can from the house. Maybe put crackers and cheese on your parent’s grocery list for “yourself.” We must be resourceful in these trying economic times.

For the poor: Do what you can with the bottle of wine. Then head to CVS and get some jerky, a bag of Hershey’s kisses, some generic crackers, and cheese.

For the barely employed: Wine. Then try the Christmas Tree Shop if that is an option for you geographically (and God help you if it isn’t), and look for some festive wine glasses, which usually only go for $1.99, but really up the overall production value of the basket. Then assemble any other wine-y things we’ve discussed based on how much money you have left.

As you can see, there’s a basket for every price range. Only your own creativity can limit you now. Now go forth and spread cheer like you were always meant to do.

Obsessed With: Wasa Crackers

Okay, I’ve got to come out and say it, (though I have a feeling that the people who read my blog probably aren’t that into her, anyway) I cannot stand that YouTube star Jenna Marbles. I don’t find her funny at all, but mostly I want to tell her that since she has a master’s degree and a huge internet following, she doesn’t have to post pictures of herself in her underwear looking like Tara Reid with smudged eyeliner and an inch of black roots (that actually just brings us to a bigger lesson: if you can’t keep up with the maintenance, don’t go blonde! This is something we all can learn from). Also, I didn’t love her vaguely racist video making fun of my Queen, Nicki Minaj. Oh! And I’m pretty sure she just exclusively refers to women as ‘bitches.’

I mean, that's blackface? And the butt? Like, racist, right?

Mostly, I just can’t stand this one video she made about how she stays so thin. (I know, I know, I’ve watched a lot of her videos for someone who doesn’t like her. I just have a lot of misguided friends who post her videos on my Facebook wall thinking I’ll like it. I did, however, watch the fitness video on my own accord. To give credit where it’s due, girl has a slammin’ bod). In said video, she described what she normally eats, which was like…. twigs and nuts basically, but for snacks she eats vegetables and fruit….

…Um, in addition to what, exactly? Nope, just fruit or vegetables. The truly insulting part was that she says something like, “but you can have as  many fruits or vegetables as you want- I don’t go ‘crazy’ about it.”

Oh, can I have as many cucumber slices as my heart desires?

How dare you, ma’am.

This lady is having a smoothie for breakfast, a salad for lunch (and she’s vegan so there’s no meat on it), and then brown rice with more vegetables for dinner. This, of course, is in addition to the shmorgishborg of vegetables and fruits she allows herself to positively GORGE on between meals.

Is this what it takes to have abs one could eat cheesecake off of?!

The Wasa Crackers in my pantry yell, ‘Nay, sister. NAY!”

Wasa crisp bread

I’m pretty sure I’m getting on the Wasa train really late- late like I’m some old timey, orphan, wanderer child running beside the Wasa train and pulling myself aboard just before it crosses the bridge.

I just can’t believe I’ve gone so long without knowing about them. They’re hearty, low in calories (about 40 calories or so for a whole one the size of a graham cracker), and are a great vehicle to transport almond butter and laughing cow cheese into my mouth. My little Wasa babies just open up this whole new world of snacking possibilities.

I would recommend these for anyone who is a real human who wants to eat healthy, but is still hungry after eating a handful of red pepper slices.

Thanksgiving Recap

This is not so much a recap of my Thanksgiving weekend as it is a cry for help as I sit at my desk at work. My intestines are so tired, guys. They just want to sleep. Using rolls soley as a vehicle for transporting butter into my mouth has caught up with me, and it’s taken me an hour and a half to finish my breakfast smoothie.

Just to explain how I got to rock bottom, here’s what the weekend looked like:

If you remember from this post, one thing I want for Christmas this year is the Momofuku bakery cookbook, which includes the recipe for ‘crack pie,’ which is essentially a pie made out of butter and brown sugar, exclusively. My mom made this as our “surprise pie,” and it was delicious, but I’m pretty sure I’m still digesting the last of it.

Who doesn’t love monogramed wine glasses from The Christmas Tree Shop? Probably the same person who also doesn’t love filling it with $7 twist-cap chardonnay. I’ll bet that person doesn’t love a bargain, either. Well, I don’t cater to that kind of McScrooge here on this blog (although Scrooges tend to be miserly, this is not the same as loving a bargain. A bargain lover will spend $100 on 200 bottles of ketchup because of a sale, which is completely different from a McScrooge who, I dunno, would fire you on Christmas Eve or something).

My mom got these wine glasses for my friend, Michelle and me, but as she pointed out, can also be used by mommy and daddy. Anyone can use it so long as the drinker bears some kind of alphabetical tie to the monogram. In addition to wine, another highlight to my night spent with Michelle included about 10 pieces of bacon each at about 1am. That’s all you need to know.

Yesterday I saw The Muppet Movie…. or is it The Muppets? I don’t know. What I do know is that Jason Segel is a national treasure. Though the real point to this story is that I ate basically a whole bag of popcorn before the previews ended, and I’m SURE there’s some kernels still lodged in my digestive system.

Now that you’re up to speed on my caloric intake of an entire long weekend, what did you eat? Did you have any fruit that wasn’t baked in a pie?

Starbucks Skinny Peppermint Mocha

After reading the title of this post, I bet you’re thinking “how is this lady going to weasle an entire post out of the subject ‘skinny peppermint mochas?'”

Well, reader, you’ve obviously never read any of my college essays. I once wrote a ten page paper for a literature class in which Sex and the City was one of my scholarly sources. I can finagle just about anything into an essay. Look, I’ve already wasted 73 words. Child’s play. 75.

Anyway, I’m just pumped about this new Skinny Peppermint Mocha business. I think for years one of the hardest things for me to grapple with is the fact that all of the Starbucks seasonal beverages are generally made with a thick, syrupy base (pumpkin spice, mocha, caramel brulee), and I like to enjoy my holiday cheer in 150 calories or less. I think most people (except for neurotic, skinny, city dwellers) don’t really have a grasp on how bad for you some of those Starbucks drinks are (do not get me started on the Chai… just because it sounds like tea doesn’t make it ok).

I, however, used to work at Starbucks, so I know a thing or two about how many calories are in every single thing in that place. I’m an encyclopedia of the nutritional values of stale, day old baked goods. My insight actually spans beyond just fat content, too. I have some thoughts on Starbucks etiquette as well.

How to be a Great Person at Starbucks (Though it Will Probably Go Unnoticed):

  • Be cool about sending back your drinks. I mean, it’s part of their job description to re-do any drinks if you ask, (like, even if you screw up and say you wanted iced when you really wanted hot) but maybe think about how busy it is and what was made incorrectly. Say you didn’t want whipped cream and they put it on. If you send that back you are a major doucher and here’s why: the policy is they are supposed to remake the ENTIRE drink, so depending on the manager looking over their shoulder, they can’t just scoop it off the top. But guess what? You can easily do that (or chalk it up as destiny and enjoy your whipped cream. You didn’t ask for it so it doesn’t count calorically). HOWEVER, if they give you 2% instead of skim milk, you are permitted to throw the drink across the room and demand a free apple purse.
  • This next one is tough because it would require you to be both extremely considerate and aware of your surroundings, so just do what you can: Watch where you sit!!! If you take a table in front of an outlet and you don’t have a computer, you should then be aware if someone with a computer walks in and now has no outlet to sit in front of. How else will that person nurse a $2 tazo tea for 3 hours while he works on his screenplay? Just get up and find a new seat (unless there are no other seats and then you get a pass).
  • Be clean. You don’t have to be all Danny Tanner about it, but just know if you leave trash at your table all the baristas are going be talking about you after you leave, hard core. Also, when you go to the bathroom do your best to aim, and don’t get toilet paper on the floor. There is no reason for there to be toilet paper on the floor, and yet there always is.
  • Tip. I don’t think you understand how much it sucks to make coffee for people for $8 an hour, and it’s harder work than you think. If they’re not making your drink, they’re wiping down the condiment bar for the third time this hour. Ya, Starbucks is a pretty good company to work for, but they want blood in exchange for dental insurance.

Or better yet, stop going to Starbucks and start supporting locally owned coffee shops, you monster drone!

Crystal Light Mocktails

One of my favorite things is when companies give a little wink to their young, mostly irresponsible customers. Like when Jell-O came out with margarita, pina colada, and daquiri flavors a few years ago. It’s make me feel validated, (which I learned on Oprah’s Lifeclass last night is a very important thing for a human). They know what I’m up to with their product, and they don’t think it’s totally outlandish. Sure, if pressed by the Mothers Against Drunk Driving they would surely just say that the product was meant to be enjoyed as alcohol-free Jello-O jigglers or mixed with Cool Whip, but I know what the Jell-O company is really saying: “I see you. I hear you. Mix this with alcohol as a fun addition to your Cinco de Mayo celebrations.”

Crystal Light has recently come out with something of a similar concept. If you are not a vain woman between the ages of 18-34, you probably don’t know that we like to mix our vodka with a little Crystal Light as a fun, low-calorie treat. We’re just Skinnygirls on a budget trying to make it in this world.

Recently, Crystal Light came out with a new line of “Mocktail” flavors. Now, I love a mojito as much as the next person. Probably more than the next person. I really love mojitos, especially when they come with a little sugar cain garnish. However, one of the best parts about a mojito is that there’s rum in it. I’m not interested in alcohol-free cocktails, and do not get me started on “mocktails.” I remember dorm-sponsored events at my alma mater used to boast a selection of mocktails during Project Runway viewings, and all that says to me is you’re trying too hard to have kids think you’re cool. It’s fine if you don’t want to serve me alcohol, but don’t try to serve me fake alcohol with just as much sugar. Just be honest with me and give me free brownies. Same calorie content with no illusions.

Anyway, tangent. Sorry. Basically, I don’t think that Crystal Light really thinks that they’re customers are going to buy this as a way to enjoy their favorite cocktails with out the pesky alcohol. Some product developer probably has some 24 year old daughter who is always bringing packets of Crystal Light in her purse when she goes out to bars, and thought they’d capitalize on the new skinny alcohol craze that’s starting to ramp up.

And then again, when MADD presses them about it, they can just say that they had no idea dieters liked to mix their product with alcohol, and they just thought they’d provide something for their customers who thought that tequila ruined the flavor of lime and sweet and sour mix in margaritas.

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Z Food and Drink

For my birthday dinner yesterday, I went with my family to Z Food and Drink in Manchester, NH. I knew I’d be blogging about it, but I took some pictures with my iPhone because I didn’t want to saddled down with my parents’ Nikon while I’m trying to get down to some serious eating and drinking. Also, there is nothing more gross than having to sheepishly explain to your server the reason why you’re taking pictures of food is because you’re a blogger… even though she didn’t even ask, but her sideways stare compelled you to tell her anyway.
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{popcorn with truffle oil and garlic butter instead of the usual bread and butter}

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{The Pretty in Pink: fresh strawberry puree, mint syrup, and a can of Sophia champagne. My new signature cocktail, y’all!}

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{haddock and crispy pork belly tacos}

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{The Cider House Rules: St. Germain liquer, apple cider, and prosecco.}

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{classin’ it up with a mini Carvel ice cream cake. My mom started slicing it, but I had to shriek for her to stop so I could take a picture.}

I also got some gouda stuffed tater tots, maple rangoons, and asian nachos, which I started eating before I remembered to take a picture… Once I get started I can’t be stopped. I also got a cupcake, which was COLD and sorry, but everyone knows- infants, the dead, EVERYONE- knows you don’t serve cupcakes just out of the fridge. They are served room temperature. It was still a great cupcake, though. Overall, a nice place, and I appreciate that they list prices on their drink menu, unlike TGIFriday’s, who suddenly think they’re some fine dining establishment. I’ll get my Mudslide at Applebees if you’re going to try and do me like that.