Thursday, November 21, 2013

So you want to be a retro hostess?

I know I do! For some reason the holidays always feel like a perfect time to go retro and enjoy all those things have been around for generations that you just don't find in the stores anymore. But you can find them on Etsy! And you can especially find them in the wonderful shops that are members of the Vintage and Main team on Etsy. Here are a few of my favorite finds that would be perfect for Thanksgiving (I can't believe that it is only one week away!). Gobble! Gobble!

(P.S. If you aren't hosting, these would also make perfect hostess gifts!)

1. The "Stop Ice" Perfect Hostess Aid Bar Accessory from Kolorize $15

2. Copper Kitchen Canisters from Little Kitten Vintage $32

3. Mosaic Folk Art Vintage Turkey Platter from Rush Creek Vintage $45

4. Hand Painted Owl Cookie Jar from Yell and Panic $25

5. Antique Gravy Boat from Hound Dog Digs $28.50

6. Vintage Troll Doll Decorator Set from Sunchowders Vintage $8

7. Salvador Dali Cook Book from Gentlemanly Pursuits $550

8. Vintage Linen Table Runner from Rosa Meyer Collection $42

9. Pink Depression Glass Pitcher from The Zoe Bird $27

Friday, August 9, 2013

Classic in San Francisco

Photo from LIFE Photo Archive
Rancho Drive-In Theater in San Francisco, August 1948
One of my favorite cities is San Francisco and much of that is due to its historic quality. I remember watching Vertigo for the first time and recognizing many parts of the city and seeing how it became like another character in the twisty plot. So I wanted to explore what other vintage movies were filmed or set in good 'ole San Fran, and here are a few.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? (1967) starring Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier and Katharine Hepburn
The Drayton's views are challenged when their engaged daughter brings home her black fiancé.

Trivia: This was Spencer Tracy's last appearance on film. He passed 17 days after filming ended. At the time the movie was conceived, interracial marriage was still illegal in a number of states. By the time the movie was in theaters, the US Supreme Court in the case of Loving v. Virginia declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.

Pal Joey (1957) starring Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak
Joey Evans has it made. Rich widow Vera Simpson provides financial security to Joey and his every whim, but along comes beautiful ingenue Linda English and now Joey is caught between the two women.

Trivia: Rita Hayworth plays what is supposed to be an older cougar type who is keeping Joey as her arm candy, but in reality Rita Hayworth was only in her late 30's when she played the role and actually 3 years younger than Frank Sinatra.

The Birds (1963) starring Tippi Hedren, Suzanne Pleshette, Jessica Tandy and Rod Taylor
During a trip to a small Northern California town, Melanie Daniels is met with bizarre attacks by vicious birds who seem to be targeting her.

Trivia: The famous depiction of a woman screaming whilst being attacked by birds that appears on the movie poster is actually Jessica Tandy and not Tippi Hedren. Tippi also is not the one that Rod Taylor as Mitch is carrying down the stairs from the bedroom after Tippi's character has been trapped in a room with the birds, it is actually Ms. Hedren's stand in since Tippi Hedren was hospitalized from exhaustion after spending a week filming that scene. One ending that was considered was showing the Golden Gate Bridge covered in birds and Hitchcock purposely did not include a "The End" at the closing of the film to emphasize the unending terror of the birds.

The Great Ziegfeld (1936) starring William Powell, Louise Rainer and Myrna Loy
Based on the life of Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., the famous producer of numerous extravagant stage revues known as the Ziegfeld Follies.

Trivia: Billie Burke (best known for her portrayal of Glinda the Good Witch from MGM's The Wizard of Oz movie (1939), was married to Florenz Ziegfeld from 1914 until his death in 1932. Louise Rainer who played Ziegfeld's common law first wife Anna Held was the first woman to win two Academy awards in a row, the first for this movie and the next for her role in The Good Earth (1937).

The Lady from Shanghai (1948) starring Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles and Everett Sloane
Michael O'Hara meets beautiful Elsa Bannister and is convinced to join her and her husband on a yachting cruise but is soon embroiled in a bizarre murder plot.

Trivia: The movie was shot in San Francisco, although the setting on film is supposed to be New York. The yacht used for filming, the Zaca, belonged to Errol Flynn at the time and despite having been almost destroyed throughout the years from neglect and ownership disputes, it now sails out of Monte Carlo and is considered to be one of the world's finest yachts (and quite possibly haunted). The film was not a success, and many people believe that it may have had to do with the decision by Welles to have Rita Hayworth cut her famous red hair short and dye it blonde.

The Maltese Falcon (1941) starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George and Peter Lorre
Private detective Sam Spade gets involved in a twisted quest for a priceless statuette that involves several eccentric criminals and a beautiful liar.

Trivia: This was John Huston's directorial debut. Although there were several falcon statuettes used during filming, Bogart dropped one of the original ones cast out of lead (others were cast out of resin). This first one can be seen on display at the Warner Bros., movie museum with visible dents from being dropped. To give Mary Astor's character the appearance of being nervous and breathless, John Huston would run with her around the set several times before shooting her scenes.

Vertigo (1958) starring James Stewart and Kim Novak
Retired private investigator John 'Scottie' Ferguson becomes obsessed with his client and old friend's young beautiful wife who he has been hired to follow.

Trivia: James Stewart's character eventually finds Kim Novak's character at The Empire Hotel at 940 Sutter St. in the heart of San Francisco. This hotel is now known as Hotel Vertigo and the room (Room 501) where the scenes took place is still reminiscent of how it appears on film. The film was poorly received upon its release, but is now considered one of Hitchcock's greatest films and in 2012 it replaced Citizen Kane in the Sight and Sound critics' poll as the greatest film of all time.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Read a Book, Sip a Cocktail No. 24

Photo from
I saw no other way to end my Read a Book, Sip a Cocktail series than with a book on Marilyn Monroe.  I've read a few of them, and this one has been one of my favorites thus far. Not only did Taraborrelli do a great job in recounting Marilyn's life, but he did so in a way that was well-written, documented and not sensationalized. There was still room for the reader to make up his or her mind about her life and to get a better understanding as to why or how events unfolded as they did for Marilyn Monroe. I've always been a fan, but I know that she does not always get the best rap when it comes to her reputation or her stardom. But through this book you are able to see the person behind the big screen. Marilyn had very humble beginnings and a troubled past with her sick mother and no father to speak of. But she also had gumption, heart, and drive. Not to mention talent of course. The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe doesn't reveal any particular big secret, but it does allow the reader a glimpse into the beautiful tragedy that was Marilyn Monroe and I for one did not come away feeling sorry for her or lamenting what happened, but rather I gained a better understanding of her life and a wish that I could have been around when she was alive.

For the cocktail pairing I had to of course use champagne, but I wanted to glam it up and make it pretty for MM.  I had seen a champagne cocktail that used a blooming hibiscus flower for garnish and I thought it looked so beautiful, my eye was instantly drawn to it, and that pretty much sums up what Marilyn does to most people, even 51 years from her passing, she still draws the eye in and fascinates us (she passed 51 years ago today on August 5th 1962).  I'm calling this one The NJ for Norma Jeane.

The NJ
6 oz. Champagne (any one you prefer, although Marilyn did like her Dom Pérignon)
A hibiscus flower in rose water syrup
1/3 cup of Granita made from Hibiscus tea and simple syrup

How to: First make the granita.  To begin, seep some dried hibiscus blooms in boiling water to make the hibiscus tea (about 1 1/2 cups). Strain the tea and let it completely cool.  Mix the tea with about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of simple syrup. Pour into a small metal cake or pie pan and freeze until the top layer begins to harden. This takes about two hours. Using a fork, scrape the mixture to break the frozen parts into tiny pieces. Freeze for another 30 minutes and then scrape again. Repeat this process until the granita resembles fluffy shaved ice. This takes about 4 hours in total. To assemble the cocktail, lay about 1/3 of a cup of the granita in your favorite champagne glass.  Place a hibiscus flower on top of the granita. Then slowly pour your champagne into the glass.  You can use the flower itself or the back of a small spoon to let the champagne slowly roll into the glass so that it floats on top.

This is the granita the first time out of the freezer
After a few times back and forth between scraping and freezing, the granita becomes 'fluffier'
Start assembling the cocktail with a bed of granita first
Then add the hibiscus flower
These flowers are edible, sustainably harvested in Australia and packed in the essence of Bulgarian roses
Pour the champagne slowly so that it rolls over the flower and into your cocktail glass
The finished champagne cocktail - this one's for you NJ!
As an adage, I just want to say that I have truly enjoyed putting these cocktail and book pairings together.  I don't always sit with a cocktail in hand when I read, well actually, hardly ever. But I know that when I make these drinks they will evoke the books that I paired them with, and hopefully this isn't the end of my cocktail adventures. I will definitely be sprinkling them in here and there as I go forth whenever I can. Cheers everyone!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Read a Book, Sip a Cocktail No. 23

Photo from
I will admit that I watched the movie version of Laura Esquivel's Como Agua Para Chocolate, which was released in 1992 and starred Lumi Cavazos and Marco Leonardi, before I read the book. I actually then went on to read the book in English and I enjoyed it very much because I felt that the film did a great job in capturing the saga of Tita and her ridiculously demanding mother Mamá Elena, her petty sister Rosaura and her weak, coward of a lover Pedro (although in the end I was rooting for him).  I think what I enjoyed the most about the story was the element of cooking and how Tita's emotions were poured into her culinary creations - so much so that those who consumed them were in turn consumed by her state of mind, heart and soul.  Like the title implies, when something is hot enough to make chocolate with, it's basically too hot to handle, and angered to the point of boiling over. So for this drink I wanted to blend both the chocolate aspect of the saying, but also give it a kick with some ginger and bring it home with a sultry-colored fruit (pomegranate would be great with this too, especially from the point of being a forbidden fruit and all that).  In the end this drink delivers a refreshing and sweet flavor blended nicely with the slight heat of the ginger. I think that if a drink had emotions, this would be one with many.

Too Hot to Handle Cocktail

Too Hot to Handle
1 oz. Skyy infusions ginger vodka
1 oz. Crème de cacao liqueur
3 oz. Naked blueberry juice*

How to: Prep your martini glass by sticking it in the freezer for about 5 minutes. In a cocktail shaker mix ice, vodka, crème de cacao liqueur, and juice. Shake for at least 20 seconds. Serve in your ice cold martini glass and keep cool under the collar.

Getting my ingredients ready

After pouring everything into my martini shaker
Pouring away
I love the color the blueberry juice gives to the drink

Friday, July 19, 2013

Read a Book, Sip a Cocktail No. 22

Photo from
I first read The House on Mango Street in high school and it stuck to me ever since. The story revolves around 12 year old Esperanza who is coming of age in a new house on Mango street (in the city of Chicago). Told in short vignettes, the book reads a lot like poetry. For being a very short book, I think the author makes a big impact and tells a good story that brings up many issues including gender, identity, language, culture and growing pains. This cocktail doesn't have much to do with those issues, but it certainly was inspired by the famed Mango Street - and it is a two for one deal! I made a Mango in the Morning and a Mango in the Evening with an orange, mango, peach mimosa/bellini and a mango margarita.  I've made both of these drinks before, but not in one day. The mimosa or bellini is great for a weekend brunch and using a peach champagne is perfect for blending with the pulpy, sweet flavors of mango and bright, refreshing orange. Margaritas come in a wide array of flavors (and even colors), so punching up the traditional blended margarita with your favorite fruit is really great, especially during this hot summer. Normally I actually like to drink my margaritas on the rocks, but fruit flavors are really great blended smooth. And now I must confess something. Mango street actually does not exist in Chicago! The street that Cisneros wrote about is actually Campbell street, but she chose instead to use Mango because it rhymed with Campbell and it would not remind readers of the famous soup. 

Mango in the Morning
2 1/2 oz. Champagne or Sparkling Wine*
2 1/2 oz. Mango Orange Juice or Orange Peach Mango Juice**

How to: Chill both your champagne and juice ahead of time. *I recommend using a peach champagne, like the one Andre has. **I used an orange, peach mango juice with no sugar added, but I also recommend the Simply Orange juice with Mango or the Dole orange, peach and mango juice.

Mango in the Evening
1 oz. Tequila, reposado
1 oz. Triple sec
1 oz. Grand Marnier
3 oz. Mango Orange Juice or Orange Peach Mango Juice*
Frozen chunks of mango fruit

How to: Prep your margarita glass rim with a bit of fresh lime and a rim of rock salt.  In a blender add your ice, frozen mango, tequila, triple sec, Grand Marnier, and chosen juice. Blend it up! Serve immediately and enjoy. *See notations above.

I used Orange, Peach and Mango juice
I love the bright color
The mimosa/bellini - bellosa?
I didn't quite wait until the evening to start the margarita, but that is neither here nor there!
Blended goodness
Cheers! and Cheers!

Friday, May 17, 2013

ARC Giveaway!

I have a little giveaway to host for three recently published young adult advance reader copies! See the entry form below to enter, and you can enter every day between now and May 26th. Only the first step is mandatory and anything else above that is optional, but will raise your chances of winning. Only United States residents are eligible and I will announce the winner on May 31st. Good luck!

The winner will receive these three ARC's

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Read a Book, Sip a Cocktail No. 21

Photo from
When I read The Great Gatsby in high school I was not thrilled at the assignment because after all it was an assigned book - one that I had to read, but after finishing it I was secretly in love with it. As a high school kid I could never admit I liked it, much less thought it was genius.  But next to To Kill a Mockingbird, it was probably my favorite "required" reading assignment prior to college and prior to reading for pleasure.  Then add to that the fascination with F. Scott and his wife Zelda and their beautiful, tormented, cut-short-lives, and well, I would have to say that the novel is always at the top of any of my best or most beloved reads.  In summary The Great Gatsby is about unfulfilled dreams. Jay Gatsby having reinvented himself in hopes of winning back his girl, Daisy Buchanan, dreams that he will regain her love, but also turn his "new money" into "old money". Daisy is stuck in an unhappy union with Tom who is unfaithful to her but not willing to let her go.  Even the narrator, Nick Carraway, who becomes enamored with the mysterious Jay Gatsby, is confounded at how little care is given after Gatsby's demise when not long before he had so many admirers as the enigmatic host of the most lavish and shining parties.  I was inspired by the two opposing locations Fitzgerald juxtaposes in the novel: East Egg and West Egg, and so I made a boozed-up egg nog completely from scratch.  Since the latest film adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan is coming out tomorrow, I thought this was also a fitting book and cocktail pairing. The movie looks so glitzy and full of reverie that I think this cocktail would be perfect as a companion to those day dreams and ritzy nights.  The taste is just sweet enough with a very smooth kick from the bourbon and the rum. The best part is the creaminess of the rich whipped milk and egg, which lend the drink an airy and indulgent feel. I can't wait to watch the latest film version of this great American novel. Now don't go on a toot and get zozzled daddy-o!

East West Egg Nog
1 large egg
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
2 oz heavy cream
1 oz bourbon
1 oz aged rum
2 1/2 oz whole milk
ground nutmeg

How to: Separate the white and the yolk from the egg and beat the egg white until soft peaks appear. Slowly add the sugar. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream and the egg yolk until thick. Add the bourbon and the rum to the cream and yolk mixture and then combine the two mixtures.  Add the milk and beat until soft peaks appear again.  Serve chilled with a sprinkle of nutmeg.  Double the ingredients to make a batch for two.  You can substitute the whole milk for 1 or 2% milk to make it lighter, or half and half to make it richer.

In the middle of beating the egg white

The nutmeg adds another dimension of flavor

"In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars." (Quote from The Great Gatsby)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Read a Book, Sip a Cocktail No. 20

Photo from
I was inspired to do a little wine tasting this time around by the book Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik.  The story centers on five women who serendipitously form a book club in their Freesia Court neighborhood in the 1960's. Through forty years of friendship, their lives are unraveled, enjoyed, devastated, and enriched by secrets, marital woes, booze, and inevitable changes and revelations.  I really enjoyed learning about each character's lives and getting the story from each of them because they all had individual voices and perspectives.  The five characters include Faith, a mother of twins who feels a bit lonely, Merit, the pretty doctor's wife, Audrey, resident sex pot (I thought Joan Holloway all the way while I read it), Kari the reliable widow, and Slip who is tiny in size but not in character or strength.The story had both heart warming moments, as well as heartbreak, laughter and of course great books, food and drinks.

I am not the usual wine lover in that I guess I cheat at wine. That is to say that I prefer the sweet, desert wines, so when it comes down to it, I'm not a true wine enthusiast even though I actually have lots of enthusiasm for wine, but my palate is not complex I guess. All I know is that if it is sweet, I like it, no matter the cost, the age, the vintage, nose, varietal, or the obscurity or exclusivity. I don't pick up on nuances like vanilla oak, pepper, rhubarb, or whispers of clove either.  I pretty much stick to a good Riesling, Moscato, Gewurztraminer, and the occasional Zinfandel. And I love sipping a port with some chocolate after dinner too. So this is where the bon bons come in.  I chose three wines and I paired them with a variety of chocolates. I started with Cupcake Vineyards Red Velvet, which is a mix of Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah.  It smelled like any other red wine to me, but it was actually not too dry and just smooth enough for me with a hint of sweetness (although with the name I really did expect some sort of a nod to red velvet cake).  I paired it with white chocolate and it was quite nice to sip a bit at a time with the creamy white chocolate.  Second up was the Chocolate Shop Red Wine which is red wine infused with dark chocolate, and I could definitely smell the chocolate before I took a taste. I paired this one with milk chocolate and it was a nice balance to the headiness of the wine.  And finally I ended with a Quarles Harris Ruby Porto, which is an inexpensive port that has a bit of a kick (for something better I would recommend a Fonseca Porto).  I paired it with a dark chocolate and almonds, but I think a chocolate desert might be best with this one.  Out of all three my favorite was definitely the Chocolate Shop Red Wine. It was smooth, not too strong, with a lovely hint of dark chocolate. I could have even sipped it without the chocolate truth be told, which is rare for me as I usually stick to the white wines.  Overall I think if I'm going to have some dessert after dinner or during a book club meeting, I think having it with some wine is definitely a win-win situation.

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons Flight
1 bottle of Cupcake Vineyards Red Velvet
1 bottle of Chocolate Shop Red Wine
1 bottle of Quarles Harris Ruby Porto
A variety of chocolate

How to: For this pairing I would recommend making a night of it, inviting some angry or not-so-angry friends over to enjoy the flight with you and just have everyone bring a pairing of a wine and either a chocolate or maybe a cheese or a dessert. And make sure you have a DD as well or plenty of sleeping bags!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Ballantine Books, 2011; 314 pages; ISBN 0345521307
My Goodreads Rating: 3.5 stars

I took a listen to the audiobook of The Paris Wife, which is the story of Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley Richardson and more than anything what I took away from the book was a feeling of getting a clearer picture of Ernest Hemingway and his early years as a writer.  The book was never exciting enough or perhaps brilliant enough to warrant a higher rating, but it was still pleasurable and interesting.  The story unfolds from the perspective of Hadley Richardson, who was married to Hemingway from 1921 until 1926.  In the beginning their relationship is beautiful and young. They both have stars in their eyes and Paris seems like a brilliant constellation where they can both map out their dreams (they also travel to other cities, like Chicago and Toronto).  But as the months and years wear on and Hadley has a child, it becomes harder and harder to maintain a sense of themselves. Ernest has a difficult time dealing with set backs in so far as his writing, and Hadley has a hard time situating herself and basically keeping up with Ernest.  Their story was one of true love, but loyalties falter, and in the end Hadley loses Hemingway to another woman, although I think she actually loses him to himself and his writing.  They had one son during their marriage, John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway, and one thing I did enjoy very much from listening to the novel was the opportunity to learn more about Hadley Richardson as a woman - how she met and fell in love with Ernest Hemingway, and then that prompted me to read more about her in other sources as well.  I learned how she lost some of his manuscripts while in Europe and how Hemingway became obsessed with bullfighting. Also, more insight was given into relationships the couple had with other prominent characters, such as Gertrude Stein and the Fitzgeralds.  All in all it was nice to know that she lived a long life and that she took part in the life of one of our greatest authors.  This is a great book for history and literature lovers and the audio book was well read by Carrington Macduffie.

Photo: From website

Friday, April 5, 2013

Read a Book, Sip a Cocktail No. 19

Photo from
I have fallen under the spell of Adriana Trigiani's books, and not just because we share a first name.  Well maybe a little bit because of that. I think so far I have read four of her books and each one has its own charm and enchantment. In The Shoemaker's Wife the charm is double-fold because I fell in love with both Enza, who is the said wife, and Ciro, who is the said shoemaker and husband. Both stories are interwoven from the time of both Enza and Ciro's youth and I think that there is enough editing and storytelling that we truly connect with where these characters are from, without ever getting bored. For this round of read a book, sip a cocktail I took inspiration from having both a feeling of Italy and America in the libation, which is something that we get from the novel. Enza and Ciro are connected to each other in many ways, but very important is this thread that inexorably ties them to their "mountain top". These are roots that both of them feel to their cores, but yet when they come to America they also begin to lay down roots in a new land, without ever forgetting of course where they come from. It is a cliché that I know has been over-told time and time again, one that I as a first-generation Mexican American can relate to as well, even without having been born in another country, but knowing that feeling of being from two places at once. It is a tug that encompasses that feeling of home - of knowing in one moment that your soul is where it should be, where it emerged from, and where it will eventually return to, only that you feel it in more than one place.  The cocktail itself is a blend of bourbon, Disaronno, almond milk, cinnamon and shaved dark chocolate.  The result is a definite cerise and almond-like sweetness mixed with the potency of the bourbon and the comforting richness of the almond milk and chocolate. I think this would make a great before or after dinner drink and I'm calling it "Up on the Mountain Top" in honor of that place that both Enza and Ciro loved, left, and always returned to even if it was simply in their hearts.
“Ciro took Enza's face in his hands. "I have loved you all of my life. I was a boy who knew nothing, but when I met you, somehow I understood everything."”(from The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani)
Up on the Mountain Top
1 oz. Bourbon
1 oz. Disaronno*
3 oz. Almond Milk
Shaved dark chocolate for garnish

How to: Prep your glass by adding a few ice cubes to it and setting it aside.  In a cocktail shaker mix more ice, bourbon, Disaronno, almond milk, and a pinch of cinnamon.  Shake for at least 20-25 seconds. Serve over ice and dust some more cinnamon and the shaved dark chocolate on top. I used a wine glass to serve, but feel free to use a rocks glass or a tumbler. Also, the cinnamon got away from me when I first sprinkled it, so I had to take some off before I drank the cocktail. *Disaronno is a brand of amaretto, which is normally made of almonds or apricot pits. However there are no almonds or nuts in Disaronno, it is made of apricot kernel oil, alcohol, sugar and a blend of herbs and fruits. Feel free to substitute any amaretto liqueur for this recipe.

Shaving the dark chocolate which also had some almonds in it.

Before the excess cinnamon dusting.

After I removed the excess cinnamon and enjoyed a few sips.