Written by Lotus on Wednesday, 28 of November , 2012 at 8:13 pm
It’s time for my annual guide to my favorite internet finds for Christmas! I’m a huge believer in avoiding malls at Christmas (and the other 364 days a year). As such, I do 95% of my Christmas shopping online. Here are a couple of my favorite online stores and items this year.
ThePerpetualKid.com – I love this site for stocking stuffers and other fun gifts. Some of my favorite items are the “Disappearing Civil Liberties” mug and the Stress Cupcake. This site has a lot of themed items that seem to have a cult following right now – bacon, mustaches, cupcakes, owls, Star Wars, robots, and the like. They also have a “Shop by Price” option that’s great if you’re looking for the last little “thing” to round out a gift.
Amazon.com – As most people know, Amazon sells everything now. I’m a big fan of the Kindle, so I definitely recommend it. Amazon is also a good place to find items for someone who is obsessed with a sports team or dog breed. Another recommendation is my good friend Robert Davi’s CD, “Davi Sings Sinatra.” It’s great for any Sinatra fan or someone you want to introduce to the Sinatra songbook. A recommendation for any woman, is Jen Lancaster’s books. I love her writing style and her books always make me laugh. Finally, I am obsessed with popcorn with truffle salt. Good truffle salt has bits of truffle and is totally unrelated to synthetic truffle oil. There are a couple good brands available here. If you’re doing a gift basket or bag with a movie theme, include some truffle salt with microwave popcorn or a bag of kernels.
Macys.com – Birthdays are for the needs, Christmas is for the wants. Ok, maybe that varies from year to year. Anyway, Macy’s is a good place to start. They almost always have some sort of 10-20% off coupon code and free shipping over $99. On the “wants” list for most home cooks is any Le Creuset stoneware or cast iron. (Btw, you can sometimes find random Le Creuset pieces at TJ Maxx/HomeGoods for 60-80% off the regular price.) Another good gift from Macy’s – slippers. Everyone needs an extra pair of slippers. People with dogs need two extra pair of slippers.
Li-LacChocolates.com – I adore this New York-based chocolate store. Their motto is “stubbornly old-fashioned.” They are known for their chocolate molds like Santas, Christmas trees, toy soldiers and many more. Some of my other favorite items are the butter crunch, chocolate-dipped marzipan, and truffles. They also have several sugar-free items.
Homemade Food Gifts – If you’re on Pinterest you’ve seen lots of good ideas for homemade food gifts. Here are a few of my favorites.
Etsy.com – One of my favorite shops on Etsy is this jeweler who makes great pieces out of recycled bullets.
Shutterfly.com – This is a great site for personalized gifts. In addition to photo items, you can also make personalized stationary and cards. I’m all about encouraging people to write thank you cards. Among the photo gifts, some of my favorites are the iPhone cover, coasters and notepads.
I’ll probably continue to add to this list over the next few weeks, so be sure and check back. Happy shopping!
ThinkGeek.com — I just came across these cuffs via Pinterest. Love the Tolkien one. I also like this ammo mug for my favorite gun-nut.
I love this Twitter necklace. If you want to get me one or follow me on Twitter I’m @LisaDeP.
Speaking of love, check out my friend Christian Josi’s Holiday collaboration with Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens.
Written by Lotus on Wednesday, 7 of November , 2012 at 9:15 pm
To celebrate my birthday this Friday, I thought I’d put together a list of things I’ve learned over the years. Some are funny, some are serious. I hope all are somewhat useful!
1. If your message in an email, text or phone call is a gussied up version of “F*** You!” don’t send it. Unless you’re willing to actually say “F*** You!”
2. It’s ok to not have plans on Friday night.
3. The average dog is a better person than the average person.
4. Rather than dieting, practice the principle of “diminishing returns.” In her book, Betheny Frankel explains that it’s ok to taste and try everything. But stop after it’s no longer pleasurable. Rather than plowing through a candy bar or steak just to finish it, stop when you’re no longer enjoying it.
5. Invest in high thread-count sheets. Mine are Egyptian cotton, 1200 thread-count from Macy’s.
6. A new outfit, haircut or eyeshadow won’t change your life. But it might lift your spirits for a few hours or a few days and sometimes that’s enough.
7. Send hand-written thank you cards within two weeks of receiving a gift or good deed.
8. Make Cheez-Its from a scratch. They are amazing. Here’s a really good recipe: http://www.cookingalamel.com/2012/04/homemade-cheez-its.html
9. It takes a lot of courage to stand up for what you believe, but it takes even more courage to admit when you’re wrong. One of the most difficult things I’ve done is admit that I was wrong when I denied the existence of God and the power of faith.
10. When people who love you seem to be sending silly emails or calling you for silly reasons, indulge them. They might be lonely and just want to talk.
11. Have a set of recipes that you do really well and share them with friends.
12. Twitter and Facebook aren’t real life. People aren’t as popular, rich, fun, and perfectly posed as they appear to be. Thank, God.
13. If The Godfather (I or II) are on TV just watch it. No need to channel surf as there is nothing better on TV.
14. Bangs are cheaper and sexier than Botox.
15. If you’re writing something that will be seen publicly, ask at least one person you trust to read it first. Also, be open to their corrections. Having someone edit your work usually makes you look better.
16. It’s ok to say “I don’t know.” Often people will give a BS answer rather than just admit they don’t know.
17. Use produce from Trader Joe’s within 24 hours. I’ve wasted so much money on the good intentions of using fresh fruit and vegetables. I love Trader Joe’s, but the fact is their produce comes from thousands of miles away (for East coasters) and doesn’t last as long as other grocery store produce, which is more likely to come from closer sources.
18. Manicures only look good for 48 hours.
19. Guys will tell you who they are. If he says he’s a jerk, a bad boyfriend, drinks too much, or anything else that seems like a warning, wish him well and walk away.
20. You find out who your real friends are during your lowest points in life, not your highest points.
21. Substitute butter-flavored Crisco for butter in all cookie recipes.
22. There is no substitution for Diet Coke. Or Hellman’s mayonnaise.
23. I do not respond well to people who use guilt to provoke my actions. It’s best to just state your reasons for what you want to do in a non-confrontational way and let them have their moment to sulk.
24. I wish I would have purchased pet insurance.
25. Life is too short to eat fat-free cheese.
26. You can’t take too many pictures of your dog. And don’t feel silly for backing up the repetitive photos, too. A few years ago my digital camera was stolen from my suitcase and I lost hundreds of photos of my now deceased dog, Buster.
27. Bruce Campbell is underrated as an actor… and sex symbol.
28. It’s ok to not finish a book if you’re not enjoying. If you’re not reaching for it when you have a spare moment, move on to another book.
29. Keep negative people at arm’s length. Don’t let them suck you in to their negative view of the world.
30. Do everything you can do avoid college loans. Go to school in-state, work, go to community college for the first two years. If you’re a parent, pay into the state-sponsored college fund. I’m so thankful that I never had school loans. Thanks to scholarships, working at least 30-40 hours a week, my parents paying into a college fund and doing my freshman and sophomore years in one year at a community college I was able to avoid school loans. Never taking out college loans is literally the best financial decision I’ve ever made.
31. The younger a person acquires publicity, the more entitled they feel to continue getting it. Whether it’s actors, singers, writers, or pundits once they’ve been in the spotlight they expect to stay there regardless of their own efforts.
32. Don’t wear a low-cut or sleeveless shirt or dress to the gun range. Nothing is more awkward (or dangerous) than trying to fish out a hot shell from your cleavage with a loaded firearm in hand.
33. Don’t think you’re too good to do menial office work. If you get the boss’s lunch, you’ll get a few extra minutes with the boss and show that you’re a person who can deliver on a task. Also, check that the order is right before you bring it back to the office.
34. Chick-fil-A is the only fast food worth eating.
35. Make lists. They make you feel like you can accomplish anything.
Category: Let's Get This Party Started, Random Stuff
Written by Lotus on Thursday, 11 of October , 2012 at 6:18 pm
Last night Ross Hemminger, Youth Coordinator for the Scott Brown for Senate campaign, was heckled by pro-Warren supporters at the Brown-Warren debate. A source at the event told me that the hecklers were union members who were oganized by the Warren campaign for a “stand-out.”
The incident happened when Hemminger started chanting “Go, Scott, go!” on the megaphone. The Warren supporters chanted back “You sound gay!” A few others chimed in “You take it up the a**!”
Soon after the incident an email from Warren’s campaign manager was forwarded to me. It reads:
It has come to my attention that some of our supporters made very inappropriate comments to you outside the Springfield debate hall tonight. On behalf of Elizabeth and our campaign, I am writing to express our deepest apologies. Elizabeth completely denounces this kind of behavior, and we are very sorry it occurred.
Elizabeth for MA
I’ve been told video of the incident is on the way. I’ll post if it becomes available.
Perhaps next time the Warren campaign will be more discerning when organizing their supporters at a public event.
Full disclosure: I am the interim board chair of GOProud, an organization of gay and straight Americans seeking to promote freedom by supporting free markets, limited government and respect for individual rights. Hemminger interned for the organization last year. I have not spoken to him about this issue.
UPDATE: Thanks to Twitchy, Instapundit and Weekly Standard (who now has some video of what happened afterwards) for the links.
Category: Tolerance, GOProud, Conservatives I Love
Written by Lotus on Thursday, 11 of October , 2012 at 1:38 pm
That old t-shirt is best used as a dusting rag. Not a scarf. Not a “cute new top.”
Apparently, I should have been wearing boot socks all this time.
Everyone does their nails (except me).
Everyone has a wedding board (except me).
Everyone wears scarves (except me).
Click-bait makes me angry. If the link doesn’t go to the store where you can buy an item, I’m not pinning it. I don’t want to aspire to own those shoes. I want to own those shoes.
People are obsessed with recipes with pumpkin and making food look like a pumpkin.
Anything can be made in a crockpot. Anything.
I will repin any recipe with the words “Salted Caramel” or “Nutella” in the title.
Cauliflower is not a suitable replacement for anything. No potatoes. Not pizza crust.
People love “copy cat” meals. I just don’t understand why people want to copy anything from Olive Garden.
Sandra Lee is just lazy. Busy women (and men) on Pinterest make their own seasoning mixes, brownie and cake mixes, and freezer meals.
“Take an old…” projects are almost never worth it. (Also, see old, t-shirt above)
Anything can be made into a chalkboard.
People are serious about dog breeds. Don’t you dare say that English Cream Dachshund is a Golden Retriever and Dachshund mix! One woman’s quest (she’s commented on pins of same dog several times).
The only thing better than a photo of a sleeping puppy is a photo of many sleeping puppies.
And, finally, that this is possible.
Category: Fashion, Food, Random Stuff
Written by Lotus on Wednesday, 27 of June , 2012 at 7:54 pm
There are tons of great books I’m looking forward to reading at the beach and by the pool this summer. Here are a few on my list:
Off the Menu by Stacey Ballis (Out July 3, 2012)
The cover has a dog and cupcakes. What else do you need to know? My introduction to Stacey was through Jen Lancaster’s books. I finally got around to reading her last book, Good Enough to Eat. Fantastic read. [Side note: Lancaster’s new book, Jeneration X, is also must read. Hilarious, per usual.]
The Great Destroyer by David Limbaugh
I love David Limbaugh. I had the opportunity to interview him and interact with him on Twitter, as he does with many other fans. He was kind enough to send me a signed copy of his new book and I can’t wait to start it!
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
In April I saw my first Broadway musical, Phantom of the Opera. Next on my list is Wicked, so I thought I’d read the book first. I started this book when the pool opened up on Memorial Day. It’s now become my pool book (I also have a bedside book, a Kindle book, an iPhone for Kindle book…), so it’s taking me awhile to get through it. Or I’m just not into it. It reminds me of Lord of the Rings books, which I have never read. Fantasy/Science Fiction create new worlds and terms and species. I can’t keep them straight. I have enough to remember with the real one. So, time will tell if I get through Wicked. Side note: It’s dirtier than I thought. Aren’t kids really into this book?
Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture by Andy Cohen
I’m kind of a Bravo addict. Something that’s always puzzled me is how an entire network devoted to guilty-pleasure reality shows can get A-List guests on Andy Cohen’s “Watch What Happens” mini-talk show. I once asked a friend who worked in development at Bravo and he said it’s because Cohen uses every interaction as an opportunity. I’m not sure if the meant it as a positive or negative. Either way, it works for him.
Jesus Hates Dead Religion by Eric Metaxas (Kindle Only)
I love Metaxas’s “Everything You Wanted to Know…” series. I’ve also given his bestseller, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy to several people. His latest book is based on his recent speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, which was attended by President Obama, Vice President Biden and Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
Leonardo’s Lost Princess by Peter Silverman
A friend of mine reviewed this book last month and it’s been on my list ever since. The book chronicle’s a man’s attempt to authenticate a painting he discovers should be attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci.
If you own a Kindle, sign up for the Pixel of Ink email list at once. Every day they send a list of free (or almost free) titles. I’ve downloaded dozens of books. I tend to gravitate toward chicklit, but they also feature lots of crime novels, mysteries and even a few cookbooks. A few of the titles I’ve downloaded so far (may not still be free):
How to Get a Literary Agent in Two Murders or Less
The Dirty Parts of the Bible
Always the Wedding Planner, Never the Bride
Sweet Delicious Madness and the Many Mysterious Deaths of Silvio Burlesconi
[WordPress is being really annoying tonight. It’s not letting me highlight or format text, so I can’t put in Amazon links. I’ll try again later. Sorry this post looks so boring!]
Category: LOTUS Recommends
Written by Lotus on Sunday, 26 of February , 2012 at 5:56 pm
Like last year, I made a concerted effort to actually see several of the movies nominated this year. I still haven’t seen some of the big ones (The Artist, The Descendents, Ides of March), but I feel good about making educated picks this year. Of course, I’m still going to hedge my bets by once again picking who should be the winner and the likely winner.
My Pick: The Help (My real pick is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II)
Likely Winner: The Artist
Actor in a Leading Role
My Pick: John Dujardin, The Artist
Likely Winner: John Dujardin, The Artist
Actress in a Leading Role
My Pick: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Likely Winner: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Actor in a Supporting Role
My Pick: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Likely Winner: Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Actress in a Supporting Role
My Pick: Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Likely Winner: Bernece Bejo, The Artist
Animated Feature Film
My Pick: Rango
Likely Winner: Rango
My Pick: War Horse
Likely Winner: The Artist
My Pick: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II
Likely Winner: Midnight in Paris
My Pick: Hugo
Likely Winner: Hugo
My Pick: Martin Scorcese, Hugo
Likely Winner: Martin Scorcese, Hugo
Music (Original Score)
My Pick: The Artist
Likely Winner: The Artist
Music (Original Song)
My Pick: Man or Muppet, The Muppet Movie
Likely Winner: Man or Muppet, The Muppet Movie
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
My Pick: Moneyball
Likely Winner: The Ides of March
Writing (Original Screenplay)
My Pick: Bridesmaids
Likely Winner: Midnight in Paris
Category: Random Stuff
Written by Lotus on Sunday, 19 of February , 2012 at 3:56 pm
In the late 1990s I was a DJ at a local rock station in St. Augustine, FL. When I moved to D.C. and began working at a small non-profit I was lucky that I already felt comfortable on radio. I did tons of local and syndicated talk radio interviews. Now that I’m scheduling a lot more radio hits for others I thought I would share some tips I’ve learned over the years, as well as some advice from my favorite DC101 DJ, Greg Roche.
- You’ll be tempted to have all of your research in front of you, that’s ok, but don’t rely on it too much. Have a separate sheet with talking points from each news item that are short enough to memorize. Natural talking with a few “um”s and “uh”s is more entertaining than hearing someone read directly from an article
- Listen to the host. Be prepared to go off-topic, but try to transition back to the points that are most comfortable for you.
- Smile. It really adds a bit of a lilt to your voice and you won’t sound like the coma-inducing NPR hosts.
- Don’t make listeners feel like the third wheel. Sometimes people want to brag to audience about a mutual friendship with the host and they’re tempted to bring up an inside joke. This is boring and makes listeners feel like outcasts.
- Act normal. If you like to sit a certain way, sit that way. If you use your hands a lot, still use them. Don’t be tempted to “act professional” and think you have to sit upright in a chair with your hands in your lap. When you stifle your behavior, you stifle your personality. A DJ I used to work with always did his entire 3 hour show standing up. He was great. I would do my show with the lights off. It made it feel more intimate and less like I was in an office building.
Great advice from Roche if you’re interviewing someone (for print or broadcast):
Let them talk. It’s really my main focus. I’ll come in with 5-7 topics I want to discuss. If you are doing a 15 minute interview, this is MORE than enough if you incorporate the “let’em talk” philosophy. Two of those topics will fall flat. It’s just how it goes. You should have at least three topics that you now will engage your guest. These will be the main focus of your interview. More than likely, these points will lead to other (sometimes more interesting) topics. Like you said, be prepared to veer from your topics. In fact, encourage your guest to go where they are comfortable by having a follow up to something they said. You can only do that by listening to their answer…which is my other point. Too often, we are focused on getting through our questions, we stop listening to the answers. Engage. Don’t interview. Finally, I always like to start with an icebreaker. Something the guest is passionate about (that doesn’t pertain to their area of expertise). That let’s the listener get more familiar with the guest and puts the guest at ease.
In addition to his DC101 shift (3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays), Roche does podcasts. Follow him on Twitter @RocheOnAir.
(*Your results may vary)
Category: Random Stuff
Written by Lotus on Saturday, 28 of January , 2012 at 1:29 pm
I thought I would share with you some of my favorite recipes for game day. If you’re still keeping to your healthy New Year’s resolutions, these recipes will not help. However, you could use vegetables (carrots, grape tomatoes, zucchini) as your dipping device or get a small plate and keep yourself to a small serving rather than camping out at the dip location. Just don’t mess with the mayo. Seriously, there’s something about the fat-free and reduced fat mayo that ruins these dips. Rather than mess with these recipes, serve other healthier options like crudités and hummus.
Buffalo Chicken Dip
3 – 12.5 ounce cans of all-white meat chicken (drained)
3 – 8 ounce packages of cream cheese
1 cup of ranch dressing
12 ounce bottle of Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce (NOT hot sauce)
12 ounces of shredded Mexican cheese blend
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In large pot or skillet, mix chicken, cream cheese, ranch dressing, and wing sauce on medium-low heat until combined and smooth. Mix in 1 cup of cheese. Transfer to 9 by 13 pan. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
Serve with bite-size tortilla chips.
(Note: The original recipe I pilfered from a friend’s ex-boyfriend included diced celery, so feel free to add a cup if you’re a fan. I am not.)
Spinach and Artichoke Dip
1 package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained (press through colander several times until all water is removed)
1- 12 ounce can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all ingredients until combined and there are no large chunks of spinach. Transfer to 8 or 9 inch pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until edges start to brown.
Serve with tortilla chips, pita chips or crusty bread.
Hot Crab Dip
4 ounces of softened cream cheese
½ cup of mayonnaise
½ cup of sweet onions, chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
½ teaspoon of Old Bay Seasoning
6 ounces of fresh or canned lump crabmeat, drained
5 crushed buttery crackers (like Keebler’s Club crackers)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Caramelize onions in small sauté pan with olive oil. Drain off any excess oil. Combine with cream cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, Old Bay and crabmeat. Mix until all is incorporated and there are no big lumps of cream cheese. Transfer to small baking dish or crock. Sprinkle crushed crackers on top. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until cracker topping is golden brown.
Serve with your favorite crackers. I like the Townhouse Flip Sides with this dip.
If you want to give your guests an entree in addition to appetizers and dips, go with something that is easy to make in large quantities. I like chili with fixings (cheese, onion, Fritos, sour cream, etc.) or pulled pork with small potato rolls and cole slaw. People will be filling up on appetizers all day, so no need to go all out on the entree. Save some money by doing an entree that allows people to have as small or as large a portion as they want.
If you want to offer dessert, go simple. A perfect batch of chocolate chip cookies beats most desserts. Get a few pints of ice cream and have guests make their own ice cream sandwiches. For a healthier option, make a fruit salad and let guests make it as bad as they want it — chocolate syrup, whipped cream (or Cool Whip), shortcake or biscotti.
Enjoy the game (and the commercials)!
Category: Let's Get This Party Started, Food
Written by Lotus on Thursday, 26 of January , 2012 at 7:13 pm
I’ve been doing a lot of cardio lately, so an upbeat playlist is a must. My current playlist is about 70 minutes. I always start with a song I’m obsessing about at the moment. It makes me look forward to a workout. I hope you find some new (or old) favorites!
“Call Your Girlfriend” by Robyn
“The Climb” by Miley Cyrus (Don’t make fun! It gets me going.)
“The Cave” by Mumford and Sons
“Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey (I actually skip this one sometimes. Cliche.)
“Party Hard” by Andrew WK (if this song was 6 hours long I could probably run a marathon… in theory)
“Precious Declaration” by Collective Soul
“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
“Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga
“The Boxer” by CarbonLeaf
“Waiting for the End” by Linkin Park
“Already Gone” by Kelly Clarkson
“F**kin’ Perfect” by P!nk
“Gives You Hell” by The American Rejects
“Hollywood” by Michael Buble
“In the End” by Linkin Park
“Life Less Ordinary” by CarbonLeaf
“Little Lion Man” by Mumford and Sons
“Silver Springs” by Fleetwood Mac
“Let Your Troubles Roll By” by CarbonLeaf
Category: Let's Get This Party Started, Random Stuff
Written by Lotus on Friday, 16 of December , 2011 at 11:51 pm
This year my favorite thing to give away is the salted caramel sauce. I found the recipe on the Epicurious iPhone app. However, I made a few adjustments (adding vanilla, butter, sea salt) to give it a richer flavor. It’s great on ice cream. Enjoy!
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract
Combine sugar, water, and corn syrup in heavy medium saucepan. Stir medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat. Carefully add whipping cream (you may want to stand back — mixture will bubble vigorously). Add butter, sea salt, and vanilla. Stir with small whisk over low heat until all caramel bits are incorporated and sauce is smooth.
Category: Christmas, Food