Best Things of 2015

Written by Lotus on Saturday, 19 of December , 2015 at 10:24 am

It’s been a crazy year, but a lot of cool stuff happened.  Here’s a list of my favorite things, discoveries and moments of 2015.

“Charlie Work” episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Season 10)

This episode showcased the genius of Charlie Day and the other actors and writers of It’s Always Sunny.  To be honest, all the episodes this year were good, but since this one is centered around Charlie it has to be my favorite.  The 11th season of the show premieres on January 6, 2016.

Political Punks Podcast

Artist Brett Smith and I started a podcast!  We’ve had some great guests, including Greg Gutfeld, Chuck Dixon, Terry Schappert and Thaddeus McCotter.  We also have more fun interviews lined up for 2016. Check out past episodes at www.politicalpunks.com and be sure to subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher.  My February column explains the political punks philosophy and graphic.  You can buy the shirt and other gear here.

political-punks-shirt.jpg

Disturbed covers Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”

I only discovered this song a week or two ago and I swear I’ve already listened to it 100 times.

Books by Friends

I featured many of them in my column on books to give for Christmas.  Check them out here.

Whole 30

I recently discovered the Whole 30 movement.  I haven’t done my 30 day detox yet, but I’ve been slowly preparing for it by eating more whole (get it?) foods and cutting out sugar.  What I like about this way of eating is that you don’t have to worry about measuring anything… and you can have bacon and homemade mayo. What I don’t like (and why I haven’t started the detox yet) is that I will probably have to cut out my morning Diet Coke.  I’ve been following #Whole30 on Twitter to see other people’s experiences and recipes.  The program’s book also has some great recipes.

Dog Selfies

Dog Selfie Collage

Gooey Butter Cake

The greatest thing to come out of St. Louis.  The Ann and Allen Baking Company delivers this moist, buttery concoction directly to you.  They have several amazing flavors, but traditional and Amaretto are my favorite.  Order here. Let me know if you need my address.

Be Brilliant Bags

I love using this bag when I travel.  It has pockets for all your tech stuff (laptop, iPad, phone), as well as room for your purse contents.  It also has a compartment on the bottom for an extra pair of shoes.  My tip: You can also fit an umbrella in there.  My favorite color is rose gold.  Remember, metallics are neutrals!  Buy it here.

Bruce Campbell is So Hot Right Now

In my mind he’s always hot, but in 2015 he was everywhere.  His iconic character returned in the Starz show, Ash vs. Evil Dead.  He played Ronald Reagan on FX’s Fargo.  One person described that episode as Bruce Campbell fanfic written by me.  If only I was that clever.  He also continued to make the conference circuit.  Fingers crossed I can finally meet him in 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 4.14.33 PM

Peg Leg Vintage Goods

I discovered this store right as Mad Men was ending.  Looking at the photos has been the methadone I needed to get through the withdrawal.  (Side note: The perfect final episode of Mad Men also helped.)  Peg Leg has great vintage furniture, but some of the best finds are the knick knacks and smaller items.  Also, if you see a pair of chairs you like, buy them. Pairs don’t last long.  The owners are really nice and willing to make deals.  Check them out here.

Traveling

This year I managed to get in two trips to Palm Beach, two to Rehoboth Beach, one to Los Angeles, and a couple to Arizona.  Here are recommendations from each place.

Palm Beach

  • Four Seasons Palm Beach.  If you can’t stay there the entire trip, at least buy a one-day beach pass (under $200).  It includes a one-hour massage at their spa and cabana service at their pool or beachfront.
  • Tate’s Comics, Boynton Beach. I’m not into comics, but the art gallery upstairs was really cool.
  • Buccan. Try the pork belly empanadas and watermelon cocktail.
  • Second-hand stores.  What other city has Louboutins at their Goodwill???

Rehoboth Beach

  • Kilwin’s. Try the drinking chocolate served in a small espresso-type cup. Richer than hot chocolate and the perfect way to end the day.
  • The Avenue Spa and Apothecary. The spa services are great.  They also have a hotel above.  It’s a little noisy for me in-season since it’s on the main drag, but perfect for a winter or fall trip.

Los Angeles

  • Drive down Sunset Blvd. You get the feel of being in LA without having to navigate through the crowds.
  • Canter’s Deli. It’s been featured in Mad Men and Curb Your Enthusiasm, but none of that matters.  The food (and bakery) is awesome.
  • Fly into Burbank, not LAX.

Arizona

  • Any art festival in Tucson.
  • Culver’s. I realize this is a chain, but the only time I get to go there is when I’m in Arizona.
  • Drive from Flagstaff to Phoenix.  You’ll see snow-capped mountains, lush forests and the desert in three hours or less.
  • Old Town Scottsdale.  Go to Twice to shop for high-end accessories, The Sugar Bowl for ice cream, and any of the souvenir stores for classic southwest kitsch.

There are a couple days left, so I may add a few more things I forgot or some other cool stuff that happens!

Hat tip to Kevin Glass for the idea of a “Best of” list.

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Category: LOTUS Recommends,Random Stuff,Shameless Plugs,Things I Want

Fun with Coffee-mate’s New Flavors

Written by Lotus on Monday, 2 of September , 2013 at 5:19 pm

I recently had the opportunity to try Coffee-mate‘s new flavors inspired by Girl Scout Cookies.  I tried the “Thin Mints” and “Coconut & Caramel” flavors.  In partnering with the Girl Scouts, they’re also “scouting” for a Girl Scout to appear in their commericial.  You can view the submissions here.

Here’s the thing though… I don’t drink coffee.  Instead, I wanted to see if I could use them in new and unique ways.

The first idea I had was Palmiers.  Don’t let the fancy French name fool you. If you use prepared pastry dough it’s super easy.  After defrosting the dough in the freezer, I laid it out on the counter top.  I mixed 1/2 cup of Coffee-mate’s Thin Mints and 1/4 cup of sugar in a small bowl.  Then I brushed mixture on the dough.  Then I rolled up the dough on the long sides until they met in the middle.  Wrap the dough in wax paper and freeze for 30 minutes to make it easier to cut.  Then cut in 1/4 inch slices and put on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes or until golden.

palmiers.jpg

The second thing I made was Coconut Chicken Nuggets.  I soaked chicken tenders in the Coconut & Caramel Coffee-mate for about an hour.  Then I coated in egg and seasoned breadcrumbs.  I fried them in some olive oil, but you could also bake them.  The Coffee-mate added a little bit of sweetness, which made them so delicious.  Kids would probably really dig them.  Assuming the adults leave them any.

coconut-chicken.jpg

In addition to the above recipes I tried, I think either of the Coffee-mate varieties would be good in hot chocolate (or iced chocolate!), in protein shakes, or even “affogato”-style — a shot or so poured over gelato or ice cream.  I hear you can also put it in coffee!

coffeemate.jpg

 EVENING UPDATE!

Last night I mixed 1 ounce of Smirnoff Kissed Caramel vodka and a splash (maybe 1-2 tablespoons) of Coffee-mate Caramel & Coconut.  So good.

 

 

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Category: Food,LOTUS Recommends

5 Favorite Finds on Amazon

Written by Lotus on Sunday, 28 of July , 2013 at 5:00 pm

I saw a piece over at the Washingtonian written by the cofounder of Birchbox on the five beauty items she can’t live without.  I’m not a Birchbox subscriber, but it got me to thinking about some of my favorite things. The worst is when you find a product (beauty, food, or whatever) and then can no longer find it.  I’m looking at you, Trader Joe’s. Amazon has been great for someone like me who is resistant to trade in old favorites. Here are five of my favorite things that I routinely buy on Amazon.  

Just Cavalli Her by Roberto Cavalli Eau de Toilette
I love this perfume and have been wearing it for at least 10 years.  It’s no longer sold in stores.  Sometimes the bottles I receive are marked “Tester.”  Also, I’ve seen reviewers sometimes complain about them being fakes or not as potent.  It’s possible, though I suppose age might also have something to do with it since Just Cavalli is no longer manufactured.  If you have a different favorite perfume, Amazon seems to be a good place for finding backstock

Estee Lauder Ideal Light Brush on Illuminator (Soft Pink)
Even though this awesome concealer is still sold in stores like Blue Mercury, they no longer carry it in Soft Pink.  I seriously don’t understand why they stopped making the best (and lightest) color for an illuminator product. Am I the last one to know that dark undereye circles are now in?  I’m not exactly a pale face and the next lightest color is still too dark for me.

Barney Butter Almond Packets
These 90-calorie packs of almond butter are great. I haven’t seen them in stores.  They’re comparable to Justin’s Butters, but a little cheaper. The packs are handy and it tastes great just by itself.  I’m a nut butter purist, I suppose.

Gummy Vitamins
I don’t do large pills, so I take all my vitamins in gummy form.  Amazon has the best deals and the most variety. I take Women’s multi-vitamin, Omega-3, B12, Fiber, Glucosamine, and Calcium with D.  Look for sugar-free when available.  Even though I take a few sugar-free variet

Free Books on Kindle
There are a ton of free (and deeply discounted) books available for Kindle.  Check out the Pixel of Ink blog and sign up for their email list for a daily email of recommendations.

(Note: This isn’t a sponsored post, I just happen to love Amazon. You can probably find some of these items on eBay, Overstock, and other sites.)

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Summer Reading 2012

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.

Others
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!]

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My Annual Online Christmas Shopping Guide

Written by Lotus on Sunday, 4 of December , 2011 at 2:50 pm

In 2007, I titled my first online shopping guide “One for You, One for Me.”  This year?  Not so much.  Every year I make a list of those I’m buying for and try to keep track of what I’ve purchased.  About one week into the Christmas shopping season I’ve abandoned the list and just start buying whatever useful and useless things I think people would like.  And maybe one for me if it’s a good deal.  Like many people, this year I’m really keeping track so I don’t overspend and I’m doing away with “one for me.” 

This year my list of stores includes a few favorites, as well as some new finds.  Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Li-Lac SantaLi-Lac Chocolates
I learned about this company when two friends purchased it a few months ago.  They are legendary in New York.  You’ll find them in almost every New York travel guide as the best place for chocolate treats.  They are best-known for their molded chocolate figures like Easter bunnies, Santas and turkeys.  They also have a wide selection of other treats like bars, fudge, cream rolls and, my favorite, caramels.  Avoid the more well-known brands and surprise your friends with this New York favorite. (And feel free to send some my way!)

Homemade Gifts
‘Tis the season to save money when you can.  We all have people we don’t know that well that we have to shop for at Christmas.  Skip the “I don’t know you that well” gifts (candles, body lotion sets, etc.) and try some of these homemade ideas instead.  I really want to try the butterscotch sauce. Pair it with the perfect ice cream bowl (i.e. one that’s probably too big) and it will do more than collect dust in someone’s guest bathroom.

Perpetual Kid
This fun store makes it on my list every year.  I love them for stocking stuffers.  Some of my favorite items this year: Cupcake Handwarmer, Wonder Woman Apron, Personal Pie Maker, Jesus Shaves Mug and Animal Prints on Canvas Kit.  Full disclosure: I can’t name any of the things I actually bought this year because I don’t want to ruin surprises. 

Uncommon Goods
This is another site I included last year.  Favorites for 2011 include: Ticket Stub Diary, Tasting Plate, Knit Arm Warmers, Leaning Ladies BookendsCustom Paw Print Necklace (I wish this was available when I had a dog), Candle Shadow Projectors, Dream Bank, and Cheesemaking Kit.

Etsy
My mom is very crafty and I love the idea of supporting people like her during the Christmas season.  Since the site is so extensive, I’ll just suggest some of my favorite sections: Pets, Crochet, and Geekery.

Amazon
I love Amazon.  They have everything.  Search for a dog breed or sports team and find lots of fun gifts.  Of course, I hear they also sell books.  Some of my favorite books to give this season:

 

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Category: Christmas,LOTUS Recommends

LOTUS Embraces San Francisco Lifestyle

Written by Lotus on Sunday, 21 of June , 2009 at 4:58 pm

Following surgery, I’ve been on a liquid and mushy food (baby food) diet for the past 6 weeks.  During that time I’ve been perusing several food blogs.  Pants off, mouth open.  When all you have is photos to satisfy you, the food at This is Why You’re Fat is totally unappealing (sorry, JOTUS).  Instead, I’ve been enjoying blogs that focus on the healthier, organic, seasonal food.  I think it started with a segment on  60 Minutes last week about Alice Waters, mother of the organic food movement and founder of Chez Panisse in San Francisco (of course).  While I don’t think that any lifestyle should be forced on Americans (even for their own good), I do agree with her food philosophy.  Yes, it’s elitist and, yes, it’s totally inconvenient.  However, there are some tips you can take from  her, like supporting farmer’s markets, eating only seasonal fruits and veggies, skipping fast food, and enjoying the process of cooking and eating your meals.  The recent NY Times Bestseller, Naturally Thin by Bethenny Frankel (my favorite from Housewives of NYC), follows this philosophy.  It’s a great book, but I do have one criticism — THERE ARE NO PHOTOS!

Here are some of the food blogs I’m adding to my Blog Roll:

So Good

Cooking with Trader Joe’s

Cook to Bang

Zesty Cook

DC Foodies

So, what am I cooking for my first non-mushy meal at home?  Salmon and Turkey Bacon Soft Tacos!  Lots of tomatoes, a little sour cream, and a little goat cheese.  Yeah, I’m probably more excited than I should be.  Pants are still on though.

UPDATE: Salmon tacos were good, but I inadvertantly bought low-carb tortillas.  They were kinda gluey.  Boo.

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Category: Food,LOTUS Recommends

Jen Lancaster Goes All David Sedaris on Your Ass

Written by Lotus on Tuesday, 5 of May , 2009 at 9:43 pm

If you haven’t read anything by Jen Lancaster, then we aren’t friends.  However, you could use the excuse that you wanted to read her books in chronological order.  While her other books take place during adulthood, her newest book, Pretty in Plaid is childhood stories from ’80s.  So, you are forgiven if you buy it and immediately start reading it.  I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy, which I have been saving for my vacation in July.  I don’t know if it will go untouched until then.

For perhaps the first time ever, the New  York Times is totally accurate.  Here’s an excerpt from their review of Pretty in Plaid:

In Pretty in Plaid, Jen Lancaster reveals how she developed the hubris that perpetually gets her into trouble. Using fashion icons of her youth to tell her hilarious and insightful stories, readers will meet the girl she used to be.

Think Jen Lancaster was always “like David Sedaris with pearls and a super-cute handbag?” (Jennifer Coburn) Think again. She was a badge-hungry Junior Girl Scout with a knack for extortion, an aspiring sorority girl who didn’t know her Coach from her Louis Vuitton, and a budding executive who found herself bewildered by her first encounter with a fax machine. In this humorous and touching memoir, Jen Lancaster looks back on her life—and wardrobe—before bitter was the new black and shows us a young woman not so very different than the rest of us.

The author who showed us what it was like to wait in line at the unemployment office with a Prada bag, how living in the city can actually suck, and that losing weight can be fun with a trainer named Barbie and enough Ambien is ready to take you on a hilarious and heartwarming trip down memory lane in her shoes (and very pretty ones at that).

Don’t miss her book signing at a city near you!

(Didn’t that sorta sound like the end of a Reading Rainbow book review?  Da da da dunt!)

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The End of White America?

Written by Lotus on Saturday, 17 of January , 2009 at 12:06 pm

Thanks to Buddha Riggs for forwarding me this interesting piece at The Atlantic.  Excerpt:

In the late 1990s, [Sean] Combs made a fascinating gesture toward New York’s high society. He announced his arrival into the circles of the rich and powerful not by crashing their parties, but by inviting them into his own spectacularly over-the-top world. Combs began to stage elaborate annual parties in the Hamptons, not far from where Fitzgerald’s novel takes place. These “white parties”—attendees are required to wear white—quickly became legendary for their opulence (in 2004, Combs showcased a 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence) as well as for the cultures-colliding quality of Hamptons elites paying their respects to someone so comfortably nouveau riche. Prospective business partners angled to get close to him and praised him as a guru of the lucrative “urban” market, while grateful partygoers hailed him as a modern-day Gatsby.

“Have I read The Great Gatsby?” Combs said to a London newspaper in 2001. “I am the Great Gatsby.”

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Whatever, Martha

Written by Lotus on Tuesday, 30 of December , 2008 at 9:15 pm

This is my new favorite show.

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Davi’s Passion for Politics and Film

Written by Lotus on Saturday, 15 of November , 2008 at 4:52 pm

A few weeks ago I blogged about Robert Davi’s new movie, The Dukes.  I’ve now seen it three times and just finished a review on it for Townhall.  The Dukes opened in New York on Friday and opens nationally next Friday, November 23.  You must go see it for the following reasons:

1. The main character has the same last name as me.

2. Great story

3. Catchy soundtrack

3. Robert Davi sings

4. Italians are the best filmmakers

5. LOTUS has excellent taste in movies (and music)

Davi in The Dukes

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Category: LOTUS Recommends,Weekly Column

Author

LOTUS lives in Northern Virginia. NOTE: The views expressed on LOTUS blog are the author’s alone. Organizations listed on this blog are for identification purposes only.