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2 Cocktails to Toast the Return of American Horror Story

By  October 08, 2014

The freaks come out at night starting today, as American Horror Story makes a triumphant return to TV. This season, viewers will step behind the curtain at one of the country’s last freak shows in 1950′s Florida. With the spooky spirit in place this month, a viewing party for the season premiere is only appropriate with a couple of custom cocktails for the occasion. Blend up one of these brews, and see what goes bump in the night.

 

Potion de Muerto by Christian Sanders of Evelyn Drinkery

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2 oz. Hornitos Black Barrel Tequila
¾ oz. orange juice
¾ oz.  lemon juice
¾ oz.chipotle agave *
2 dashes orange bitters
½ oz. beet juice
*Substitute agave nectar for chipotle agave if unavailable.

Serve in a tall glass over crushed ice with a beet juice float – the beet juice will slowly float down the glass through the crushed ice, making it look like blood dropping down. Garnish with an orange slice.

The Freak Show

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2 oz. SVEDKA Vodka
2 lime wedges
4 oz. ginger beer

Squeeze lime wedges into a Collins glass and fill with ice. Pour in SVEDKA Vodka and top with cold ginger beer. Garnish with lime wedges

7 Cocktails to Celebrate National Vodka Day

By  October 03, 2014

To think that vodka was once considered tasteless seems unfathomable, as its popularity has resurged exponentially. Thanks to its versatility, almost anything can become a vodka flavor. With National Vodka Day on October 4, we’re serving up a few spirited concoctions to share in the revelry with friends and family. Cheers!

Pinnacle Dessert Table

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1 oz. Pinnacle Pumpkin Pie Vodka
1 oz. DeKuyper Creme De Cocoa Dark Liqueur
1 oz. Half and Half

Combine ingredients in a mug. Garnish with whipped cream

Go FIGure

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2 oz. Loft & Bear artisanal vodka
*1 1/2 oz. fig puree
Rosemary sprig

Add the vodka and puree into a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake and strain into a tumbler with a large ice cube. Garnish with rosemary.

*For the fig puree:5-6 figs
4 oz. coconut water
1 1/2 oz. meyer lemon juice

Add all ingredients to blender and pulse until thoroughly combined.

Ruby Red Dragon from Tao

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2 oz. Belvedere Grapefruit
1 oz. Yuzu Citrus
Dash of Pomegranate

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass before garnishing with a Yuzu peel.

The Bees Knees

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2 oz. Purity Vodka
½ oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
½ oz. honey syrup

Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice, shake hard.  Strain into a martini glass or over fresh ice in a rocks or highball glass. Garnish with a honey dipper.

Ginger Dog

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1.5 oz. Vodka
1.5 oz. P&M Ginger
1 oz. Fresh grapefruit juice

Shake all ingredients with ice. Moisten the rim of a Collins glass with grapefruit juice and roll in coarse salt. Pour over fresh ice and garnish with a fresh grapefruit slice.

Bloody Mary

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1 ½ oz. SVEDKA Vodka
3 oz. tomato juice

½ oz. fresh lemon juice

Dash Worcestershire sauce

Dash hot sauce

Pinch of salt

 

Build in mixing glass filled with ice, and “roll” from one cup to another until cold and mixed. Pour into a tall glass and garnish with cherry tomatoes and grated black pepper.

 

IZZE Peachy-Tini

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5 oz. IZZE Sparkling Peach
3 oz. vodka
½ oz. triple sec
garnish: fresh mint

Stir well, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with fresh mint.

Easy Living: Do’s and Don’ts When Buying a Couch

By  October 02, 2014

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Welcome to Easy Living, my new lifestyle column all about the things that make nesting fun and will make your home both unique and beautiful. Here I’m going to cover the things that new homeowners don’t think about initially, moving tips, awesome products, good luck items for your home, finding the best rugs and furniture and mattresses, trends in kitchen, bedroom and bathroom décor, cool home products like candles and bed sheets and towels and cookware, tips on hosting the best cocktail party and setting a perfect table, and where to find the coolest products and most awesome deals to beautify your home!

I’m writing this from a broken couch. The first couch I’ve ever bought. The only couch I’ve ever bought. It’s been an excellent piece of furniture for a decade now, but the end was inevitable. This good thing is about to come to an end. It’s almost time to go couch shopping, and I’ve learned some valuable lessons from this old broken couch upon which I sit. The next time I go to buy living room seating, here’s what I’ll consider. Check out my do’s and don’ts!

Do think about durability. Yes, a white couch is elegant and beautiful and looks amazing in photos. Ask yourself – do you live a white couch lifestyle? If you’re prone to eating pasta in your living room and drinking red wine and/or coffee – maybe reconsider. If you’ve got pets, you definitely have you consider your fabric choice carefully. Cats love piercing through leather furniture with their claws and certain dogs love chewing on fabric furniture.

Do anticipate repairs. The first couch I ever bought was a plush recliner, and I got it at a generic furniture store where brands were not a question. It was basically a question of sitting on the couch, realizing it reclined, leaning back and then saying “yessss, I’ll take it.” Not smart. Reclining couches are great at the beginning but finding replacement parts can be difficult years down the road. Also, not every furniture repair person is willing to undertake fixing reclining furniture. Know your brand before making that purchase.

Do go to a store and sit on it. There are so many amazing furniture deals to be found online nowadays, and there are detailed customer reviews to guide you through the shopping process. But there’s so much to be said for sitting on your soon-to-be couch before paying for that big ticket item. If you see a sweet online deal, look to see if the manufacturer has items for sale at a nearby store, so you can give it a test drive before getting the e-discount.

Don’t shop based on looks alone. Sure, mid-century modern might be your aesthetic. Or minimalism might be super trendy at the moment. You may be tempted to go with a couch that will pull your interior decorating vision together. But first, consider form and function. You still need to be able to sit comfortably on this thing, and nobody likes a super stylish couch that feels like you’re sitting on rocks.

Do your research on the brand you’re buying.  Here’s what I learned the hard way – so many furniture manufacturers are tiny companies that don’t have staying power. You might buy a couch at a standard furniture store with a ton of TV ads, and years down the road when you try to find out what kind of couch you got or where to get replacement parts, you’ll discover that the company shut down years ago and there’s online complaints about their business. Don’t be like me! Ask smart questions when making the investment on a couch. Like, “who makes this brand? Where are they based? What kind of materials did they use? How long is the warrantee good for and who upholds that in the long term?” Things like that.

I’m taking my own advice and going couch shopping soon! What are your couch shopping do’s and don’ts? Any couch recommendations?

Contributing Editor, Patrice Grell Yursik is the creator of Afrobella.com, one of the first blogs to celebrate the beauty of natural hair and ladies of all skin tones and sizes. Affectionately called the Godmother of Brown Beauty Blogging, Patrice takes her readers inside unique beauty, fashion and cultural experiences.

Throwback Thursday: Do You Remember These Childhood Favorites?

By  September 29, 2014

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The times have changed—and our favorite childhood characters along with it. Oh, how we sometimes yearn for the past. You’ll smile over our list of fantastical personalities from back in the day, as well as the makeovers they’ve gotten since our childhood.

Princess Peach
We grew up saving Princess Peach from Bowser in Super Mario Brothers. Back then, she was limited to a pink ball gown, but in the contemporary sport-themed video games Nintendo has come out with, Miss Peach gets to rock a jersey and shorts!

Toucan Sam
Froot Loops —and therefore Toucan Sam—was a staple in our childhood. This yummy cereal is still a favorite, and we still smile when we see Sam’s kisser on that recognizable box at the supermarket.

Troll Dolls
These silly things weren’t exactly the most aesthetically pleasing toys on the market in the ’90s—but we adored them anyway. After becoming the main characters in the animated series Trollz from 2005 to 2005, they got a modern update with trendier detailing.

Rice Krispies Treats
Rice Krispies Treats were a sticky and sweet, after lunch or dinner treat in our adolescence, and we loved the characters Snap! Crackle! and Pop!, too.

Michelle Williams’ Brooklyn Townhouse Is For Sale

By  September 29, 2014

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Michelle Williams is looking for greener pastures, most likely in Los Angeles, but she’s leaving a quite spectacular one behind in Brooklyn. The actress’ ivy-laced Boerum Hill townhouse is what city dreams are made of, and is now for sale. From a spacious living room to the rustic kitchen, the home is light and bright, complete with authentic lived-in wood floorboards. While you might not be able to keep all of her simple and modern décor, the space itself is enough to go crazy for this Brooklyn gem—as long as you have a cool $7.5 million to spare.

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Entertaining Made Easy: Smart Tips for the Savvy Hostess

By  September 25, 2014

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Whether it’s a birthday celebration or a holiday get-together, at some point, every Glam girl is sure to find herself hosting a party of some sort. Nailing down the theme, menu, and guest list are the essentials, and after that, it’s just about ensuring things go as smoothly as possible. To make the whole process easier on yourself, here are four tips you may not have thought of during your party planning.

Consider a buffet
Expert entertainers know that featuring food in a buffet style makes for a sure crowd-pleaser, not to mention it’s an easier setup for the hostess. Simply allow guests to grab a plate and serve themselves at their leisure. Arrange the buffet table using different types of dishes, bowls, and baskets to create an eye-catching display.

Swap paper for cloth napkins
Environmentally conscious, economically friendly, and pretty to look at, cloth napkins are a great choice for a dinner party. If you’re serving food in a buffet style, provide a decorated hamper next to the trash with a sign directing guests to toss in their used napkins. At the end of the night, you’ll have less trash to clean up and a mere load of laundry to do instead.

Invest in an entertaining-friendly dishwasher
Hosting friends and family is the fun part. The post-party cleanup, though? Not so much. Make the recovery part as effortless as the entertaining by investing in a dishwasher you trust to take on even the most challenging of dirty plates, pots, and pans. You want a speedy, strong washer with a roomy stainless-steel tub—like a top-grade Electrolux Stainless Steel Dishwasher with IQ-Touch Controls(TM) (EI24ID5OQS) which provides a professional-level clean in just 30 minutes so that dishes are ready before the next course is even served. It has both luxury soft-grip racks and a third-level rack, so hostesses no longer have to worry about dishes flipping or being overcrowded.

Collect those cleaning supplies
First, move any decorative carpets or special furniture that you don’t want dramatically soiled out of the party zone. Then have an assortment of cleaning supplies ready for the sorts of spills that are bound to happen anyway. Having stain removers, tile scrubs, and wood polish ready and available during the party will keep any mess from catching you off guard.

Little Black Book: Guanacaste, Costa Rica

By  September 25, 2014

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As the weather gets cooler and your mind starts wandering to warm vacations, make sure Costa Rica is on your list of places to check out. The country, one of the most prosperous and safest in Central America, not only offers gorgeous scenery and relaxation, but an abundance of activities to satiate even the most adventurous member of your travel group. We recommend experiencing the Pacific side of the country–a providence called Guanacaste–which is renowned for its white sand beaches and surf, set against a backdrop of active volcanos. Plus, there’s no such thing as hurricane season here! Book your ticket into Liberia’s Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport, and read on for all the things to see and experience.

Where to stay

Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort, Costa Rica

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As one of only two resorts on the posh and picturesque Peninsula Papagayo, the newly opened Andaz offers guests one of the most gorgeous stays in the country. Although it would rather bill itself as a “lifestyle” property instead of a “luxury resort,” the Andaz doesn’t skimp on a single detail, offering private open-air spa suites that overlook the ocean, indoor/outdoor walk in rain showers, multiple pools, complimentary minibars, and rooms outfitted with sleek and modern technology. The design of the property is inspired by the organic natural beauty of Costa Rica, and guests will often find themselves coexisting with the local flora and fauna–whether that’s sharing cocktail hour with a howler monkey or the road with a family of pizotes, a South American mammal commonly spotted in the region. Service here is friendly and attentive–but never pushy or invasive–and everything is accommodated with a genuine spirit that embodies Costa Rican pura vida.

All the rooms are spacious, but the best ones to book are in the Bay View category, which offer floor to ceiling views of the pristine waters of Culebra Bay, and a private furnished balcony from which to take it all in. Local design touches such as woven textiles and wood furnishing reflect the Costa Rican aesthetic, but modern amenities including floor light sensors and sleek tech products make staying here as comfortable and convenient as it is authentic. The architecture and interiors are minimalist and soothing, and while beautiful in their own right, do an exceptional job of highlighting the splendid natural beauty of the local terrain. If this all sounds like a feast for the eyes (and naturally, Instagram), you’re right…and you’re in luck because the resort-wide (high speed, really) WiFi means you can share every breathtaking snap on social media to your heart’s content.

Where to Eat and Drink

The Coffee Shop at Rio Bhongo 

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Coffee connoisseurs, rejoice! Just because you’re in vacation doesn’t mean you’ll have to settle for anything less than what you usually get at your local artisanal coffee shop. Costa Ricans love their coffee and you can order it brewed the traditional local way or however you wish at Rio Bhongo. Every day of the week, the cafe highlights a different blend from local purveyor Cafe Britt, including a few house blends made especially for the property. Guests may find themselves so enamored with the coffee here that they’re inspired to take a barista class, offered right at the cafe a few times per week.

Chao Pescao

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If speciality cocktails are more your scene (and really, who doesn’t love a handcrafted drink), head over to Chao Pescao, where the talented mixologists can whip up anything to satisfy your mood or palette. Using all fresh ingredients and a fully stocked top shelf bar, the drinks are just as delicious and inventive as those you find in a New York speakeasy…but with the added benefit of a full ocean view.

Ostra

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A visit to Costa Rica is not complete without experiencing a variety of seafood prepared the local way–ceviche! With 13 different types of ceviche (plus a vegan option), guests can–and are encouraged to–try a little bit of everything. A full dinner menu is also available, with entrees ranging from catch-of-the-day seafood bisque to slow-cooked lobster to steak if you wish to mix up your surf dishes with a little bit of turf.

Tico’s

Half cocktail lounge and half sushi bar, Tico’s at the Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo is the perfect dinner destination for groups and friends. The Asian inspired menu features a variety of signature rolls in addition to all the classics and also includes warm bites such as lobster pizza and spicy buffalo shrimp. The airy space is outfitted with cozy couches and communal tables to encourage an endless night of socializing.

Cena Sociale

One of the more formal and fine-dining destinations on the Peninsula, Cena Sociale specializes in contemporary Italian cuisine with a fully stocked wine cellar. For special occasions, the restaurant also includes a private dining room and can accommodate a variety of special requests. The menu highlights here are definitely the pastas, from classic dishes such as Spagettini Al Pomodoro to more inventive creations like Ox Tail Tortellini and Thai Red Curry Risotto with Alaskan King Crab.

The Dive Bar at Marina Papagayo

Sometimes after days of trying new restaurants, you might start craving something a bit more casual and familiar. When that feeling strikes, head to The Dive Bar at Marina Papagayo, a waterfront eatery that serves a classic bar menu including burgers and wings.

What to do

Borinquen Zipline Tour

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It’s impossible to think of Costa Rica without thinking of ziplining–and for good reason. With such gorgeous scenery from rainforests to waterfalls to volcanos, the entire country is outfitted with zip lines so tourists can experience the best views from above. Most locals agree that the best tour is at Borinquen, located at the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano. The day of adventure includes horseback riding up to the zip lines, then a thrilling 10 cable ride, and concludes with a spa afternoon at the hot springs. Many tour companies offer this package, but your best bet for a personalized and VIP experience is to book through Costa Rica Private Tours, where the entire experience can be customized for you and your party.

Stand Up Paddleboarding

The best way to enjoy the pristine views of Culebra Bay isn’t to sit on the beach–but to get right on the water! The still waters make standup paddleboarding incredibly relaxing–and  an activity that you’ll definitely look forward to every day.

A Night Out in Playa de Coco

The little town of Coco is where all the local Costa Ricans go to party and is filled with bars and restaurants. Most establishments are locally owned so visitors can get an authentic taste of the Pura Vida life!

 

Take A Peek Into Food Network Stars' Homes

By  September 24, 2014

FoodNetworkMagStarsThe beauty of cooking shows is that the talented chefs give us a peek into their kitchens–but the sets they film on aren’t necessarily the places they call home. In the October issue of Food Network Magazine, you’ll find a mini mag featuring a look inside the homes of Ina Garten, Jose Garces, Marcela Valladolid and Masaharu Morimoto. As you might guess, their homes appear perfectly manicured and completely cozy–after all, what else would you expect from these grade-A chefs?

Crashing Lauren Conrad’s Beverly Hills Crib

By  September 23, 2014

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Lauren Conrad has been quite the giver these days. First, she dished on wedding details, like wooing her bridesmaids and designing their Paper Crown gowns. Then, she shared her walk down the aisle and revealed the custom Badgley Mischka gown she wore to say “I Do.” Now, Mrs. William Tell is welcoming us home. She gave InStyle an exclusive tour inside of her Beverly Hills penthouse, and if this isn’t a haute haven, then we don’t know what is.

Come inside!

Oh So Glam: Paperless Post's Designer Collections

By  September 15, 2014

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Have you ever checked out the designer collections for Paperless Post? As much as I have a serious love for gorgeous paper goods, this collection of digital stationery, invitations, and seasonal greeting cards is so gorgeous, I’ll happily forgo my stamps to mail these out to friends instead.

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Paperless Post has collaborated with big name brands, artists, and designers (think Jonathan Adler, Oscar de la Renta, Kelly Wearstler, J.Crew, Kate Spade, Happy Menocal, and more) to create incredible collections of unique, elegant, and often hilarious cards. Why send a regular moving card when you could send something like this?

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And if you absolutely can’t stand the thought of sending a beautiful card by email, good news — many of the designs in the Designer collection can be purchased as actual stationery. I love the idea of customizing this card or this card for hand written notes to friends and family!

Victoria-McGinley-HeadshotVictoria McGinley is a New York City based web designer and consultant, who writes a daily lifestyle blog that covers plenty of topics to delight and inspire, including style, design, art, culture, beauty, and original recipes. A native of Austin, Texas, she has been blogging since 2008, and in early 2012, she launched her design studio, and loves working with creative small businesses and bloggers alike. When she’s not blogging or working with clients, you can find Victoria exploring New York with her husband Joe, and their French bulldog, Lucy. Visit her site and her blog.