dazzling and interesting on a shoestring
This is a guest post, starring my dear friend, Kristin. This is the gal who taught me the nitty-gritty about blogging and has been encouraging me all the way. Not only is she a blogging babe and a belly dancing diva like myself, but she happens to be a wine maven extraordinaire and works as the event coordinator for a local posh wine club. Lucky us, she’s going to share a bit of her knowledge so that we can celebrate, polish up our wine panache and do so without adding to our holiday debt. So buy a bottle without guilt and toast to your new sophisticated palate and to our lovely Kristin! Happy New Year, y’all!!
There are many special occasions this time of year, when reaching for something with a stem just seems like the right thing to do.
Whether it’s New Year’s Eve or the season premier of Walking Dead, something in a pretty glass with tiny little bubbles is just proper. One of my recommendations for those, like myself, who are on a beer budget but have a taste for champagne is a sparkling Vouvray. Like it’s cousin, Champagne, it is also from France it is also elegant, but with a much lower price-point. One of my favorite sparkling Vouvrays, is from Domaine Vigneau. It usually retails for $20-24 per bottle. It has the complexity and brightness of true Champagne, but with a hint of honey on the finish. It looks and tastes “fancy-pants” without the strain on your wallet.
Get Down and Snuggle
On a blustery winter night, sometimes you just get a hankering for a hearty stew in a hot bowl in front of the fireplace. When I prepare my Mama’s stew recipe on these nights, I grab a bottle of Don Miguel Gascon Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. I like the 2013 vintage, and all of the vintages that I’ve tasted I’ve been most impressed with this one. This bottle is usually under $20 at most stores, but tastes like a much more expensive bottle of wine. To me, it tastes like chocolate-covered cherries and has a very smooth and velvety finish.
Sometimes, you need a wine “just because”- just because a girlfriend popped by unexpectedly, just because you had a bad day at work, just because your kids are driving you bat-poop crazy! A perfect go-to for me is something crisp, light, white, and with a twist-off top. Why add stress and carpel tunnel to your world unnecessarily? I recommend Clos DuBois Pinot Grigio- retails for under $10 a bottle at most stores, has easy access (twist-off), and is so pretty and delicate with aromas of pink grapefruit and peach. It has lively acidity and a crisp finish, and it goes with everything! Brie, apples and peanut butter, popcorn and string cheese, Triscuits with cream cheese- anything can be quickly whipped up to set on the coffee table with this little hidden gem!
Impress the crap out of ‘em
Every once in a while, you have the need to impress the crap out of someone with a really damn good bottle of wine. Whether it’s your bosses birthday, your best friend’s 40th, or your anniversary, there are a few very impressive tasting, yet light on the budget wines that I would recommend. The first is the Prisoner- a red blend that is so incredibly palate-pleasing to so many types of wine drinkers. Very fruit-forward and jammy, yet silky and velvety- under $40 a bottle, whether someone is a “wine snob”, or just cutting their teeth on their vino repertoire, I’ve rarely met an individual who didn’t love this particular wine.
Another one of my prized picks is the Frank Family 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, around $50 a bottle, whether the recipient is drinking it now, or saving for a few years, it is an opulent, gorgeous Cab, with a beautiful label, and has the score of 92 points with Robert Parker.
My number one fave (I saved the best for last!), is the 2013 Cave Blend by Del Dotto. Not only does it have an absolutely beautiful Italian-styled label that looks like lace, the wine itself is so decadent and dark, yet supple and silky at the same time. Hailing from one of the most beautiful vineyards in Napa that I have ever visited, it is literally little drops of heaven in a bottle. If you have the chance to visit either of their locations, I highly recommend it!
I hope that you have enjoyed my vino recommendations, and wish to you and yours an incredibly fulfilling, scrumptious and prosperous New Year! Cheers!!
clinking glasses image courtesy of Stuart Miles
Our style here in the Land of the Destitute and Obscure is what I like to call eclectic-vintage bohemian. What does that mean, you may ask. Good question. It means that we get innovative, wait patiently, watch ebay, craigslist and garage sale listings with an eagle eye and even get lucky. As for the rest of our eclectic-vintage bohemian philosophy, even with a tight budget, we follow these loose guidelines to achieve the look:
Buy or Accept it Used:We rely heavily on hand-me-downs for the small people’s clothing options, and since they come from a variety of sources, we don’t worry much about matching.
If the long-sleeved onesie is polka-dot and the pants are flowered, at least they’re both pink, and if a yellow hat is all we’ve got, then that’s what we wear. When you’re the size of the average retriever puppy and your skin is that soft and rosy, you can get away with just about anything.
Handmade Goes With Everything…If it was made with love, it goes with everything, whether it’s a purple cardigan from Grandma or a headband sent from overseas, show your gratitude (and patriotism) and wear it with confidence.
Since I am currently limited in my crocheting and knitting abilities to the two-dimensional, I pair my funky knitted scarves with thin, thrift store silky ones and then I’m both warm and colorful. Then I decorate my couch with blankets made from hand-me-down yarn.
Accessorize with Confidence and Freedom: Whatever you feel your accessory must be, either an Afghan necklace made from silver coins (one of my favorites) or an inflatable butterfly, let your personality shine. Don’t let the circumstances dictate the level of accessorizing either. I may only be going to the park, but sometimes I need to wear a velvet top hat.
Even though you may only be sitting down to breakfast, there may be times when a morning tutu and striped beanie need to accompany syrup and pancakes.
Or perhaps, you may need to don a string of ducks and do your best bellydancing—pigtails optional.
Inspire Others: Encourage your friends to break out of those fashion constraints—fairies, apparently, sometimes need to wear sunglasses, too.
Wear the Unusual Every Day: I have jeans with embroidered butterflies, and skirts paneled with old saris. When I wear them with a simple top, they are a little less overwhelming than some of the combination my eldest puts together, but the outfit remains interesting. I don’t save a whole lot of my clothing for ‘special occasions.’ I don’t really have those; we don’t go out to fancy parties, and every day is worthy of being special. All the outfits above (with the exception of the fairy dresses, plastic shoes and ducks) go out—to school, the park, the store.
We splurge every now and then—the big girl gets new rain boots at Target, and I go bonkers on ebay, collecting cute, little used leather crib shoes on my watch list. I manage to buy a few, too. The truth is, I don’t need any more clothing, with the possible exception of bras that fit properly. I can go ‘shopping’ in my own closet and find things I forgot I owned, and pair them with items that desperately need an update. We manage here to keep our style unique with what we’ve got, because there is no price or monetary limit on creativity.
Just for fun, let’s take a poll. Which one of The Divine Miss M’s outfits was your favorite? Check out the captions for the photo numbers that match.
When I thought about blogging, and after I finished laughing and decided to take the idea seriously, I tried to figure out what I was really good at, or what the pros ask – ‘What are you an expert at?’ (besides dangling participles)
Well, I’m a professional bellydancer, but that doesn’t include very many of you, now does it? And I’m the mother of a three year-old, but it takes an expert with several advanced degrees, or someone with a litter of children, to be able to give qualified parenting advice, and as you know, there are plenty of experts out there with almost as many points of view.
So I thought, what AM I qualified for? I’ve spent the last fifteen years bouncing in and out of a miasma of just-above-minimum-wage jobs, picking up a few handy tips and some mad skills as a catering assistant and a baker, stretching the limits of patience, love and creativity as a nanny, and expanding both my wardrobe and my eyebrow grooming skills as a sales associate and display assistant at a fashionable high-end chain of home décor and clothing boutiques. I thought about all these years I’ve attempted to live stylishly and well below the poverty line, and I thought, ‘That’s it—I’m an expert at being poor!’ Except don’t you think ‘destitute’ makes it sound nobler?
I also happen to have an art degree and read through books at a pace that rivals the speed of child through a box of mac and cheese—so I’m crafty and fairly well-read to boot. Oh yeah, and as I mentioned before, I’m a professional bellydancer, which means I’m very flexible and able to wiggle in unusual ways. This in no way qualifies me as a writer, but it’s worth noting, and it may explain some of my life’s stranger adventures.
So here’s what I propose to offer you from my obscure, destitute and yet fairly fashionable lifestyle:
I’ll share with you how the destitute stay stylish, with ideas from years of sewing, knitting, working in fashion retail and combing the depths of sale racks, thrift stores and garage sales.
From years of working in the food industry, cooking and feeding myself and my family and trying not to spend half the day making dinner, we’ll discuss my cooking and baking style, which I like to describe as ‘Vegetarian Grandma’—nothing in it that your granny wouldn’t recognize as food, no meat (although you can add it if you want—it’s not like I’ll be offended or anything), and plenty of dairy products and TLC. It’s good stuff and it won’t cost you a fortune or take forever. It might even impress the in-laws, but don’t quote me on that one.
With a little extra craftiness, I’ll show you some nifty little do-it-yourself ideas for your home and your bored children, and you’ll get to recycle, teach yourself and your progeny something new, and show off some easy skills while your at it.
And because I’m a dancer, I’ll share with you some cheap and close-to-free ideas to stay healthy, shapely and pretty, too. Being a bellydancer’s not all glamorous, but it should look like it is, so I’ll show you how to fake it.
Whatever else you want to fake is up to you, but you know what they say—‘Fake it ‘til you make it.’ I’m not, however, faking the ‘poor thing’. I do, indeed, live below the poverty line.
Am I faking the stylish part? That’s for you to decide, but I urge you to check in weekly and decide for yourself…you won’t be sorry.