Tuesday, December 12, 2017

#81 Christmas In NYC

It's the most wonderful time of the year! That's right! In case you didn't realize it back in September, it's the Christmas season. And, one of the most unforgettable places to experience the Christmas season is in none other than Gotham itself, NYC. From the prodigious, gorgeously lit evergreen glowing brightly in Rockefeller Center to the festive, colorful, yuletide storefront displays of Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor just to name a few, the holiday spirit emanates brightly from the city that never sleeps. Deep with tradition from the days of yore, the magic of Christmas is noting short of infectious in the Big Apple. The splendor is simply breathtaking.

Rockefeller Center Tree
The tree at Rockefeller Center

I personally have visited the city many times during the holidays so I am going to include some tips and advice in this blog that may help first timers planning a visit to NYC for the holidays.

For starters, the city can be very, very hectic around the holidays. As much as I highly recommend seeing the city during the holidays, if at all possible, try to avoid Friday, Saturday or Sunday. NYC can be completely insane and extremely crowded on those days. If it is your first visit to the city entirely, the holiday season could definitely be a little overwhelming. If you have no other choice but to visit over the weekend, you are still going to be witness to some of the largest, most beautiful displays of Christmas spirit in the world, however, the city just may try your patience a little.

My first venture into NYC for the holidays was back in 1989. My high school drama club was taking a bus trip into the city to see The Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. This was also my very first venture into New York City altogether. On this day back in December of 1989, my romance with the Big Apple ignited. And unlike other romances I have experienced in my life, my enduring romance with this city has never been a one sided romance. I always take away so much more from one of my dates with the city then I could ever give back. My dates with the city leave me feeling fulfilled, elated and utterly exhausted. I even walk funny the day after one of my dates with the city. That is the way all dates should end in my opinion.

Christmas in New York Radio City
Radio City Music Hall
The Christmas Spectacular is quite honestly, the quintessential holiday show. I remember walking into the historic and grand theater that is Radio City Music Hall and thinking to myself, so many famous people have walked through these same gilded doors. I was genuinely feeling star struck and I hadn't even witnessed any real live stars. I realized I was starstruck with the dazzling and substantial theater itself. In fact, I was star struck by the entire city.

Anyway, our club made our way to our seats, eagerly anticipating our first taste of New York theater. When that famous red curtain rose from the wooden stage floor, the Rockettes appeared, wowing us with their perfectly synchronized and gracefully choreographed dance moves. They were beautiful to witness. The Dance of the Wooden Soldiers, their signature Christmas Spectacular dance, was so entertaining.

Christmas in New York The Rockettes
The Famous Rockettes

My favorite act of the show was the Living Nativity. Most of us in the group had never been to the show before so many of us were surprised to see live animals on the stage. In fact, most of us had to do a double take. I remember sitting next to my friend Dina and saying "Wow, those goats are so life like."

She started laughing at me. Then I said, "Oh my god, I think that camel is alive!!" I was peering down at the stage intently, completely enthralled. I turned to her and exclaimed, "That camel IS alive!! So is the llama!" LOL! You would have thought I had discovered electricity or fire or sliced bread or something.

I don't know. I guess I was expecting there to be mechanical animals or wooden animals or something. Obviously I didn't get a clue as to what "Living Nativity" really entailed from the playbill. I believed they just meant the people were alive. I mean think about it, most nativities are comprised of statues or figurines. I may have also had a little trouble believing there were camels roaming around NYC. They are a desert animal not a big city animal. It was just hard for me to fathom.

Of course after my brilliant observation my next question was, "Where do they put all the animals after the show? Do they live here? Who feeds them?" No one could answer those questions for me. That is probably because none of my classmates worked for Radio City.

I will never forget my first trip to the city. It was everything I expected and more. But there was so much more to discover so, let's move on to some of my other trips to the NYC at the holidays.

Swarovski Crystal Star
Swarovski crystal star. This was a former tree topper.
If you are limited on time or are only going to be in the city for the day, Midtown is the place you want to be. It is probably the most popular area in Manhattan for experiencing Christmas in NYC. Rockefeller Center on the Avenue of the Americas is Christmas central. Everything is bright, beautiful and bustling! Harmonious carolers' voices carry through the air while the many Salvation Army Bells provide an almost melodic background to their singing.

The grandest of all Christmas trees, the Rockefeller Christmas tree, watches peacefully over the famous ice skating rink below. Skaters bundled in scarves and mittens and tassel top hats glide much more gracefully than I ever would atop the pristine glassy surface. A massive, glistening Swarovski crystal star sparkles on display in the plaza. No, it's not the North Star. It is a former tree topper from Rockefeller trees of the past. But, it's beauty could rival that of any star in the sky.

Booming, melodic bells from St. Patrick's Cathedral ring through 5th Avenue sounding the hour as visitors climb the grey stone steps to take a peek inside the stunningly Gothic church. The smell of roasted chestnuts and peanuts emanates the air as shoppers perch along fountains and statues to enjoy a steaming cup of hot chocolate in between visiting stores. Santa can be found on many a street, in his big red suit taking pictures with children.

Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center

Every business, store and plaza has colorful and sometimes very large Christmas decor begging to be admired. In fact, one of the coolest and most traditional aspects of Christmas in NYC is the elaborate holiday displays each store creates for their windows. It is almost like a competition to see which store can conjure up the most beautiful and unique display of holiday spirit. So many stores create their own holiday storybook from within their windows and each and every one is nothing short of amazing.

Obviously great detail, much time and a lot of TLC go into these one of a kind windows. I have witnessed storefronts telling stories of snowflake fairies, snowman journeys, Christmas dragons,Victorian Christmases, and stories of Christmases from before I was born. You can literally spend hours upon hours just walking around the city admiring the holiday art unique to each store. You may find yourself smiling like a child waking up on Christmas morning, wishing you could go back in time. It's that magical and it doesn't cost a dime.

Macy's
Macy's
Saks
Sak's 5th Avenue
Saks
Sak's 5th Avenue
Macy's
Macy's
macy's
Macy's
Lord and Taylor
Lord & Taylor

Now let's talk shopping. One of the many fun things to do in New York City during the holidays is shop for gifts. But, before you go spending a large sum of money in Midtown stores, look around you. There are so many street fairs, flea markets, and artisan tents set up all over the city. The vendors sell beautiful and unique wares at a fraction of what you would pay in the store. Jewelry, hats, gloves, silk scarves, shirts, sporting items, pictures and so many other items are featured in these places.

Rockefeller Plaza
Rockefeller Plaza
The Christmas tents in Bryant Park are great to explore for unique and fun Christmas gifts. I bought my daughter a beautiful handmade necklace, a book and some clothing for her birthday. My total was less that $40.00. Score! There is also a skating rink (they are all over the city) and another huge brightly lit tree to admire near Bryant Park. Christmas is all over the city.

If you walk further down the island to Soho and the Village, there are some shops and boutiques selling the latest fashions for dirt cheap. In Chinatown you can do some real damage. Seriously. The shop owners may be a little persistent or up your ass ( I just ignore them or yell at them. ) but they will bargain with you on just about anything. And the food gifts, bakeries, wine shops and produce stands in both Chinatown and Little Italy all have fresh, delicious goods for less than what I pay locally.

Don't get me wrong, there are lots of shops that will make you gasp at the price tag and tip toe out of the store with your head down and tail between your legs but don't be afraid to look around and explore. There are plenty of deals to be had. You can get some really cool Christmas gifts for much less than you would pay anywhere else.

Bryant Park
Bryant Park

This is just a taste of what Christmas is like in NYC. You really need to experience it for yourself to truly understand the magic and spirit of the holidays in the city that never sleeps. And I hope you do.

I am going to close my blog with this, which ties into the traditional aspect of Christmas in NYC. It is inspired from looking at my pictures while writing about my Christmas ventures in the city. The Holidays invoke many emotions in us, some not always good. The holidays can make loneliness even more amplified. So, if you notice someone genuinely down during the holidays, rather than point out that everyone should be happy because it's holidays (one of the worst statements to ever be uttered.), why not show them instead. Be a secret Santa. Do something nice for them even if it is giving them some cookies, inviting them to a gathering or paying them a compliment. It can make all the difference.

The holidays also invoke a lot of sadness of days gone by and loved ones no longer with us. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to miss someone so much it hurts. Do talk about them and share  their stories. Do fondly recall the memories and be so thankful that you had the opportunity to make such treasured memories with them. We call it Christmas spirit for a reason. Celebrate their spirit. In my family, we honor our dearly departed with tradition. I still hang my grandmother's Christmas decorations in my house to this day. I still cry sometimes. So much love I feel for my grandparents. Their impressions upon me will be forever a part of my character just like mine are with my children.

Gingerbread Man
Tis the season to smile
Finally, the holidays also bring on a lot of stress. I have gradually dialed it back in my family. We have learned to celebrate a more traditional, less commercialized Christmas. There are no longer piles of presents under my tree. We now focus on the things we want or need the most. My kids actually appreciate this more and are happier. They are actually more excited about the goofy little things I put in their stockings.

We focus on everything about the holidays, not just the presents. Presents are only a small part of the holiday experience.We enjoy the food, the decor, the music and shows, spending time with family and friends, practicing traditions, and trying new things. This ties directly into experiencing NYC during the holidays because the city is so steeped in tradition. If you look past all the flash and commercialism, you will notice a different city that lies beneath all the tinsel. And what the city offers in the form of traditional Christmas spirit, doesn't cost a thing but creates memories to last a lifetime.


Chrissy






Tips and Ideas For Christmas in NYC

You can literally spend the entire day in the city during the holidays and not spend any money other than to eat and ride the subway if need be.

1. Avoid the weekends if at all possible. It is very hectic and crowded Friday-Sunday.

2. If you want to eat a great NYC meal do lunch. It is cheaper than dinner in the city. In some instances, significantly cheaper. Note: New York City restaurants are required to post their menu in their windows with the prices listed. This is so helpful as you will be able to see whether the restaurant is within your price range before waiting in line and being seated. Also, always ask for the price of any alcoholic beverages or soda refills. This is where the real expense could come into play. It is not cheap to drink alcohol in the city and a lot of places do not offer free refills on soft drinks.

3. A cup of hot chocolate from one of Godiva's many chocolate stores is sure to keep you feeling warm and toasty. The price is the same as Starbucks but the flavor is heaven.

4. Take a stroll around Midtown, Rockefeller Plaza and 5th Avenue and admire all the lights, store fronts and decor. It is free and so much fun to see.

5. Walk or use the subway when possible. Cabs can be expensive if you get stuck in traffic.

6. Visit Central Park, especially if it is snowing. It is a beautiful park. 

7. Public bathrooms are not so easy to come by in the city. Even the corner Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts do not necessarily have bathrooms open to the public. It you notice a clean, public bathroom, use it. You may not come across another one any time soon.

8. If you plan on doing heavy shopping, remember, unless you are staying in the city, you are going to have to carry everything around with you all day. Try to do the brunt of your bigger purchases closer to your departure time. Sometimes that is not always possible, so having a tote bag or two makes life a little easier.

9. As safe as NYC has become, be smart about your purse, wallet, phone and purchases. You should practice this anywhere really, not just in the city. Always keep track of them because while it is unusual for you to get mugged in high traffic areas, you can definitely be pickpocketed and not even notice.

10. Finally, wear comfortable shoes and clothing and dress for the weather. You are probably going to spend a large amount of time outdoors and walking. You don't want to worry about sore feet from high heels ( I learned this the hard way) or clothes that are too tight, too bulky or too high maintenance. You want to enjoy yourself, not be tugging, adjusting and aching the entire day. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

#284 Dine At Serendipity 3



Serendipity 3. There was always something so mythical and fantastical to me about Serendipity 3. It was like this whimsical, colorful unicorn that seemed completely out of reach for an average gal like myself. Could it even be possible for me to ever visit such a wonderful place? As teen I didn't think so. As a teen, everything outside of my little coal cracker Pennsylvania hometown seemed so much more larger than life and way beyond the realm of my reach. 

But, that was so far from the truth. I just did not know that then. I also did not know that I practiced Serendipity naturally. It was in my nature. So my fascination with Serendipity 3 was not at all coincidental, but totally designed. It all began like this. Growing up in the 80's, like any tween and teenager, I was huge into pop culture. I would spend my paper route and waitressing money to purchase fashion and beauty magazines. I would stalk the neighborhood newspaper shop Pence's on a daily basis, excitedly waiting for the latest issues of Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, and Allure to hit the stands.

Serendipity Quote
I would also indulged in gossips rags as a teen. My after school job was not far from Merf's newsstand, so I would grab weekly copies of Star Magazine and the Globe. It was at these local newsstands where my romance for NY newspapers, specifically the NY Post, blossomed. Eventually I stopped buying the gossip mags altogether. The NY papers were so much better. Page Six baby!!

It was through all my reading and perusing of the lifestyles of the rich and famous in the New York papers that I discovered this Manhattan hot spot called Serendipity 3. Countless celebrities always seemed to be photographed dining there. Many other celebrities openly gushed in interviews about how much they adored Serendipity 3. Andy Warhol used to haunt the establishment back in his early days, before he became famous.

Serendipity Quote
It had to be a great place if the eclectic Mr. Warhol visited there. Naturally, my teenage self mentally added this place to what would eventually become my Bucket List. I just had to visit there. It seemed so happy and fun. Yet, as time wore on and many trips to NYC had passed, I had yet to step foot into the quirky little cafe owned by Stephen Bruce.  

Fast forward to 2008. My daughter was going to be turning 16 and I wanted to do something special for her Sweet 16. She loved art so I thought a visit to the MOMA would be a perfect idea. I mean who wouldn't want to turn 16 in the Big Apple? ( I spent my 40th in the Big Apple.) As I was thinking about the MOMA and all the wonderful works of art we would have the chance to gaze upon, I remembered Andy Warhol's soup cans were at the MOMA. How cool was that? So cool that is how cool it was!

And thinking about Mr. Warhol jarred something in my mind. I could not remember what it was though. It was there, in the back of my mind, but did not want to show itself. A few days later while cleaning the house with the TV playing in the background, a movie called Serendipity came on. I had always wanted to see it but never had so, I decided to take a break from cleaning to watch the movie.

Serendipity 3
I loved the little animal display. Serendipity 3 December 2008
I fell in love with it immediately. I too believed in magic. I too believed in Serendipity. Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack were so perfect for each other. And......... that's it!!! That is the thing that was sitting in the back of my mind when I thought of Andy Warhol. You see, John and Kate's characters met at Serendipity 3. My long lost unicorn dream came back to life. I was going to take my daughter to the magical place for her Sweet 16! How perfect. How serendipitous! 

And so after our visit to the MOMA, my daughter and I walked the Upper East Side to Serendipity 3. We actually walked right past it. LOL! I guess I was expecting this huge, fancy decorated building because I had to do a double take when I saw the simple storefront window of Serendipity 3. It was very cute, don't get me wrong, but it was not what I had envisioned for the exterior of the restaurant. Never judge a book by it's cover though. 

Serendipity 3
The stunning Christmas decor at Serendipity 3 circa December 2008

We took our place in line outside the restaurant. Thankfully we arrived right after the lunch rush so we did not have to wait in line long. Once we entered the building, I was taken back to my childhood immediately. The quaint, shabby chic style of the tiny restaurant was so lovely. This was definitely a place unicorns would visit to enjoy some delicious ice cream and treats. It was a gorgeous. You could almost sense the whimsical history of Serendipity 3 within the very walls that encased the cafe. 

Both levels of the restaurant were decorated with white, 50's style ice cream shop tables and chairs. The floors were white honeycomb tile just like the malt shops of the past. Gold, gilded mirrors and unique vintage signs graced the walls. Glass cases lining the wall near the entrance housed treasures from the past such as 50's, 60's and 70's toys, dishes, jewelry and a variety of other flea market kitsch.

My birthday girl!!!
All the merchandise was for sale. Memories of my childhood washed over me while gazing upon all the vintage trinkets in that case. I noticed there was a lot of pink going on in this unicorn palace. It was so pretty. Serendipity 3's holiday decorations are to this day, some of my most favorite ever.

Enormous pink ice cream cones constructed of glass ornaments hung in the windows, flanking either side of an enormous gold mirror. The mirror was shrouded in a stunning garland of huge pastel glass balls and gold lights. It was breathtaking. I couldn't stop staring at it.

The Tiffany stained glass lampshades dotting the white and gold trimmed ceiling were brilliant and alive. Their colors were so rich and vibrant. The stark white backdrop of this restaurant was perfect for displaying the many stunning splashed of glitz and kitsch. My daughter and I were seated on the second floor. According to my Serendipity Cookbook Michael Douglas, Francis Scavullo, Danny DeVito, Rhea Pearlman and Kim Basinger have all sat at that very table.

I was in heaven. Kim Basinger was an 80's and 90's goddess to me. She still is a goddess to this day. I love her. And Francis Scavullo??? I think I may have been even more star struck over him. Not only was he a world famous photographer but he was most famous for shooting just about every single cover of Cosmopolitan known to man. I was thrilled to be sitting at this table. It was perfect. Of course I also kept looking over my shoulder at the table where John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale famously met in the move Serendipity.

Frozen Hot Chocolate
Our server was a super friendly girl. My daughter and I ordered our drinks first because we were still undecided on our meals. Heather ordered the frozen Strawberry Supreme and I got the famous Frozen Hot Chocolate. When our server returned with our drinks, our eyes got so wide from amazement. Our drinks were huge. My frozen hot chocolate was so rich and creamy. They definitely used premium chocolate. My daughter's drink was made with real strawberries creating the perfect blend of sweet and tart. The drinks alone were well worth the visit.

Our server then took our lunch order. I ordered the Chicken Diva, which is like a Chicken Parmesan, but spicy. It was so delicious and huge. My daughter ordered the Summer Bries sandwich. It consisted of turkey, apples, brie and alfalfa sprouts. She got it on the Irish Soda bread instead of the Pumpernickel. Her sandwich was huge as well and looked soooooo good. Between the enormous, luscious, frozen drinks and the scrumptious lunch, I had no idea how we were going to manage dessert.  

Strawberry Supreme
Sweet 16 Strawberry Supreme

You see, Serendipity 3 is known for their tremendous desserts and confections. And by tremendous I mean The Hulk and Godzilla would both be very pleased with the size of the desserts. Yes the desserts are a little pricey. Back in 2008 it was $8.00 for a frozen hot chocolate and $16 for a Santa Sleigh Sundae. However, they DO NOT skimp at all on portion on anything. Plus, everything tastes deliciously homemade. It is worth every single penny and you are dining in a unicorn's lair which is priceless in my opinion.

We decided to order the Santa Sleigh Sundae for my daughter's birthday dessert. This sundae was jam packed with ice cream, creamy marshmallow sauce, tons and tons of gooey hot fudge, green and red sprinkles, a mountain of whipped cream, strawberry sauce, a candy cane and a marshmallow tree. My jaw dropped when our server brought it to the table. I knew I was going to be of no help to my daughter. I think I had maybe two bites. I was too full. We were in no hurry though. My daughter took her time and ate as much of the sundae as she could. She did good.

Santa Sleigh sundae
Santa's Sleigh is huge.....and tasty!

It was time to say goodbye to the Serendipity 3 but not before we were presented with one more treat.

The owner, Stephen Bruce was actually at the restaurant during our visit, signing copies of his dessert cookbook Sweet Serendipity. So, as a Christmas present for me and everyone I bake for, I bought the book and had him sign it. He is such a nice man, very personable. I wanted to ask him about Warhol but I chickened out. Honestly. I was thrilled just to meet the head unicorn. It was the perfect ending to a perfect experience. 

( I have also made several desserts from this cookbook, all of which came out fantastic. The frozen drinks are AMAZING!!)


In the end, it was truly a Serendipitous Day. I was looking for something wonderful, that being an experience at Serendipity 3. I ended up with something even more wonderful and unexpected, that being my sharing a once upon a time teenage dream with my sweet 16 teenage daughter and being able to meet the man who inspired this entire, magical dream, Stephen Bruce. True Serendipity.



Serendipity Quote

I believe good comes into all our lives. And the best kind of good is sometimes the most unexpected kind. Sometimes we see it. Sometimes we allow it to pass us by. 

If you are wondering about the Serendipity in your life, look at it like this.
Serendipity can be defined two ways. 
1. Searching for something and finding something even better than you expected. 
    I am not talking the grass is greener type stuff, I am talking the deep in your soul type stuff. 
2. Searching for something and finding exactly what you needed. 
    I am talking about the missing pieces in your life coming to you in ways you may not have expected but exactly as you needed them.

As for me, I wish that for all of us, we experience as much Serendipity as possible in this life. 


Chrissy



Thursday, November 30, 2017

# 354 Attend A White Elephant Party

Happy Birthday Jesus! I wrapped it myself. LOL!
Have you ever attended a White Elephant party around the holidays? If not, I highly recommend you do. You can even start the tradition among friends and family and host one yourself. I promise, you will not be sorry! They are a total riot. A White Elephant Party is a perfect way to take a step back from some of the stress the holidays conjure so you can laugh your ass off and make a complete fool of yourself with those nearest and dearest to you. It's a perfect way to chill out while spending quality time with your favs around the holidays.

So what is a White Elephant Party you ask? Allow me to explain.

In it's simplest form, a White Elephant Party is a gift exchange party. And while there are many variations and themes that can be implemented into a White Elephant Party depending on preference and tradition, there is one basic, universal rule that must be followed for it to be a true White Elephant Party. That one rule is, no one is allowed to spend money on their gift.

But if you can't spend any money, what are you supposed to give as a gift then? Oh kids....This is where the real fun begins. Grab a box, put on some Christmas music, pour your favorite adult beverage and get ready to clean house. Trust me, you will thoroughly enjoy this chore.

What's in the box? What's in the boooooooxxxxxx?

Let's start in the kitchen. That 7 year old jar of salsa collecting dust in the top shelf of your cabinet would make a great gift. Let's put that in the box. While we are at it, let's put all the mismatched tupperware in the box as well. Oh look, some used birthday cake candles. Maybe someone can use a #7 and #8 candle. Someone out there is going to be turning 78 or 87 right? Too bad the #9 candle is no longer there but 789 ya know. Very tragic.

Moving on to the living room. That burnt umber and avocado green afghan your neighbor made 40 years ago would be the perfect gift to give. I mean it's vintage right? Put it in the box. Why not throw in some more vintage items too. A VHS tape of the cult classic "9 1/2 Weeks" and some framed pictures of you and your ex can be like a really weird Netflix and chill gift for the lucky recipient.

Time to visit the bathroom. That big bottle of specialty vitamins that gives you insane gas is still in the medicine cabinet. Box it! Someone may also appreciate the half used bottle of Nexus Voluminizing conditioner you wanted so much to love but did not. Toss that puppy in there as well. Throw that Dollar Store pack of panty liners in there too. F@ck it.

Channeling my inner Ziggy Stardust
In the bedroom the possibilities truly become endless. 7 inch heeled glitter disco boots reminiscent of 1970's Kiss concerts and Ziggy Stardust would make a fun and fabulous gift. In the box they go. That white fur trimmed Santa nightie could turn any cookie into cream. Box it. Teal and Yellow nail polishes. Box it. The full bottle of old lady perfume that smells like musk, talcum powder and flounder, someone may like it. I think? Toss it in the box.....gently though because if that bottle breaks, you are going to have to move to a new house.

The attic treasures are true gift giving gems. Broken Christmas ornaments, blue plastic flowers, creepy clown dolls (which should be burned), and a years worth of Field and Stream magazines from 1983 fit so nicely in the box. And you know someone is going to absolutely adore the box of 15 year old, engraved, rosy pink napkins from your wedding. Let's throw in a box of engraved matchbooks from your wedding too. Why not? Tis the season of giving. (Let's just hope their marriage turns out better than yours.) Laugh out loud.

Down to the basement we go. That woven Baja hoodie that smells of must and weed hanging from the rafter, someone needs that in their life for sure. Toss it in the box. Someone also needs a half used can of gold spray paint and some rusty Philip head screwdrivers in their life too. And a tape measure. Hello box.

Finally we make our way to the car trunk. Oh look, a nice little lunch tote. Let's open it. Oh look, it's the remnants of a lunch I ate 9 months ago turning the most beautiful shade of blue in the tupperware container. Let's......throw it in the box. Make sure to wrap it in 100 plastic bags first because you did notice a slight odor emanating through the container. Just a slight one.

( Seriously though, You can't make this shit up. Someone really received this as a part of their gift one year. It wasn't me but it was hilarious nonetheless. I did get a 7 year old jar of salsa though. LMAO!!)

Lunch bag complete with used lunch! LOL! 

Oh the laughs!!! Don't get me wrong, it is perfectly acceptable to give nice things as well. Sometimes we purchase or receive very nice things that we just can't use as much as we would like or don't really need after all. You know, those impulse purchases we tend to make....all the time. I have been the recipient of some really pretty and useful gifts to go with all the fun and wacky gifts in my White Elephant experiences. It's all about balance really. Mixing a can of crazy with some real treasures is always a pleasant experience.

The only other rule of the party I attend is that we draw numbers to choose gifts. The higher the number you draw, the better. Why? Because we are allowed to steal gifts from others. In other words, if you draw the number ten, and you are absolutely in love with the present that number 3 picked, you can steal her gift. She in turn gets to open another gift. No one has ever stolen a gift yet though. Most of the time if there is something someone else really wants and the gift recipient is not attached to it, she will just give it to the person.

(One year, Crystal gave me her sparkly 7 inch heeled Gene Simmons boots. I loved her so much for that. I was also the recipient of the Santa nightie. I love it and I still have it. )

The White Elephant party I have had the privilege of attending the past few years is so much fun. We laugh and eat and drink, then laugh and eat and drink some more. Our hosts have incorporated a cookie exchange into the party as well which is even more wonderful. For someone like me, that is like Christmas morning. I get presents and treats. I also get to laugh to the point of tears with some of my most favorite people on earth. That is the biggest gift of all.

Below are some of our finest White Elephant Party shenanigans and well as some links explaining about the parties and how to host one.

One of the gals gave away photos of her ex.
Becky made a friend. A naked friend. 

I am noticing a theme with Becky. LOL!!

We all love each other so much! 

Party Girl Meg!! Get on with your bad self girl! Have some lunch!

Becky's Sugar Cookie Christmas Trees

Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies. 
Some of last years treats!

Last year's prizes! 
Prizes from two years ago! Look at those boots!
Rocking my gifts!
These Lovely Angels right here. 



All About White Elephant Parties






Happy Holidays!!! 

Chrissy


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

#445 Attend A One Night Art Class

As part of the fun filled weekend of April 22nd and 23rd, 2017, my mother, daughter, sisters and my sista from another mista Becky, were registered to take an art class at The Next Picasso. The class we chose was a wooden sign project with our family name stenciled on it. We had seen these beautiful signs on the Next Picasso's website and loved them. They were so cool. I could not wait to make one for myself. "Paint and Sips" are "Basically" always a good time!


In case I lost you, allow me to explain.

"Paint and Sips" have become part of the "Basic" culture. "Basic" culture is comprised of mass trends mostly committed by women and include heavy hitters such as Ugg boots, leggings, pumpkin flavored products, yoga, yoga pants, wine, wine tastings, wineries, (anything concerning bottled grapes really), salads, wraps, Starbucks, Lu LaRoe clothing, Ulta, Coach products, Michael Kors products, Alex and Ani bracelets, scarves, headbands, Zumba classes, Bath and Body Works stuff and shady taco trucks. ( Well, that last one is questionable but I think it is way cool and fun.)

And guess what?? I loooooooooooove being a Basic Bitch! I am completely comfortable with my basic side because it balances my quirky, off the wall side pretty well. And let's be honest, most of the stuff I mentioned above is awesome, cool and fun. Most. Not all of them but most of them. I am not here to judge though. If something makes a person's life more happy, is a non jailable offense and isn't hurting anyone in the process, then by all means, they should enjoy it.

And the trend that is "Paint and Sip" is a fun one. Most of these events are geared towards an art project such as painting a picture, wine glass or sign. Wine, spirits, beverages and food are welcomed to these events. The attendees of the class all paint the same picture. The teacher walks everyone through painting the picture step by step. You honestly do not have to be a good artist to create a work of art because the canvas usually has the design traced on it by the teacher. The teacher also explains what brush to use and what order to apply each paint color.

My first Paint and Sip. Loved it!
I have been to three of these events. I made a Christmas tree painting with my friend Mare. I now want to make a tree painting for each season. For Becky's birthday a few years back, we had a girls night out where we painted a picture of coffee cups. I gave that picture to my parents because they love coffee and the colors went perfect with their decor. For this Blog, I will talk about my sign painting experience. I will also have some tips for the first timers out there.

We headed to a beautiful barn in Drums for our class. This was the home of the Next Picasso. Some "Paint and Sip" venues are held in community centers, bars and restaurants. Some venues are actual "Paint and Sip" businesses. This was an actual business. Our instructor was really sweet and a lot of fun. She greeted us warmly, gave us our boards and stencils then brought us upstairs to the classroom. She directed us to chose a table and stated we could put our food and beverages in the little kitchen area across from the classroom.

Immediately, I fell in love with this barn. We all did. The decor and ambiance was serene and bucolic. I so much wanted to move in and call it home. I snapped a few pictures of the decor then brought the chicken and waffle sandwiches and Bloody Mary mix I made over to the kitchen area. I decided to make Bloody Marys for this event rather than bring wine because wine just disagrees with me anymore. It sucks but perhaps it is a good thing too. Okay, I'm lying. I did bring wine but I brought it for my sisters. Becks and I helped ourselves to delicious Bloody Marys.

My sister Alicia shocked us all when she pulled out a flask. She does not drink very much so I thought maybe it was filled with water. She offered me a sip. Yep! Definitely not water. Definitely bourbon. I beamed at my sister with pride. I also took a few more swigs from her flask because I do love me some bourbon. Pace yourself Chrissy. You paid to make a beautiful sign. Let's not change this into a fingerpainted nightmare that even a two year old would laugh at because you drank too much of everything.

Bloody Mary's on Sunday, cuz it's a funday!

Getting ready to paint some signs and sip some wines.


The "Cleaner" and her flask of bourbon.
As I started hammering my second Bloody Mary, Becky gave my family members, whom were new to this experience, some very sage advice.  Here are some tips if you are thinking about partaking in a "Paint and Sip".

1. Keep you paintbrush water cup and your drinking vessel as far apart from each other as humanly possible.
2. Pace yourself with the "sipping". It impairs your judgement.
3. If you accidentally do not follow the first two sips, I mean steps, and take a big ol drunken swig of your muddy paint water, try not to spit it out all over the place. But, do not swallow it either.

So yea, we learned this valuable wisdom at Becky's "Paint and Sip" a few years back when a very inebriated blonde woman was not paying attention to cup placement and chugged her paint brush water. As soon as the gulp resonated in my mouth it took everything in my power not to spew it out all over poor Caryn and Meghan, whom were seated next to me. The taste of mud and chemicals permeated my mouth as the horrible water started flooding my nostrils.

As lady like as I possibly could, I spit the water back into my cup, and down my arm, and all over my shirt, and on the floor. Did I say lady like? Oh, that's funny. I then had to use half a roll of paper towels to sop up the mess my acrylic laced DNA created. The rest of the night, everything tasted like chemicals. And for those of you wondering, yes, I did get sick from this unfortunate incident. I was nauseous for the remainder of the evening and had to call it an early night. Booze and acrylic paint do not make for an enjoyable combo in one's stomach.

So, if there is one piece of advice you should heed, that would be it.



My Coffee Creation and yea....not sure you are supposed to use those kind of brushes to paint your face. Although they would probably be a great base coat brush for shadows. 


I loved my sign so much!!! 
Now, back to the painting class. We were making wooden plaques with a name of our choice. I chose my maiden name and "Est. 1973" because that is the year I became a DeCosmo. Mostly I became a DeCosmo because that was the year I was born and DeCosmo is my dad's last name. My daughter and my sister Alicia chose their first name for their sign. Becky chose her last name. My mom and sister Steph chose "The "Married Name" Family" for their signs. Their established date was the date they were married.

I must say, our group had a nice variety of signage ideas.

We used our stencils in steps since some layering would be involved. We started with the big letter first. The big letter was the beginning letter in either the first or last name you were using. Mine was a "D" for "DeCosmo". We used modge podge as a base before we painted to prevent the acryllics from seeping under the stencil. It worked great. If any paint did seep, you were able to use Q-tips dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove the blemishes from the stained boards or, really fine tipped paint brushes dipped in white paint to cover any flaws on the white boards.



Good times with the family! this was such a great day! 

We all had to practice a little patience waiting for the modge podge then, the paint to dry before gently peeling off each stencil. None of us really minded though because we were having a great time chatting and checking out everyone else's boards. It was really neat to see everyone's choice of color combinations for their wooden signs. No two were the same. All were very beautiful and reflected the artists' personalities perfectly. I can honestly say every single sign came out so pretty.

Our instructor was very patient and very helpful. However, as the class progressed, she may not have been the only one working the room. Perhaps while our instructor was helping some of the students attach picture wire to the back of their signs, a certain someone may have taken over the easel and was assisting other class members with antiquing their paintings using a stained wax. And perhaps another student decided to clean and organize the entire room while the instructor was taking pictures of our artwork.


Heather is already an artist so she was very particular about her work. We also had a new instructor in our class. She can't help it. Becky is a natural leader and teacher. 

Neither one of these students were me. I just made sure the Bloody Mary Mix was drunk because we don't waste alcohol. I am also happy to report that I did not drink any paint water this time. Instead, I spilled it all over the table. I may have spilled some paint too. And, I may have put a paint brush in my Bloody Mary cup. No worries though because I brought extra cups. I think I did pretty good this time.

Fits in perfectly with my woodland cabin meets beach cottage style! 

Anyways, I highly recommend taking a one night art class. They are such a blast and you get to walk out with your own work of art, created by you, for you. Who wouldn't enjoy that!

Chrissy



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