Monday, December 21, 2009

Go Nuts This Holiday Season!

Before you hack into your ham, tear-up the turkey, or rip into the rib roast, how about a spicy yet sweet snack to hold the troops over until Christmas dinner time? This effortlessly easy recipe hails from my favorite Food Network scientist and chef, Alton Brown and has been an absolute hit every time I prepare it. These delectable little pecans can be served along side your appetizers at any cocktail or dinner party or could be strategically placed around the house in pretty little bowls to keep every one's hunger monster at bay. Alton suggests these piquant pecans would make perfect gifts for anyone on your list- place them in a festive tin box or holiday glass jar first as presentation is key!

Spiced Nuts


1 pound pecan halves, fresh

1/2 stick butter, unsalted

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried orange peel

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 tablespoons water


In a large skillet, lightly toast the pecan halves over medium for 4 to 5 minutes, just until they begin to brown. Add butter and allow it to melt. After the butter has completely melted, add cayenne, orange peel, cinnamon, cumin, salt, dark brown sugar, light brown sugar, and lastly, water. Stir until well mixed and water has cooked off. Pour spiced nuts onto a lined cookie sheet and spread them out as much as possible to dry. Cool completely and box up for "tasteful" gifts or drop them in granny's crystal nut dish for pre-christmas dinner cocktail hour. However you decide to serve these nutty nibbles, there are sure to please all palettes!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry this holiday season and be sure to stay tuned, dahlin's!

Monday, December 7, 2009

5 "Spirted" Gifts for 5 Dollars!

With the holly-jolly month of December in full swing, the wine flows like water, the beer bubbles as it brews, and the cocktails are being shaken and not stirred. Besides the sound of my waistline and tolerance growing, I also hear my credit card weeping! We all know nothing brings a little Yuletide cheer to a party like a bevy of adult beverages, but these costly concoctions may break the bank! If you are like me, the purse strings are being pulled a little tighter during the many holiday shopping excursions so budget friendly gifts are at the top of my list. Here are some fun , festive, and $5.00+ gift suggestions to help you stock their bar with out hocking your car! Bottom's Up!

Bejeweled Martini Glasses- I know you have all seen them, sitting there glistening in the curio cabinet of a hoighty-toighty boutique, looking to pricey to even touch! Why don't you spare the MasterCard and make this blinged-out-beauty for a fourth of the cost? All you will need is a little ingenuity, patience, and super glue! Visit your nearest discount store such as the Dollar Tree or Big Lots and pick out a well-shaped, clear or translucent martini glass. You will also need to pick up a pack of rhinestones and super glue, which yes- I have found at both the Dollar Tree and Big Lots before! Clean the surface of the glass thoroughly before you commence to gluing and with the assistance of a pair of tweezers, start designing! Anything looks fabulous in rhinestones- polka dots, a swirl or perhaps spell out the word "Diva!" After the glue dries completely, carefully package and present the glittery glass to your guest with a copy of your favorite martini recipe. Be sure to tell the recipient that their new found glass is hand-wash only or else her diamonds may be swimming in the dishwasher!

Bag O' Christmas Cheer- Let's all take lesson from Bacchus and share with the world our love of wine! A bottle of wine is perfect for a hostess gift as they can either chose to uncork it at the party or keep the bottle for their own private collection. Now, what others may call "good wine" doesn't come cheap, but with a little investigative work- the fruits of your efforts will pay off. Comb the discount bins of your local wine and spirits store as many brands are put on clearance to make room for new brands. I guarantee you will find a decent bottle of wine for $3.00-$4.00. Brands such as Sutterhome, Lindermas, Don Luciano, Corbett Canyon, Little Penguin, Andre, and Verdi can frequently be found with a below $5.00 price tag. There is actually a brand at Wal-mart I recently started buying for my "house wine" called "Oak Leaf" which is sold for a whopping $2.97 a bottle! Both the Shiraz and the Cabernet are EXCELLENT for my reddies and I would most certainly recommend the Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio for all my white wine drinkers. No matter the wine, no matter the vintage, your wine needs to be presented glamorously! I have scoped out stunning cloth wine bags both at the Dollar Tree and at Wal-mart, complete with velour lining and rhinestones! If budget allows, tie on a inexpensive ornament or wine bottle opener to your pretty little package and wait for the smiles!

Funky Felt Coasters- This project caught my eye on several websites and I just had to share it with my fellow divas! Depending on the color tastes (or even home decor) of your recipient, raid your local craft store for several sheets of felt in coordinating colors. You will also need thin cork board, tacky glue (or hot glue) and a small hole punch. Cut coaster-sized circles or even squares from your felt and use your hole punch to "design" your coaster. Cut your cork using the same circle or square template you used for the felt and apply a thin layer of glue to the cork. Adhere your felt and clean up your coasters by trimming the edges. For extra flair, scallop the edges of your felt before gluing it to the cork. It allows a little bit of the cork to peek through for a kitchsy and rustic kind of look! Bundle the coasters up with a beautifully tied ribbon or tuck them away in a sheer organza bag. These coasters will be sure to make their debut at many parties to come!

Santa's "Spirited" Stocking- Santa, "candy is dandy but liquor is quicker!" Why not fill all the of age good boys and girls stockings with something they REALLY want this year?! During the holiday season, liquor stores begin going bananas with the sales and end up practically giving away their inventory. In most cases, right near the cash register area, the stores will feature baskets of discounted mini or airplane bottles as my dad lovingly refers to them. I would say this time of year, you could probably find mini bottles going for $1.00 or less, top shelf not included! Dig for the best deal and price depending, stock your soon-to-be best-friend's stocking to the brim with an array of these delightful little bottles. Once again, shop around at those discount stores to find a spectacular stocking to stock with spirits as a part of your gift, you take up the slack where Santa leaves off!

Sassy Salt for Margarita Maniacs- The epicurean in me is a sucker for all the gourmet flavored salts out on the market now. Coconut, espresso, jalapeno and black truffle are just a few infused salts that have been taunting my taste buds! Why not translate this costly, culinary concept into couture margarita rimming salts for the Margarita enthusiast in your life?! Pick up a box of coarse salt from your local grocer and let your imagination run rampant in the spice aisle. A few great combos that come to my mind for Margarita salt would be:
  • Coarse Salt + Chipotle Powder = Cha-Cha Chipotle Salt

  • Coarse Salt + Dried Ginger = Thai Ginger Salt

  • Coarse Salt + Dried Lime Zest = Lime Fresco Salt

  • Coarse Salt + Red Pepper Flakes = Fire Salt

  • Coarse Salt + Dried Lemon Peel = Sunny Salt

  • Coarse Salt + Dried Tangerine Peel = Tantalizing Tangerine Salt

Start with a 1/4 Spice and 3/4 Salt ratio, adjust to suit your taste. Pour your newly concocted custom salts in metal favor tins, tiny cork-topped jars or even a series TEST TUBES. Ideally, your gifting container should be glass or transparent as these salts are not only tasty but beautiful to look at. Be sure to label each flavor of rimming salt and include a recipe for the world's best MARGARITA!!!

Whether your gift ends up being one of these bar-oriented beauties or not, a personalized, hand-written note is always a must. For your recipient to know you took time out of your crazy and chaotic life to sit down, make them a gift and write a simple note of good tidings, can be one of the most heartwarming events of the season.

Let me know how the gifting goes and "be sure to stay tuned, dahlin's!"

Friday, November 13, 2009

Variety is the "Spice" of Life!

With Thanksgiving right around the bend, cooking and food, glorious food is on the brain! As you all may know, I adore to cook it up in the kitchen. It is my stress relief, my comfort, my hobby, my art. Although it is tough to commit to a home-cooked meal every night here at the Thornton Manor, I do vow to whip up anywhere from three to four blue plate specials a week. With that being said, grocery excursions occur about once every ten days or so for us, depending on our schedule. As the trips to the local supermarket came and went, I found my self repeatedly reaching for the same spice, continually combing through the same produce and frequently finding my "buggy" filled with the SAME, expected groceries week after week. How could this be? Was I stuck in the monotony of mundane meal times? Were our taste buds secretly yearning for more? Had we lost our appetites and carnal desires for...FOOD?! If I wanted to save our dinner, I knew drastic measures had to be taken- it was time to "spice" things up! They have always said "variety is the spice of life" so what about bringing another ingredient into the kitchen?! Sounded risky, but alas- this spawned my "featured food of the week" program!

From then on, I vowed to pick up one unusual, but still practical ingredient to include in our meal time regime for the next ten days, or until the next shopping trip. The program's maiden voyage was launched with my favorite herb, Cilantro! This citrusy, bright and bold plant made its dinner debut several times during the week. First, it starred in an easy Asian-inspired salad with pineapple chunks, grilled chicken, whole almonds, diced tomatoes, chow mein noodles and ginger, topped with chopped cilantro, sesame seeds and Kraft's Light Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing. For a side dish to burritos on "Fiesta Friday", (please tell me everyone has at least one food themed night a week at their house- you know you do!) we boiled up some rice, substituting one cup of water for chicken stock and threw in the chopped cilantro. At lunch, this award-winning herb emerged yet again among shrimp, butter, chili powder, garlic salt and lime, lightly sauteed and served hot on left-over mashed potatoes! Now those were some good eats!

The program has gained popularity at our home and has allowed us to experience tastes beyond our wildest imaginations! Starting this Sunday, my feature ingredient will be "bourbon" and I got news for ya, it's not just for drinking any more! Let's just hope it makes it into the food...

Have a "featured food of the week" idea and want to share? Let us know!
Be sure to stay tuned, dahlin's!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Howl at the Moon Pies!

With fall in full swing, an array autumnal activities like pumpkin carving, costume shopping and raking the leaves begin to wiggle their way into your weeks. It's hard to believe we were all just bathing beauties posted up on sunny beaches and now we're in sweaters and scarves! Having a hard time accepting the swift switch of the season now? Just scare up a batch of these fall follies made out of every Southerners' favorite treat (well, besides butter) MOON PIES!!! I would like to preface this culinary craft by saying I sincerely try to post original ideas but I just couldn't resist sharing with you these darlings I found amongst the pages of Southern Living Magazine. Start by purchasing a few Moon Pies, original chocolate was used in this craft. For the loveably odd owls shown here, split open an Oreo cookie, affix each half of the cookie to the Moon Pie using melted chocolate candy coating. (Hint- this product comes in a small, microwavable tub and is usually found near the strawberries or in the baking goods aisle.) For the pupils, consider M&M's, Reese's Pieces, Junior Mints or a combination of all three to give each owl his own distinct look. For the beak, either a piece of candy corn or a bright yellow Runt's banana will do the trick! Chocolate sprinkles or mini chocolate chips can be added for a "feathery" flair. Depending on your region, you may have access to the different flavors of Moon Pies, RC Cola optional! Why not transform the vanilla pie into a ghoulish ghost using black jelly beans and black or red decorator's icing? The orange pie could be converted to a jolly Jack-O-Lantern using the materials from above and green Sour Punch straws as pumpkin vines. Lemon pie could be a full moon with the silhouette of a witch, werewolf or bats (the easy route) drawn on in black piping gel. What ever the flavor, after decorating, insert a small dowel rod into the pie's marshmallowly core. If they last long enough to display, fill a flower pot or even a hollowed out pumpkin first with foam then cover with candy corn. (The foam will serve as a sturdy base for your dowel rods.) Tie festive ribbons onto the rods and press firmly down into the foam. Be sure to showcase your sugary spirited pies at this year's Halloween Party or pass them out to your neighborhood trick-or-treaters . Your Moon Pie masterpieces are sure to make all the good ghouls and goblins shriek with excitement!

Happy Hauntings and be sure to stay tuned, dahlin's!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Words Straight From the Heart!

Looks like it's a wedding every weekend from now until the dawn of spring for the Domestic Diva and crew; tis' the season, I guess! With 2009-2010 being "THE" year of the wedding, the search of a extraordinary and extra economical gift is inevitable. My creatively crafty mother has always had a way with words and poems. She just has the innate knack, you know? Mother is always being asked to compose a song for this, write a poem for that, you would think the woman is the next William Wordsworth in waiting?! We recently resurrected her talents for a wedding toast poem and boy, was it a home run hit! We placed a copy of this delightful ditty in a sassy teal baroque picture frame, gifted the framed folly to the love birds and it's currently on display in their humble abode. Now, besides the fabu frame hunting at Marshall's and Ross, the TIME is what you must invest in this gift. First off, devise a short questionnaire for someone close to the bride and groom. You want this to be completely customized so be sure to get the juicy details that only they would know about; i.e. where they met, how they spent their first date, how he proposed and maybe even include details about the wedding or honeymoon. If you are presenting the poem as a toast as well, you may also want to incorporate details about your relationship to the bride or groom- the more personal the details, the better! Also, remember the select your words carefully, no rambling and KEEP IT CLASSY! (I know my readers wouldn't think otherwise!) The frame should be unique and exclusive to the couple as well. Use their wedding colors, motifs or their home decor as inspiration! This personalized poem is also a great gift for showers, anniversaries, peas in the pod and even birthdays; get jiggy with it! If you are at a loss for words or the cat's got your tongue, Mother Dostal is always at work in her wordy workshop and would be delighted to devise a custom poem for you! Email her for more information.

Here is a copy of her latest literary feat:

Christina, Christina, what can I say?
Who'd ever thought we'd be here today?
Times have passed; it seems like yesterday,
We were carefree teenagers, partying the time away!
A Knight and a Wildcat, who would have guessed,
The bond we would have is really the best!
I bugged you at Bennigan's til you said OK,
The Club One Christmas party, we laughed and we played!
Then on to Orlando, Hawaii, and A-town,
And...Vegas..we won't tell about what went down!
Local fav's--Bar-Bar, Deja Groove, and 51 degrees,
Don't forget Spanky's where we had 'em on their knees.
Rockin' with us as we danced in our chairs,
Flashlights, techomusic--you had to be there!
On the softer side, I know you as a listener, a thoughtful friend.
You've been giving and caring as we got thru tough times and MEN!
It seems the Cosmos matched us Gemini and Libra til the end,
Old Navy and The Limited, and the CASH we liked to spend!
Your favorite color is pink--just right for one so calm,
Your smile is always welcomed--gentle and warm.
On this day of days, You know I hope for only the best,
You sure picked a good one;Mat outshines the rest!
I've known him since 10th grade when we gave Ms. Marshall a fit!
I knew Mat was special and I'm so glad you're it!
The one he picked to spend a lifetime of love,
You're a perfect couple, blessed from above!
I'm handing you over to Mat today, but I hope we'll remain friends in

Be sure to stay tuned, dahlin's!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jeepers, Creepers, Where'd Ya Get Those Peepers?

Whether you are sleepless in Seattle, wide awake in Wichita or a night owl in Orlando (like me), your precious peepers are bound to face fatigue. Unfortunately, almost everyone is familiar with those dark and puffy rings you sometimes find hiding out under your eyes. There are various causes as to why these ghastly and ghoulish imperfections make their debut. Factors such as too much stress, lack of sleep, sun exposure, nutrition deficiency, age and excessive use of drugs or alcohol are among the top sabotages.

Here are a few home remedies that will get those baby blues, gleaming greens or bashful browns back sparkling in no time!

*Veggie Therapy: Chilled cucumber or potato slices work wonders for your tired eyes! Both veggies contain enzymes which help diminish any dark discoloration. By chilling the slices, the cool cukes and potatoes help constrict blood vessels and decrease puffiness.

*Go Nuts!: Apply a few drops of almond oil around the eyes before going to bed or in the morning after your shower. Almond oil has been used for centuries to combat under eye circles, starting with the ancient Greeks. (Ladies, I prefer the nightly method as I tend to cake on the eye make-up in the morning. Almond Oil + Liner= Raccoon Eyes!)

*A "Tea-riffic" Treatment: Steep chamomile tea bags in boiling water, chill them and apply to your puffy eyes. Chamomile is known for it's oh-so-soothing properties. This treatment is best accompanied by a warm bubble bath and a glass of champagne...ahhhh...

*Don't Forget Your Vitamins!: Applying a cream that has Vitamin E and Vitamin C will also give great eye brightening results. Many of these skin care creams can be purchased over the counter in the cosmetic (a.k.a attempts to turn back the hands of time) section! ;o)

*"Mint" To Be: Crush a few fresh mint leaves, mix with a little water and apply the mixture over your dark circles. Leave the herbal aid on for 15 minutes and wash away. Don't fret, any extra mint can be used for those Cha-Cha Cherry Mojito's you have been dying to make!

*Slow Down the Sodium: Try to reduce the salt intake in your diet to get rid of puffy eyes and puffy everything! As with any ailment, those recommend 8 glasses of water a day will also help ease your eyes.

They say "eyes are the window into the soul" so lets be sure those peepers are pretty! You never know who may want to search your soul next!

Be sure to stay tuned, dahlin's!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Chicken Soup for the Sick Soul

After livin' the life with some fellow divas in "Hotlanta" this weekend, the common cold has decided to rear its ugly head. Leave it to me to catch a cold during the final hoorah of the summer, sheesh! Despite the stuffy nose, scratchy throat, watery eyes and achy muscles, one must always find a way to BLOG! I have continually wondered why we have turned to that steamy, sodium-laden concoction we know as Chicken Noodle Soup for comfort during our sicknesses. It was only until I found and tested this recipe that I truly knew how much solace a piping hot bowl of this magic stew can provide. Besides the homey and hearty taste of the soup, medical research has proved that some components of chicken soup spark an anti-inflammatory effect in the body that could lead to temporary ease of the illness. This recipe also contains fresh ginger which has been used for many moons to cure everything from congestion, nausea, unsettled stomachs and now even heart disease! Whether this poultry filled potion is for you or for a friend in need, consider freezing half of the batch for future use as flu season is upon us.

Asian Inspired Chicken Noodle Soup


1 pound boneless and skinless chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup water

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into bite-size sticks

3 cans (14 ounces each) chicken broth

2 tablespoons vinegar, rice

2 1/2 teaspoons ginger, fresh

2 ounces rice noodles

6 ounces frozen pea pods, thawed

1 tablespoon soy sauce


In a skillet, cook chicken in hot oil just until browned. Add cooked chicken, carrots, broth, water, vinegar, soy sauce and ginger into a slow-cooker (crock-pot). Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 4 to 6 hours or on high-heat setting for 2 to 3 hours. Stir in noodles and pea pods and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more or until noodles are tender.

For easy transport to a sick neighbor or friend, ladle this super soup into a large mason jar and put the lid on tight. For added flair, slip a square of red gingham cloth under the lid's rim and tie a copy of the recipe on with raffia. Who knows, maybe a jar of Chicken Noodle Soup for the Sick Soul may land on your doorstep one day!

Thanks for all the well wishes and be sure to stay tuned, dahlin's!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Wedding Day Wares

Last weekend, my husband and I had the absolute pleasure of attending a wedding for a dear friend and sorority sister of mine. The ceremony was held in her childhood church, a stunningly ornate Greek Orthodox Church in the heart of Savannah. We partied into the wee hours of the night at the lively reception in the Hyatt Hotel, overlooking the majestic Savannah River. The bride glowed and the groom grinned; it was truly a night to remember! As I sat in the hotel lobby and reflected on the evening with the bride's mother, she shared with me a meaningful gift idea for any couple getting ready to tie the knot. Ms. Becky explained to me that a close friend of hers brought brunch to the bride and bridesmaids as they were excitedly getting ready for the big event. She told me how very thoughtful and touching this gesture was and how it was certainly a gift that both she and the bride will always remember. Whether you are a bride, know a bride or have just attended a wedding, you know the moments leading up to the ceremony can be quite hectic with emotions and tensions running high. Sometimes things are so bananas, the bride, groom and all players involved forget to stop and smell the roses- they forget to pause and relish in this oh-so happy day. More important than the memories that may be missed, meals are generally missed as well. The stress runs high, the time ticks by and food is a forgotten facet of the day. Crankiness, weakness and lordy forbid, tipsiness may ensue if our bride, groom and wedding party do not eat! For a gift that will be appreciated and hopefully, ingested by all, consider packing a blushing bridal brunch basket or a tray of gourmet grub for the groom! In order to make this venture a total success, find out the times and locations where bride and/or groom are getting ready. The earlier you can drop off your delicacies the better. For ladies in waiting, they may choose to eat earlier than later as not to disturb their make-up. The fellas on the other hand require less primping and do not start getting dressed until later on in the day. Be sure to consider these aspects before making your deliveries.

Think about the following for possible contents in your "Blushing Bridal Brunch" Basket or "Gourmet Groom Grub" Tray:

Champagne (For the Ladies)

Beer (For the Gentleman)

Orange Juice

Bottled Water


Bagels with Accoutrement (I love that word! Gourmet spreads, cream cheeses and butter would be great but be cautious with jellies and jams!)

Mini Muffins or Pastries

Granola Bars

Trail Mix

Bananas, Grapes, Apple slices and any other easy to eat, non-staining fruits

Cheese Cubes or String Cheese

Finger Sandwiches

Chicken Strip or Lunch Meat Tray (Protein is a must, especially when alcohol is involved!)

Pre-cut Veggies and Dips

Pretzels and Crackers (Non-greasy munchies keep clothes clean)

Disposable Plates, Cups and Cutlery

Mints (An unexpected but very much appreciated post-meal addition)

Trash bag

Napkins or even Wet-Naps if you have access to them

Sentimental card with well-wishes for the happy couple!

To go that extra mile, you may consider packing all these wedding day wares into a hand-crafted picnic basket or insulated cooler for the Mr. & Mrs. to use during their lives of wedded bliss. Yes, this glorious gift is more time consuming than the now traditional Target Gift Card, but the gratitude expressed by the recipients will be invaluable. Feel free to share any of your ideas for wedding day wares or meaningful wedding gift suggestions, the domestic diva is all ears!

Be sure to stay tuned, dahlin's!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Oil me up!

Hey Rachel Ray, your precious EVOO is just for cooking anymore! Olive oil, whether it be virgin, extra-virgin, or pure olive oil has been a staple in Mediterranean households for centuries and not just in la cucina. Although it may be a prominent ingredient in everyday cuisine, this pantry treasure can perform miracles around the house and around the body. See what this little bottle of "liquid gold" can do for you!

Tame Those Locks- For a quick fix to fly aways, drizzle a dot of olive oil in your hand and sparingly run it over your coif. Also, be sure to take some time out of your weekend for this home-made hot oil hair treatment. Warm up your EVOO in the palm of your hand and generously lather it into your locks, paying special attention to the ends. Wrap your hair in a towel or oh-so-fashionable shower cap and chillax for 30 minutes or so. Wash and style hair as normal and watch those locks shine!

Snore No More- Granny never lies! Taking a sip of olive oil before heading to bed can help lubricate your throat muscles, cutting down on snoring. Give it a try- your bed mate will thank you!

Here Kitty, Kitty- According to my pet vet sister, add a teaspoon of olive oil to your cat’s food to help prevent hairballs, as well as promote a shiny, healthy coat. Olive oil is likely to be more gentle on a cat's system than petroleum-based anti-hairball lubricants. Meow!

Better Than Butter- I know, I could a Southern gal speak such words?! Butter most certainly has that undeniable flavor which we all love and crave but how about slathering your bread with a little EVOO every now and then. The health benefits linked to olive oil are overwhelming. This "liquid gold" is rich in monounsaturated fats and contains several different types of anti-oxidants known for their ability to promote our "good" cholesterol (HDL) and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. I promise I will send this link to Paula Deen! ;o)

Wax On, Wax Off- To polish up your weary wood, use two parts olive oil combined with one part lemon juice. Pour just a few drops on a soft cloth, wipe away the dust, scuffs, and fingerprints, and your wood will gleam. This technique works well for a range of wooden furniture and objects. You can also condition and revitalize leather goods, such as car seats and baseball mitts by rubbing in a bit of EVOO.

Luscious Lips- Pucker up that pretty pout and swab on that olive oil! A Q-tip is a great applicator for this budget friendly balm.

Creepy Creaks- Do the doors in your house sound like they belong in the Addams Family Mansion? If so, try olive oil out on squeaky doors, hinges or anywhere else you might consider using WD-40 or a mechanical lubricant. Once again, olive oil is totally natural and edible of course so no worries about Fido or little Joey Jr. getting their paws into it!

For Spaghetti and Skin- Olive oil is a great skin moisturizer because it contains linoleic acid, a compound not made by the body, which prevents water from evaporating. After showering, rub the oil on your skin just as you would any lotion or moisturizer. Don't forget those knees and elbows. For a diva decadent body scrub, sprinkle in a spoonful of sugar to your olive oil and go to town. The sugar crystals help slough off any dead skin cells while the oil hydrates. All natural and all good!

So the next time you are in the grocery store or raiding your little Italian granny's kitchen, don't forget to pick up a bottle of this stove-top staple. From hair to hinges and cats to carseats, there's no stopping this earthy elixir.

Be sure to stay tuned, dahlins'!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Salad that SCREAMS "Summer"

During these lovely days of summer, please make some time to cannon ball into an icy cool pool, sip lemonade on your front porch, count the twinkling stars while laying on a picnic blanket or bite down into the juiciest slice of perfectly pink watermelon you can find! For me, there's nothing that sings the songs of summer like a shiny, emerald green, vine-ripened watermelon! When we were tots, my momma would buy the biggest watermelon she could find at the Piggly Wiggly (our local supermarket in Savannah), put it outside on our newspaper-lined patio table and let my sister and I go hog wild on that fabulous fruit! We would even wear our bathing suits so she could hose us off after we had our fill of that melons' ruby red flesh! The feast of the watermelon turned into a yearly tradition and always signaled the official start of summertime at the Dostal Household. As the years passed, I imagine we "thought" we grew out of this silly ritual. I am sure we were too busy at slumber parties or backwards skating at the Savannah Skate Inn to participate in the watermelon gorge but that summer memory lingers as sweetly in my mind as it does on my tongue. The fact that watermelon is the epitome of summertime for me has not changed. Sure, I would love to invite my 24 year old "little sister" over to oink out on a watermelon in our bathing suits, but I just feel that activity would lack the cuteness and practicality as it once did years ago. To satisfy this carnal urge for this monstrous melon, I have a sassy yet sophisticated salad I like to whip up for picnics, light summer suppers or for any garden dinner party. Please try out this salad for yourself, for your family and for your loved ones before the sun sets on our precious lazy days of summer.

Watermelon and Mint Salad


1 RIPE watermelon
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Fresh cracked black pepper and kosher salt
Whole mint sprigs for garnish


In a large bowl, combine the melon, onion, and feta. Pour the dressing over the melon mixture and toss gently until everything is coated and evenly mixed. Garnish with mint sprigs.

Savor the summer and be sure to stay tuned, dahlin's!
Cut the flesh from the melon and cut into bite size pieces, removing the seeds and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, salt, pepper, and whisk until salt is dissolved. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, a few drops at a time. Add in the chopped mint, taste and adjust seasonings.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Flower Power!

It is truly amazing what a small bunch of perky little store-bought daisies can do for your spirit! During our courtship, my husband would occasionally delight me with a cluster of neon-dyed blooms called "Crazy Daisies" from our local grocery store. These little bits of sunshine delighted me so much but couldn't have cost more than five dollars a bundle. Besides the radical rainbow of color they brought inside the house, the thing I enjoyed the most about them is their longevity. With the right amount of tender loving care, those posh posies would last two sometimes three weeks. Daisies are a pretty hearty flower but even the most delicate of blossoms will continue to spread their joy if you just take a few minutes out of your day to practice these maintenance tips.

*Always re-cut stems under cold water if flowers are gifted/purchased without a vase. By re-cutting the stem, you prevent air pockets or air embolisms from developing in the stem.

*Trim stems at about a 45 degree angle. This allows maximum surface exposure for the stem allowing water to travel freely up the stem and to the bud. For woody stems like the kind found on lilac, hydrangea and rhododendrons, crush ends with a mallet to promote water flow.

*Be sure to remove any leaves or other foliage that will be below the water surface. Additional foliage in the water leads to rot and decay, not to mention STINKY water!

*Keep flowers out of direct sunlight, need I say more?! ;o)

*Include sprigs of artificial ivy, fern, baby's breath or other silk filler to give your budget buds more "umph." Artificial greenery bunches or "picks" as they say in the floral world can be purchased a craft emporiums, floral supply and my favorite hot-spot, DOLLAR TREE!

*Add splash of sprite to the vase to for a floral food substitute. A teaspoon of bleach or Listerine will ward off any harmful bacteria while the combination of a penny and aspirin will do the same trick. Try all these quirky little methods and see which works best for you!
*Change your vase water every two days or so, beware of murky water! You may want to re-cut stems too if you have time to spare.

*Invest in carnations, alstromeria, chrysanthemums, delphinium and lilies. Roses, tulips and gerbera daises are oh-so elegant but they sport a short shelf life. Orchids are a little pricier than the blooms mentioned above however, if cared for properly, these beauts could last you for three weeks! Now that's more bloom for your buck!

*As your flowers begin to wilt and die, remove these fading flowers as they produce a gas called ethylene which will cause other healthy flowers to wilt too. (Apples produce this same gas keep your flowers away from your fruits!)

I hope you find these horticulture hints helpful and that they keep your buds blooming!

Be sure to stay tuned, dahlin's!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Been Thinking Pink...

Sorry it has been a while, ladies! What can I say but "life happened!" I am back in the saddle and now, I am blogging for a cause. In addition to the plethora of recipes, designer projects and life-style tips I plan to share with you, I would also like to share a way to give back to this beautiful world we live in.

The day after Mother's Day this year, my very own mother, my unbreakable heroine, was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. It was and still is hard for me to digest considering all the volunteer work and exposure I personally have given to this disease. As a carefree 15 year old, I worked as a "Pink Lady" at the Memorial Medical Breast Center, dealing daily with patients suffering and surviving the illness. Throughout college, I assisted my sorority with our national philanthropy, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation for almost five years, planning and organizing chairtable events. I continued my crusade here in Central Florida by volunteering at our yearly "Race for the Cure." Even though I was rocked to my core by the strength and perseverance of all these individuals effected by this disease showed me, I never once viewed my own mother as one of these statistics. The harsh reality of the disease is that 1 in 8 women will develop some level of Breast Cancer throughout their lifetime- 1 in 8 women!

A link was sent to me by a dear friend of mine for an organization called "Making Memories." On their site, they have partnered with several different vendors and programs to help assist in efforts to increase awareness about these disease and to provide memorable experiences to the women Breast Cancer affects. Two programs that tie perfectly into our blog here include the "Pink Envelope Project" and the "Brides Against Breast Cancer" sale. Please visit for more information about each but here are brief explanations for both events below.

Pink Envelope Project- The website suggests initiating this fundraiser at a bridal shower or even a wedding reception. The concept is quite simple- pink envelopes, small donation, changed lives! "Making Memories" will send you their signature pink envelopes to collect donations in from all your shower/wedding guests, perhaps in lieu of gifts?! You could also choose to make a donation of at least $100.00 in advance to the foundation and then pass along a beautiful company crafted favor card to your guests explaining a donation has been made to "Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation" in their honor. Along with the cards, you could attach a pink ribbon key chain, chocolate or charm like the ones seen here for an added keepsake. Your guests will treasure this special memento and love the fact they helped make a difference in the life of another.

Brides Against Breast Cancer- Every girl dreams of the fairytale romance, the magical proposal and then the perfect gown! Would it be possible to have all these things for yourself AND to make someone elses' dreams come true? That is the sole mission of the "Brides Against Breast Cancer" fund. Brides-to-be have the option of purchasing BRAND NEW to gently worn contemporary, designer wedding gowns for a fraction of the price with most of the proceeds going back into the "Brides Against Breast Cancer" fund. Brides who have already taken the plunge can contribute to the cause either by donating their dresses or by participating in a "Brides Against Breast Cancer" trunk sale in a city near you. Please refer to the "Making Memories" website for more information on how to make any woman's dreams become a reality!

Thank you for taking the time out of your hectic lives to read my little blog here. I hope this post has inspired you to lend a helping hand in your community, appreciate life and to make sure those you love KNOW you love them every single day. Each day is a gift- uwrap it carefully!

Be sure to stay tuned, dahlin's!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Smelling Like a Rose!

As I was bargain shopping in the department store the other day, I stumbled upon the sweetest little silk sachets hiding in the linens section. Sachets are generally small bags or pillows stuffed with wonderful smelling herbs or flowers. These little treasures can be tucked anywhere from your linen closet, to your lingerie drawer to the underside of your pillow to add a wonderful scent where ever they may land. The department store sachets looked and smelled so luxurious but they also had a luxurious price tag to match. Of course I wanted my linens and unmentionables to smell just as sweet as these little pricey puffs, I just didn't want to shell out for the scents! Here are a few ways to add a bit of fine frangrance to your drawers, closets and beds with out breaking the bank!

*Next time you are flipping through the pages of Vogue or Cosmopolitan, tear out the perfume sample page and slip it in your lingerie drawer. This also goes for those cute little card stock cut-outs you drench with perfume at the store. Just be sure it's a fragrance you like!

*Bars of soap make excellent sachet substitutes as well! Just take an inexpensive bar of a clean smelling soap and put it in the back of your drawer. A few of my favorite feminine, yet clean scents include Cucumber Melon, White Tea & Ginger, Coconut Lime, Lavender and Lemon Grass. Unused soap works best here! ;o)

*Scented drawer liners are functional and fabulous! I will admit they are a little hard t0 find these days, but they just leave your clothes smelling divine. I have found them at Bed, Bath and Beyond before and other random shops such as Stein Mart, Ross, Tuesday Morning and even Big Lots! If you can find some snazzy ones, consider gifting them to a bride-to-be. They make a great addition to a lingerie shower gift maybe along with some monogrammed linens or other scented home products if you don't feel at comfortable buying someone besides your self undies. Scented drawer liners are just a class act!

*Have the time? Why not put your crafty claws to use and replicate the sachets you admired in the store? All you need is tulle or another fabric that "breathes" and something smelly such as potpourri, eucalyptus leaves or dried lavender to put in it. Vintage hankies make great bases for sachets too! Trace a circle onto the fabric of your choice, cut your circle (no need to cut up the hankies), fill and tie up with a beautiful ribbon. You could also use these for shower favors, maybe adding a rosette for a wedding shower or a baby carriage charm for a baby shower.

Hope these you find these Domestic Diva tips to be "SCENTSATIONAL!" Be sure to stay tuned, dahlin's!

Pearly Whites

Got a hot date? Walking down the aisle? Job interview on Monday? Bring some bling to that smile! If you can't quite splurge on pricey professional teeth whitening procedures, these home spun toothy tips are a sure fire way to get your smile noticed!
*Did you know some tootie fruities can aid in teeth whitening? Strawberries, mother nature's jelly beans are not only packed with a ton of Vitamin C but have been known to brighten up a smile simply by eating them! Who doesn't like strawberries- skip the cream though! The white underside of an orange peel also contains whitening agents- just rub it along your tooth enamel. If you are a true domestic diva, you can mix dried orange peel with your everyday toothpaste for extra whitening power.

*As my mom would say, just do it the "Grandma Rubye Way!" This tried and true method is one of the oldest and most effective ways for everyday whitening. Take your toothbrush dip it into your baking soda stash and starting brushing. Be gentle along the gum line as baking soda is an abrasive. With the soda still on your teeth, drizzle a bit of hydrogen peroxide on your brush and begin brushing again. I like to keep this paste on for a few minutes or so to ensure it's strength. (A great time to do this is in the shower right after you have applied your hair conditioner; when you rinse the conditioner out, rinse your mouth too!) After a week or so of this method you should see noticeable results. I have also heard of people using lemon juice and salt but unfortunately, I can't stand the taste. It's worth a try.

*Drink EVERYTHING out of a straw! Mostly all carbonated beverages and juices contain citric acid in them which stain your teeth. We all know wine, coffee and tea are major culprits too so start slipping a straw into that coffee mug and then start sipping! The classiest girl I ever knew in college even sipped her BEER out of a straw! Laugh all you want, but her teeth were DIAMOND WHITE!

*Don't forget the floss! Sorry to sound like the dentist here but this mouthy mantra is something you have to live by if you want those choppers to shine! Besides the fact you are removing excess food which can cause bacteria growth in your mouth, you are also loosening up stain causing tartar and plaque. If the space between your teeth is clean, your smile will look a million times whiter. Don't forget all the little nooks and crannies!

Happy Brushing and be sure to stay tuned, dahlin's!

Kiss My Grits!

Ahhh... Nothing eases the pain of getting up on a Monday morning more than a steaming hot bowl of GRITS! For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this divine concoction, Grits is a thick, corn-based porridge, common to the cuisine of the Southeast. This golden goop is perfect with only a pat of butter and dash of salt but additions such as meats (especially shrimp on the east or gulf coasts), sugar and my personal favorite CHEESE can kick it up a notch! I would say the most important thing about cooking these little beauties is to season them during the cooking process, otherwise you will have a pot of something that looks AND tastes like wallpaper paste. Grits are traditionally served in the morning in southern households and on St. Patrick's Day in Savannah, they are even served green!The good news is grits aren't just for breakfast anymore so please allow me to share a recipe for my favorite lunch or dinner entree:

Southern Style Shrimp-N-Grits

1 cup stone-ground grits
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (adjust to taste preference)
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 pound medium to large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons, lemon juice
6 slices bacon, chopped into tiny pieces
1 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts (additional for garnish)
Fresh cracked black pepper and kosher salt

In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add the grits, hot sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Stir grits well with a whisk. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cook the grits until all the water is absorbed, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and both cheeses. Keep covered until ready to serve.
Fry all 6 bacon slices in a skillet, move to a paper towel to "degrease." Add the shrimp to the bacon grease in the skillet and sauté over medium heat just until they turn pink, about 3 minutes. Add your lemon juice, green onions and garlic to the shrimp and remove the skillet from the heat.
For serving, pour your grits into a vessel of your choice (soup bowl, coffee mug or even a martini glass for an appetizer portion) and top with shrimp mixture. Garnish with crumbled bacon, left-over green onions and additional CHEESE if you prefer.

Bon Appetit, y'all and be sure to stay tuned, dahlin's!

In Distress Over Dad's Day?

Have no fear, FBBTDD is here!!! As the sultry summer days of June start to pass, each day we find ourselves closer and closer to dear ole dad's day of appreciation; Father's Day. You have one week as of today to purchase the perfect card, send that special gift or prepare your yearly Father's Day phone call. The question is what can you give the man who wiped away all your tears, bandaged all those skinned knees, gave you away at your wedding- the man who was there for you when no other man was? I always say stick with what you know and let cliche's be your guide, "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach!" No matter pop's interest here are a few budget-friendly gastronomic gift ideas sure to please all palettes!

"Around the World in 80 Beers"- Grab an inexpensive galvanized or plastic drink tub (they can usually be found in the garden department or amongst the seasonal items at Wal-mart) and fill it with multi-colored tissue paper, streamers, confetti or even the newspaper funnies for a whimsical touch. Hit up the adult libation section (a.k.a. the beer cooler) and just start going down the line. Purchase any or all of the following: Mexican Beer ( ex. Dos Equis, Sol, Pacifico, etc.), Irish Beer (ex. Guisness, Harp, Smithwicks, etc.), German Beer (ex. Becks, St. Pauli Girl, Spaten, etc.), Canadian Beer (ex. Labatt Blue, Molson Canadian, Moosehead, etc.), Japanese Beer (ex. Sapporo, Kirin, etc.), and by now I am sure you get the idea. If you are lucky enough to have a "World Market" in your neighborhood, this store actually specializes in international food and beverage so be sure to check out their selection. Pack them all up in you festive beer tub and if you have time, perhaps enclose a description of each beer along with it's origin. Dad will appreciate the thought, but maybe not the hangover that is sure to ensue!

"Food for the Fairway"- Is dad an avid golfer, is he just ga-ga for the greens? Pack him a "Food for the Fairway" cooler for his next round and you are sure to secure your spot as the favorite child! Start with an inexpensive cooler and once again fill it with your multi-colored tissue paper or newspaper funnies. For a grassy effect, try using all green tissue paper and shredding a few pieces on the top. Do you have any green Easter Grass leftover- now would be the perfect time to use it! Start packing your cooler with bottled waters, mixed nuts, pretzels, cheese crackers, protein bars, beef jerky and the rest of your pops' favorite snacks. For added kitsch, throw in a jug of Snapple Brand "Arnold Palmer" Sweet Tea and Lemonade mix. Not only is it a thirst quencher on a hot day, but dad will appreciate you "comparing him" to the planet's greatest golfer. If your budget allows, throw in a pack of golf balls, golf tees, a golf towel, sunscreen, bug repellent and maybe a divot tool if available. This gift is sure to score a "hole in one!"

"Lake Break" - If dad's always gone fishing, this gift will surely lure him back in! Start with a Plano or other brand of tackle box and stuff it with a few "Field and Stream" magazines, sports drinks, bottled waters, sunscreen, wet wipes, pocket knife, coffee thermos with a bag of dad's favorite coffee, beef jerky, peanuts and a bag of Goldfish Crackers of course. A few other fishy additions could be a gift card to Bass Pro Shops, a baseball cap, a pair of polarized sunglasses (helps them see out on the water), hooks, bobbers, fishing line and maybe a few lures if you can squeeze out of your dad some of his favorites. Apparently they are very particular about these...With the "Lake Break", dad is ready to "kick some bass" and tell a few fish tales of his own!

"License to Grill" - No cheesy "King of the Grill" aprons here! Start by purchasing a large platter, whether it be ceramic, glass, steel, etc.- just not plastic as it will melt when red hot meat plops onto it off the grill. This platter will be the foundation for your gifts and will also hopefully turn into his favorite meat carrier! Pile up the platter with grilling accessories such as a meat thermometer, grill lighter (one with a long tip), basting brush, meat fork, seasoning salt, unique BBQ sauces and marinades (Lawrys Hawaiian Marinade is a family favorite now), tongs, grill brush, metal spatula, corn holders, kabob skewers, spray bottle (dad can use this for water, olive oil, or even melted butter when he grills) and a hand-written recipe for a meat rub. (On a side note, I found most of these items at my local dollar store, yippee!) Be sure to see if your dad is cooking with gas or charcoal as lighter fluid and charcoal briquettes would be a great addition to a charcoal grill chef. If you have the time and the means, personalized branding irons can be ordered off the Internet or at specialty cooking stores like Williams-Sonoma. After you present this gift, it will be a thrill for daddy-o to grill!

I hope you enjoy making these gifts as much as you enjoy giving them this Father's Day. Be sure to stayed tuned, dahlin's!

Monday, June 22, 2009

She Saves Seashells from the Seashore!

Even after the sun has set on your day at the beach, bring your seashore memories home with this casual table centerpiece. Start by filling a glass vase or large pillar candle holder with sand; in this case, store-bought sand is my preference. Place a pillar candle in the center of the sand and vase and arrange your beachy bounty around it. In addition to shells you find washed up on the beach, keep your eyes open for bits of driftwood, coral and sea glass; all would make great additions to this centerpiece. I bought over-sized pearl beads and a fishnet from my local craft store and lovingly tucked them amongst the shells I found for some visual interest. Place this arrangement on top of any inexpensive framed mirror and enjoy your sweet seaside memories all year long.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Something to Sip

With summer in full swing, visions of pool parties, backyard BBQ's and frilly drinks dance in my head. Although I do love to cook, mistress of the grill is not a notch I can put on my belt. Where you can find me is behind the bar, martini shaker in one hand and and a "tasting sample" in the other. Just as beer and wine can be paired with food, cocktails make great additions to any meal. With summer type food consisting of hearty and saucy meats coming off the grill, a bounty of seasonal vegetables and mayo-laden pasta and potato salads, you need quite a versatile cocktail to compliment all these flavors. Just as it has been a staple on every eating table since the dawn of time, sweet tea has found it's way into the world of adult libations. The wildy popular Sweet Tea Vodka is an amazing liquor; refreshing, crisp, familiar and soothingly sweet. Right now there are so many brands on the market, you are sure to find one to please your palette. I must stay true to my Southern Roots and say Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka is my favorite, however brands such as Sweet Carolina, Jeremiah Weed, Burnett's and Seagram's have all produced their own special sweet tea elixir. There is truly nothing more refreshing than a tall glass of sweet tea on a hot summer's day, well except for maybe if that tall glass had just a little vodka in it! ;o) Next time you throw a BBQ, attend a pool party or just sit on your front porch swing to watch the sun set, sip on one of these sweet tea cocktails and let all your cares slip away.

The Southern Belle- Of course you could make this with regular lemonade but doesn't pink sound so much more fun?! These would be a fabulous cocktail to serve at a spring or summer bridal shower.

1 Part Sweet Tea Vodka & 1 Part Pink Minute Maid Lemonade
*Mix both ingredients well and serve over ice in dainty little crystal or other decorative glasses. Dip lemon wheels into pink sugar and garnish glass with lemon and a pink straw.

Plantation Tea- An alcoholic variation of my favorite memories of Hawaii. In restaurants over there, your iced tea is served with half pineapple juice! If this doesn't put you in an island mind set, I don't know what will!

1 Part Sweet Tea Vodka & 1 Part Pineapple Juice
*Mix both ingredients well and serve over ice in a vintage tiki cup and garnish with a cocktail umbrella and pineapple chunk.

Peachy Keen- This is how you will be feeling after one of these; beware!

1 Part Sweet Tea Vodka, 1/2 Part Peach Nectar, 1/2 Part Ice Water & a Shot of Peach Schnapps
*Mix all ingredients well and serve over ice in what else, a mason jar! You can find a dozen-pack of these at Wal-mart in the "Kitchen Utensil" section as they are traditionally used for canning fruit and vegetables. If you garnish with a peach wedge, be sure to smother the cut peaches in lemon juice before hand as we do not want any brown fruit making a party debut. You could also just garnish with a little green mint sprig.

Lethal Lemon Iced Tea Shooters- This shooter was invented at my in-law's house after Valentine's Day dinner. It truly was a night to remember but after these, I totally forgot!

1 Part Sweet Tea Vodka 1 Part Limoncello
*Shake with ice and pour into sugar rimmed shot glasses!

Sip these Sweet Tea delicacies slowly and remember to always drink responsibly. Be sure to stay tuned, dahlin's!

Friday, June 12, 2009

"Necessity is the Mother of Invention"

First things first; Welcome, Y'all! I am so glad you found me here at "From Blushing Bride to Domestic Diva!" To give you a sneeky-peeky into what this blog will be able to offer you, let me first provide you with one of my favorite quotes, "Necessity is the Mother of Invention." I am inspired by my dearest friends and family who have all either taken the marital plunge or are walking down the aisle as we speak. These gals including my newlywed self need a place where we can learn and share lifestyle tips, including delish yet effortless recipes, inspiration for decoration, posh weekend (or weekday if you prefer) projects and find a hub for household knowledge. My solom wish is for this little blog is to become a place for all women to master our precious art of being a WOMAN!!! We are enchanting creatures, able to plan a fairy-tale wedding for 250 on a slender little budget, cook a rocking meal using only a can of garbanzo beans and left over hamburger meat, have the house looking like a southern living magazine for the bi-annual in-law visit and still manage to throw one hell of a dinner party all while maintaining our grace and charm in a killer pair of stilettos. Once again welcome to the world of blushing brides and domestic divas: where the women rule and all the men drool! Be sure to stay tuned, dahlin's!