Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Cool-You-Off Cocktails

It's the first official week of summer, and although cocktails are always in season, I've collected some recipes that I think make great warm-weather treats!

1. Watermelon Bellini
Recipe and photo via Southern Living 

1 lime
2 to 3 Tbsp. coarse sugar
3 cups frozen seedless watermelon
1 cup sparkling wine, chilled
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
Additional sparkling wine
Garnish: watermelon wedges
Cut lime in half. Cut 1 half into wedges, and rub on rims of 8 (6-oz.) cocktail glasses; dip rims in coarse sugar to coat. Process frozen watermelon, 1 cup chilled sparkling wine, sugar, salt, and juice from remaining lime half in a blender until smooth. Pour mixture into prepared glasses; top off with additional sparkling wine. Garnish, if desired. Serve immediately.
2. Rosé Cucumber Cooler
  • Rose Cucumber Cooler
  • Recipe and photo via Better Homes and Gardens
    1 750 milliliter bottle rose wine
    1 cup St. Germain elderflower liqueur
    1/2 cup lemon juice
    Thin lemon slices
    English cucumber slices
    Ice cubes
    In a large pitcher combine rose wine, St. Germain, lemon juice, lemon and cucumber slices. Serve over ice.
3. Pink Fizz
Recipe and photo via

3 tsp. simple syrup
12 fresh mint leaves
3 ounces fresh lime juice
Crushed ice
8 ounces vodka
Cranberry juice 
Champagne or sparkling wine
Muddle syrup, mint and lime together in a shaker. Add ice, vodka, 1/8 cup cranberry juice and shake well. Pour mixture into four champagne glasses, evenly and top off with champagne or wine. Garnish with mint.

4. Strawberry-Basil Rosé Sangria
Photo and recipe via O Magazine/

1/2 cup limoncello
1 cup strawberries, sliced
12 basil leaves
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 1 lemon, thinly sliced, for garnish
1/4 cup lemonade
2 bottles rosé
Active time: 10 minutes
Total time: At least 2 hours
In a large pitcher or punch bowl, stir together all ingredients except wine and lemon slices. Refrigerate 2 hours or as long as overnight. When ready to serve, stir in the wine. Pour into ice-filled glasses, garnish with lemon slices, and serve.

5. The St. Germain Cocktail
The St. Germain Cocktail I had at Parc in Philadelphia.
2 parts Brut Champagne or dry sparkling wine
1 1/2 parts St. Germain
2 parts club soda
Fill a tall Collins glass with ice. Add Champagne first then St. Germain, then club soda. Stir completely and garnish with a lemon twist.
*A Note about St. Germain: It's a French liquer flavored with elderflowers that debuted in 2007. Since then it's become quite popular, so you've probably seen it in cocktails on many drink menus. It's award-winning and fantastic, so if you haven't tried it, I highly recommend!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Birchbox Review: May

Here's a look back at my May Birchbox:

1. PIXI Beauty Shea Butter Lip Balm -- Love this! It has a wonderful cocoa butter-like scent, which is fantastic. It goes on just like lip balm, not like lipstick or gloss, which I really like for everyday wear. The tint is definitely noticeable. I got the Pixi Pink shade, which is not exactly the right color for me, but it works well enough. Plus, the pink, mint green and gold packaging design is quite adorable. 

2. CoTZ Face Natural Skin Tone SPF 40 -- This works well for sunscreen purposes but don't expect much out of the tint; it wasn't noticeable to me at all. It has a nice matte finish, but doesn't really set it self apart from other similar products I've tried. 

3. clariSEA Instant Glow Powder Exfoliant - I don't know how Birchbox does this time after time. They send some products that I think I absolutely hate but end up liking in some way. This is one of those products. It's almost like loose salt, so it's a little hard to use and can get messy. The directions say you can either mix it with water or with a cleanser; I prefer the latter. I think the worst part is, because this is made of sea salt, if a little gets in your mouth, it tastes really salty.  You might be thinking, "I've never gotten face cleanser in my mouth." Yeah, that's what I thought until I used this; you would be surprised. Now the to the good part: This exfoliates really, really well! I love the results, just not the process. But be warned it's a little harsh, so if your skin is easily irritated, this might not be the best exfoliator for you.

4. Number 4™ Volumizing Shampoo  & Number 4™ Volumizing Condition -- Number 4 is a company after my own heart with a shampoo label that reads, in part, "Fleurs de Temps is all about big hair darling, big hair...creating enhanced hair lift and a perplexed Texan decadence." And I will say on the days I have used this, I did have bouncy Texas big hair! It has a somewhat strong floral scent, but I like it. It works really well, but at $34 for the shampoo and $36 for the conditioner, it's a little too pricey for me. 

5. Votivo Candle Travel Tin in Azure Garden - This is not my favorite scent because it's a little too floral for me, but I don't dislike it. I bet the Pink Mimosa and Red Currant smell fantastic!

My June Birchbox:

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Best in Bronzing

This is my favorite bronzing makeup by far, and I've tried many! I use the Goddess shade, which is listed as Medium on the VS website. It's not too orange or too shimmery; it looks natural and blends in well. Overall it's just fantastic and at $16, it's a pretty good bargain.

It's an oldie but goodie. There's a reason this has been around for years, and there's a reason I've been using it pretty much every day since it came out. I've tried a few other brands, including copycat store brands, and I just think this is the best in its category. I like that it's not sticky or streaky and acts just like a regular moisturizer. They apparently reformulated the scent, but I think I'm immune to it by now, so I don't notice a huge difference. I use the "medium to tan firming." I really doubt it does much for my cellulite, but I guess it can't hurt! 

This really does make you look TAN! It's the best tan I've ever gotten from a bottle. After just a use or two, you get pretty deep color compared to other self tanners. It is a little shimmery, so beware if you don't like any shimmer. I use the leg gel on my entire body. I've tried the "body" version and it just doesn't work as well. The drawback is that it's $40.

This is a little different than other self tanners I've used. Max's mom introduced me to it, and I like it even though it might not be my all-time favorite. It smells chocolate-y, which is great. And it's definitely a nice brown color instead of orange; it's not shimmery. I like that it has SPF, but I think that's what makes it a little on the greasy side. That's the biggest drawback. Another negative is that I've only seen in online, not in stores. But the best part about it is after just one application your really do see a tan and not one that rinses off when you take a shower.

This is my newest find and I'm really liking it! At about $7, it's a great value. It doesn't really give you "deep dark color" as it says on the bottle, but I definitely notice a nice, brown tan. It's not shimmery, orange, streaky or sticky. It's as easy to apply as regular lotion, and it has a pleasant smell. I applied it two days in a row earlier in the week, and I still have a nice tan. 

There are several self-tanning products I still want to try, including some from St. Tropez and Clarins. I would love to hear your favorites!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Art of Writing

Between writing scripts for the newscasts, my freelance work and this blog, I spend a lot of time writing. I spend even more time reading other people's writing, mostly news, but also magazines and when I have more free time (what's that?), books.

I write in the shower, while I'm driving, even while I'm running, not physically of course, but in my head, I'm often drafting something. If I get inspired, I start to craft the words, even if I don't have anywhere to write them down at the time. In this way I've started to see writing as an art. I'm far from the Picasso of the written word, but in the way that it comes from a creative and expressive place, I see the artistic quality of writing.

Like tone-deaf singing and dancing with two left feet, there is flat-out bad writing. But in the way you might prefer impressionism to cubism, ballet to jazz, and Mozart to Beethoven, writing can be subjective to the reader, i.e. many who love Dickens may not love Kurt Vonnegut.

Personally I like to read writing that is witty, but not forced humor, smart, but not pretentious, and most importantly, easy to understand. I have no desire to re-read a paragraph three times just because the writer was trying to sound intelligent. I love writing that almost makes you forget you're reading.

The problem is, it seems writing has become a lost art for many. We're so used to condensing our thoughts into 140-character tweets and quick smartphone emails that we may discount the importance of correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, much less creativity. Having been through a rigorous grammar boot camp of sorts at the Medill School of Journalism, it's almost impossible for me not to think about these things. But apparently it's not being taught everywhere, because I have been shocked by some of the writing I've seen in newsrooms where I've worked.

I may have been born in the wrong generation; I prefer real newspapers and books the electronic versions. So call me old-fashioned, but I will always be a champion for quality writing. And future reporters beware, if your error-riddled script ends up in a show I'm anchoring, I'll likely take to it with the proverbial red pen!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mommy bloggers, you are scaring the heck out of me!

For about as long as I've wanted to be a journalist, I've also wanted to be a mother -- when you're five you don't have to worry about that whole work/life balance thing.

As a young child my toy of choice was baby dolls. I had more Cabbage Patch Kids than I can count, and I would make my mom take me to the real baby section at Toys"R"Us to buy real diapers, a real diaper bag and a real baby carrier. I brought this stuff everywhere, sometimes even to the airport. Yes, I went through security screening with a stroller. Apparently my parents were very patient and tolerant with me being a weirdo.

For many years my only orientation to motherhood was my own mother. Throughout the years, she worked as as nurse, instructor of college nursing and diabetes educator, got her master's degree, took me and my sister to school, packed our lunches, did our hair, drove us to swim practice, gymnastics, diving practice, water polo and dance class, volunteered at school and through our swim and Odyssey of the Mind teams, cleaned, did laundry, helped us with homework, stayed in shape by playing tennis with girlfriends, and never fell into those mom cliches of unstyled hair and unstylish jeans. She did all of this while my dad traveled extensively for work, and she seemed pretty sane. No, actually she seemed completely sane. I'm sure there were times she was extremely mad at us, but most of the time she pretty much thought my sister and I were the greatest beings who ever walked the face of the earth. And I thought the same of her.

Because of my mom, I always thought motherhood was doable, manageable and maybe not easy, but enjoyable. That was until some people started posting the horrors of child rearing on Facebook, Twitter and "mommy blogs." Suddenly my thoughts about having children changed from excitement to sheer terror. I asked my mom, (who, by the way, would have never had a "mommy blog" even if such a thing existed in the 80s and early 90s) and she has tried to assure me that raising children is not as bad as it may sound through these social media posts. She did point out she was lucky my sister and I liked to sleep- some things never change ;)

I've started to rationalize that maybe these parenting horror stories sound so awful because they are written from the trenches, in the heat of the moment.  A sleepless night with a colicky baby probably feels a lot worse at 6 a.m. than it does five years later.

I'm in no way attempting to compare trying times in my life to parenting, but I know if I had taken to social media or written a blog post right in the middle of those rough moments, it would not have been pretty. Sure it would have been real, raw, and all that good stuff people love these days, but it would have lacked perspective of the bigger picture. Such as:

-The day I was doing sweat-drenched live shots in 104 degree heat...from the site of a plane that crashed into a cow...after eight hours or reporting in the sun...with no shade and no food. Just one of many grueling days during my first on-air job in television news with a demanding boss, a very low salary and plenty of newsroom drama that made me question my career choice.

-The day I found out I had melanoma just after a particularly rough exchange with said boss.

-Cluelessly potty training an OUT-OF-CONTROL puppy, which involved simultaneously scrubbing dog diarrhea out of the carpet, while getting bit by a teething terrier and having my apartment nearly destroyed.

-At mile 10 of my last half marathon in which I literally said to myself, "There is nothing positive about this." (Yes, I know, one should never say such a negative thing while running a race.)

But of course, there was something, actually a lot of somethings, positive about that half marathon, a really tough TV job, a now 100 percent potty trained, better-behaved dog and even cancer. I have to imagine that's how parents feel about having children: The days may be rough, but looking back, the years are truly amazing. At least that's what I'm going to tell myself so that one day I'll actually take the plunge and have kids. And when I do, I promise to spare you the gory details.