Monday, November 7, 2011

The Winter Park Concours d'Elegance Car Show

It  was a pleasant day for the 10th Annual Winter Park Concours d'Elegance until the rain threatened to put a damper on things, quite literally. Fortunately, it was short lived and the sun peeked out again to reveal another pleasant November day in Central Florida. In an impressive display of antique and modern cars, super cars and headturners on six blocks of the cobbled main drag Park Avenue, in downtown Winter Park.

For those of you interested in automobiles and the lifestyles associated with them, here is some eye candy for you. Have a great week!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

5 Ways to Glam Up Your Party On a Budget

It is very easy to glam up your soiree on a budget. Here are a few tips on throwing a fancy party on a budget:

Light it up. For evening affairs, it is amazing what the right lighting can do. Candles provide a great glow that makes everything look more elegant and more beautiful – including people! (Your guests will thank you for that). Arrange them in clusters or individually, take advantage of mirrors that may amplify the effect, and create extra drama by arranging them at different heights. Alternatively (or together with the candles), if you have dimmers on your lights, turn them down till you get just the right level.

Find your green thumb. Well, you don’t really need a green thumb for this, but adding flowers can add some elegance to any event. There is no need to go overboard on this - you can arrange a bunch of long stem roses in a prominent place where the light picks it up, or in front of a mirror. You can also have single stems in bud vases spread out on tables in the room. For dinner, a great idea is to cut the stems short and arrange them very tightly in short vase – square or rectangular work well, but a round one works just as well. The idea is to have them arranged tightly.

Keep it Simple. With your candles, flowers, crisp linen, and stylish stemware, you can create an elegant look very inexpensively. Your guests will notice the ambience, not the price tag. When shopping for décor elements, choose one theme and run with it. Discount stores, thrift stores and party supply stores are a good resource for finding inexpensive decorations, but you will be surprised at how much you already have in your garage or other storage. Look for what useable things you have first, and remember that you can be innovative in your ‘adaptive reuse’ of what you have. Beware of mixing kitschy and cheesy with elegant! Go for fewer items that will make the most impact.

Presentation, presentation. This is one of my favorite tips. No one has to know the food and drink is cheap – glam it up and make it pop! I serve water out of my filter, but in an elegant pitcher with some ice and slices of lemon, or cucumber, or sprigs of rosemary…you get the drift. People eat with their eyes first, so use beautiful platters and garnish the food to make it interesting. When it comes to platter and plates, I am partial to stark white plates with unique architectural details. Decanters always look great on any table and add something extra to inexpensive wine – except for the taste…

Use a time machine. Talking about wine – a not-exactly-inexpensive way to improve the taste of wine is The Perfect Sommelier ($40,, which transforms a wine’s molecules to help it age and mature in about 30 minutes. This will help save you some money down the line. A great investment, if you ask me.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Trusting the Goodness - 40 Things I've Learnt in 40 Years

Trusting and letting go and being assured that you will be ok in the end is a tough thing to do - especially when it comes to major decisions in your life. For people who like to have things planned, organized and controlled, this is a particularly big one.

My life has been in a state of flux the last few months regarding the next stage of my life. Lots of decisions to be made, and not enough information to make the decisions; so many things to do and not enough hours in the day to do them, while the clock ticks inexorably to the deadline in a few days...

For a while, I was stressed out about not having enough information to make decisions I needed to. This stress began to manifest itself psychosomatically, which is not a cool thing. But I went to bed one day resolved to feel better the next morning. I had to do one of my "attitude adjustments". In the process, it came to me that I had been in this position many times in my life and things always worked out somehow.  Besides, what else could I do? There was no point worrying over elements I could not control. I had to center myself, reaching deep inside to the lesson I have learnt many times: things will be ok.

I once heard somewhere that if you can't solve it, it isn't a problem - it's reality. It brings to mind the Serenity Prayer and a quote my friend posted on Facebook: "Sometimes we need to stop planning the future, stop trying to figure out precisly how we feel, stop deciding with our mind what we want our heart to feel. Sometimes we just have to live in the flow". Living in the flow of life is a wonderful way to live, but takes conscious effort on our part to keep us on track, as I had to learn once again. Not living in the flow of life is like trying to swim against the current, cutting against the grain. But living in the flow of life requires a great deal of trust; a complete faith in the process; an unquestioned belief that things will work out just the way they are meant to be - and however that works out...IS OK. And like I have said in several previous posts, no situation is intrinsically good or bad - it is the interpretation we put on them that make them good or bad for us.

We are conditioned to believe that we need to make things happen in our life and we want instant results. And as a person who believes in being the author of my life, I am constantly creating the story that is my life. But I also do know that sometimes I need to surrender. The secret and the reality, however, is that by surrendering, we do not abdicate authorship of our life; we do not relinquish control. Surrender requires a LOT more strength than trying to control things that we have no control over. Surrender is not a giving up, but a giving in - giving in to the goodness that is ours for the taking. Surrender is a conscious decision to make room for goodness in our life and all we are really doing is stepping out of our own way.

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next.  Delicious Ambiguity.” ― Gilda Radner

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs - Connecting The Dots

When I read a little while ago that Steve Jobs had died, I couldn't help feeling a certain deep sadness. I read this on Facebook, of course, on my MacBook Pro, before my CNN update showed up on my iPhone. Just so you know, I've been holding out on the iPad and turn green with envy when I see people with iPads. But I digress.... I was crushed, and astonished at my reaction. I immediately had to double check my news feeds to make sure it wasn't one of those false rumors that spread like wildfire on social networks. Alas, it was true. My sadness deepened. Bewildered by my reaction, I promptly called my BFF to share the news.

I'll probably never know what precipitated my bizarre emotional response as I did not know the man from Adam and had no connection with him. Oh, but I did. I had come back from the gym where I was listening to music on my iPhone, loaded with almost 6000 songs through iTunes, was working on my MacBook Pro, and called on my iPhone....

Steve Jobs was a visionary who was able to take the world on journey of his own before the world knew they wanted to go on that journey. He led the creation of products before there was a market for them and created the market for others to come rushing in. He had an uncanny knack for knowing what the consumer wanted before the consumer even knew they could want that. He literally made the world 'think different'. 10 Ways Steve Jobs Changed The World

The Apple II set the stage for a revolution in personal computers. The iPod and iTunes turned a long-established business model on its head and changed the entertainment industry in ways that the industry is still trying to come to terms with. That is arguably one of Jobs' most far-reaching revolutions. The iPhone transformed the cellular phone industry, creating a new use for cellular phones and bringing major corporations to their knees. Steve Jobs' more recent midas touch resuscitated a dead tablet market with the iPad and left the consumer-electronics giants in an ongoing arms race for tablets. Although many people were disappointed with the launch of the iPhone 4S, it was probably smart to keep the iPhone 5 for mainstream 4G technology (sometimes, Apple has to wait for the world to catch up). It is speculated that Jobs had a 10-15 year rollout plan for future Apple products.

But Steve Jobs was also a showman with a certain personal charisma, and a trademark style of presenting. The iPhone 4S might probably have been better received if he introduced it and the stocks might not have plummeted the way they did. But that is mere conjecture on my part. His Stanford commencement address in 2005 "How To Live Before You Die" is even more poignant now, especially with his candid thoughts on death and living life. "You can't connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something...". My father had a very interesting way of putting it: "Everyone has to believe in something...I believe I'll have another beer!" That was on his favorite t-shirt...

So, I understand how Steve Jobs changed my life and the world. Whether you use an Apple product or not, everyone's life has been affect in some way by Steve Jobs' vision and revolution. People like him come along quite rarely. But while his loss is mourned, we all are better for his life and, as a result, think different.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Life is Hard...And Then You Die - 40 Things I've Learnt in 40 Years

Life is hard. And then you die. The title of this post may sound rather pessimistic, but it's not. Perhaps it got your attention.  (And for the technical nit pickers: forgive my use of 'hard' instead of 'difficult' in this post - it just sounds better here!)

It's often said that the two things that are certain in life are death and taxes - let me add a third: tough times. Everyone goes through some tough times regardless of one's station in life, financial stability, or optimism. I know I've had my share of them. It is very easy in life to get frustrated because sometimes things don't work out as we expect.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stock Your Bar: Everything You Need To Know About Liquor

I'm not sure if it's because I took some mixology classes, but there's something about having a nicely-stocked bar at home that appeals to me. But with so many kinds of alcohol available and so many brands to choose from, stocking a bar can be a daunting task for many. Here are some tips to help you stock your bar at home with an adequate variety of liquor for when you have guests.

The first thing to know is that you don't need to have every kind of liquor to have a decently stocked bar. Probably the four most popular liquors are vodka, gin, light rum and tequila. Others you can get will include brandy and whiskey. Most common drinks can be made with these.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Caprese Salad Skewers

Photo credit:
I love the Insalata Caprese, and for a recent party I had, I made a variation of that - Caprese Salad Skewers. The Insalata Caprese is a simple salad made with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil, usually drizzled with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. I first had it while on vacation in the French Riviera and for one who was not a big fan of tomatoes, I was hooked! It's great for summer because the ingredients are in season and also because it is light, simple and tasty.