Whimsy Cocktails: Bonfire Nights

If you read this blog at all then you know that bourbon is my go-to libation. I usually prefer it neat but when paired with ingredients that showcase its flavor well, then I am all about some bourbon cocktails! This concoction conjures up thoughts of chilly nights in the fall or winter, sitting fireside. It will warm you up quickly!

This may be one of my new favorites and it was so simple to create! The bourbon meshed well with the tang from the blood orange and the sweetness from the maple syrup. I am so excited to show you my creation for the Stirrings Cocktail Contest and I hope you enjoy!

Stirrings has so many flavor options you can use to create a unique cocktail and you can barely tell you are using a mixer.  Stirrings mixers are far smoother than the average cocktail mixer! I also love that they have multiple flavor options to rim your glass with. I chose the cosmopolitan flavor for this particular drink and added a little cinnamon to it to incorporate the season.

Bonfire Nights

2 to 3 oz of Stirrings Blood Orange Mixer
1 1/2 oz bourbon
1/2 tsp maple syrup
1 to 2 oz of Hard Cider
Stirrings Cosmopolitan Sugar 

 First get your glass. On a plate, pour a little maple syrup and run the edge of the glass through it. Then, slowly rim the top of the glass in the sugar, going in a circle to make sure the whole rim is covered in the sugar.  Fill with ice. 

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice combine the Stirrings mixer, the bourbon, and the maple syrup. Shake well and pour into your sugar rimmed glass.  Top with hard cider.  

A few notes to make this perfect. I recommend you use pure maple syrup, no 'knockoff' syrup will do;) You can adjust the amount of Stirrings mixer you want to your taste, I also would not use more than 1 or 2 oz of hard cider to top it off with, that will dilute the true taste of the drink.  

You can find Stirrings at Harris Teeter, Total Wines, and more! Follow them along on www.facebook.com/stirrings www.twitter.com/stirringsmixers, www.instagram.com/stirrings and discover some more drool-worthy recipes at www.pinterest.com/stirringsmixers 

**I was supplied with Stirrings Mixers and Sugars for this contest but all opinions are my own. 

Falling For KitchenAid Giveaway!

I am so excited to be participating in this amazing giveaway. My Kitchenaid changed everything for me in the kitchen, it makes baking so much simpler! Read below to find out how you can win this fabulous prize!


Falling for KitchenAid Giveaway

I am so excited to bring you this KitchenAid Giveaway! This event is a Blogger Sponsored Event which means the bloggers listed below have donated to cover the cost of this 5 qt Kitchenaid Artisan Stand Mixer!
Thanks to the following bloggers for helping to make this event possible:
One lucky reader will soon be mixing up all kinds of goodies with this Kitchenaid 5qt Artisan Stand Mixer! The winner will have a large selection of colors to choose from, so if you aren't into Persimmon you can choose your own color!


KitchenAid Tilt-Head 5 qt Artisan Stand Mixer

Product Features
• Tilt-head mixer style for clear access to the beater and bowl
• All-metal construction ensures long-life
• Direct drive transmission for durability
• Pouring shield minimizes ingredient splash-out and flour-puff
• 10-speed slide control ranges from a very fast whip to a very slow stir
• High-performance, 67 point planetary mixing action insures ingredients are thoroughly mixed without frequent scraping or rotating bowl
• 9-cup flour power
• 5-quart mixing bowl capacity with contoured bowl handle
• Multi-purpose attachment hub
• Assembled in the USA
• 1yr free of charge warranty

• Professional wire whip
• White flat beater
• ‘C’ dough hook kneads yeast dough for bread and pizza recipes
• Clear pouring shield with enlarged chute for easy addition of ingredients
• 5-quart stainless-steel bowl with contoured handle
• Instruction book and 26 full-color recipes

[View full product details here at Amazon]

Falling for KitchenAid Giveaway Details:

  • This giveaway closes November 14, 2016 at 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time.
  • Open WorldWide!
  • The prize will be available to US only. If the winner is from outside of the US they will be paid the cash value of the prize via PayPal.
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Enter on the Rafflecopter below:

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Disclaimer: This blog and any participating blogs did not receive compensation for the published material in this post. No purchase required to enter this giveaway and there is a limit of one entrant per household. Void where prohibited. Odds of winning are determined by the number of valid entries received. Winner will be chosen by Random.org and will be emailed via the email address used to enter the contest. New winner will be chosen if original winner has not responded within 48 hours of email notification. This blog and other participating bloggers are not responsible for shipment of prize. My Dairy-Free Gluten-Free Life is responsible for all shipping costs related to prize. This giveaway is not administered, sponsored, endorsed by, or associated with Facebook, Twitter, Google, Pinterest or other social media outlet. Disclaimer is posted in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 10 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Weekending At Duke

When people think of Duke University, basketball is what often comes to mind. To others, a top ten university or they link it with the hospital, which is a world-renowned academic medical center. I am not sure how many would actually consider it to be a destination of choice for a weekend getaway, as staying on a college campus is probably not the first idea that pops into people's mind when planning a respite. I am hoping to change that thought process.  Plus, If you are local to the area, these are all spots you can visit throughout the year. 

 If I am honest,  I am somewhat biased in my opinion of all things Duke. I've worked part time in athletics for fourteen years. My husband holds a master's degree from the Pratt School of Engineering. He has worked on the campus for the past thirteen years and there is the small detail of getting engaged at half court in Cameron. So yes, I have a connection to Duke and hold it in high esteem but lest you think I am simply trying to sway you...

You should probably know my allegiance is to The University of Virginia;) "Wahoowa"

With that said, let's start on why you should start thinking of a stay at Duke for you next weekend getaway,  staycation, or if you are a parent coming in to visit your kids who are students at Duke...there is a lot more to do on campus than just watch a game of hoops.

For our 13th anniversary, we were able to snag a room at the luxurious and award-winning Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club located right on campus and this year was voted the top college hotel.  The inn sits on 300 beautiful acres and the rooms are elegant and welcoming. The staff is top notch and goes above and beyond to ensure you have a lovely stay. Washington Duke Inn has received the prestigious AAA Four Diamond award for sixteen consecutive years and their restaurant, Fairview Dining Room is one of only two in the state of North Carolina that boasts AAA Four Diamond award. I cannot recommend a stay at this fabulous inn enough. 

For your trip, I am including multiple Duke sights and a few eateries that may not be on campus, but they are very close and delicious!

Possible Weekend Itinerary

4pm: Check In

Order libations at Bull Durham Bar. If the weather is still nice, slip onto the veranda and sip your cocktails with a view of the stunning golf course.


You can head down to 9th street. If you want a steak dinner; check out Metro 8 Steakhouse. It is an intimate Argentian steakhouse. I love their chimichurri steak but my favorite thing on their menu is their Proveleta. Grilled provolone topped with tomatoes, oil, and spices.

if you are looking for something a little more casual but without losing a thing on service or taste, hop across the street and check out Juju. This is one of my favorite restaurants in Durham. Amazing cocktails and entrees but you must save room for dessert because their chocolate mousse peanut cup is divine!

730 pm
Catch a production at the Duke University theater or if nothing is showing while you are on your visit, head over to Bright Leaf Square and walk around, perhaps stop into Satisfaction and grab a cocktail.

Sat morning

7 am
Golf on the grand course or if you are not a golfer, stroll around campus enjoying the gorgeous buildings. Or, if you are like me, find yourself watching some tv and being lackadaisical in the comfy beds.

10:30 am 
Start your day off in the Fairview Dining Room and enjoy their spectacular brunch. I am a lover of french toast and they serve up one of the best versions I have ever had the opportunity to indulge in: Challah Bread dredged in crushed cornflakes served with an SC peach compote and your choice of bacon or sausage. I am finding myself drooling just thinking about how scrumptious it was. I have it on authority ( just trust me;) that the eggs benedict (prosciutto, tomato, asparagus, and local goat cheese) will also have your mouth watering.

1:00 pm
Duke's Nasher Museum of Art 
The Museum is located on campus and houses more than 13,000 works of art. The collection contains more than 3,000 Pre-Columbian pieces.

3:00 pm
Monuts. Located on 9th street, Monuts is home to some of the most delectable donuts you will ever have the pleasure to eat. The donuts change every day but they usually offer around 8 varieties. This is the perfect afternoon snack and break before heading back to campus.

4 pm 
Sarah P Duke Gardens One of my favorite places on campus ( and actually one of my favorite in all of The Triangle) The flowers are so lovely and a visit to these enchanting gardens are a must. The gardens are approximately 55 acres and are divided into four areas. 

Dinner. Once you have stopped back at the hotel to freshen up, enjoy dinner in the Fairview Dining Room or pop back over to 9th St/Main St and have dinner at the delicious Parazide. Their food is excellent, but I am partial to their cocktails and dessert. 

 Relax back at the hotel or see if you can catch a movie at the Carolina Theater, completed in 1926. They may also have a theater production going on. We were lucky enough to catch Aziz Anzari doing stand up a few years ago.

930 am
On Central Campus, you can grab some chicken & waffles at Dames Express. They're almost famous;) Or, if the line is too busy, head over to Elmo's Diner off of 9th street, just be prepared for a wait at either place. 

noon: Check out of Washington Duke Inn

1 pm 
The Duke Lemur Center is a must. The DLC is an 85-acre sanctuary for Prosimian Primates and is the largest of its kind in the world. They offer daily tours and each tour lasts approximately an hour. The current colony consists of between 250-300 primates, representing 25 species. The tour is very informative although I do suggest that you purchase the bug repellent wipes they offer! This was a very neat experience and one I fully endorse checking out.

Head back over and meander your way around West Campus. Check out the newly renovated Wallace Wade Stadium where the football team plays before making your way to the famed Cameron Indoor Stadium. Take a few photos out front and walk around to Krzyzewskiville where the students tent before games.

Tour Duke Chapel or stay for one of their musical performances. This is one of the most impressive sites on campus and is the center of West Campus. The Chapel is in collegiate gothic style and stands 210 feet high. It was completed in 1935 and was restored last year before reopening in May. There are three pipe organs, one consisting of more than 5,000 pipes! 

There truly is so much to do and see on your visit to Duke!

Hawks Nest & New River Gorge, WV

This weekend I was able to head to the gorgeous area of Hawks Nest State Park and New River Gorge in "Wild and Wonderful" West Virginia. We left from Durham on Friday night and it was about a 5-hour drive. Jean had asked me to join her for a very meaningful and important task and I was quite honored to go.   Our drive was just gorgeous...or, I am sure it was but it was pitch black outside so we weren't able to tell until waking up Saturday;)

We had a little GPS snafu but after stopping for directions found the lodge located in the state park. We were slightly nervous we may be sharing a bed and as we got off the elevator and saw a men's room and a women's room, we readied for the mindset of shared bathrooms. Once Jean opened the door to our room she quipped "good news. Two beds and our own bathroom!!"

The lodge was built in the 70's and it shows but the rooms were nice and clean and the beds were super comfy. I noticed we had a balcony and wondered if we would have a great view. Once we woke up, I was not disappointed and was greeted with a majestic view of the gorge.

We got breakfast and whatever you do...skip the lodge restaurant. Blech isn't even a strong enough word.

After we checked out we realized that the tram to the bottom of the gorge and base of the river was actually located on the lower level of the lodge. Doesn't get any more convenient than that! It is $25 for both the tram ride and the half hour river boat tour. We really enjoyed both. We were able to see the train trestle and the dam/tunnel and then he took us back to the real highlight of the New River, the bridge. It is the 3rd largest single span bridge in the world and the 4th tallest in the US at 876 feet. The bridge is quite the show stopper and my pictures cannot truly do it justice.

After our river cruise ( which I definitely recommend, we went fast and saw amazing sites, plus Rick, the owner, and his wife were funny and one of my favorite parts of the weekend) we stopped at an overlook, which was splendid and awe inspiring. The most fun part was that across the street from the overlook was a covered shelter and they had a wedding reception set up. By far the nicest shelter I have ever seen, complete with a gorgeous fireplace.

After this, we headed towards the bridge to get a better view from the top. We then drove over the bridge to the adorable town of Fayetteville and this is where our food choices took an upswing and I was able to indulge in one of the better pizzas I have ever had. We stopped into Pies & Pints and what a delicious surprise. I got the white pizza with goat cheese and steak. Divine and Jean ordered the most unique pizza combo I have ever heard of: Grapes and Gorgonzola! She raved about it.

We then walked around Fayetteville a little bit, taking in the small town charm. We came upon a few more food options that looked scrumptious and were packed... so small town Fayetteville turned out to be a foodie paradise.

If you a planning a trip to this area, a stay at the lodge was fun. It was nothing fancy but the location was perfect and the beds were comfy. You will find more hotel options in a half hour radius. This area is known for kayaking, zip lining, and white water rafting. I can only imagine how gorgeous it is in the fall!

Strawberry Cheesecake Cannolis

I have mentioned before but when it comes to traditional cannolis, I am just not the biggest fan. Sweetened ricotta just isn't my thing. My last name is Baldassari so I realize this is a big no-no but I make mine with either cream cheese or mascarpone cheese and I just love them. Makes it seem more like a cheesecake stuffed cannoli and I am all for anything cheesecake style. If you wanted to stay with ricotta you could, just use more strawberries and a little vanilla and about 2 to 3 tbsp of sugar. 

I somewhat cheat on these as I buy my shells already made from the bakery next door but look, I know what my strengths are and making cannoli shells ain't it;) However, if you want to make this recipe from scratch, here is a fabulous recipe for cannoli shells and then you would just dip them in dark chocolate and let rest for about an hour or so. Cannoli Shells 

Now we will take this recipe from completed cannoli shells.

Strawberry Cheesecake Cannolis
12 large Cannoli shells or 24 mini shells
8 oz strawberry cream cheese
1/4 lb chopped strawberries
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

In a large bowl, whip the cream cheese until smooth, add in the strawberries and whip on low, just until combined. Add in the whipping cream and whip on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Place in ziplock bag or piping bag. Fill each cannoli, making sure to fill from both sides. 

You can enoy them now but I believe they taste much better after about an hour in the fridge. 

The Weekend We Almost Melted

This past weekend we went to Richmond to watch my nephew's baseball games and to visit Water Country USA. We stayed at an Aloft just outside of downtown and had a fabulous visit with good eats and good music, plus catching up with my family. Richmond and Williamsburg are two of my favorite spots so I most definitely recommend a trip to either place!

I will just take a moment to say that I still have not cooled off, 24 hours later. The temps were 96 degrees with a heat index of 110 and being outside in the direct sun all weekend was pretty miserable. Even being at the water park didn't help. It was so hot it that we were just pouring sweat! 

We made the most of our visit though and checked out the absolutely beautiful Lewis Ginter Botanical gardens in Henrico just outside of Richmond. This is one of the best botanical gardens in the country and aside from the oppressive heat, our visit didn't disappoint. The grounds are gorgeous and ,while I adored the impressive greenhouse with all the butterflies, my favorite was the tree house. The view through the skewed windows was fabulous and it offered a little shelter from the sun. If you are in Richmond I suggest a stop at this lovely spot! 

On Sunday we gout going early and drove the short hour to Williamsburg to check out Water Country USA. Our last visit there was about 4 years ago and ended with me having a kidney stone. It was also pouring rain. I was really pumped to get back and check it out in the sunshine. 

Note to self: Light rain never hurt anybody. Haha, it was almost miserable. We had a fabulous time and enjoyed the park but even the water rides couldn't stop it from feeling like we were sitting on the surface of the sun. We made it for about 2 and a half hours and then we caved and left!. 

Headed back to Richmond this weekend for a fun weekend at Kings Dominion so here is to hoping it stays below 90, fingers crossed!

Please Come To Boston

Last month we were able to take two quick, and back to back weekend trips up to Boston and we packed each one full of fun times. The first weekend we surprised my in-laws by flying up to help celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary with a view at Top of the Hub. It was a lovely dinner and the next weekend we popped up for a last minute bbq (this is what us Southerners refer to as a "cookout", it didn't qualify as a real "BBQ" ;) with Tony's family. We often miss out on so many of the gatherings up there and it was a treat to be able to see everyone and enjoy a good party!

Each trip was full of good eats, cocktails and, plenty of catching up. Tony was able to get lobster each weekend and I got to partake in some really good cider. We both came away happy. I also got to squeeze in a visit to one of my favorite blog friends, Kerry. We may have met through blogging, but we are full on real life friends as of now. 

One of my favorite parts of the weekend was taking the water taxi in from the airport to Boston. It is not that expensive, relatively fast, and the views can't be beat! If you are ever flying in and out of the city, I totally recommend this on at least one leg of your journey!

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from both weekends. Can't wait to get back up for another visit in the fall! 

The Harbor from the water Taxi

Dinner with the family and a view at Top of the Hub in Boston

That view though!

Lobstah Roll, Local Boston cider: DownEast, and Gouda & Sweet Potato Panini

What's Up Wednesday: July 2016

I can't remember the last time I linked up for "What's Up Wednesday" But here goes nothing!

This week I have been eating my strawberry cheesecake cannolis (recipe tomorrow;), my Italian Pork Roast, and my Poolside Manners Cocktail.

I am reminiscing about our trip to Jekyll Island this time a few years ago. We have visited a few times and each trip this small majestic island off the coast of Georgia captures another piece of my heart. It's been a few years since our last visit and am hoping to get back soon!

I am loving all of the new updates we have done to our house lately. We got new comforter sets/sheets/pillows for both our bedroom and the guest room. We also bought this gorgeous new couch that is actually a futon for our office and can't wait for it to arrive. Slow changes are happening but I am pumped.

We have actually stayed at home the past two weekends and done local stuff which is so unusual for us but so much fun. Outdoor movies, local festivals. Eating lots of yummy goodies, and prepping for our fall trips!

I am dreading this whole week of temps 95 + and almost 100% humidity. Do not get me wrong, I am a person who would always choose to be hot over cold, but these temps are just too much and rather brutal. Going outside takes your breath away!

I am working on a few pitches for a couple of article ideas I have. I am also working on photos with my friend Beth for my upcoming cocktail cookbook. EEEEEK I have 73 original recipes as of now. It is just about photographing them and choosing which ones for the book!

I am so excited about seeing the play Mary Poppins tonight! I saw it on Broadway a few years ago and can't wait to see it here in Raleigh. My bestie and I have season tickets and this is our finale show of the season.

I just finished Marcella on Netflix and it was absolutely amazing! I loved it. One of my all time favorite binge watches was The Fall (with Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan) and this kind of reminded me of that. I am about to start on Marco Polo. I just finished The Bookman's Tale which takes place between England and North Carolina and I adored it. Starting a new book this morning, haven't really decided which one yet. I read about 5-7 books a week and just decide as I go or when my holds become available through the library. ( this is the one plus to no kids, I just read every night before bed and can fly through books;)

I am wearing my new Tieks. I will probably write a blog post on these soon. I got the patent red leather ones and it is love! They were an anniversary present from my husband and absolutely everything I heard beforehand was true, So far they are definitely living up to the hype!

This weekend we have some of our best friends (and their littles) visiting us. We will be hitting up some museums and the (air conditioned) carousel at one of our local parks. Gonna eat lots of goodies and catch up.

Next month we are making up our recent lack of travel. The first weekend we head to Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach. Then I have a speaking engagement with NAMI. Next up, we head to Richmond and DC. The next weekend my mom and I are taking our annual trek to NYC for her birthday.  The last weekend a friend and I have a really special trip planned to the mountains of West Virginia and I will talk more about what that entails in the next few months.

I think my favorite thing about summer is Watermelon. Since I have eaten it for the last eight days for breakfast...

What all is new with you guys?

Linking up for What's Up Wednesday!

The Weekend That Was Hot As Hades

This past weekend was filled with festivals and completely overhauling our house. We took multiple trips to Goodwill, World Market, & Lowes. Our bedroom got a whole new look and I am totally in love with it. Our new comforter set...le sigh. It makes getting out of bed absolute torture but our sleep has stepped up its game.

On Friday, I spent the day with my friend Beth, preparing cocktails and yummy goodness so she could capture a few shots with her amazing photography skills. I am so elated and cannot wait to see the finished products. I have some exciting plans for those photos and The Whimsy One brand over the next few months. Stay tuned for details but it will be fun!

Friday night, Tony and I grabbed a bite to eat at a new restaurant and then headed to a movie at one of our favorite local theaters. We saw 'Our Kind of Traitor' which was fantastic and grabbed a cocktail before heading home.

Saturday there was a massive festival downtown to highlight the Dorthea Dix property that the city purchased last year. The goal was to have a festival to showcase the land and get people excited about the future of the park. No questions asked it was one of the most fun and easily one of the most efficiently run events put on by a city that I have ever attended.

The only problem was the little fact of it being almost a hundred degrees and about as humid as it could get. The fact of water misting stations can only help so much when it is that extreme outside. We still had a lovely time and I picked up quite a few goodies along the way.

Then my husband got picked for a tv interview. They wanted opinions about the festival and the future of the park. When it was over my husband was asked if he was a professional speaker or possibly works in radio or tv. This is something he gets asked all the time. It is just more so amusing when a person who legitimately does work in tv is the one doing the asking,

Sunday we were busy bees finishing up with the house and buying things for a few rooms and visiting Goodwill in between sweating bouts! This whole week is supposed to be in the upper 90's with high humidity. Hopefully, we don't melt;)

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