Category Archives: Seal of Approval

Stuffy Noses and a Happy Surprise

During our Question Mark WOW (Word of the Week) last week I asked the universe for happy surprises – and boy did I get one when I least expected it (which is the true definition of a surprise, isn’t it?)

The un-happy surprise was the stuffy nose that led me to the doctor, that led me to the CVS to pick up antibiotics – the ONLY reason I would have left the house this past week.

Since I was out, I remembered dry cleaning needed to be picked up, so on my way home, I headed to my favorite local dry cleaner.  Bob in Gulf Gate has inspirational signs all over the place and is so kind he makes me feel like I’m doing something far more interesting than errands.

As I headed back to the car, I looked across the street and saw this sign: “These Quiet Sounds”…

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Totally intriguing.

I felt like @#$%^ but couldn’t resist.  (Sometimes that little tug on the inside needs to be followed!)

Inside, such great clothes!  And a handsome young man, who turns out to be a designer of some of the very cool prints and T-shirts carried in the store:

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Fabian Manzano was just so nice, creative, warm…and now here comes the surprise:

HE’S A YOU TUBE SENSATION.

His band, Boyce Avenue, has over 8-MILLION (yes, million) You Tube subscribers and they play sold out concerts around the WORLD.

What rock have I been hiding under?

They started out (it’s three brothers), recording covers of popular songs, which went viral – and that opened the door for their original music to be heard.

And the music is SOOOOOOOOOOO good.  I hope to do a full fledged interview with Fabian in the near future, but in the meantime, I encourage all of my Sarasota friends to visit his very cool store in Gulf Gate.  (And next visit I hope to meet his wife, who is pregnant with their first child!  Doesn’t it give you all the feels?  It did me.)

And my happy surprise would NEVER have happened if not for my un-happy one.  Go figure!

Here are my final thoughts (stuffy nose and all) on last week’s WOW as well as the new one!

So in the spirit of HARMONY, I leave you with one of my favorite original songs by Boyce Avenue (Fabian in playing guitar in the background).  You will love it – it’s well worth the click (and will give you goosies):

Have a beautiful, harmonious week, everyone!

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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A Good Soundtrack = A Happy Office

I am music lover, and you can’t pin me down to one genre.  I’m “All About That Bass” one minute and “The Lady is a Tramp” the next.

On karaoke nights, “It’s Not Unusual” to find me belting out Tom Jones followed up by my best Cher impression.  If it is an especially good night, Duane will accompany me as Sonny.

On this tour of my office, you’ve seen all my little inspirations and memories – but what’s the soundtrack?

On Friday afternoons when it’s close to quitting time, I switch Pandora to either “Stevie Wonder Radio” or “Bruno Mars.”  It’s the perfect “get my weekend groove on” music.

But when I am seriously attached to the computer screen and immersed in productivity mode, I go back to the islands…Maui, to be exact.

Several years ago my friend Anita and I took the trip of a lifetime to Maui, and one of our favorite excursions (after I recovered from the helicopter ride and zip-lining) was to the Saturday morning flea market.  This was no small event; it was ACRES of cool stuff, from potions to art, food to…wait…what’s that sound???

My ears perked up as I heard the most magical chords; it felt like heaven touched down and decided to mingle with us mere humans. 

Just like in the Pied Piper tale, I couldn’t help but follow the sound and it led to just one man, standing behind a table, playing his CDs.  He had this very chilled out demeanor, and angelic aura and a very unassuming manner as he whipped out his iPad and sold disc after disc.  I bought three:

Nadama CDs

I thought he was a local who was completely unaware of his amazing gift (and in sore need of a marketing guru to put him on the map.)

He is known simply as Nadama, and you need to hear him for yourself.

Turns out he’s doing just fine without a media mogul’s involvement.  I arrived home and turned on Pandora Spa…and there he was.

So, my FLUFFIs, if you need some chill background music or a soundtrack to accompany your meditation, enjoy some simply beautiful Nadama and bring a little Maui to your office.

What music helps you work – or prepares you for the weekend?

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FLUFFI LOVE: The Shoe Always Fits

My love affair with shoes began WAY back.

I was a chubby little fluff (100 pounds in kindergarten) and had to have my clothes made for me. My mom grew adept at creating tent, A-line dresses in every color and pattern…and I even had to have shoes specially made for my extra wide feet.

Yep, that's me rocking the A-line dress.  Because specialty shoes for chubby feet were so expensive, you can see that I didn't have a matching pair.  Boo!
Yep, that’s me rocking the A-line dress. Because specialty shoes for chubby feet were so expensive, you can see that I didn’t have a matching pair. Boo!

When the cruelty of the other kids on the playground became unbearable, my mom took me to the pediatrician who placed me on a 1,000 calorie a day diet. At snack time when the other kids were unscrewing their Oreos, I was eating unsalted crackers…but in the summer between kindergarten and 1st grade, I was so transformed no one even recognized me. (I have to admit it was pretty cool to show up that first day in my new clothes that HADN’T been made for me.)

If you have every struggled with your weight like me, you understand the need for a large closet to house  several sizes of skinny, medium and fat clothes.

But something I LOVE about my adult years is that no matter how wide (or narrow) my hips, my shoes always fit.

Do you have that special pair in your closet that evokes a happy memory?

I posed that question on our FLUFFI Facebook page a few weeks back and wanted to share a few of the responses, including my own about my magic wedding shoes.

They called to me from a pedestal at Neiman Marcus.  I visited them every week until I finally took the leap...
They called to me from a pedestal at Neiman Marcus. I visited them every week until I finally took the leap…

Not too high of a heel to hinder dancing the Tarantella; not white to look so bridal I’d never be able to wear them again – these babies added to my wedding day smile.  I kept wanting to take them off and show people, “Look!  I’m wearing Badgely Mischka’s!!!”  Truth be told, I couldn’t afford them, but a friend (who was tiring of me talking about them) had this off-the-wall advice (which I do not recommend for future purchases):  “If they approve your credit card application, it’s God’s way of saying you should buy them.”

Who knew God was a shoe-lover too?  It was several months before they were paid off, but every time I look at them I remember my wedding day vividly – from my tiara to my toes.

My fabulous Aunt Joan Shaw learned how to text me a photo just to participate in this article.  Now THESE are also swoon-worthy shoes:

 

These are ageless in their gorgeousness.  I'd steal them from her closet today (but I bet she'd fight me for them.)
These are ageless in their gorgeousness. I’d steal them from her closet today (but I bet she’d fight me for them.)

Here’s her story:

“I believe it was around the time for my 40th class reunion and I saw an outfit in the Talk of the Walk shop at Trop that I knew would be perfect but I just could not afford their prices. I also knew I just had to have it so I started to save and save and save. The outfit stayed in their window and I finally got the  nerve to ask the price.—–$400 (on sale). I never in my life owned anything that expensive, but I finally was able to take that gorgeous outfit home as mine. It was a toast color 3-piece outfit – long skirt, shell, and jacket – and made from all kinds of material – burlap, crochet, knit, lace, etc. in sort of a patchwork effect.

I also had seen a pair of shoes at the mall that I thought would go great with the outfit, but they were too expensive also. But—the Lord works in mysterious ways —the shoes came down in price also -$100!!!  (Editor’s Note:  Interesting how my Aunt Joan and I both called upon the powers on High to grant us our shoes.  Hmmmm….)

Never in my life did I think I would ever wear such a pair of shoes. They were the most gorgeous I had ever seen and I had fallen madly in love with them from the git-go.

They were cream-colored buttery soft suede stiletto heels—the heels were the highlight of the shoe. They were tiny, square, gold metal heels. The front of the shoe was a small criss-cross pattern of the suede across the instep.

Needless to say, I felt like a million bucks going to my reunion and I only wore that outfit one more time, to my daughter Kim’s girlfriend’s wedding. The dress still hangs in a bag in my closet and the shoes are still in the original box somewhere in the back of my closet -probably never to be worn again. But oh, what memories those shoes have for me.

I really felt like what my mother used to say, “You look like Mrs. Rich-Bitch!” 

I guess I’ll hang on to those shoes for posterity – or ’til they no longer bring fond memories back.  P.S. I also had jewelry to match it all and a cream-colored leather clutch. Lots of compliments each time I wore that outfit but most about the shoes – they were so different. Never saw any like them.”

Aunt Joan, I bet you were SMOKING HOT in that outfit – and those shoes, “Ahhhhhhh….I am in love, too.”

For our final SHOE LOVE story of the day, my sister Shirlee shared this:

“I’m attaching a picture of my favorite shoes.  I have yet to wear them.  I bought them a year ago because they perfectly match my favorite gown which hasn’t been worn since John and Libby Innamorato’s wedding, 15-plus years ago. The gown is simple and elegant; a shimmering taupey-champagne color. The back features a dramatic satin drape that falls low, and a slit that goes up to the knees.

After that wedding, I gained weight, making it tight in the hips and highlighting my stomach, which protruded as if I were 7 and a half months pregnant.

But I could not let go of the hope that one day it might fit me again because I feel like Jackie Onassis when I wear it.

I originally wore it with silver shoes –  long gone – worn out and out of style.

So for 15 years it hung in the following closets:  6 Fairway Drive, 4 Fairway Drive, 216 N. 36th Ave., then finally to 306 N. Ventnor Avenue.  All alone, without a matching pair of shoes.

Sometime between 216 North 36th and 306 North Ventnor  I began a running routine using an app on my phone.  Thank you, C25K –  the gown fits once again! I found these perfect shoes around that same time.   They look as though they were made from the same cloth as the dramatic satin drape.

 

Jackie O's got NOTHIN on you, sis.  This outfit is so hot I'm having a flash!
Jackie O’s got NOTHIN on you, sis. This outfit is so hot I’m having a flash!

Now I’m just waiting for the perfect party/event invitation.   In the meantime, I’m still running.   When the opportunity presents itself, I’ll be ready for it.”

This just makes me want to throw a party for all the FLUFFIs around the world so we can wear our favorite shoes.  I promise you – this is on my dream list (and you know what happens when I do THAT.) 

FLUFFIs, has this little post reminded YOU of a pair of shoes that make you swoon?  Inbox me and tell me your story.  I’d love to do a sequel to this one, starring YOU.

 

 

 

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FLUFFI Love Seal of Approval: Posh in Venice

My love of wandering has been well documented, and this time my travels led me to Venice, Florida – a 20 minute drive south from my new home base.  A work assignment completed, I felt it was my duty to support the local economy and finally check out the downtown shopping district.  While the area itself is worthy of a post, one shop in particular presented such a visual feast I had to stop and snap away.  As a result, FLUFFI now has a mascot:

Isn't she cute?  It would be obvious to name her FLUFFI, but I am open to suggestions.
Isn’t she cute? It would be obvious to name her FLUFFI, but I am open to suggestions.

This little chick has great taste, because she has chosen to live in a store called POSH. 

And it is POSH and plush, and beachy and fun (and, as always, FLUFFI is in no way compensated for her praise.  It's just FLUFFI love!)
And it is POSH and plush, and beachy and fun (and, as always, FLUFFI is in no way compensated for her praise. It’s just FLUFFI love!)

When a store has layers and depths of treats that one walk-through can’t absorb – and when the lavish bounty doesn’t feel cluttered or messy, it’s an art form.  POSH has nailed the balance, and with Michael Buble providing the soundtrack, I was in a FLUFFI frenzy of shopper’s glee.

Santa's elves couldn't have created a more magical tree.
Santa’s elves couldn’t have created a more magical tree.
Don't you just want to cozy up on this couch and hug that pillow?
Don’t you just want to cozy up on this couch and hug that pillow?
Brother of my little chickie, this owl captured my attention, too (but didn't come home with me.)  I felt a little guilty about that.
Brother of my little chickie, this owl captured my attention, too (but didn’t come home with me.)  I felt a teeny bit guilty about that.

To put this in context, we have departed the little purple place at the beach and are back at the condo.  The flood has miraculously given us the leeway to terminate our lease here early…and wouldn’t you know that the DREAM house I had my heart set on when we planned our move to Sarasota (and was sold just 4 days before we came down to look at houses) is suddenly a possibility once again.  (The buyers made the purchase sight unseen and have decided it is too small for them – after making ALL of the improvements I would have wanted in the last few months.)

To me, it’s all too miraculous a series of events to end up NOT being our house. 

Except for the fact that we made an offer.  And they turned it down, countering far more than our budget.

So it has become important for me to stay focused on dreams and inspiration and beautiful things – like what I saw at POSH – because while I am physically living at our little condo, I want to LIVE and enjoy the vision of where I want to be.  And how I want to decorate!

Going back to the analogy that life is a bountiful menu, I want to enjoy that juicy, pink-in-the-center prime rib I ordered long before it actually shows up on my plate.  And I am thoroughly enjoying imagining all of you coming to visit me at my new house and taking a dip in my tropical pool.

I told the lovely lady as I paid for my purchases, "I will be back to furnish my new house!"  It felt good to make such a bold, brazen statement.  (I also gave her a FLUFFI card and told her it would be bigger than Oprah someday.  Aren't I a bad ass?)
I told the lovely lady as I paid for my purchases, “I will be back to furnish my new house!” It felt good to make such a bold, brazen statement. (I also gave her a FLUFFI card and told her it would be bigger than Oprah someday. Aren’t I a bad ass?)

There is a little voice that responds when I make bold, big-thinking pronouncements:  “Who do you think you are?”

And I am learning to squash it.  I am me!  I (and you, and we) are fearfully and wonderfully made, and the world is our oyster.  Why settle for anything less than a beautiful life?

What would you like to create in your life that a few brazen statements could jolt into action?  Treat it like a game, and you will be surprised at the blessings that reveal themselves…

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FLUFFI Love: Flavio’s in Siesta Key

When I was just a little fluff, I fell in love with whole concept of “going out to dinner.” (My love for food began at birth, but that’s another whole post.)  That’s because back in the 60’s, a restaurant visit – even to McDonald’s – was a rare treat.  (Shout out to Mom, who had a home-cooked meal on the table every night with a strict rule of no dessert without first eating your vegetables.  Does anyone else recall counting out 7 string beans and choking them down bravely to get to the chocolate pudding?)

My early restaurant memories were of Bob’s Big Boy after church on Sunday.  (Again, this was the exception to the rule.  Sundays were primarily for rigatoni and the smell of red gravy emanating through the house.)

When I saw my first menu, it was love at first sight.

Every menu is like Christmas morning and your birthday rolled into one.  You can have this!  Or THIS!  Ahhhhhh….and save room for THAT!  Before ordering, I imagine every dish and hope I make the right choice, because it is such a bummer when the person you are dining with ends up with a better meal than you (which is only salvaged when they share.  And they have to because of the way you are looking at their risotto.)

When I started dating, I was never the girl who wanted to go bowling.  Or god forbid, hiking.  (I hear some snickers from Colorado over that line.)  Sure, I’ll go to the beach – but FEED me.  I absolutely married the right guy.  We have eaten our way through France and Italy, and when we saw the mile long line outside of the Louvre, we looked at each other and said, “Nah.  Let’s get some escargot.”  (I am not necessarily proud of this but at least we WENT to the Louvre.  We just didn’t go in.)

Since moving to Florida where Duane and I both work from home, the last thing we want to do when we finally shut down the computers is stay home.  As a result, just about every night is a new restaurant adventure (yay!) and now that FLUFFI has been born, there’s a new way for me to express my love for dining out.  So let me tell you about last night…

Even the specials chalkboard at this place has fabulous flair.  It's like walking into a party of colorful, flamboyant friends who want you to be happy.  Isn't that last part what makes a good restaurant great?
Even the specials chalkboard at this place has fabulous flair. It’s like walking into a party of colorful, flamboyant friends who want you to be happy. Isn’t that last part what makes a good restaurant great?

I love when a restaurant sneaks up on you; when expectations are low and the returns are off the charts, which is what Flavio’s did the first time we visited.  Hey, it’s a little, nondescript strip mall!  Who was expecting a party?  But that’s what it felt like when we walked in, and that’s why, on this  beautiful night for a sunset, we headed to Siesta Key for a second visit.

The bar greets you like a colorful Italian Mardi Gras - and in the background, Teddy Pendergrass, Barry White and crazy obscure disco songs straight from Studio 54.  Is this heaven?
The bar greets you like a colorful Italian Mardi Gras – and playing in the background, Teddy Pendergrass, Barry White and crazy obscure disco songs straight from Studio 54.   Pinch me, I’m in heaven!

The atmosphere was just as we remembered, in two words: 

sexy and fun. 

Speaking of sexy and fun, meet the most charming bartender, Alex (Alejandro) with an accent that makes you feel like you are on a Mediterranean vacation - but here's the kicker:  We had only been there once before, and when we walked in, he said, "Hello, Duane!"  I know my husband is memorable, but I was still impressed.
Speaking of sexy and fun, meet the most charming bartender, Alex (Alejandro) with an accent that makes you feel like you are on a Mediterranean vacation – but here’s the kicker: We had only been there once before, and when we walked in, he said, “Hello, Duane!” I know my husband is memorable, but I was still impressed.

I know, I haven’t even talked about the food.  I am not a true foodie, so I can’t offer the kinds of descriptions you’d find in an actual critic’s review – but let me just say that the aroma of garlic welcomes you almost as invitingly as Alejandro.

Duane said, "Is that chocolate?" when he saw the thick balsamic drizzle on my Caprese Salad.  I was too busy eating to answer.
Duane said, “Is that chocolate?” when he saw the thick balsamic drizzle on my Caprese Salad. I was too busy eating to answer.

 

Duane, of course, opted for the pizza, crafted before our eyes (and so reminiscent of authentic Italy.)
Duane, of course, opted for the pizza, crafted before our eyes (and so reminiscent of authentic Italy.)
Tender mussels popped with juiciness, and once they were gone, I was tempted to take a bath in the remaining garlicky red sauce.
Tender mussels popped with juiciness, and once they were gone, I was tempted to take a bath in the remaining garlicky red sauce.

Should I have warned you not to read this on an empty stomach?

In closing, a complimentary limoncello for Duane made his night.  And this made mine:

As I left Flavio's, an unknown young man followed us out and shouted, "Ciao, bella!" to me.  Anyone who calls me bella is my new best friend.   I'm a sucker for a compliment.
As I left Flavio’s, an unknown young man followed us out and shouted, “Ciao, bella!” to me as I snapped this shot of the exterior. Anyone who calls me bella is my new best friend. I’m a sucker for a compliment.

*sigh*

Don’t you just love a good night out at a restaurant?

Where were you – what did you order and why did it last in your memory? 

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