So, here’s the poop…

Anyone who knows me absolutely knows that #AuthenticallyMark is VERY tongue and cheek; there is no other version of Mark, I have very little filter, I’m honest to a fault.

Which is actually why I don’t drink vodka, because then I would have NO FILTER, whatever comes to my brain comes out of my mouth.

But, I digress. Authentically Mark was designed to be a creative writing outlet for my cooking, adventures, for prospective Wedding Ghost clients to see some of my writing style and to talk about things that no one else will.

Today’s topic is poop! We all do it, no one ever talks about it and one of the last things anyone wants to do is have to use a bathroom anywhere around people you work with or know.

Poop Happens - Poo Pourri - travel - blogging - Wedding Ghost - Blogger - freelance writer

Chuck and I love to travel and we often cruise. If you’ve ever been on a cruise ship the cabins are not only really, really tiny but no matter where in the cabin you are no more than five feet from the rest of the room. And, to make matters worse you are right next to the door and the hallway.

Industry networking events! UGH! You are in bathroom filled with people you work with and network with all of the time…

So, my sister-in-law (hi pee-boo!) told us about this crazy product called Poo-Pourri; and she swears by it. It’s a small spray bottle of scented liquid. The instructions say that you pump 5-6 spritzes onto the water before using and it creates a barrier that keeps smells locked in.

Poo-Pourri - Mark Kingsdorf - wedding ghost - blogger - freelance writer - wedding blogger - travel blog -

I was REALLY skeptical and this holiday season I happened to be in Bed, Bath and Beyond and saw a display of various sizes. I figured I didn’t want to waste too much money when this didn’t work so I got the tiny travel size.

AND IT WORKS!

Truly, it’s amazing, I got the Citrus scented and it’s really beautiful. I’m not sure exactly how it works but it does and I’m hooked; we have one in each bathroom.

As if this wasn’t awesome enough, their YouTube videos are hysterical! Check these out:

 

 

A Gift from the Heart

A number of you have heard about, and some even enjoyed, my ‘monster chocolate chip cookies’, however very few people know the story behind them.

Mark Kingsdorf - Wedding Ghost - Authentically Mark - blogger - wedding blogger - freelance writer - weddings

Some time back in the early ‘90’s, after moving from Washington, D.C. to beautiful downtown Kintnersville Pennsylvania, (a tiny little town located in Bucks County along the banks of the Delaware river) I was working as the chef at The Great American Grill.

I was offered the honor to be part of the team collecting and editing recipes for The Red Ribbon Cookbook, a fund raiser for F.A.C.T (Fighting AIDS Continuously Together) Bucks County.  This awesome organization raises much needed funds to help provide support to people in need, living with HIV and AIDS. I met some wonderful people and keep in touch with many of them to this day.

FACT Bucks County - The Red Ribbon Cook Book - AIDS Fundraiser - Monster Chocolate Chip Cookies - Mark Kingsdorf

While I’m excited to have several recipes included in the book; I’m most excited about the Monster Chocolate Chip cookie recipe included by my friend Gary Kisner. To this day it’s one of my favorite recipes.

If you’ve ever had one of these cookies, please know it’s a gift of love as the recipe, and the project and cookbook it came from mean the world to me.

At one of the toughest points in my life when I was feeling very lost I baked nearly 100 dozen cookies for Christmas as gifts for family and friends; mostly chocolate chip or variations of this cookie.

One of the things I found is that the cookie base is really versatile. Once you’ve incorporated everything but the chocolate chips and walnuts you can add just about anything you’d like. A friend brought us macadamia nuts from Hawaii and I made white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. I’ve added trail mix, chopped peanuts and peanut butter, oatmeal and raisins, I’ve even mixed in potato chips, pretzels and chocolate chips.

My late mother-in-law used to individually wrap each cookie and then place them in a freezer bag, freeze them and keep them to have throughout the year. (they defrost in the microwave in a few seconds).

So, this year; my Christmas gift to all of you is my favorite Monster Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

1 lb.       Lightly salted butter (melted)
1 1/2c.   Granulated sugar
1 1/2c.   Brownulated sugar (Domino sugar product, marketed as pourable sugar)
1 t.         Vanilla
4 ea.      Large eggs
1t.          Salt
1 t.         Baking soda
5 c.        All-purpose flour
24 oz.    Semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c.        Chopped walnuts

Combine melted butter, sugar, vanilla and mix well
Add eggs and mix until incorporated
Add baking soda, salt and flour and mix until flour in thoroughly incorporated
Mix in chocolate chips and nuts (or whatever ingredient(s) you want)

Scoop out cookie dough into about 2oz portions
Bake on a nonstick sheet pan at 375 degrees
Cookies bake in about 14-16 minutes

Enjoy!

Slightly Art Obsessed

When we moved to St Petersburg Florida earlier this year we knew that it had an amazing arts community.

What I didn’t expect is that I’d find myself hanging out in parking lots and alleyways along Central Avenue, the areas encompassing the Edge District / Warehouse Arts District / Grand Central District… honestly, it’s not like it sounds.

St Pete has an AMAZING and growing collection of public art; there are murals all over the district. On the sides of stores themed to go with their products, on amazing new restaurants, tattoo parlors, The State Theater, in alleys and parking lots.

They are easily accessible to everyone and walking this past week I encountered countless people: couples, small groups, people walking and on bikes all enjoying and photographing these awesome pieces of one of a kind artwork.

mural - St Petersburg Florida - Authentically Mark - blogger - freelance writer - public art - moron art center

The styles vary greatly from almost graffiti like, to geometric, cartoony and very realistic. Every style, color and design you can imagine.

One of my favorites is by Latin Pop Artist John Gascot; his mural of the Statue of Liberty is on the wall of a local club.

St Petersburg - Florida - Murals - John Gascot - Latin Pop Artist - Mark Kingsdorf - blogger - freelance writer - authentically Mark - wedding ghost

Not only is it a beautiful representation but I’ve known John personally for a very long time; and admire his work and dedication to making art accessible, showcasing local artists and encouraging LGBTQ youth to express themselves through art.

This beautiful piece adorns the side of NuMex, a recently opened restaurant featuring twists on New Mexico cuisine that is getting rave reviews.

St Petersburg - Florida - murals- NuMex - Authentically Mark

Down the block, a restaurant with an Old Key West vibe has a mural showcasing sunsets, funky wooden directional signs, crabs and shuttered windows.

St Petersburg - Florida - murals - Old Key West Bar and Grill - Authentically Mark

An almost photographic looking mural lines the side wall of a local tattoo shop, a colorful geometric pattern fills the wall along an office space and a fun cartoon representation sits across from a church.

I’ve found this amazing art form in doorways, flowing from walls onto trash dumpsters and across drainpipes, building arches and uniquely shaped facades…it’s everywhere!

While you can enjoy a lot of these beautiful pieces of artwork driving along Central Avenue or 1st Avenue North and South, or taking the Central Avenue Trolley; I highly recommend finding a place to park and enjoying a walk, some shopping, the Morean Arts Center, Chihuly Collection, and try one of the great local restaurants or breweries.

One visit might not be enough; you might just become as obsessed as I am.

Looking at 2018 Wedding Trends

As 2017 draws to a close and we start to look at the upcoming engagement season; I always enjoy looking ahead to wedding trends for the next year.

The wedding industry follows the fashion industry; truthfully, nearly everything follows the fashion industry… You only have to watch “The Devil Wears Prada” to learn that.

Bohemian (you know, Boho) started its emergence in 2017 and is coming on strong in 2018; we’ll see the 1970’s craft macramé showing up everywhere, knotted rope designs in beautiful patterns will be seen in ceremony backdrops, covering chuppahs and as decor on sweetheart tables.

macrame - 2018 Wedding Trends - Authentically Mark - Wedding Ghost - blogger
Macrame

Pantone picked “Greenery” as one of the 2017 colors of the year; and it’s not going away, we’re going to see foliage everywhere! Not just in rustic and garden party décor but in more classic, elegant, traditional décor design as well. Everything from green plants lining the aisle, to being incorporated into living bars and food stations. Unique leaves and ivy will show up in centerpieces, tablescapes and of course bouquets; flowering bouquets of dogwood with all of the greenery intact will be big this spring.

While romantic white weddings will continue to be popular, we’ll see bold, rich colors coming back again; making appearances in linen, flowers, stationery and candles.

Texture, texture in everything; not just macramé and foliage but in linen and gowns too… we’ll see lots of couples accenting tables with everything from velvet, to embroidery and pearls.

Pearls, are not just for earrings anymore; we’ll see them on linen, wedding gowns and other accents beyond jewelry.

2018 Wedding Trends - Pearls - Weddings - Authentically Mark - Wedding Ghost
Pearls

Two of my personal favorites… smaller wedding parties and incorporating fun, interesting food stations into the reception. Everything from upscale Mexican street food to Korean and Peruvian will be highlighted in curated stations and passed hors d’oeuvres.

With these predictions and trends moving forward… what is the one trend from 2017 you’ll be happy to see go?

 

There’s No Place Like Home

I’m a foodie, I fully admit it… when we travel we experience a new destination through its food; we LOVE food tours and eating where the locals eat.

Many of you know me as a Master Wedding Planner; but prior to that I worked a number of years as a chef and in food and beverage. I’m actually a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park New York.

When I got out of kitchens, professionally, I really started to enjoy cooking, entertaining and exploring food again. In wedding planning my love of food really helped me attract couples who were also foodies and wanted to incorporate food that reflected them in their wedding. My journey into my new blogging business, Wedding Ghost, has also attracted wedding venues, caterers and bakers as clients as well.

My wedding planning company was just a few years old when my husband and I met; we lived right at the edge of Philadelphia’s Italian Market. The market is filled with amazing butcher shops, cheese stores, fresh pasta shops, coffee roasters, bakers and produce shops. Some are new startups; others have been there several generations, but all offered AMAZING artisan foods… all within walking distance of our house.

When we moved to Orlando, nothing like this existed… Italian ingredients were few and far between. I found one location but everything was prepackaged and it smelled like a strip mall, and not of aged provolone, olives or fresh bread.

Then a friend introduced me to Mazzaro’s Market (thanks Shannon!) in St Petersburg… the skies opened and the angels sang. It was just a few weeks before Christmas and I made the pilgrimage from Clermont, about an hour and a half drive, and stocked up for the holidays.

What took up several city blocks of small store front row houses in Philadelphia’s Italian Market is condensed into two large buildings here in Florida. The first is mostly teas, coffee and kitchen wares… but the main attraction in all under one roof in the second building.

You enter the building through gardens with marble statues, classic Italian murals, fun quirky photo ops and into nirvana.

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg - statues

Mazzaro's Murals

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg - murals

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg - murals

You are greeted by a small produce area with things you don’t often find in supermarkets, an olive bar with both oil and salt cured olives, an awesome selection of mushrooms, things like fresh fennel bulbs, whole fresh artichokes, fresh herbs and seasonal things like chestnuts in the shell.

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg - Produce

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg - Olive Bar

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Florida Chestnuts

Just beyond that is a butcher and seafood counter with homemade sausage, braccole and beautiful cuts of meat not found in your average supermarket. They have refrigerated counters filled with premade homemade meals, soups and salads.

I typically cut a path to the wine and cheese room! Wines from all over Italy fill this cavernous room, to get there you pass by counters of cheeses, pate and condiments from all over the world with a huge assortment from Italy including fresh mozzarella, aged provolone, dozens of others and on my last visit there were three kinds of fresh truffles!

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Italian WinesMazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Cheeses - TrufflesMazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Imported Cheeses

The main space of the building is almost overwhelming… premade foods to take home, fresh made sandwiches, imported oils, vinegars and specialty foods. A counter with imported meats and sausages, fresh made pasta with dozens of varieties daily, a bakery with fresh breads, pastry, cookies and gelato, a coffee bar and roaster!

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Breads

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Fresh Baked Breads

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Italian Pastry

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Fresh Pasta

It even has a taste of home with di Bruno Brother’s cheese spreads!

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Philadelphia - Di Bruno Bros.

While nothing in St Petersburg is very far; having Marraro’s about 10 minutes away makes it feel like home. All the ingredients and food I grew up with helps me keep the feeling of family close, especially at the holidays.

Authentically Us!

Today’s post goes beyond Authentically Mark into Authentically US; the us being me and my husband Chuck.

When we moved to our house in St Petersburg we decided that all of our Disney memorabilia would be condensed into one guest room; ‘the kids room’. Truthfully, not a lot of kids stay there… just a few big kids who deal with the twin beds.

Chuck would decorate our master bedroom. We had selected a bedroom set made with reclaimed wood and some of the vintage citrus labels we framed in Clermont really worked well there; beyond that it was all him.

Our second guest room got our old, dark wood bedroom set and my goal was decorating it in something that was REALLY reflective of the two of us; I decided on capturing the two of us and our love of travel.

Authentically Mark - Blogging - Amsterdam - Travel
Authentically Mark, Herring, Amsterdam, Hungry Bird Food Tour

We had a ton of pictures from past vacations; many we had never done anything with other than posting to social media. We set out to pick out fun, interesting and unique images of us from every vacation.

The first thing you learn is that you have lots of pictures of STUFF; neat architecture, random doors, interesting people, food landscapes, and historic locations. The second thing we learned is that we tend to have images of each of us individually, taken by each other. LOL

When we travel, we are all about experiences; rather than stuff. However, we always buy one Christmas ornament (that’s a story for another post); and we love to buy some local art. The local art makes a great addition to the photos.

The biggest rule for the guest room is no rules – all of the frames are miss matched, we hung them in more of a collage style than a gallery as we’re filling the entire room, and mixing in the local art is pretty random too.

This gallery will continue to grow… we’ve already added some carved masks from Africa (thank you Disney Animal Kingdom), in preparation for a bucket list trip.

Anyone who stays in this guest room will know it is #AuthenticallyMark (and Chuck)!

 

 

Hate Thanksgiving Leftovers?

There are parts of Thanksgiving dinner that I LOVE, and others that I eat because its tradition and they’re ok once a year.

But what happens when you have lots of leftovers?

Authentically Mark - Thanksgiving Leftover - Turkey

Growing up, we ate mid-day and after dessert, a nap, and some football on TV. It was turkey sandwiches on white bread with mayo and sliced tomato sometime after football and before bed.  While I don’t eat much white bread these days I did sneak one about 9 o’clock on multigrain bread.

I’m always looking for something new and different to do with Thanksgiving leftovers… here are a few.

Authentically Mark - Wild Turkey - Maple - Rosemary

This is a favorite that uses turkey, rosemary and maple…

1½ oz. Wild Turkey

¾ oz. fresh lemon juice

⅓ oz. maple syrup (or more, to taste)

1 small sprig fresh rosemary

Lightly bruise the rosemary between the palm of your hands and place in shaker. Add remaining ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into an ice-filled glass.

LOL, I had to sneak in one because you know a good cocktail idea goes a long way!

But one of the best ideas I saw was a waffle made with leftover stuffing, turkey and cranberry sauce…

Authentically Mark - Thanksgiving Leftovers - Stuffing Waffles

2c.       Stuffing (leftover or fresh)

1c.       Cooked Chopped Turkey (cook ground turkey if you make this another time)

1/2c.    Cranberry Sauce (any kind works)

2          Whole Eggs (beaten)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well, place a large spoonful of mixture into a hot waffle iron and grill for 7-8 minutes until crunchy.

I’ve seen great variations of this that included leftover green bean casserole, or even serve it with a poached or sunny side up egg on top with some maple syrup; all of which sound like a great way to use everything up.

Here’s another that’s a lot of fun too; Empanadas!

Authentically Mark - Thanksgiving leftovers - empanadas

The best part about this recipe is you can literally use anything as the filling. Chopping up some turkey with any leftover vegetables is probably my favorite; add a little seasoning and make them as spicy or flavorful as you want. Leftover mashed or roasted potatoes with some veggies works well too and even using sweet potatoes or leftover pie makes a nice treat.

If your local grocery’s Latin food section doesn’t carry empanada wrappers, pie crust works and I’ve even seen tips that use crescent rolls.

The biggest thing is that there are quick, easy and flavorful ways to use up your holiday leftovers…enjoy!