Wine Pairings for Valentine’s Day Delights: by Gina King, Founder & CEO, Domaine Somm

Valentine’s Day is a day to honor love in every form and what better way to do so than to indulge in some exciting food and wine. Whether you’re celebrating with friends or that special someone in your life, a mind- blowing food and wine pairing experience can absolutely enhance the occasion. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we’ve put together wine pairing ideas and tips for a few common aphrodisiacs: oysters, chili peppers, and chocolate. We’ll start off with a refreshing platter of oysters, move on to something with a bit of heat, and finish off with some chocolate for dessert.

OYSTERS

In general, it’s best to pair oysters with a bone dry white wine or bubbly, but since they come in so many shapes, textures and flavor profiles depending on their origin, we’ve put together a few guidelines to maximize your enjoyment.

The northeast coast produces skinny oysters that have a longer shaped shell with lean flesh while still retaining a moderately briny, salty, steely flavor. Examples are Long Islands (the original Bluepoints), Wellfleets (from Cape Cod), Delawares and Bristols (Maine). In Canada, “Novys” (from Nova Scotia), Malpecques (Prince Edward Island) and Caraquets (New Brunswick). Due to their lean and minerally taste, the best wine match for Northeastern oysters is a bone dry white with perceptively minerally or flinty qualities. Sauvignon Blanc from France’s Loire Valley, most commonly bottled as Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé is an ideal match. Sauvignon Blanc from the New World doesn’t work as well since they tend to be fruity and lack stony, minerally or flinty character.

2011 Domaine des Vieux Pruniers Sancerre

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The Northwest coast produces fatty oysters that are the broadest, roundest, fruitiest, fleshiest and creamiest in texture. Examples are Hama Hamas, Quilcenes, Hood Canals, Pearl Bays, Caraquets, Chef Creeks, Sinkus and the biggest of all, Tottens. Dryer style Rieslings, Gruner Veltliner, and Pinot Grigio work well.

2011 Schloss Gobelsberg Gruner Veltliner Gobelsburger

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Olympia and Kumamoto oysters from the Pacific Northwest are unique and produce the smallest variety. Olympia oysters are the Pacific Northwest’s only native variety and are small, mild, and yet meaty. Kumamotos are a sub-species of Pacific oysters, which originated from Japan, but are now farm raised in Washington State and Northern California. They are tiny, plump, sweet, and succulent. A perfect match to both is a dry Champagne or sparkling wine.

 NV R.H. Coutier Brut Tradition Champagne, Grand Cru

 

 

 

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NV BiancaVigna Prosecco Brut

 

 

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CHILI PEPPERS

Many people assume the sweeter the better for wine as the dish heats up with spice, but in reality, the sweetness will take away from the flavors. Wines that are on the fruity side with low to moderate alcohol levels work best. Avoid wines that have subtle flavors as the spices will overpower the wine. For white wines, try a Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, off-dry Riesling, Roussanne, or Sauvignon Blanc. Herbal and tangy Sauvignon Blanc tends to go well with Southwestern dishes that have cilantro and lime notes in addition to spice. The sweet-hot flavors of some East and Southeast Asian fare go well with Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Riesling. A touch of sweetness often found in these varietals tones down chili heat while harmonizing with sweeter sauces, such as sweet-and-sour or coconut milk-based sauces. The lower alcohol content gives your tongue refreshment and relief.

2011 Brooks Wine Gewurztraminer, Oak Ridge Vineyard

 

 

 

 

 

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2011 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Lot 150

 

 

 

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Rosés made with Grenache based blends also work beautifully with spicy dishes, even those with a meat element. And by the way, rosés are not just meant for summertime enjoyment! They’re very food friendly and great to enjoy year-round, especially on Valentine’s Day.

 2011 Bergerie de l’Hortus 

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For red wines, stick with lower alcohol wines with noticeable spice character, forward fruit and moderate tannins. Barbera, Cru Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and sometimes Tempranillo work well.

2011 Luli Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands

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CHOCOLATE

The general rule of thumb for pairing wine with anything sweet is that the wine should be at least as sweet, if not a touch sweeter, than the dessert you are serving it with. Otherwise, the taste may quickly veer towards sour. Since there are many different styles of chocolate, it’s not possible to choose one style of wine as an ideal partner. So, we’ve drilled it down to white, milk, and dark as a starting point.

White Chocolate has sweet flavors of honey, vanilla, caramel, and/or fruit, which pair nicely with a sec or demi-sec Champagne. The acid in sparkling wines produces tart flavors when paired with the cacao in milk or dark chocolate; however, there is no cacao in white chocolate, making a sweeter style of Champagne or sparkling wine a wonderful match. Riesling or Pinot d’Alsace is another great option as they show an exotic sweetness that complements the vanilla, caramel and honey flavors of white chocolate. Fresh strawberries dipped in white chocolate would be great with the following wines.

NV Drusian Extra Dry Spumante Rose, Rose Mari 

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2010 Bott Geyl les Pinots d’Alsace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Milk chocolate has flavors of brown sugar, cocoa, vanilla, honey, caramel, nutty and/or malt, so an optimal pairing is Tawny Port.  Its nutty nuances highlight milk chocolate’s nutty and caramel notes and enhance the overall chocolate flavor. A couple of other good partners are Hungarian Tokaji, which goes beautifully with chocolate ganache, and Muscat or Moscadello (Italian), a rich wine with honeysuckle and honey mingled notes which also complement the vanilla, caramel and honey flavors in milk chocolate.

2011 Caprili Moscadello di Montalcino

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Dark chocolate can have bitter, roasted, earthy, and/or nutty notes. Due to the intensity of flavors, bittersweet and dark chocolates need to be paired with stronger red wines with concentrated fruit notes. Vintage Port is a classic pairing with a decadent dark chocolate dessert or truffles. For a non-fortified option, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, or Zinfandel also work well. While some of these varietals may appear too tannic to pair with chocolate, the cocoa butter decreases the astringency and dryness of the tannins and the higher cacao content enables bittersweet chocolate to pair well.

2011 Bodega Noemía A Lisa

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Chocolate with caramel, toffee, or coconut goes extremely well with Sauternes, a rich, sweet dessert wine with honey and apricot flavors that complement caramel, toffee, and coconut.

2005 Chateau Climens Barsac, Grand Vin de Sauternes

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Domaine Somm provides
a personal sommelier service to elevate wine experiences at any occasion.
We create enriching wine programs and curate high quality, distinctive wines for events, wine clubs, and our online wine boutique. We also donate a portion of all profits to charities within the areas of sustainability, health, education and the arts.

Gina King, Founder & CEO of Domaine Somm, is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and received the Advanced Certificate with merit from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust. Prior to founding Domaine Somm in 2012, she was the Head of Global Event Marketing at a global financial services company based in NYC for more than a decade. Gina earned a B.A. from U.C. Berkeley and was formally trained in wine education and service at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley.

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Organize the Holidays

Things can get overwhelming during this hectic, holly-jolly time of year.  That’s why we here at CUE call upon the expertise of Lisa Zaslow (www.GothamOrganizers.com) to keep us at our very best.  Here are her tips for a stress free, organized holiday season:

GothamOrganizers Holiday Survival Tips

“Holidays are an expensive trial of strength. The only satisfaction comes from survival.”

— Jonathan Miller

Bah humbug Mr. Miller! The holidays should be a time to feel blessed, not stressed!. Follow these tips to save time, effort and energy this holiday season!

First, stop beating yourself up for not picking up gifts for everyone on your list all year long and for not having your cards addressed before Thanksgiving. This is the home stretch – time to focus your efforts on what you can do.

* Presto Presents – Technology is your friend. Use the power of the internet to pick, click and ship gifts for everyone on your list, from clients to cousins. Gift certificates to sites like Amazon.com, Gap.com and CrateandBarrel.com will appeal to a wide range of folks. If you must get actual presents, hit a few big stores at off-hours and knock off many items on your list in one shot.

 

* Wrap It Up – Why wrap? I’m a big fan of tissue paper and gift bags. They’re super-speedy and no tape, ribbon or scissors needed.

 

* Go-to Hostess Gifts – One for all and all for one. Get a slew of one great item – a nice bottle of olive oil, beautiful kitchen towels, fancy nuts and/or chocolate, or the tried and true gift soaps or bottle of wine. Pick up a bunch of gift bags and you’re good to go.

 

* Speedy Decorating – Go minimalist. Candles are quick, inexpensive and festive. And you can use them year-round and don’t have to store them.

 

* Feast Without Fuss– Let someone else cook. Put pre-prepared foods on nice serving dishes with a little garnish and no one will be the wiser. Ask your guests to contribute dishes and lighten your cooking load. You can hire a caterer to cook entire meals or just a few key dishes.

 

* Quick Cards – Again, technology is your friend. Cut and paste a photo into an e-mail and you’re done, or send an electronic card at egreetings.com or similar sites. If you really love the idea of sending actual cards, you can extend your deadline by a few extra days and send New Year’s cards this time around.

One last note

Take a deep breath and remember that the true spirit of the season doesn’t require any of the above. Spend your time with friends and loved ones, not running around trying to fulfill an idealized vision of the holidays that may not fit your current lifestyle. Happy holidays!

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Lisa Zaslow, founder of Gotham Organizers, has helped hundreds of people get organized at work and at home. Her expertise has been featured on The Nate Berkus Show, Inside Edition and in numerous publications including The New York Times, Real Simple, and InStyle. Get Lisa’s super-easy organizing tips at www.GothamOrganizers.com

© 2011 Lisa Zaslow. All rights in all media reserved.

Thankful

I love Thanksgiving.  For me, it’s the beginning of the most wonderful, warm and joyful time of year.  For us here at CUE it’s also a day to breathe before the busy holiday season takes over.

This year I am thankful for so many things.  I am thankful for my amazing daughter, my loving husband and a family who stick by me and support me through good times and bad.  I am thankful for my wonderful clients who make every day an adventure, my outstanding team who work so hard to make it all look so easy, and for all of the incredible vendors who make my job that much better.
We here at CUE wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving and would love to hear from all of you about what you’re thankful for this year.

xoxo,
Danielle

Eloquent Etiquette

The New Year is upon us and it’s time for a new segment, Eloquent Etiquette. We thought we’d expand our view to not only focus on creating exciting events and delightful details, but to also advise as to how to make formal party interactions and customs less foreign and daunting.

This week we found a great article, courtesy of Allure Magazine. “How to Make a Fabulous Party Conversation” caught our attention because it’s clear concise and gives you different topics and techniques to include or excuse yourself. Enjoy!

How to Make Fabulous Party Conversation

December 31, 2010

New Year’s Eve is one of those high-pressure party evenings: You know it’s coming for, well…a year, and you’re supposed to have the time of your life. But when you find yourself talking to people you met just moments ago—and might end up kissing when the countdown ends—there’s nothing like enforced fun to kill a conversation. Here’s how not to let it fizzle:

  • Do a little homework. Read a few online newspapers and peruse blogs like Gawker andHuffington Post. That way, if someone brings up current events, you can ask a few strategic questions to get him talking. When you know what kind of guests you’ll be mingling with, it’s easier to focus your reading. “If it’s going to be a lot of investment bankers, the odds are that talk will turn to government oversight of Wall Street,” says Deborah Roberts, an ABC News reporter. “And you can keep that in mind as you read the paper that week.”
  • Avoid the obvious. Don’t be intimidated by someone because of their job or reputation; just find out what interests him when he’s not at work. “Powerful people have hobbies, too, and they like to talk about them as much as anyone else does,” says writer Julia Reed, who has made small talk with senators and presidents.
  • Ask for recommendations. People love to be asked about their favorite finds. Ingrid Sischy, a writer and the former editor-in-chief of Interview magazine, fishes for advice she can use on her next vacation or night out. “I’m always trying to find out great new places, great restaurants, great books,” she says. “Some of the best things I’ve done, I learned about at dinner parties.”
  • Push some buttons. “Feel free to be wildly interrogative and ask profound questions,” says Simon Doonan, creative director of Barneys New York and the author of Nasty: My Family and other Glamorous Varmints. “For example, ‘How’s your relationship with your mother these days?’; ‘When was the last time you cried?’ Fellow guests will think you’re insane, but the answers are never boring.”
  • Know when to make your escape. If you’re really getting nowhere with the small talk, then extract yourself. “I often do the discrete handoff,” says event planner Deborah Williamson. “I’ll see a group of friends and introduce the person to everyone. After a few minutes, I’ll excuse myself and dash off.” If that fails, fake it. “I pretend to look for someone specific,” says Marjorie Gubelmann, a New York City social fixture who goes to countless parties every year. “I’ll say, ‘I’m looking for Dorothy—it’s always Dorothy. And then a few minutes later, I’ll apologize, excuse myself, and leave to go find Dorothy.” And the last resort? “Apologize and say you must find the ladies’ room,” says Gubelmann. Go in (even if it’s just to apply lipstick), then bump into someone else on your way out.

For this article and others at Allure Magazine:

http://www.allure.com/beauty/blogs/reporter/2010/12/how-to-start-a-conversation.html

From CUE to YOU

We at CUE couldn’t let the New Year roll in without taking the time to say THANK YOU.  We owe so much to our amazing clients, talented vendors our friends, families and everyone out there who supports us in what we do.  We are so proud of the events we create and produce and feel lucky to be able to wake up every day and know that we get to go to work with people we love and respect.

This year has been a whirlwind!  Every event was unique. We faced many challenges, overcame many obstacles and were rewarded with seamless, beautiful and fabulous events at the end of the day.
We’re so excited about what 2011 will hold for us and look forward to sharing it with you!

Wishing you peace, prosperity, love and happiness in the New Year.

xoxo,

Danielle and the CUE team

 

‘Tis the season to be Giving!

Christmas is in the air! People are bustling from shop to shop seeking out gifts for friends and family, wondering what gift would be the perfect one. In years past, the newest piece of electronic equipment or the coolest new toy were the must-have items to get your hands on. This season, however, people are being a bit more conservative with their gift giving. Instead of giving wild and ostentatious gifts this year, many people are turning to alternative presents.

This year let us not forget the spirit of giving and additionally, charitable giving. As a different choice this season, try to think of a charity that means something to you or to the ones you love.  Research the charity online and check its website for a donations link (most will have one), or call to make a contribution in the name of the person on your gift list. Not only will such a gift warm the heart of the person you’ve honored, but it will also help those less fortunate or contributes to further research for an important cause.

This season the Curtain Up Events team will be giving as well.

Danielle will be giving to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society  in honor of her Mother. (nationalmssociety.org)

Meredith has chosen to give to the National Breast Cancer Foundation in honor of her Aunt Holly. (nationalbreastcancer.org)

Lastly, Kiki has decided to donate to HOPE International in honor of her relatives and victims of the natural disasters that occurred in Indonesia. (hopeww.org).

Remember, make your giving this season twice as nice by giving charitably!

Giving Thanks

I am thankful for so many things:  my daughter, my husband, my family and friends, my company and my amazing girls that stand by me and help it run.  The list could go on and on.  Today, it’s so important to stand back, look at the big picture and remember how much we have rather than dwell on the things we wish we had.
Last year at this time, my daughter was very sick and we were told it was best not to bring her to my parents’ house and possibly infect others for Thanksgiving.  I was so upset to not be able to enjoy my mother’s cooking and see my family.  But then I realized I had family right where I was.  My husband came home with a turkey and Emily and I decided we would cook the dinner ourselves.  It was an awesome holiday.  I was surrounded by people I love, I learned how to make a turkey (tedious, but not as hard as everyone makes it out to be), and we all had a wonderful time enjoying each other’s company (and the wine and food!).
Not every holiday needs to be a big event.  The important thing is that you’re surrounded by the people you love and that you remember how fortunate you are in the little things you have.
All of us here at CUE wish you and yours a very happy and healthy holiday and remind you all to enjoy the simple things life brings us.

xoxo,

Danielle

The 1st turkey I ever made - in my tiny NY apartment kitchen

Gobble Gobble Time!

Every year as Thanksgiving approaches, you begin to consider many things: “What do I do first? How should I decorate? What should be on my menu? Dare I attempt the Turducken?” With that in mind we at CUE thought it might be nice to offer a few suggestions to help you get in the Thanksgiving spirit.

First, let’s start with a craft project.  A cute way to spice up your Thanksgiving table is to create a Turkey Bread Basket.

Turkey Breadbasket Centerpiece

Courtesy of Familyfun.go.com

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Large wooden spoon
  • Tacky glue and a glue stick
  • Pair of googly eyes
  • Pencil and scissors
  • Construction paper in a variety of colors
  • Flat wooden craft spoon
  • Red marker
  • Colorful printed wrapping paper or pages from old magazines
  • Waxed paper
  • Thin wooden skewers (sold in the kitchen/cooking section of most grocery and department stores)
  • Basket to serve as the turkey’s body (it should be large enough to fit a loaf of bread or dinner rolls)
  • Florists’ foam or Styrofoam block (sold at many large craft or department stores) large enough to wedge into the basket
  • Cloth dinner napkin
Instructions
  1. To create the turkey’s head, turn the large wooden spoon so that the back of the bowl becomes the face. Use tacky glue to stick on the googly eyes. Then cut out a yellow construction paper beak and glue it in place.
  2. For the turkey’s wattle, use the marker to color the flat wooden craft spoon red. Glue the wattle onto the face at an angle so that the top slightly overlaps the beak. You can use a pinch-style clothespin to hold the pieces in place until the glue dries.
  3. From the construction paper, help your kids cut out lots of colored feathers that measure about 10 inches long and 1 3/4 inches across at the widest point. Cut out the same number of feathers from the wrapping paper or magazine pages, then trim them so that they are slightly smaller than the solid-colored ones.
  4. Cover a flat work surface with waxed paper (this makes for easier cleanup after applying glue), and you’re ready to assemble the feathers. For each one, place a construction paper cutout on the waxed paper and set a wooden skewer atop it so that the blunt end is just below the top of the paper and the pointed end extends about 3 inches below it.
  5. Next, use a glue stick to coat the underside of a printed feather. Then press it, glued side down, onto the construction paper feather, sandwiching the skewer between the 2 layers.
  6. Wedge the foam block into the basket (trim it first if necessary). Push the spoon handle into one end of the block deep enough to secure it. Stick the feathers into the opposite end. Cover the block with the cloth napkin, and the turkey basket is ready to fill with bread.

If you are  in the mood for a more elegant meal, then consider using a few leaves from your yard to create a subtle fall theme. Display autumn leaves beneath a sheer tablecloth and the dining room will look as brilliant as the trees in your front yard. First, place leaves between paper towels or waxed paper inside a phone book for a week to dry and smooth them. Next, if needed, use double-sided tape to attach foliage — in any grouping — to a standard white tablecloth. Then place a sheer cloth, such as organza, on top.

Courtesy of MarthaStewart.com

You might also want to use a leaf or a sweet-gum-tree spur as a place card. Just tie a name tag with a bit of ribbon to the stem of your chosen item.

Courtesy of MarthaStewart.com

Finally, no Thanksgiving is complete without a bit o’ Pumpkin Pie. It’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Follow the recipe below.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients

  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked deep dish pie crust
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (15 ounce) can of 100% Pure Pumpkin or Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can NESTLE® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs lightly in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F.; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. (Do not freeze as this will cause the crust to separate from the filling.)

Libby's(R) Famous Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Courtesy of AllRecipes.com

But remember, no matter what decor you choose or how many delicious treats you taste, Thanksgiving is ultimately about being grateful for the ones we care about and the meaning they bring to our lives. So, this Thanksgiving make sure to put a little extra TLC (Tender Loving Care) into each project or dish and it will certainly shine through to your loved ones!

Celebrate the 4th in Style

Looking for last-minute party ideas for Sundays 4th of July celebration? Look no further because we at CUE have a few tips on simple table decorations, fun drinks, and playlist recommendations!

Easy, yet chic centerpieces.

Everything is coming together for Sunday’s bbq, you have all the food planned out and everyone is assigned to bring something, you have the tables planned out, but you forgot about centerpieces. Here is an easy, yet chic centerpiece idea to give even the kiddy tables a grown up look.

Run to your local Whole Foods or market and pick up several bouquets of white hydrangea. Prepare the flowers by cutting the stems, grab a few vases that you have around the house (or borrow a few from your friends and family… I love the eclectic look; wide mouth vases will work the best), fill them up with water and pop the flowers in. I really like the look of white hydrangea, and bring in pops of color by tying red or blue (or both) ribbon around the vase.

This is a simple and very inexpensive way to class up your tables with some nice centerpieces.

*** Sample of a DIY hydrangea centerpiece that we constructed at a recent event.

Refreshing summer drink that is perfect for kids and adults!

One of my favorite easy 4th of July recipes is a festive drink, inspired by one by Martha Stewart (the photo here was my inspiration– it belongs to her!).

To make the garnish –which is perfect for the Fourth!– simply press a cookie cutter though a thin piece of watermelon rind. So pretty and fun!

Ingredients:
1 pt. fresh, ripe strawberries
3 cups seedless watermelon, diced
1 lime, juiced
2 liters. ginger ale

Instructions:
1. After cleaning your strawberries and watermelon, put them into the blender on high to make a purée.
2. Mix them with the ginger ale. You can serve this beverage as it stands with ice, or change it by doing any of the following:

* Freeze the berries and melon for a “smoothie” (this is a huge hit on a hot day!)
* Using one liter ginger ale and one liter champagne
* Adding berry vodka to the mix for the adults
* Add blueberries to float in the drink (red, white, blue)

Oh, yummm!

And now to get the party going, you need a playlist that gets your guests in the mood to celebrate.

A few weeks back, my roommate decided to throw a “Party in the USA” party, and I was in charge of creating the playlist. I decided to stick to the theme and only add songs that had America, USA, or the name of a state in the lyrics. It really hurt my brain to think that hard about music, but I took my task to heart, and this is what I came up with (I think it’s appropriate to bust it out again for this weekend).

American Woman
American Pie
American Baby
American Honky Tonk Bar Association
American Ride
R.O.C.K. in the USA
Don’t Stop Believin’
Sweet Home Alabama
Georgia
Empire State of Mind
California Girls
Hotel California
Pink House
Take Me Home, Country Roads
City of New Orleans
Beautiful America
Buffalo Soldier
Wakko’s 50 State Capitols (oh, yes, I threw that in there, thank you Animaniacs)
Small Town USA
Keep on Rockin’ In the Free World
Party in the USA
God Bless the USA
Living in America
Everyday America
Born in the USA
Surfin’ USA
American Saturday Night

That’s just the start of our playlist. Come up with more songs of your own. What are your must have songs for this weekend of celebrating?

We wish you all a safe and happy holiday weekend from the girls at CUE!

xoxo,

Emily

Happy Father’s Day

Dad.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve learned from my father and how many special memories we’ve shared.  My father knows music.  He hooked up microphones to the livingroom stereo so that my sister and I could sing like pros along with the Annie Broadway cast recording.  He shared his passion for the drums with me and I followed in his footsteps.  He took me to see Superman in the movie theatre when I was just a peanut.  I learned the ins and outs of ice hockey from my dad while watching the NJ Devils live season after season.  Now I watch my Dad with his grandkids and I get to see the pure happiness he gets from watching them grow and play.  It’s a wonderful thing to be so close to him so that he can now share his wisdom with my daughter.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the wonderful Dads out there!!

xoxo,
Danielle