TJ Brightman

In a year with too many natural disasters to count, conflicts and crisis around the globe, political bickering in Washington and media chasing one another for the next “BREAKING NEWS STORY,” you don’t have to look far to find many Americans happy to see 2017 go out with a loud thud! That is precisely why you should kick back during the upcoming holiday season and enjoy friends, food and my personal favorite – MORE WINE!

As I’ve written in previous wine blogs there are no rules to follow when picking your holiday wine, only that you buy what you like regardless of price point or what the “shelf talker card” at your favorite wine merchant says.

There are no rules… buy what you like

The holidays present the perfect opportunity to sample new wines considering the variety and abundance of food we will consume at parties and family dinners over the next few weeks. Don’t get stuck on what I like to call the “pairing game,” the need to bring or pour the perfect wine with each and every dish. Keep it simple, have fun and clang your glasses with friends as much as possible!

The Recommendations

Understanding plenty of wonderful choices and varietals from around the world exist, I’ve decided to narrow our focus to the “Golden State” of California, largely because the wines are so good, but as an additional act of support following the recent wildfires that plagued and destroyed many homes, businesses and wineries in both Northern and Southern California this fall. I encourage you to support the Sonoma and Napa communities by purchasing California wines this holiday season. It feels good to give back and look like a wine expert at your next holiday gathering, all at the same time.

Cheers!

 

2015 Landmark Chardonnay Carneros Sangiacomo Vineyard

This winery located along Highway 12 in Sonoma Valley survived the recent wildfires and has consistently produced great wines. This bottle received 87 points from Wine Spectator and will leave you with flavors of white peach and fig with a toasty, smoky oak. WS 87 | $45

 

2015 Gary Farrell Chardonnay Russian River Valley Russian River Selection

The Russian River Valley delivers wonderful wines year after year and this one hits the mark! Enjoy spicy green apple, pear and melon with your New Year’s Eve lobster dinner. WS 88 | $35

 

 

 

2016 MacMurray Ranch Pinot Gris Russian River Valley

If you were a fan of the 60’s TV show, “My Three Sons,” then you might also find the wines of the late founder, Fred MacMurray even more interesting. Producing terrific reds and whites this bottle of Pinot Gris is an excellent choice with appetizers of all kinds and received 87 points from Wine Spectator. Lots of juicy fruit, a refreshing wine for any occasion. WS 87 |$20

 

 

2014 Darioush Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Signature

Located in the heart of Napa Valley this winery’s property is as beautiful as the wines it produces. There is nothing like a Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley and this wine won’t disappoint. Packed with earthy, berry flavors it’s the perfect complement to many meat and even fish dishes. WS 89 | $65

 

 

 

2015 Kivelstadt Cellars Father’s Watch

A small family winery under the direction of Jordan Kivelstadt, this Sonoma red Rhone-style blend from the North Coast is not only a great choice but extremely approachable now and a real value for anyone on your holiday list. $25

 

 

2015 Cosentino Winery “Cigar” Old Vine Zinfandel

Talk about a great 90-point wine and a real value at the same time. Hailing from the Central Coast this traditional California Zinfandel is full of aromas like pepper spice, nutmeg and coffee.  If you can find it, buy as many bottles as you can. Enjoy with winter barbecue style dishes and your friends will be very happy. WE 91 | $15

 

 

Let us know if this list helped you pick the right wine as a gift or for a holiday meal.

Katie Bouloubassis

We developed our own list of major social media trends we think are really going to take off this year. Since some of the items on our list were relatively mainstream last year, we’ll explain each tool and give our insight on how you and/or your business can utilize these this year, either on your social media accounts or website.

2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the emergence of social media. Since its humble and somewhat intangible beginnings, social media has become the way to engage audiences in a discussion surrounding campaigns and increasing brand awareness for businesses and products. Consumers also seek reviews from family and friends about products and services through social media before making decisions to buy. The content users post on their social media channels evolves as quickly as the tools used to capture the content.

At A. Bright Idea, we continuously research the latest applications, tools and techniques. Here are the top four social media trends we’re excited about and look forward to implementing this year:

Boomerang: One of the hottest features we’ve seen in the past six months is Boomerang. This Instagram-exclusive feature loops a series of photographs together to create movement, making them visually similar to a GIF. Users can film Boomerangs within the Instagram app, adding it to their “story” or through the stand-alone Boomerang app. As video continues to rise in popularity throughout social media, Boomerang adds another level of engagement, furthering the wide use of video features to every day users. If you’re on Instagram, you should try Boomerang. We recommend using it once per story and very infrequently in your actual Instagram feed. Boomerangs are compatible on Facebook and Twitter, as well as Instagram.

When you win new business!

Live Video: Live video serves a purpose for broadcasting information or entertainment. It gives audiences a direct connection with the broadcaster in real-time for a true-to-life experience. Facebook, Instagram and Periscope are the most popular applications offering this service. Live video thrives due to its unedited, unrehearsed and in-the-moment content. The uses of live video are many and worth a try. If you’re looking to boost engagement on Facebook, we recommend using Facebook Live to get a nice bump in engagement. Facebook algorithms play favorites with their in-app tools, allowing your live video content to reach more people than a normal photo or video. We recently wrote a blog to serve as the beginners guide to using Periscope for live video. You can use the tips in that article for any live video application.

360 Video and Photographs:
Panoramic video and photographs give a 360-degree view from where the user stands. Images and video captured leaves a lasting impression from the stunning views or perspectives of the photographer. For social media, posting 360 images provides the audience with an interesting perspective. The post becomes more engaging, enticing audiences to interact with the photo to see the entire image. Currently, Facebook allows users to post their panoramic or 360 photographs directly to their account. YouTube supports 360 video. We anticipate an uptick in 360 video use with event centers and venues trying to showcase their amazing spaces to potential audiences. 360 video improves leaps and bounds on the Y2K era “virtual tour” with the use of Virtual Reality viewing devices and interactive features within the video.
Click the photo to enter the full interactive experience on Facebook (view on your phone for the best results)

Drones: Another popular piece of technology that we think is going to make waves on social media is drones. Drones are radio-controlled aircrafts used in many practical functions. The aircrafts vary in size, shape, type and capability. First introduced in military surveillance applications, todays off-the-shelf drones are primarily used by professional and novice photographers and hobbyists alike. In order to operate a drone, you must first register the craft with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Guidelines for flight are listed on their website under “Fly for Fun.” Drones squeezed their way into the mainstream in 2016, mostly on YouTube but now Target and Best Buy sell drones so we’re anticipating seeing more wondrous drone video and photography on Facebook and Instagram this year.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s our drone “Buzz”.

As with everything in life, “everything in moderation.” The same is true for social media. The trends above balance accounts and create diversity of posts while adding personality and fun to a feed. However, you can have too much of a good thing. Use the trending social media services sparingly. A feed of nothing but Boomerangs and drone shots might get engagement in the beginning but will become unexciting to audiences over time.

Let us know the top social media trends you engage with on a daily basis by commenting below.

Shawn Nesaw

Our staff returned to the office after the holidays with our bellies full and our taste buds’ hearty winter cravings fulfilled. We decided we needed to switch gears and hop onto the crowded “It’s-a-new-year-and-therefore-I-need-to-start-eating-well” train along with the rest of the universe.

Where better to start than with the first and most important meal of the day?

Consumer Reports published an article offering an explanation behind this old bromide, stating “because the time between dinner and the next morning’s meal is the longest your body goes without food, breakfast has an effect on you that’s different from any other meal.”

It continues, “Eating within two hours of waking can make a difference in the way you metabolize glucose, or blood sugar, all day.”

For our Bright Lights, stable glucose levels mean the possibility of enhancing our memory, attention, the speed of processing information, reasoning, creativity, learning and verbal abilities — all critical capabilities in our daily execution of services.

So we held a healthy breakfast potluck competition as a part of our internal health and wellness program, Active ABI.

We had several worthy concoctions that competed for best tasting and healthiest, but our administrative assistant, Donna Nelson, took the cake – or in this case, an assortment of fruits and veggies packaged neatly in a shiny silver colander.

Below, you’ll find all of the excellent recipes we enjoyed that helped kick-start our early January day. Try them out and transform your breakfast into a winner.

 

EggWhite EggBake – Winner!

Ingredients

  • 1 dozen egg whites only
  • 1 medium red pepper, diced
  • ¼ cup chopped chives, sliced
  • Brown and crumbled Turkey Sausage
  • 1 cup chopped fresh broccoli
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • Splash milk
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 9 x 13 baking dish

Directions

Spray the baking dish with non-stick spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scramble egg whites with milk and salt and pepper. Add vegetables and meat to pan. Pour eggs over the meat and vegetables. Jiggle pan to evenly spread eggs. Bake until eggs are cooked through. Takes 45 minutes to an hour.

Variations: Add any vegetables or meats you want. You can also add shredded or diced potatoes to the bottom (first layer). Multi-grain bread is also a good first layer.

 

Raspberry-Cream Cheese Muffins

 

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup (5 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
  • ¼ cup finely chopped walnuts

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine cream cheese and butter in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at high speed until well blended. Add sugar; beat until fluffy. Add vanilla, egg whites and egg; beat well.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and buttermilk to cream cheese mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Gently fold in raspberries and walnuts.

Place 24 foil cup liners in muffin cups. Spoon batter evenly into liners. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pans; cool on a wire rack.

 

Healthy Veggies Egg Muffins

 

Ingredients

  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cups spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a muffin tin with spray and set aside (I used a mini muffin tin).

In a large skillet on medium heat, drizzle olive oil and sauce onion, green pepper and mushrooms for about 4 minutes until tender. Fill each muffin tin about ⅔ full with veggie mixture.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, spinach, cheese, tomato and salt and pepper, and fill each muffin tin evenly, being careful not to over-fill.

Bake muffins for about 20 minutes (around 12 min. if using a mini muffin tin), until they’ve risen and are slightly browned. Enjoy!

 

Mini BLT Quinoa Cups (gluten free) – Runner-up!

 Ingredients

  • ¾ cup dry quinoa
  • 1-½ cups chicken broth (could use water)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed then squeezed completely dry
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup cooked and crumbled bacon (about 8 slices center-cut)
  • ½ cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Rinse quinoa very well in a fine mesh strainer under cold running water. Meanwhile bring chicken broth to a boil in a saucepan then add rinsed quinoa, place a lid on top, and cook until broth is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove lid and let cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Add cooked quinoa then stir to combine. Spray mini muffin tins very well with nonstick spray, then fill to the top with quinoa mixture, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Let cool 5 minutes then run a sharp knife around the outside of the cups and pop out with a spoon. Cool completely on a cooling rack. Store in the refrigerator, or freeze then reheat by microwaving for 30 seconds.

 

Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Quinoa

Ingredients

  • ½ cup milk – I used almond milk but any milk will work
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2-4 tablespoons chopped pecans

Directions

Bring milk and water to a boil in a small to medium sized saucepan. Add quinoa, cover, reduce heat to simmer, and let cook 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork, then stir in the pumpkin, maple syrup, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Taste and adjust any amounts to your liking (i.e. add more sweetness or spices). Divide into two bowls (add milk if desired) and top with desired amount of pecans.