hot spots: wine dinner at Balaban’s

Are you familiar with the name Chateau Montelena? If not, allow me to introduce you to this world-class winery. As portrayed in the film Bottle Shock, starring Alan Rickman and Chris Pine, Chateau Montelena put California wine on the map by winning a blind taste test in Paris, which came to be known as the “Judgment of Paris.”


Vintage dress. Find similar here and here. Find similar clutch here.
Necklace C/O of Collections by Joya.

Balaban’s, a restaurant and wine shop in the St. Louis area, hosted a wine dinner in honor of the 40th anniversary¬† of Chateau Montelena’s famous win. My husband and I were invited to celebrate that impressive victory with a 5-course wine dinner.

The first course included pan roasted skate wing, with flash fried oyster and toasted farrow, and was paired with the 2014 sauvignon blanc. For the second course, we nibbled on pan seared ahi tuna and sipped on the 2013 chardonnay. The third course — by far, the most interesting — consisted of an Australian camel tenderloin in a black truffle demi glaze, paired with the 2013 zinfandel. (You can find that pictured below at top left.) Next up, we enjoyed a crispy duck breast in spicy plum chutney and the 2007 cabernet sauvignon. And to finish off our fantastic dining experience, we gobbled on chocolate pecan pie and toasted with the 2009 cabernet sauvignon.

From start to finish, the meal was mouthwatering and the wine truly divine. I’m partial to dry whites, but with cab sauvs so smooth, how was I not to be won over? It was a true delight to be invited to celebrate this spectacular winery’s monumental success. If you want an adventurous dining experience, make reservations for the next wine dinner hosted by Balaban’s.

Get a sneak peek of my most recent destination in the style post coming up next.

muse moments

Inspiration has been a beautiful beacon of light to me this year as I continue to write on my novel daily. Here’s hoping passion comes and grips you at least once in your life. The trick, I’ve found, is to grab it right back — and never let it go. For those of you who’ve found it and those still searching, here is a dose of muse-worthy moments to keep you going on your quest for a passion-filled existence:


A dessert so naturally sweet it makes your tooth ache just looking at it. One of the many samplings found at the decadent dessert buffet courtesy of Saint Louis Club.

History that speaks to the soul. Immerse yourself in this gorgeous house of blues at National Blues Museum in St. Louis. And while you’re there, be sure to snap an Instagram-worthy shot of you onstage with Mamie Smith and her Jazz Hounds. Tag @nationalbluesmuseum and see if the museum regrams your image like they did mine!

An off-the-shoulder merlot dress with golden accents (as modeled by my fabulous “twin,” Liz Simone) makes for the perfect number to wear to a vintage couture fashion show.

Aglow in emerald green outside of Four Seasons of Fashion, the St. Louis’ Symphony’s debut vintage couture fashion show. An unconventional runway show, the combination of designer gowns and beautiful music from the Grammy-award winning orchestra easily cultivated creativity. Crystal adornment courtesy of Collections by Joya.

What don’t I adore about a place that encourages you to pop open a bottle of wine and create art? Painting With a Twist afforded me just that opportunity. I celebrated Mother’s Day with my wonderful mom-in-law by painting daisies on a vibrant background. Her version, on the left, more closely resembles the original painting we modeled ours after while mine was an anstract version, for sure. Wishing my mom, who resides on the other side of the state, could’ve been there to celebrate with us!

Share your muse-worthy moments via Instagram and Twitter by tagging @amandasluxelife and #MuseMoments.

fashion femme: starlet style

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Allow me to introduce the lovely Liz. Everyone knows her as my “twin” because we’ve so often been confused for each other by strangers. We passed for sisters more convincingly when our hair was the same color, but we do share an odd resemblance for having no shared genes. And as we also share an adoration for classic films, it seemed only a matter of time before we replicated our favorite starlets’ styles. So, the twin and I piled up our hair, threw on some lipstick and headed to Chandler Hill Winery, all dolled up like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn.

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Marilyn’s doppelganger and I share a passion for writing. So, we whipped out our notebooks to jot a few notes, over wine and apple slices with brie.

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These pictures (cleverly, I might add) don’t show the bustling crowds at a winery on a beautiful weekend. Every now and again, we’d catch some onlookers, or even the occasional photo bomber. It seems even a male model came out of the woodwork and decided to join us for a bit.

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And of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a little beauty advice from the screen queens themselves…

“Give a girl the right shoes, and she’ll conquer the world.” Marilyn Monroe.

“Happy girls are the prettiest.” Audrey Hepburn.

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Till next time…

muse moments

Summer is finally in full swing, here in the Midwest… Despite weeks & weeks of rain, the sunshine is out in full force & the dog days of summer are finally happening. We’ve been enjoying the hot days with pool parties & city events. Here’s some of the highlights from our summer adventures:

lemon wedge jello shots

Our friends recently held a housewarming, & this little addition to the shindig was a wild success! Our lovely hostess made these wickedly delicious lemon jello shots.

geek chic workout tank

I’ve been getting into good habits as of late, from walking to the local grocery store, & grabbing lunch for the week, to doing 50 burpees five out of the seven days. This geek chic tank top has been one of my go-to items for workout gear.

Jaws cupcake

Saint Louis Art Museum hosts movie nights one month each summer on its gorgeous front yard. Jaws was this week’s feature. The classic thriller by Steven Spielberg is as entertaining as ever. Food trucks line the hill before showtime, offering tempting cuisine, including this completely edible themed cupcake.

braided ponytail

I’m updating a classic hairstyle with a braided ponytail. I love the versatility of long hair, but when the heat is in the hundreds, an updo is the only way to go!

classic movie night

My darling friend, Liz, & I enjoyed a day of classic movies, starring Marilyn Monroe. The twinning hashtag refers to the fact that Liz (of no relation to me) just so happens to look exactly like moi. As we happen to share a few things in common, including our looks, we happily refer to each other as twins. We poured some pink champagne, nibbled on French Dip Croissants, & popped in great films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot. Feel free to share some of your summer adventures with me in the comments below. & remember, only 4 days left to enter in my giveaway contest for a free dance lesson!

muse moments

As the heat of summer finally begins to roll in, the outdoor festivities are in full swing. From food trucks in the city parks to the Renaissance Faire & outdoor theatre, the city comes alive with vibrant activity this time of year. All this & more is keeping my calendar filled to the brim, but I love every minute of it. Hope the longer days are as joy-filled for you as they have been for me! Here’s some #MuseMoments of late that have put a smile on my face:

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An oversized ring wrapped in gold & topped with a pale pink rose.

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I was thrilled to hear Jimmy Fallon’s announcement on the The Tonight Show when he introduced Ben & Jerry’s newest creation, The Tonight Dough. Combining chocolate cookie swirls, & chocolate chip & peanut butter cookie dough, it was as tasty as I’d hoped it be.

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I fell in love with this enormous disco ball at a nearby nightclub.
Equal to the size of three of me, I sadly could not take it home.

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This wine drinker loves her some sangria, especially come summertime.
This light, zesty white wine concoction cools you off on a humid evening.

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Saint Louis Art Museum hosts a delightful shindig the last Friday of every month, known as SLAM Underground. The extended happy hour gives you an up-close experience with one of the exhibits, & celebrates the art with a DJ on hand & activities, like this distinctive photo booth.

hot spots: Kingside Diner in the CWE

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The neighborhood of Central West End welcomes a new late-night diner for the urbanite socialite. I got the chance to sample some of its cuisine
& sinfully sweet drinks at the grand opening of Kingside Diner.

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True to diner protocol, Kingside delivers staple items, such as burgers & breakfast items. How does the restaurant set itself apart from others of its’ caliber? By introducing a swanky setting to an old-time recipe for success. You gotta admit, breakfast served all day will certainly please the late-night revelers who enjoy the CWE’s bar scene. Kingside Diner cooks up flatbreads, sandwiches & wraps with flavorful ingredients. My friend & I nibbled on bites of Romesco, goat cheese, spinach & onion, as well as bagels & lox, & even enjoyed silver dollar pancakes. Between that, & the oh so heavenly Bailey’s chocolate milkshakes, we certainly supped like royalty that evening. Check out the menu for yourself at Kingside Diner.

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*This post sponsored by Kingside Diner. Opinions are my own.

mapped it: best eats in Chicago, Illinois

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The Windy City has entertained us more than a few times. Yet, we still find new reasons to visit Chicago again & again. The birthplace of skyscrapers & deep-dish pizza tempts with high-end fashion & soaring buildings made for sight-seeing.

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Greg & I are making our way back to Chi-Town this spring for a psych conference.
We already have a few must-sees on our list based on successful excursions in the past to the Windy City.
& if there is one thing we’ve learned about this city, it is to bring an appetite.

Foodie destination No. 1: Orange Restaurant.

Fair warning, parking is an absolute nightmare in Chicago. Since we were in the city last for a concert, we opted to park at the venue for the day & walk the city blocks.  We were rewarded for our efforts as we stumbled across this original brunch spot.

Orange 4-jelly jam pancakes & steak salad

Ingredients from local sources, served up freshly-made, guaranteed we were in for a delicious dining experience.  The contemporary brunch menu includes a wide array of choices for smoothie combinations made from seasonal fruit, & we took advantage.  I chose mango, orange, & pineapple to create an intoxicating flavor.  We filled our bellies with homemade entrees, like the pancakes sandwich with a jelly-jam center, the chai tea french toast topped with carmelized apples, and the steak salad with big & tender meat portions.  We’re making this a must for our upcoming visit to see what other smoothie concoctions we can devise.

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Foodie destination No. 2: Uno Pizzeria & Grill.

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Bringing new meaning to a “pizza pie,” Uno’s launched the famous deep-dish style for which Chicago is well-known.  Baked in the oven for almost an hour, the thick pizza loaded with a cheesy layer is sinfully tasty.  Uno’s may be large to accommodate the steady stream of hungry customers, but it still very much has that pizza joint atmosphere with dark interior & tall booths.  The original location has hand-written messages all along the walls, making for entertaining reads as you dive into dinner.

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  As we countdown to our trip, I look forward to finding new restaurants to add to my best eats list.  Stop in soon to discover the must-see sites of the Windy City!