A Day at The Races Near or Far: The Kentucky Derby & the @Cottonelle Great Finish Sweepstakes

I went to school in Savannah, Georgia.   I spent summers as a kid in Atlanta where I fell in love with wrap-around porches and dreamt of dogwood and magnolia trees.  I spent summers at my great aunts’ house in South Carolina (their house even had a well in the back yard) where I learned that you can make delicious pound cake from scratch by using your hands instead of measuring cups.

I know the south.  I have a love affair with it.

Fun fact: when I was born, my mother planted a dogwood tree in the front yard of my family’s Washington, DC home.  Every year around my birthday, (February) I would watch to find the first buds of the year.  It was an annual celebration I could count on.  Happy Birthday to me!

With the Kentucky Derby on our heels, you can dust off your big hat and garden party frocks.  And if you don’t have one- you know where to find one!  Head on over to the shop, for our spring and summer faves and get derby ready!



No matter what your proximity to the Kentucky Derby- you can feel like a southern belle (or gentleman) with my very own (and coveted) mint julep recipe.  If there is one thing I have learned on my many visits below the Mason Dixon, a well-crafted cocktail is a must.

Refreshing Mint Juleps

Fresh Mint

Kentucky Bourbon


Raw Turbinado Granulated Sugar

Filtered Water

Ice cube trays

Ice crusher (or hammer)

Large freezer bag

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If you saw my post on Instagram about how I chose to preserve farmers market fresh mint, you will know I am a stickler for freshness and proper food prep.  If you missed it, here is a quick summary.

  1. Buy the freshest mint you can find
  2. Wash, rehydrate (if needed) and dry mint (tip: use a salad spinner or gently pat dry with paper towels)
  3. Separate the good leaves and bad leaves from the stems using kitchen shears or your fingers (save those stems and bad/bruised leaves)
  4. Lay 4-5 leaves on top of each other and gently fold in half
  5. Place folded leaves inside clean (and empty) ice cube tray
  6. Fill with water and freeze
  7. After your ice is completely solid, pop them out and store in a freezer bag
  8. TA-DA!  MINT ICE!

Obviously you would have to prep your mint ice the night before your derby celebration, so you better hop to it!

Also, the night before you should prep your simple syrup.

I like using turbinado raw sugar for many reasons, but the most important reason is FLAVOR.  Turbinado sugar has a deep rich flavor that is not too sweet and when you make your simple syrup the way I do, it has a caramel flavor that compliments bourbon in the most satisfying way.

  1. The number of cocktails you plan on making will determine how much simple syrup you need to make.  I use a ratio of 1:1 sugar to water.  This recipe will make enough mint juleps to serve four.
  2. Take 2 cups of sugar and pour in a small saucepan.
  3. Heat the sugar until it begins to turn dark (and will look like it is melting)
  4. When the sugar granules appear to lose their shape, take a wooden spoon and give it a quick stir to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot
  5. Measure 2 cups of COLD water and slowly add it to the sugar in the pot, slowly stirring as you go.
  6. After adding all the water, allow the mixture to boil- stirring occasionally.
  7. Remember those stems and “bad leaves” of mint you separated when making your mint ice?  Use them here!  Add the stems and leaves to the boiling pot and stir.
  8. Turn the fire down to medium low and allow the pot to simmer.  You will begin to smell the minty goodness and check to see what the consistency of the water is.  If it sticks to the surface of a metal spoon, it’s ready to go!
  9. Turn the fire off and take a slotted spoon and promptly remove the mint.
  10. Allow the syrup to cool (the mixture will become thicker as it cools).  Once room temperature, store the syrup in a glass jar in the fridge.

TIP: Simple syrup is so great to have on hand, and it lasts forever in your fridge!

The day of the races, when you are ready to enjoy a refreshing mint julep…

  1. Combine 1/2 cup minty simple syrup and 2 cups Kentucky bourbon in a cocktail shaker (you can also use a mason jar with a lid) and shake until well combined (you can add more simple syrup to taste).
  2. Use an ice crusher (I love my vintage crank crusher) or hammer and finely crush 4 cups loosely packed ice
  3. Fill glasses (or mint julep cups) half full with ice
  4. Take 8 cubes of your mint ice and crush with  a small handful of regular ice
  5. Take crushed mint ice and fill rest of glasses
  6. Pour glasses full with your expertly mixed cocktail
  7. Add more ice on top and a leaf of mint for garnish.
  8. You’re all set to enjoy a day at the races!
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My vintage crank ice crusher!


Check out my antique horse racing wall hangings from Vanity Fair art inserts way back when!

To kick off the races and give you an even more refreshing feeling all year ’round, Cottonelle is promoting a sweepstakes!

The Cottonelle Great Finish Sweepstakes is a giveaway that will reward Americans with a year supply of Cottonelle products should the No. 1 and No. 2 positioned racehorses place in that order during the Kentucky Derby.

People looking to get in on the action can sign up at the Cottonelle website. The first 15,000 entrants to sign up will be awarded a year’s supply of Cottonelle toilet paper and flushable cleansing cloths if the outcome aligns.

Woohoo!  How refreshing is that!?


Here’s how to enter:

1. Visit the Cottonelle sweeps page.
2. Click on the Cottonelle Great Finish Giveaway
3. Click on “Sign up now”
4. Register for the Cottonelle Updates website

It’s that easy!

Good luck everyone and drink responsibly!

Thanks to Cottonelle for sponsoring this post and keeping me fresh in The West!

GIVEAWAY: @snaililla & @mumzymum Won The Kat Von D Giveaway!

29 fabulous ladies entered the giveaway and the decision has been made!

Thanks to RandomPicker.com, two winners have been chosen for the giveaway announced on FreeGrechen.com!

Congrats Lyra D!  You are the grand prize winner!  You won…




Also, a big congrats to Tina M.  You are the second place winner who will take home…



Thanks to everyone who entered!  And if you didn’t win, don’t worry!  We will have more giveaways coming soon!

So stay tuned and tell your friends!

 Also, a little side note, remember our first double giveaway we had a few months back with Victoria from Our House Vintage & Design?

Well, Our House just released their new Fall 2012 line!

They were also on Monoco Japan!  So exciting!

If you missed the Monoco sale, head over to her Etsy Shop and scoop one up!

xoxo, Joules

PS Thank you HuffPost Style for the cute gif!  Follow them on Tumblr!


*No purchase necessary to enter.  All samples were gifts with purchase curtesy of Sephora.  

Kat Von D, Sephora or HuffPost Style did not endorse this giveaway or post. 

CELEBS: The Day I Met @TheKatVonD + GIVEAWAY!

A few months ago, I met Kat Von D at her art show at Sephora in Union Square.  First of all, after watching her story on LA Ink, I totally respect her first and foremost as an artist.  Not to mention, secondly, she is a fantastic business woman who is using her talent to nail down her niche and has gained the respect of hundreds of thousands across the nation.  I marvel at this, and hope to someday become just as successful as her.  It’s really like what those old-timey people in rocking chairs in the movies say, “do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.”  Thanks old-timey folks, I think I’ll do just that.

But the most impressive thing to me when I met Kat is, she’s extraordinarily real.  Like, not “I’m a celebrity and I’m being nice to you because it’s my job” but a “hey I’m Kat, what’s up,” kind of way.  Pretty cool if you ask me.  It’s not my first time around the block meeting celebs at signings, but this encounter really struck me.  We actually had a conversation.  No- not “how are you, yeah?  That’s nice, cool- let’s take a picture.  Thanks for coming.”

We talked about her charity (what the art show was benefiting), The Art of Elysium, a really awesome registered non-profit 501(c)(3) founded in 1997, that unites working actors, artists and musicians with children who are battling serious medical conditions and encourages them to voluntarily dedicate their time and talent to mentor them in the arts.  This is something I am really passionate about, I told her, as I have a BFA in Photography from Savannah College of Art & Design (I also used to teach art at the YWCA, but I didn’t mention that).  We got to talking about what I’m doing now, and I told her that I sell vintage on Etsy.com.  She was so excited, “Oh!  I love Etsy! I got this from Etsy,” as she pointed to a well-crafted long hammered metal elongated cross earring (she told me the name of the shop but now I can’t remember for the life of me).  She then told me to tweet her my shop info so she could check it out.  She signed all eight of the prints I bought from the American Beauty Collection and we took a photo and gave me another hug and I left.

What a wonderful human being.

To celebrate this awesome encounter, I will be doing a little giveaway where I choose not one, but TWO winners!  Yay!

Grand Prize:

Five samples of Kat Von D Lock-It Tattoo Foundation in Light 48

One Tube of Kat Von D High Voltage Eye Primer in Skin

One Sample of Smashbox Halo Hydrating Perfecting Powder in Fair

Second Place:

Four samples of Kat Von D Lock-It Tattoo Foundation in Light 48

One Tube of Kat Von D High Voltage Eye Primer in Skin

The giveaway starts right now, and ends Thursday September 13, 2012 at 11:59 PST.  Winner will be announced the next day, just in time to brag to all your friends over the weekend!

Giveaway Rules:

1. Follow JJV on Bloglovin’

2. Follow JJV on Facebook

3. Follow JJV on Twitter

4. Comment below stating that you have done the three things above (don’t forget your e-mail)!

xoxo, Joules

*No purchase necessary.  All samples were gifts with purchase curtesy of Sephora.  

Kat Von D and Sephora did not endorse this giveaway or post.