Friday, May 29, 2009

My First Giveaway!

Everyone loves free stuff, especially when the economy is in the crapper and we are all dealing with shrinking budgets. The first things we have to do without are obvious novelty items, but we also have to get creative with gift giving and celebrating on the cheap. While I pride myself on being able to make fabulous parties and presents out of almost nothing, a little help doesn't hurt. That's why I am so excited to get to host my first giveaway, just in time for Father's Day! just contacted me with the chance to offer one of their 18″x24″ poster prints for giveaway to one lucky reader, and so here we are! While I haven’t used’s services for myself yet, a quick scan of their site showed me I likely will be soon. Their greetings cards are so tempting! I’ll be able to order my own 18″x24″ print soon, and I’m so excited! I'll be using mine for a long overdo hanging of our wedding photo! If you visit the site, you’ll see that they do more than just poster printing and canvas printing: everything from business cards, door hangers, letterhead, and more. Just a note of warning: if you are a paper junkie like me, you may start drooling.

If you’d like to win this 18″x24″ poster print from, all you need to do is leave me a comment on this post telling me how you’d use a 18″x24″ print. A portrait of you and your dad? Your children and your hubby? Maybe a shot taken at favorite vacation spot or sports venue? For an extra entry, blog about this giveaway (and leave an extra comment with your blog link!), linking back to this post and (you must have both links to be valid). Don't forget to leave me your email address so that I can contact you in case you win!

This giveaway will end at midnight (EST) Friday, June 5. The winner will be drawn at random, will be posted here at go ahead and snicker, and will be notified by email.

PLEASE NOTE: per UPrinting’s rules, the 18″x24″ print is only open to residents in the U.S. and Canada!

Good luck to everyone!
p.s. Check out many more giveaways, including the 1st Birthday Carnival over at The Giveaway! Watch out though, stalking the site can be addicting!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Red Alert!

or What to do in Detroit during the Western Conference Finals

Ok, so I'm not a hockey fan. Let's just get that out of the way. I've already made it very clear that I'm not a Detroit fan either, but when you live in Michigan, you at least have to pay your respects. Detroit is a fantastic sports city, which sounds blasphemous coming from my die-hard-Boston-fan mouth. But, it's true. Even if the unemployment rate has skyrocketed, businesses and residents are running for the hills, and the buildings look like they are crumbling around you, Detroit knows how to host sports fans. While the Lions continue to be one of the biggest jokes in football, Detroit still has the Tigers, Pistons and yes, the Red Wings. And you should see these fans.

Eric got us tickets to see the Red Wings at the Joe (that's the cool people's name for the Joe Lewis Arena), for game one of the Western Conference Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks. From the moment we got out of the car, it was obvious that the hockey nuts are insane here. Screaming curses and taunts at the few Blackhawks fans they could find, or even at their own friends in red jerseys, they were the loudest, most bearded and monochromatic hockey fans I've seen. The nice thing about the Joe is that you get right off the highway and drive into a parking garage, then walk directly through a tube to the arena, where beer awaits you. No need to walk or even drive through the city, which allows fans to ignore the desperate homeless and filthy streets while handing over $8.75 for a jumbo can of Miller Light. Woohoo! Everyone was drinking and milling around and hollering random chants until we got to go inside and find our seats. They turned out to be amazing.

As we settled in, I figured everything would continue like any normal hockey game. Nope. After a show full of pyrotechnics, huge banners and flags, and ear splitting noise, the National Anthem was sung by a tiny blonde with big pipes. Just before the end of the song, fans threw an octopus onto the ice. Then another. And another. I'm talking a real octopus here. Now maybe this isn't a surprise to other people, but I don't follow hockey aside from occasional highlights on Sports Center, so I was a little taken aback. The octopus seems to be the Red Wings mascot (who the heck came up with that?) so I guess it is acceptable, even admirable to toss seafood onto the ice at the end of the song without appearing disrespectful. Everyone went nuts and the screaming only got louder as each new octopus came flying through the air. Whatever floats your boat people.

The game itself was exciting in typical fast paced, body checking hockey style. We immediately realized it is impossible to get good pictures when everyone is whizzing by you at the speed of light, but extra large beers and Cheli's nachos made up for it. That and a very intoxicated young lady fighting with the guys behind us provided ample extra entertainment. She actually tried to climb into a seat occupied by a man twice her size who was with eight friends. She even came back for more after being escorted away by an usher. Just another example of why girls out drinking together must always follow girl law: Never let anyone out of your sight after consuming large amounts of alcohol! Especially not when she is young and cute and wearing a mini skirt.

In the end the Red Wings won the game in overtime, but we didn't get to see that. We left in the third period, while Detroit had a lead. Eric had to work in the morning and honestly, we were getting tired. Real hockey fans would probably say that the tickets were wasted on us, but to them I say, "Pbbllt!" We had a great time, had a new experience, and while I doubt we'll become true Red Wings fans ourselves, at least we earned an appreciation of them and their odd fish wielding ways.

Friday, May 15, 2009

I'm a Convert

Over the past year or so I have heard lots of buzzing about this amazing no-knead bread recipe that was changing the way bakers everywhere will make bread. Being a person who had never made bread and honestly, had no plans to do so, I wasn't all that interested. I love bread, but baking it just wasn't something I'd ever really gotten into. That is until I watched a video segment featuring Jeff and Zoe. I loved how simple and versatile it looked, so I decided to give it a try this week. Turns out, this is the bread recipe my librarian friend Lauren gave to me weeks ago, after she raved about it at lunch one day. She had made some alterations and lots of notes, so I went with Lauren's version for my first try.

The Master Recipe, Lauren's Way:
2 packets granulated yeast (approx. 4 tsp.)
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
3 cups lukewarm (about 100 degrees) water
6 1/2 cups all purpose flour

In a large plastic resealable container (I used my ancient Rubbermaid Cake Carrier!) mix yeast and salt into water. With a wooden spoon, mix in flour until uniformly moist and no dry patches remain. It will be moist and cling to the container.

Cover (not with an air tight lid! I just used a towel) and let stand at room temperature for between 2 and 5 hours. I know this is vague, but it really depends on the heat and humidity in your kitchen! You'll know it is ready when the dough has flattened or begins to collapse on top.

At this point you can cover and refrigerate the dough for up to two weeks, pulling off portions and baking it any time you want fresh bread. When you are ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on the dough, your hands, and work surface. Cut a grapefruit sized ball of dough from the container with scissors. Turn dough in your hands, pulling dough gently to form a baguette. Dust well with flour.

Place dough on a cookie sheet and let rest uncovered for 40 minutes. Using scissors, cut 1/4 inch deep parallel slices into the top of baguettes and place on middle rack in a preheated 450 degree oven. Place a roasting pan beneath the bread and quickly pour in 1 1/2 cups of warm water, shutting the oven door quickly to trap steam.

Bake for 20 minutes. If your baguettes are not golden brown, crack open the oven door to release steam and bake another 5 minutes until tops are crusty.

I let my dough chill overnight and then baked off three small loaves in the morning. It was so delicious, I ate most of it myself, including the sandwich I powered through at lunch. Then I went to Barnes and Noble to look through the book. The only thing that stopped me from buying it was the unfortunate lack of photographs. I want to know how a recipe is meant to look when it is completed, plus I just love great food photography. I put the book, full of lots of interesting adaptations on the Master Recipe, back on the shelf and went back home to my trusty computer. I found Jeff and Zoe's blog, which offers many of the variations found in the book, along with gorgeous photos and even corrections for some of the mistakes printed in the book. They are also working on a second book, which I hope is fully of glossy images and fewer errors. Next up for me is the Roasted Pepper Fougasse, but I think I'll add some parmesan and fresh basil.