Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lighten up

I have another full day off today, so instead of spending it in front of the TV and spying on my unsuspecting neighbors, I decided to be productive. Now that I am often home from work after 7:30 PM, our dinner schedule has taken a real hit. If I haven't put something in the crock pot in the morning, or left something out with detailed instructions no longer than 3 steps, chances are pretty good that E will have gorged himself on Doritos and cheese sticks by 5:30. If he has eaten at all. It's hysterical, because he's actually a really good cook. Sadly, he's turned into a spoiled lazy ass who eats like the ladies in Lean Cuisine commercials. "Last night I ate a yogurt, 7 crackers, and half a cheesecake straight from the freezer!"

In order to save my own sanity, I decided to start stocking the freezer with food that he can pull out and stick in the oven, so that dinner is ready when I get home with very little thinking on his part. While a lot of things are great for this purpose (like casseroles and pasta dishes) most of them are loaded with fat and calories. I switched up a couple of faves to ensure that they will still taste delicious without creating massive ass expansion.

Eggplant Lasagna: My mom's old school lasagna was the best! Seriously. Nothing was better than coming home from school to smell a gravy (ok, ok, a sauce!) on the stove and see her mixing up ricotta filling. I used to sneak tea cups full of gravy and eat it with a spoon when she wasn't looking. Now that we are all more health conscious (especially my mom, the fiber Nazi. Really, she can take one look at you and tell if you've had your daily dose of fiber. If not, she'll give it to you, intravenously if necessary.) we never make lasagna. I crave it though, especially once the weather gets cooler. This recipe cuts the pasta and cheese by half, up the veggies, and is actually better than the original. Sorry, Mom.

Chicken Tattrazini: I was a casserole freak in college. Between this, tuna noodle casserole, and late night chip 'n dipping (remember that, Jenny?), it was a damn good thing I had a high metabolism. I couldn't even imagine eating like that now, any more than I can imagine drinking 6 mudslides at T.G.I.Fridays without booting. Ah, youth! I couldn't even find my old recipe (must have lost it along with that metabolism), so I looked up one of Martha's, cut the fat and swapped in whole wheat pasta for the white. This recipe smelled so good I hated to stick it in the freezer.

Cranberry Whole Wheat Muffins: Ok, not a dinner option, but worth sharing anyway! A few years ago E and I went to an adorable bed and breakfast and were served these killer muffins in the morning. I've made them a bunch of times since, but it's my mother who started playing with the recipe to add (you guessed it!) fiber. I decided to make these today when E told me he refuses to eat this oh-so-yummy Cascadian Farms "Hearty Fiber" cereal I bought. I'm a sucker for coupons and for organics, so I bought it without really reading the box. "No way am I eating anything that says it has twigs in it." Fine. I used the rest of the box to make these muffins, so he's still going to eat the twigs, he just won't know it. I wrap them in freezer paper, stick them in a large ziploc bag and freeze them for a quick snack or breakfast.

Funny thing is, E just came home from work early, literally while I'm typing this. He went straight for the fucking Doritos.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Happy Blogiversary!

No, I'm not picking my nose here.

So Holy Crap. I was scanning through some old posts and realized that it was three years ago this week that I started this blog. Three years ago today I was sitting at a desk in a tiny flat in Friedrichshafen, Germany, jet-lagged, hungry, and spazzing the f out. I can't believe how quickly it all went by, and how distant that person seems from the person I am now. Reading through some of my old posts, I realize now how fun and exciting my life sounded. I was a sarcastic little bugger (what else is new?) but man, was I doing cool shit! My blog has transitioned from a travel heavy fun-for-all to a much more creative outlet, but at least I'm not entirely static. I may party a little less hardy and keep a little closer to home, but at least now I can enjoy my reality TV in English.
Aaaaanyway, I've decided to celebrate my little anniversary with a giveaway in order to thank the three of you who have actually read this ramble-fest. You know those little letters I like to paint? Well, I'd like to make you some! Here are the details:

The prize: A set of letters (up to six) fully painted and embellished by moi.
What to do with them? Choose the name of a child, an inspirational word or phrase, whatever! Hang them up, stare at them, be happy.

How to win:

1. Leave me a comment describing what name, word, or phrase you'd like. I will contact you for color and theme details later. Remember that you can only use up to six letters.
2. Tell me a little story about why you want the letters you chose; I like stories. Maybe you want the word "Free" to remind you of how you ditched some grimy boyfriend and then found yourself. Maybe you want your daughter's name encrusted in glitter because she's a diva. Anything goes! If you need some idea of what I've made in the past, feel free to peruse this flickr set.
3. Don't forget to leave me an email address to contact you if you win!

I will choose a winner based on who has the best story or letter choice, so go to town! The giveaway will end on October 1st and is only open to residents of the continental US. Sorry, but I'm cheap and don't want to deal with ridonculus overseas shipping :) Have fun and good luck to everyone who enters!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Peath Out Summer

I hate that today is the last day of summer. My depression over the passing of summer isn't anything new, but listening to Willard Scott ramble through his dentures this morning about falling leaves just about did it for me. My mourning is official.

It could also be that occasionally we all have days when we realize how much we suck at life. First day of Fall? You are my day.

For me the end of summer also signaled the end of my full time employment and the transition into not one, not two, but three part time jobs. Somehow, one can have a bachelor's degree, five years of experience, excellent recommendations, plus three part time jobs and still end up with a random day off in the middle of the week. Call me crazy, but I just wasn't planning for that. Suddenly it becomes imperative to conjure up a full schedule of errands or other inane activities to fill a day. You wouldn't want to look up and realize that at 5:00 in the evening, you've watched Tyra, Wendy Williams, and a mini marathon of Gossip Girl episodes, while eating nothing but a bag of gummi worms and forgetting to brush your teeth. Not that that has ever happened to me.

I began my plan of festivities today by spying on my neighbors. Our new development is full of elderly Asian ladies, including the piano teacher who lives next door with her traveling circus of family members. Seriously, the place needs a revolving door and some midgets and they'd be set. Sometimes I get to listen to her play beautiful classical music while I fold laundry, but more often I get to listen to little children banging out sour notes with the occasionally loud thump. I like to imagine that it's the old woman, whacking the backs of their hands with a ruler. I never hear them crying though.

I was minding my own business, "reading a book" by the window, when I heard it. Instead of music, it was screaming. Such loud, painful howling I thought the kid had to be dying. At the very least he had to be hemorrhaging from some orifice or other. But no, turns out he was just being a little asshole. Piano lady was pushing the toddler in a stroller through the parking lot while he thrashed violently back and forth, yanking on his own hair. She ignored him completely, which makes me love her all the more. Now I know she's a sadist.

I also spied on our cutesy love dove girl, who lives across the lot with her man candy. I have never met these people, to be fair, but I hate them. They are about our age, and spend every weekend washing their matching CRV's, she with her glistening, chestnut locks and cute butt, he with his shaggy Kings of Leon haircut and soccer calves. They laugh and flick water at each other while their gorgeous Golden Retriever sits basking in the sunlight. They are probably perfectly nice people with whom we'd totally get along, but I've seen that episode of "How I Met Your Mother" and I'm not into hanging out with neighbors after our incident with the freaks at the last condo (one day I'll break down and share that story, but I'm still having nightmares). And so I watched her through the window while she carried stuff back and forth from the car. She looked like shit: no makeup, messy hair, and an outfit that had clearly been pulled from the hamper. In other words, she looked just like me.

About this time I realized that spying on neighbors wasn't giving me the self esteem boost I was looking for. Maybe working out would, or bathing even. Then I started cleaning out my wallet while shooting hate beams at Rachael Ray on TV, and found my savior. A Kohl's gift card. Hells yes! Best depression fighter? Shop therapy, baby. Gotta go brush my teeth.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Moth Man

And now back to our weekend...
Sunday was game day, which means big beers, overloaded nachos, and Polish sausage. Thankfully we picked the right day, since the Red Sox won on Sunday and went on to lose 3 out of 4. The game was followed by naps, dinner in, and an Irish pub crawl. We hit up O'Callahan's and the Elephant and Castle before ending up back at Fado with a few other friends. By the way, none of these places actually qualifies as a real Irish pub. They are still fun, but if you want authenticity, check out this crawl.

Monday was slow going, since we were all so stuffed and a bit hungover, but we pulled it together and headed home. We have made the drive between Chicago and Ann Arbor many times, and never stop along the way, so we decided to hit a few "attractions". E and I did a quick wine tasting at Contessa, visited Grandpa's Cider Mill (Which you can skip, since it sucked. We were expecting kitsh at the very least, but got nothin'. The cider in the case was frozen, probably made last year, and it looked like an empty warehouse inside.), and got truffles at the Chocolate Garden, before buying a flat of peaches at Fruit Acres and getting back on the road. We listened to David Sedaris audiobooks and drove into a rain storm. Then we went to bed.

I had hoped this was the end of our saga, since E had a 7:30 AM flight to Charlotte and I had to work, too. Alas. I was startled at 3 AM by my beloved climbing out of bed and slamming full force into the dresser in the dark. He turned on the light and mumbled, "What the hell is that?" Now fully awake, I looked over to the window where he was pointing. Something was stuck in the vertical blinds, flapping against the window and causing a ruckus. It was a moth. Not a city moth, whose growth is obviously stunted by exhaust fumes and smoke, but a farm moth, one grown fat on the honey of apple blossoms until it reaches the size of a small bird. I can only imagine that it had stowed away in the flat of peaches we bought in Coloma, taking a little nap in the sweet-smelling box. Upon awakening in our pitch black kitchen, it must have been totally freaked out. Finding little greenery on the first floor, I'm sure it felt trapped, and careened up the stairway looking for escape. Spotting our bedroom windows, it smelled freedom, and flung itself at top speed into the blinds, where it got stuck and continued flapping like mad.

This brings us up to real time. E grabbed at the moth monster with a tissue, but only succeeded in setting it free. It flew behind the dresser and went silent. Hoping to get back to sleep, E put out the light and climbed back into bed. As if it would be that easy, my love. Literally the instant that I fell back asleep, I was awake again. The sound was like that of a playing card tucked into a spinning bike wheel combined with erratic heartbeats, and I had no idea where the moth was at this point. E got up again and switched on the lamp. Torn between it's desire to live and it's instinct to move towards light, the moth appeared and jumped into the lamp shade. I heard a sizzle, which could only be the tears of the moth hitting the hot bulb, as it realized it had made the wrong choice. E was on him in a second. He marched into the bathroom with the crumpled tissue, flung it down onto the tiled floor and pounded it with his fist before tossing it into the trash. "Are you sure he's dead?" I asked. Somehow I knew the moth was a male. All I could picture was myself, waking later to hear a soft thumping from the cabinet, Edgar Allen Poe style, then opening the door for the moth monster, crazed and desperate, to fly out and attack me in the face.

I never fell back to sleep. I lay in bed for several hours until E left for the airport and then wandered downstairs when my stomach started grumbling. How I could eat after this weekend is a mystery to me. I have yet to open the cabinet and am contemplating ways to avoid it until E gets home on Thursday and can take out the trash. I'm sure I'll be less paranoid once I sleep a little. We'll see.


I think that one word pretty much sums up my Labor Day weekend. I'm back home to rain, thunder and lightning, but I couldn't scare less. After our 4 day jaunt in Chicago, all I feel like doing is laying around and reading, and gray days are perfect for that. What I really need to be doing is a two hour workout followed by an acai berry detox, but I doubt that's going to happen.

Our Tour de Fatty Foodies began on Friday night, with 22 oz. Fat Tires and BBQ at Heaven on Seven. Saturday was to be a long day, and we would need our fuel. We gorged ourselves on brisket, pulled pork and sweet potato polenta, sampling every hot sauce we could get our hands on. We spent the remainder of the evening watching the Red Sox game on TV, too full to move beyond our hotel suite. We figured that was ok, since we had a long weekend ahead of us.

Saturday began with brunch at Frontera Grill, which besides the incredibly long wait for our food's arrival, was well worth the hype. Get in line early for the first seating and you won't need to wait longer than 25 minutes for a table! I had the Huevos Motuleos (two fried eggs on a crispy tostada with roasted tomatoes, country ham, peas, sweet fried plantains, queso fresco and black beans) and a tall Michelada. Heaven. Sadly, E was jealous of my food, having ordered something sort of boring, but he was happy after tasting the Habanero Salsa. It was insanely hot, forcing tears and sweat, which is why they offer it as an "all you can eat" condiment. I doubt anyone gets past the first bowl!

We followed brunch with a much needed stroll over to Millennium Park to check out all of the new sculpture and architecture exhibitions. All of the new installations are so futuristic, it looks like alien pods have landed, sustainable, eco friendly alien pods that is. We didn't get a chance to go back at night, but apparently the space is illuminated after dark, so it would be worth checking out! We wandered through the Jazz Festival, too, but didn't stay long, since jazz really isn't what we are into. I find it a little boring to be honest, sue me.

After exhausting our feet, we jumped into the car to drive up to Hot Doug's, where the line already stretched around the building. E spent our almost two hours in line surfing the web. Thank God for that Blackberry, or else I know he would have killed me. "You really want to wait in this line for a hot dog?" Yes. Yes, I did. When the hot dog is a Smoked Crayfish and Pork Sausage with Cajun Remoulade and Smokey Blue Cheese and the french fries are cooked in duck fat, yes. We also ordered the Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Sel Gris, cut both in half and traded. Once he took a bite, E stopped complaining. Hands down these were the best dogs we have ever eaten. Heaven on a bun, people.
On our way home we stopped at the Bleeding Heart Bakery since it is just down the road. I know, you are wondering how anyone could eat a cupcake at this point. I ordered a Half Acre and a Holy Mole in honor of brunch, but couldn't even think about eating them. They went into the hotel fridge and were nibbled over the course of the weekend. We then had to rush back to get ready for dinner at Shaw's with business people. I could barely make it through a martini, let alone more food, but had to order something to be polite. We definitely need to go back one night when we are hungry and sit in the little wet bar. It looks like a fish shop back home, and has an awesome menu. We spent the rest of the evening having beers at Fado with our friends the Robinson's, before passing out in the hotel.

This is where my story gets put on hold. It's not much of a cliff hanger, but I don't want this post to get any longer than it already is. I'll come back later to tell you about the rest of what I ate all weekend long and why I didn't sleep all night last night :)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Celebrate good times, come on

I apologize if that song gets stuck in your head now!

I'm the kind of person who will come up with any reason to throw a party, bake or make gifts for people. I just like celebrating things, even mundane things. The past few weeks we've had lots of things to celebrate, so I got to tinker to my little hearts content.

First, our beloved D came out for a long weekend all by her lonesome. It was her very first time traveling by herself, and it also happened to coincide with her "5,000th Day." You may be wondering, "What, pray tell, do you mean by 5,000th day?" Well, I will tell you! My lovely dork of a husband was listening to one of his favorite albums from one of his favorite bands: Tool's "10,000 Days". He wondered, "How many years old is someone who is 10,000 days old?" Being a math guy, he banged out the figures and discovered that he and I are both several years beyond that, since 10,000 days equals about 27 and a half years. Suddenly he thought, "Wait! 10,000... 27... 5,000... 13... D money... bacon..." He's always thinking about bacon. A bit more figuring led E to discover that his little sister would be 5,000 days old on the Friday she arrived at our house. Of course, I had to throw her a party.

How to throw a 5,000, 10,000, or 15,000 Day Party:
Make dessert: Every celebration needs dessert. Find out your party recipients favorite flavors and make something to match. I hate when people make their own favorite thing for a party. "Oh, I just adore beets! Everyone must love beets! I'll make borscht!" Only to discover that the mere scent of a beet makes the birthday girl want to spew. ("Hey, Phil, If you're gonna spew, spew into this!" Random film quote of the day!) You also need to decorate the dessert with appropriate flair. I used toothpicks, a big circle punch, and a marker to make the little picks for D's cakes. Easy, cute, done.

Buy the appropriate number of gifts: Or make them if you are crafty and have an unlimited amount of free time. There was no way I was making 5,000 of anything. I couldn't even commit to buying her 5,000 of any one thing. Instead, D got 5 different things: M&M's, mini-marshmallows, index cards, paper clips, and post-it notes. It's back to school time, and she only had a carry on bag, people. Other fun ideas include anything you can buy in bulk at Costco, pennies, books equal to the days in pages, or prescription meds (if you are an Amy Sedaris type partier).

By the time D's plane came in, she was so tired that we didn't get into playing any 5,000 Day games; we didn't even eat cupcakes until the next morning. But you could go ahead and force the party person to walk 5,000 steps, jump rope for 5,000 seconds, eat 5,000 saltines, whatever amuses you. Just don't make anyone drink 5,000 ounces of hard liquor.

Aside from our long weekend with the little sis, we have had lots of babies born to our friends lately. We haven't gotten the chance to meet any of them yet, but it always gives me the chance to get crafty. I've made name letters for every baby born to a friend or family member since my nephew Nic was born 7 years ago. You can see some of them in my flickr set. Usually I mimic the colors and theme of the nursery or bedding, but I take other requests. I'm waiting for some hard core friends to want tattoo and flame letters, since I'm tiring of baby elephants and Pooh! This week I had to make letters for Parker, Vanessa, and Joplin (baby jungle animals, ladybugs and more ladybugs) and also need to make new ones for Nic, whose adorable kite themed nursery letters are a little young for a seven year old. He wants Batman now. I can't even stand it. When did he get so old? Bottom line, if you know somebody who is having or has recently had a baby, let me know. I'll whip 'em up for ya!

Our last little bit of celebration is this coming 4 day mini-vacation to Chicago for Labor Day weekend. We have Red Sox tickets, hells yes! I'm also determined to satisfy the food groupie in me by visiting some of the restaurants of the celebrity chefs with whom I am obsessed. In case you didn't know, I am not all that concerned with what SJP is wearing today, but I can tell you what flavor profiles Grant Achatz is toying with this week. I know, lame. While I will sadly not be visiting Alinea for dinner (just can't justify the $500 bill!) I will be pushing for brunch at Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill, a trip to the Bleeding Heart Bakery and a dog at Hot Doug's. We won't spend ALL of our time eating, (hello? I did mention a Red Sox game!) and there will be lots of time for any of the huge amount of events going on in the city this weekend. Here's a pretty comprehensive list in case you're in town, are lost, and are looking for something to do. We're thinking of doing some thrifting, hitting one of the 70 farmer's markets, and maybe the Jazz and Polish fests. Sweetness.

Have a safe and happy Labor Day everyone!