Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dear Rachael Ray,

As a long time supporter and fan and a weekly viewer of your talk show, I must admit to being ashamed and disappointed while watching today's segment on "Body Parts That Age You." For a woman who promotes health and well being, particularly for women and their families, I don't understand how you could feature and promote such ideas on your program. Woman today are already obsessed with weight, overwrought with concerns about their breasts, love handles, and backsides, and now we need to worry about our earlobes (at 1500 dollars a pop, no less!)? Once I heard Dr. Drew Ordon say that he feels bad for women with cankles, I shut the TV off. I had had enough. I just can't bear to listen to comments that perpetuate the idea that women are never beautiful enough, skinny enough, or perfect enough for our society. It's not surprising to hear these words emerge from the mouth of a man who makes his living off of this idea, but it was certainly a surprise to see it on your show. Maybe this segment seemed like a useful one for women concerned with aging, but in reality it was just the same old stereotypes being plastered across the screen in "before and after" photos. I think even the audience knew it, as their applause was scattered and seemed forced. While women everywhere can appreciate fashion tips, makeup ideas, and new haircuts displayed in your fun makeovers, this just goes too far.

While I will certainly continue to think of your website as a good place to find quick recipes, I will no longer be watching your talk show. Your viewers deserve better content than this.


* Note: For a moment there I was tempted to sign this letter with "Love and Best Dishes" but I'm too aggravated to be snarky! We'll see if I get any response to this email!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Perfection, my ass

I am such a sucker.

I'm also a bit of a girly girl. I love pink, fluffy slippers, bath and body products, and sparkles. I can't ever buy enough scented lotion, and I spend too long getting ready on date nights. However, I've always considered myself to have a pretty good grasp on reality when it comes to what I really NEED to have. I'll shop sales and only buy when I'm running out of something, except for two very glaring exceptions. Mascara and lip-gloss. Very few people in the world have ever seen me without mascara and lip-gloss, and it is essentially my one true goal in life to prevent that number from growing. Therefore, I keep secret stashes of these products in every conceivable hiding place: pockets, glove compartments, drawers, the toolbox. I do have my favorite, go-to brands and shades to which I will always stay true. But on occasion, some glossy new ad or gimmick will tempt me, and I fall into Freak Fad Frenzy.

This is what happened to me when I discovered the emergence of the new vibrating mascaras. I first spotted the Lancome vibrating mascara (sexily dubbed Oscillation) in a magazine this summer. I got giddy. I had to have one. But I didn't want to pay 34 bucks for it, so I waited until there was a cheaper version sold at CVS. Happily, a few weeks later I discovered Pulse Perfection™ by Define-A-Lash® Vibrating Mascara. See all of those trademarks? It's patented technology people! It must be good! The packaging promised that this product would give me the 7 elements of amazing lashes. Now my lashes are naturally light and not super thick, so that sounded good to me. I waited until I had used up my other mascara to try it, and this was the week. Bring on the perfection!

It was only when I was standing before the mirror yesterday, wand in hand, that I realized I was now about to angle a piece of hard plastic covered in tiny, vibrating spikes, into to my eye. Maybe I hadn't thought this through. But I wasn't about to cave that easily. I followed the detailed instructions on the packaging and waited to see my glorious lashes emerge...

"Uh, why do I look like a large, furry spider is napping on my eyelid?" Because this crap doesn't work. It's ridiculous. I looked like I had a solid clumps of lashes, like one of those old napping baby dolls whose lids flap up into their heads when you pick them up. It took me almost five minutes of slow separating with my lash comb, followed by wiping all of the excess on a tissue, and more combing. There was so much mascara on that wand that even Tammy Faye would have cringed. Sadly, I had to go to work, so I had to do it again on the other eye or risk not matching and looking like an even bigger wacko. It usually takes me a total of ten minutes to do all of my makeup, but it took me longer than that just to put on this mascara. At the end of the day, my eyes started to itch. I looked in the mirror and realized it was because the mascara was flaking off and nesting inside my lower eyelids, where it created the appearance of smudgy, dark liner and also an increasing amount of discomfort. I'll admit that the liner effect, while entirely accidental, looked kind of sultry, but I'm not into all that pain in the name of fashion bullshite. I couldn't wait to get home and either wash my face or tear my eyes out.

The good news is CVS has a great beauty returns policy, so this shit is going back to the store. When someone invents injectable lipgloss, remind me of this experience.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The lovely and crafty Claire sent me a set of cute cookie cutters in fall shapes recently and I couldn't wait to use them! I decided to use the maple leaves to make these sandwich cookies. I've made these raspberry sandwich cookies for Christmas the past two years, and loved the dough so much I had to try something new with it. I swapped the mascarpone for cream cheese since it was all I had in the fridge, and it worked just as well! The batch went to the office with E and was gone in minutes. Honestly, I know the same would be true if I sent in some grocery store donuts, so I'm not all that flattered by his coworkers' tastes. I tried one, though, and they were pretty f'in good! So yeah, that's why E got to take them to work. I have a dress to get into next weekend!

Pumpkin Maple Buttercream Sandwich Cookies:

For Dough:
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
dash of salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups flour

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds until pale and fluffy. Add sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg and beat until combined. Beat in vanilla, egg, and cream cheese, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in as much flour as possible using your mixer, 1/2 cup at a time. Fold in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon. Divide your dough in half. *If you want to, you may wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour or two, but it's not necessary. This dough is easy to work with! You can also freeze it for up to two months.
On a lightly floured surface, roll half of dough to a 1/8 inch thickness and cut into shapes. Bake on a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper for 5-6 minutes or until edges just start to brown. *Keep an eye on them as they will burn quickly! Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.

For Frosting:
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. maple syrup
1 lb. confectioner's sugar

Beat pumpkin and butter until well combined. Add cinnamon, ginger, salt, vanilla, and maple syrup and beat until combined. While your mixer is running at medium speed, add sugar 1/2 cup at a time. You may not need the entire pound, so taste it and see! Also, don't worry if the frosting looks a little grainy as you start adding sugar. It will become nice and fluffy!

I used about a teaspoon if frosting to sandwich cookies together, then used a little melted chocolate to pipe on veins for the leaves. You can use more frosting, but it will squeeze out when you bite into the cookies! However, if sweet and messy is your thing, then go for it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Slow Going...

What is it about the fall that makes me instantly turn into sloth girl? The colder weather is certainly a part of it (35 degrees here when I woke up! Aah!), but I think it is also the smells, the colors, and obviously, the food. I like to cook things slowly in the fall, since I'm happy to let my oven warm up the entire house now, unlike summer when the grill is the only heat I'll allow! My slow cooker is out of the cabinet and becomes pretty much a counter fixture the second September rolls around. It's my saving grace now that I work lots of evenings.

This weekend I had lots of cooking time on my hands since E and I were laying around pretty depressed about the impending doom that was creeping up on the Red Sox (not a word Bobbins! I'll come over there!). The only thing to do once fate was clinched and the series was not was to eat lots of comfort food. To me that can mean lots of things: spaghetti and meat balls, homemade mac and cheese, chicken and dumplings, tuna noodle casserole. This week it meant my version of onion soup for lunch and my mom's banana bread with huge cups of tea all late afternoon. Nothing better to soothe the slow ache of a season gone down the tubes.

How to make my Potato Onion Soup:

4 cups yellow onion, sliced thin
2 medium red potatoes, sliced in half then sliced very thin (use a mandoline or a food processor for this!)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup red wine
3 Tbls. tomato paste
6 cups chicken stock
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 Tbls. olive oil

If you have a dutch oven for this soup, you're money. I don't have one, and it is the bane of my existence. (Maybe one day a fairy godmother, or my husband, will get one for me? Hint hint!) If you are sadly devoid of a dutch oven, use a big pot; it'll be ok.

Heat olive oil in the pot over medium low heat. Add onion and cook over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring every once in a while. Yes, I said 45 minutes. Your onions need to get super soft and turn a dark golden color before you add anything else or you won't get the right flavor. See those? That is 30 minutes in, and they may look soft and yummy, but they are not ready! Keep going until you see this caramel color. Please ignore that I forgot to take a picture before adding the potatoes! But really, that's how dark your onions need to be! Once you get them to that point, stir in garlic, red wine, tomato paste, bay leaf and potatoes. Let that simmer for about 5 minutes before pouring in your stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 35 - 45 minutes, until your potatoes are fork tender. Season with salt and pepper, remove bay leaf, and serve.

We ate ours with little Blue Cheese Crescent Rolls and lots of sorrow. It was delicious and did make me feel a little better. The entire house smelled of onions, which I love, but E doesn't, so I baked a banana bread to cut the odor. I don't like most banana breads, and I will never buy it in a bakery or coffee shop because it is always too dry. I know everyone says it, but my mother's recipe is the best! It is so moist, and it will stay that way for days as long as you wrap the bread tightly in foil. This is perfect with a little butter or cream cheese and a big cup of tea! Plus, you can have a loaf in the oven in literally 10 minutes.

Suzy's Banana Bread:

3 very ripe bananas (ultra ripe, brown skinned, and soft)
1 egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Blend banana, egg, oil, and sugar with a hand mixer until well combined. Beat in flour, salt, and baking soda. Fold in nuts and pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Eat it 'til it's gone!

Although this is one of my favorite comfort foods, we have to be real here. Is it good for you? No, but neither is binge drinking and how many of us did that this past month (err, weekend? yesterday?)? If you really want to lighten it up a little you can use 1/2 a cup of white flour mixed with 1 cup of whole wheat flour, and replace 1/3 of the cup of sugar with Splenda. It won't hurt your final product, but I haven't gone further than that. I don't want to mess too much with perfection! Off to eat my second slice of the day; maybe I should fit in a workout!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Freckles and the Spaniard

Thanks to Jenny's suggestion, I've decided it is time for me to share the tale of our former neighbors, partly to amuse her (and I didn't forget about you, Tim! Hi!) and partly to attempt to rid myself of some of the lingering bad feelings that arise any time I drive by the State Theater.

When E and I first moved to Ann Arbor, we settled into a condo complex full of (unbeknown to us) old people and U of M dental students. Actually, our new development is also full of blue hairs, so maybe that's just our thing. Anyway, we were invited to a get-together by a neighbor that first fall, and being the friendless losers that we were, we kindly accepted. I whipped up a tray of fancy grasshopper brownies and we marched over on a Friday night, not quite hopeful. A man answered the door and we introduced ourselves. "Miriam invited us!" I chirped. It was only when he gave me a strange glare that I realized his wife's name was Gwen. Strike One!

It was at this party that we met the middle aged lawyer who said everything was "off the hook," the Baptist who was thrilled to meet Rhode Islanders (random fact: Roger Williams co-founded the first Baptist Church and Providence is a type of Mecca to hardcore Baptists) and also, Freckles and the Spaniard. This married couple was friendly, talkative, and seemed perfectly harmless. She was a bright, Irish lass who worked for the University and had a passion for beer and art. I'll call her Annie, cause I'm creative and I like pseudonyms. He was a translator from Sevilla (which he pronounces Seh-VEE-Ya! with an exclamation point) with a great accent. I'll call him Hernando. You'll see why later. They invited us out to a movie, and again, we kindly agreed. We are so naive.

We picked up Hernando and drove to meet Annie downtown. We actually passed by her on the street, which was followed by lots of screaming out of windows, slamming on of brakes, and a slight feeling of foreboding. After sitting in the sticky and slighty dank smelling State Theater for two hours of Transiberian (which is a great movie by the way, just not really a "couples night" type of movie) we walked to a local bar. They commented loudly about the movie. Well, he tried to make a point and she shouted over him constantly. At this point I was done, but I thought I could suffer through one beer. Freckles and the Spaniard ordered dinner. E and I then sat through another 2 hours of conversation. By conversation I mean she talked and talked, he simpered, and we threw in occasional comments while chugging beer after beer. She used the phrase "a young gal living on a single income" at least 8 times. Strike Two.

We knew we couldn't continue to have a relationship with these weirdos, especially once we got the feeling that they were only married so that Hernando could continue living in America. They so obviously didn't like each other. Unless you consider emasculating your husband in front of practical strangers affectionate, I imagine they had a pretty loveless home.

We tried to be casual about it. We ran into Hernando at the gym and pretended we had lunch plans. I bumped into Annie in the parking lot and faked an appointment when I was just getting something out of my car. I actually drove away. I didn't have my purse, so I did a few loops around the neighborhood before sneaking home. She thought she had me one day when she was off to work, shouting that she was getting a promotion. The office, where she had worked "since she was a young gal living on a single income," had planned a party. Instead of bringing her husband, she was bringing the elderly woman named Esther with the hunched back who lived next door. Sweet as pie this woman, but I can't picture her as a swinging party guest. "Oh, is Hernando working that night?" I asked.
"No." Hmmm.

One night, not long after the party, the doorbell rang. We opened the door to see a newly mustachioed Hernando in a jogging suit. That would have been enough for me, but no. It was a little handlebar mustache. And he had waxed the ends. He looked like a baby Cortez out for a night of debauchery in his swishy pants. He was there to tell us about his discovery of the New Yorker Magazine online, where you can read many interesting articles from the archives of many, many years of magazines. He proceeded to describe several of these articles to us. Then he asked us to go Flamenco dancing. I pretended I was too cold to stand there with the door open any longer, and before he could somersault into our living room, E shut the door. Strike Three.

Luckily, we moved a short time later, before they could suck us into their weirdo lair. I can picture it now. Expensive art scattered with antique furniture, Spanish guitar on the stereo, and enticing spicy smells to get you in the mood before they drag you, drunk and confused, into the black walled sybian room dressed in soccer jerseys. (If you don't know what a sybian is, please don't Google it while children are in the room. I don't want to be responsible for anyone's nightmares but my own.) And this is why we won't ever again make nice with our neighbors.

Monday, October 05, 2009


My fabulous BFF Jessica is getting married! And I am honored to be a part of her wedding party. I like nothing more than all of the excitement of planning and throwing the parties, dressing up, stuffing my face with passed hors d'Ĺ“uvre and champagne, and dancing the night away. There is also the fun fun fun of trying on (dun dun duuun), the dreaded bridesmaid dress. Unfortunately, the lovely ladies of this wedding are scattered across the country from California to Rhode Island, making it impossible for us all to get together for a day of bubbly, giggling, and bridal boutiques. This has, of course, left us with the only realistic option. David's Bridal.

Now I'm not going to hate entirely on David's Bridal here because I am a realist. My friend Jen and my cousin Libby both bought their gowns there and they were gorgeous! I even loved the bridesmaid dresses we all wore for Libby's wedding. However, the general experience I have had in several David's locations have, to put it bluntly, sucked. A few examples:
- They wanted to charge me over 200 dollars to hem a dress, which my mom ended up doing herself in under an hour.
- The seamstress who worked with Libby was argumentative, rude, and inexperienced, and my aunt had to re-pin the entire bodice while the seamstress was out of the room. The anxiety and stress resulted in tears, which no bride wants to deal with!
- While planning out the gown for my wedding, my mom and I went to try on dresses for shape ideas. I literally hated everything I put on. Half of them had no lining and showed every curve. The other half just felt cheap. I came out of the dressing room at one point saying, "Now this one is just awful..." only to see the salesgirl's face and stutter, "awful on me! Yeah, just awful on my body type. I'm sure it would be adorable on other girls!" Turns out she had just finished telling my mother how she wore the dress at her wedding a few months earlier. My constant foot in mouth syndrome marches on.

Luckily, I have a generally positive outlook, so this weekend I grabbed a girlfriend and my camera, and headed over to David's to take one for the team ;) We had had quite an evening just hours before, so we were in high spirits. I tried on seven dresses in under 30 minutes, while my friend snapped quick photos. She took one shot of each dress, which often caught my immediate reactions upon seeing myself in the wall of many mirrors. I don't mince words, and I make judgments very quickly, so it was a painless enterprise.

Allison's comment: "What is that thing hanging between your legs?" I think it's to soak up thigh sweat.

This one is made of what they call "crinkle chiffon." It actually feels like public restroom toilet paper. Handy for wedding tears.

This time, Allison said, "Um, I like your shoes." Yeah.

I didn't actually think I dress could make me look more flat chested, but I have been proven wrong.

Now this one we both liked! Cute shape, nice fabric. Overall, an adorable little black dress. In yellow? Maybe.

This one is also cute and very comfy. I love jersey. Again, I'm not sure how it will look in yellow, but it fit well, and that's half the battle.

Why I do declare! I think we found a winner! I love this dress. Great fit, great shape, great fabric, and pockets! I love pockets. Ignore the fact that this color is atrocious (Tangerine? Really?) and you'll see why this is my favorite.

You are probably wondering at this point why on earth my friend would choose me to be in her wedding party. I am clearly very opinionated. I am not going to wear taffeta or a butt bow and I'm not going to cut or color my hair. But guess what, she wouldn't ask me to. She's stylish and normal and actually likes her friends enough to not want them to look shitty at her wedding. Plus, shitty looking bridesmaids ruin the pictures.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


Sorry it took a few days to write this post! It has been a busy bee kind of weekend!

So without further ado... I'd like to congratulate the winner of my Third Blogiversary Giveaway: Claire! I just can't resist the phrase, "Oh, Snap!" since it is one of my most frequently used exclamations (other than the f word, of course. I curse like a sailor, much to most people's chagrin.) A guarantee that some of you will also be receiving little presents in the mail at some point, since almost everyone who entered is actually a friend in real life or on Craftster. Miss M, I'm keeping an eye on you for OWS Round 700 or whatever we are up to now!

Thanks again to everyone who entered and for reading my little blog of random. Just wait until I have time to write about my David's Bridal experience yesterday :) Classic.