Wednesday, December 30, 2009


In the midst of our insane move, unpacking boxes in record time, and getting our holiday on, I turned thirty. While many people facing this milestone get teary and hysterical, make major purchases, and consume massive quantities of hard alcohol, I was pretty much unphased. E and I were at the house in RI, hanging with D and making cookies, playing Wii, and reading in our PJ's until at least 3:00. Then we visited my aunt's house, had a drink and some food, and drove to Connecticut to play Santa with my sister. We set out carrots and cookies with Nic, ate more food, drank a glass of wine, and then I went to bed. Huzzah! It was nice and calm, uneventful, and there were no tears, hysterics, or feelings of woe. I don't feel the need to go buy myself a right hand ring, or wail my sorrows over lost youth into a bottle of Jack. The most dramatic thing I did was chop off six inches of my hair (after realizing I have had the same hairstyle for ten years!). I'm actually pretty glad my twenties are over. While many of the last ten years have full of awesome, there have also been some of the most difficult, challenging, and all out shitty times, too. I'm glad to have survived them, knowing of course, that we all learn from our mistakes, but in no way feeling sad that my drunken-booty-shaking, late-night-clubbing days of yore are now behind me. Aww, who am I kidding? I still like drunken booty shaking. And belated birthday parties. Even if I do have to plan them myself :)

God, I sound like such a brat! Love you guys!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A2 Redux

While up to my eyeballs in packing paper, bubble wrap and styrofoam peanuts, I've had plenty of time to ponder the past two years. Now yes, I have complained about the weather here, the distance from my family, and the amusing, if not slightly annoying, idiosyncracies of many Michiganders, but there are also plenty of things I have enjoyed about Ann Arbor. The saying is true, this place is definitely 12 square miles surrounded by reality, but you know what? It's a pretty nice little fairy tale land if you ever get a chance to visit. We've had some good times, visited some great places, and made some absolutely wonderful friends, whom we will miss dearly. Here's the breakdown of some things that made our Midwestern sojourn memorable:

- The Art Fair: Hands down the most amazing street art fair I've ever been to. It takes 3 days to see all of it, and the range of artists is just incredible. There's nothing I like more in the summer than wondering around downtown, taking advantage of street sales, checking out gorgeous art from around the country, and people watching. It puts RI art fests to shame.

- Tailgating and the Big House: As New Englanders who could not possibly care less about college football, E and I were nonplussed by the idea of living literally 2 miles from Michigan Stadium. After one visit to a tailgate, we knew we'd have to change our minds. While we never became Wolverine fans (why would we?) I can't tell you enough about how much fun we had hosting our first huge tailgate bash and going to a game. Even if you are like us and just don't get it, dropping in on a game is worth the experience. The band is fantastic and the enthusiasm of the crowd is so infectious, you may forget that Michigan is the most overrated team in Big Ten football (maybe even more overrated than Stucchi's and Zingerman's! Hahaha!).

- Conor O'Neill's, Grizzly Peaks, The Brown Jug, and Charley's: How do I love thee, beer? Let me count the ways... Actually, I can't begin to count how many beers and fun times we've had in these four bars, which quickly became our go-to spots. In reality, I don't think it had as much to do with the places themselves (although Grizzly has the best bar food, Conor's is a decent Irish pub before the kids arrive and smoke it out, and both Charley's and the Jug have ridiculously cheap prices) as it did the company. I almost peed myself on many occassions (from laughing, people, laughing!).

- The Chop House, Palio, Shalimar, Raja Rani, Prickly Pear, and eve: There are so many restaurants in this area, you could eat at a new one every night for months. There are tons we never got to, but these are all places where we had really good food. Shalimar and Raja Rani have some of the best Indian food ever, and Prickly Pear is really delicious Southwestern food. While Palio isn't the authentic Italian we snobby Rhode Islanders are used to (we can't help it being raised by The Hill!) it is the best you'll find around here. The Chop House, is your standard chop house, but thanks to some very generous peeps, we did enjoy awesome steaks and a Tiger sighting there. eve is the restauranut owned by the chef who got cut very early in last season's Top Chef (so sad!), but her restauraunt is a beautiful, intimate, little space and the food is gorgeous. Pricey, but worth it for apps and drinks at least!

- The Michigan Theater: I do love me a well preserved historical theater! This one is as beautiful as PPAC, if not as large, and the films and shows they choose are always fab. They are so dedicated to showcasing locals and indies, and it's just a really fun place to visit. Beats the sticky floors and funk of the State for local film viewing in a heartbeat!

- The Arb, Argo Pond, and the Mathei Gardens: For a small city, there are some great places within its borders for taking nice little hikes, paddling a canoe or kayak around, and generally enjoying the scenery on a warm afternoon in the nice weather. Sure, lots of the time I'm cynical and can even be called gasp! negative, but nothing warms my cold little heart like a sunny day, slow moving water, and a boat.  I just wish it was on the ocean (see, there I go again!). These are perfect places for a picnic, a stroll, and getting in touch with your tree huggin', Birk wearin', dirty hippie self.

So long Ann Arbor, and thanks for all the fish.

Friday, December 11, 2009

On the road again...

Well, I've been a little absent and a little confused, a lot busy and so very excited I can't even describe it to you. I messed up and forgot about my last giveaway. I have over 200 posts waiting in my Google reader. I have sadly failed to post about the last few "I Heart Cooking Clubs" themes even though I did actually make tiny Chocolate Egg Nog Pots du Creme for Goddess week (which were muy delicioso Nigella, thanks for the inspiration!) but never photographed them. I baked Cranberry Almond Coffee Cake Muffins, but never photographed them. I made holiday cards and chocolate bark, but never photographed any of that, either. I haven't baked this month's HBin5 bread, FOR SHAME! I've been busy people. Busy getting ready to move this little circus of mine. To NEW JERSEY!

That's right, E and I are finally headed back to our beloved east coast, so peath out Mid West and I'll smell ya later. We will be three hours from home, an hour from New York City, and, compared to our current address, we'll be right near da beach, booyyyy! (Please tell me you caught that reference!) I am so thrilled I'm feeling a little like I imagine a crack head might feel on a bender, all tingly and dopey and with my eyes bugging out. Now let me add that I am actually not a big fan of New Jersey (I admit, E and I lovingly call it the armpit of the country) and after watching Jersey Shore, we know we aren't far off. We lived in Jersey for a short time, so we aren't just being mean (ok, maybe) but really, so many of the stereotypes are true. I'm from frickin' Rho D'island and I still wouldn't tease my hair that big or ever, ever date a guido. However, if it gets me closer to home, bring on the gold chains and fake tans, Mama needs a new set of nails.

I flew to Boston on Monday to meet my mother, drove to NJ on Tuesday to find an apartment, drove back to Boston and then to Connecticut to visit my sister and my little boys, then flew back to Michigan on Thursday in time for work. I'm already packing, because it looks like we are going to be all moved in before Christmas! That means no tree, no cookie trays, no Frankenmuth. I'm lucky that my friends are throwing their Tacky Sweater party this weekend so that I can at least suck up a little holiday cheer. I haven't even bought anything to wear yet, but after last years pathetic display, I've got only one day to step it up. If I have to wrap myself in cellophane and tinsel, so be it. I'll channel Kathy Bates.

So forgive me if I take a short hiatus while I cram my entire home (which I just finished unpacking, mind you) into a big ass Uhaul and deposit it in Yankee territory (the horror!). I'll take pictures, I'll try to make something, I'll even take notes, then I will return to regale you with Tales of the Turnpike and Other Stories, once the skates are again off.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Dance, Monkeys, Dance!

When Aunt Becky says jump, her monkeys don't wait to say how high. I'm not a monkey. But I do dig my dear Aunt Becky and when she wants to give me something for free, I accept, even if it means I have to answer a bunch of random questions about myself that will in no way help anyone to know my inner workings any better. I am a very dangerous woman of mystery, you know. I keep shit close to the chest. Ha.

So here you go Becky, our titillating interview, since you told the monkeys:
"I’m always telling you to shut your whore mouth. Now it’s time to open it."

1) Do you like sprinkles on your ice cream?
Only if it is black raspberry ice cream with chocolate jimmies, which is what they are called in the real world aka Rhode Island.

2) If you had to choose one word to banish from the English language, what would it be and why?
Anyone who reads my blog knows this one. Moist. An unoriginal choice, but there it is. That word makes me cringe. Second choice? Nickleback, for many, many obvious reasons.

3) If you were a flavor, what would it be?
Dark chocolate peanut butter cup.

4) What’s the most pointless annoying chore you can think of that you do on a daily/weekly basis?
I actually don't mind household chores. Not that I'm June Cleaver or anything, but I like a clean house. I don't, however, like cleaning my husband's hairs off of every surface to which they stick, which is every surface in sight. That's definitely not pointless, since I don't want to live in a monkey house, but it irritates me.

5) Of all the nicknames I’ve ever had in my life, Aunt Becky is the most widely known and probably my favorite. What’s your favorite nickname? (for yourself)
I've had lots of nicknames: Josie-anna, Banga, Sub Curls, Sgt. Josie-which is the most ironic since I ended up marrying a Sargent for real- and the latest, Jojobeans. Coined by one of the cousins, it stuck. E probably uses it the most, and it helps me identify his moods. It becomes Jojo if he wants something, Beans if he's making fun of me. I spent most of my life refusing to accept nicknames, but know I am Jojo for-eva.

6) You're stuck on a desert island with the collective works of 5 (and only five) musical artists for the rest of your life. Who are they?
You suck, Becky. I don't like limits. But if I must I'll go with Regina Spektor, the Beatles, Jeff Buckley, Dave Mathews Band, and Madonna. Yup.

7) Everything is better with bacon. True or false?
True! Try Chocolate Chip Maple Bacon cookies! Boo ya!
8 ) If I could go back in time and tell Young Aunt Becky one thing, it would be that out of chaos, order will emerge. Also: tutus go with everything. What would you tell your young self?
Curly haired girls must never cut bangs. And E is the only one who will ever really love you, so don't waste your time looking elsewhere.

Happy, Becky?  Thanks for making me do a damn questionairre even when you know blog readers hate questionairres. I still love you.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Happy December!

I now know that I will have no time at all for holiday crafting this year, what with the big changes E and I have going on! I'll be lucky if I mail out Christmas cards from a box. So today, I took advantage of my last little bit of fun time and got my Christmas craft on...

After making several garbage bag wreaths for Halloween over the past few years, I decided I wanted to make something similar for Christmas, but with different materials. There is just something so fun about the fluffy knots of those wreaths and they literally take under an hour to make once you get the hang of it.

I decided to use linen since I had a bunch on hand, but you could use any fabric, felt, or even white trash bags. You can have this entire thing done during an episode of Community, so pour yourself a glass of wine and get going!

You will need:
  • 1 12 inch wire wreath form (one with a double set of wires like I have here)
  • About 1 yard of linen or burlap fabric
  • Scissors
  • Embellishments like ribbon, feathers, beads, faux birds, berries and leaves, ornaments, little toys, etc.
  • A hot glue gun
  • Don't forget that glass of wine! You may want to avoid red is you are a slob like me, though. No need to spill on your pretty wreath!
Lay out you fabric and begin cutting or tearing it into strips that are about 1 1/2 inches wide and 8 inches long. Don't go measuring anything; just eyeball it because they don't need to be perfect! As you work with the knots the edges will fray and create the fluffiness that will fill out the wreath.

Take a strip of fabric and loop it around the inside two wires. Secure with a double knot. Continue until inside ring is full of knots. Repeat for the outside ring. Once your wreath form is full of knots, give each one a good fluff and tug to help fray and fill out the wreath.

Now comes the fun part. Embellish your wreath to your creative little hearts content by tying on ribbons and ornaments, spray it with adhesive and throw some glitter at it, or fill in the spaces with hard candies, whatever! Just secure everything with hot glue. The hot glue gun is a crafty girl's best friend, so put it to good use! I went with a green theme since the recipient of this wreath said she tends to decorate in shades of green. I tied on a vintage glass ball ornament and a few iridescent bows, and added some sparkly berries and ferns. I wanted it to be simple, but with a little bit of vintage appeal. Don't forget to tie a small loop of ribbon to the back of the wreath form so that you can hang it.

Now I'd love to say I'm going to make more of these, including one for myself, but that's a lie. Time, time, who's got the time? If you make one, I'd love to see it and live vicariously though other peoples crafting, so don't forget to send me a photo!