December 28, 2011

In every pothole, there is hope.

Many, many thanks to my friend Brit - she sent me a care package last week and it included a copy of Mixed Nuts.  Not only did her package come on a perfectly perfect day in which I was exhausted and needed a smile, but the movie was really good and also just what I needed.  A slightly crazy Christmas movie that will definitely be part of my yearly holiday rotation now.

Christmas was spent in a chaotic whirlwind of family, endless logs of Duraflames, shredded tissue paper and overstimulated children.  All sprinkled generously with cheap wine, saturated fats from a variety of God's creatures, starchy carbs and enough real, pure cane sugar to make my pancreas cry, "For the love of Jesus, Uncle already!!!".  Let us not forget my personal, Sepia-toned Grinch.  One of these years, Manoj will learn the true Spirit of Christmas. Whether he likes it or not.

Despite the curry-doused, anti-thesis to George Bailey who happens to reside in my home (and happily, my bed), the holidays are quite simply, one of the very best parts of being a parent.  I relish making the Magic happen for my kids, all the while knowing that over the years, my ability to do so will increasingly diminish in their eyes.  As such, I will cherish these years with Ye Olde Team of Chaos in the meantime.

To cap this year off, this week marks a huge push toward purging -- mostly toys and whatever clutter cannot escape my wily grasp as I canvass our house armed with a fierce gleam in my eye and a black trash bag in my hand.  In our house, white bags are used for trash, but for Junk Purging, I buy special, heavy-duty black bags.  Even Arun and Anjali know to watch me carefully these days.

Ugh.  Am I the only one who approaches January with caution?  Why does January have to be such a downer?  I am fine for the week just after Christmas because New Year's Eve mutes the black hole that Christmas leaves in its wake, but then January rears her ugly mug and ruins everything.  Right?  

Anyway..... This year, I have some thoughts on how I plan to brighten my mood this year.  In the meantime,  I am open to YOUR ideas.  How do you get through January?


Santa only brought each kid one present and a bonus Christmas fish since Alex the Betta died 3 days before Christmas.  Yes, I am a mean mom and only let my kids ask for ONE thing from Santa.  MEAN.

Arun's favorite gift was the $3 set of fossilized shark teeth in his stocking. Sure, he likes his DSi (used! bargain! still expensive!), but he likes the teeth EVEN MORE.  Because they were once in a SHARK'S MOUTH.


Anjali's favorite gift was her Indian doll Nahji that cost a whole $25.  Ask me what she thought of her fancy pants American girl doll that she begged for and hand-picked from a CSI-style lineup of usual suspects.  The same doll that has TEETH which Anjali has decreed shall not be on the head of any doll SHE owns.  TEETH.  The horrors.

Guess who received a second-hand American Girl doll for Christmas from her loving daughter?

Go ahead, ASK.

December 23, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
Cheat Treat

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.

Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

*********

My last food post involved cookies that took me two days to prep.  This post involves a treat that takes about 2 minutes to prep.  You're welcome.

Years and years ago (1999, specifically) my manager at the time brought in a treat plate from his wife.  One of the treats was something called Christmas Crackers and I was completely smitten.  I got the recipe from her and all these years thought I had this little gem of a treat that was totally speshual and uneek.  I made this treat over the weekend and thought I was sharing the secret of my Speshul and Uneek Cheat Treat with my sister (shhh!  It's a secret!) only to find out a saltines version of this is floating all over the Pinterest Universe.

So, despite my sagging balloon, I am going to share this recipe anyway -- primarily because I needed to type it out anyway since I am putting together a holiday recipe book for myself on Paper Coterie (non-sponsored, I will be paying for my recipe book my very own self.)

Seriously, this is a sweet treat even a tweaker could make without burning down the house.




Graham Cracker Christmas Crack
Ingredients
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
12 oz bag mini chocolate chips
15-17 graham cracker sheets(the full sheets, not broken)
1 cup chopped pecans

Preparation

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400.
  2. Melt the butter and sugar on the stovetop. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
  3. Line jelly roll pans with aluminum foil. Lay the graham crackers as closely together as possible.
  4. Pour the butter/sugar mixture over the graham crackers. I use a large spatula to smooth the mixture evenly over the crackers.
  5. Bake in the oven for about 5 minutes. Watch closely! I like it to be bubbly and gooey (no worries, it will harden later!)
  6. Pull the cookie sheet out of the oven. Sprinkle the pecans first, then sprinkle the mini-chocolate chips. Again, I use the spatula to spread things around.
  7. Chill sheets until hardened. Then, break the crackers up and dump them into your gaping maw of a piehole. Alternately, you can staple them to your thighs, although this method results in less enjoyment. 

December 21, 2011

Race you to the next stoplight, asshole.

Most of my past commuting experiences have been highway and interstate. This new client is in-town and the commute is all street traffic, going 35mph to 45mph the entire route. The morning drivers are quite aggressive, but it's laughable watching someone get all Lightning McQueen on your ass for an ENTIRE BLOCK. Oh, sorry about that, buddy! Here, let me eat this bumper in front of me so you can get to the next stop light THAT MUCH FASTER.

Overall, I am SO grateful for this J-O-B experience -- it is with a financial services industry client, which is something I'm quite experienced in, but this company deals in transactions which are completely new to me. My brain hurts every evening because Me No Like No Learning.  However,  I love the challenge and it certainly helps that it is actually interesting. No, really! Basically, their business is like a financial playground for accountants and it deals with the Also Actually Interesting, No Really! topic of miltary and refuelment activities. All of this is furthered by that the people I work with are generally awesome -- they work hard with minimal horseplay and there is no messing around with silly, useless meetings -- they get their stuff done within a reasonable amount of time. THEN THEY GO HOME. Imagine that! I try to get in around 7 to 7:30 and generally leave by 5:30 or I'm home by about 6pm, 6:30pm at the latest. Not bad.  Or at least, I don't think that is so bad.  I have never had a better schedule, so for me, this is what qualifies as Not Bad.

However, this J-O-B came at an awful time -- smack dab right before Christmas (Although, admittedly, I paid for our entire Christmas last week with the aforementioned J-O-B. Oh, Henry!) Fortunately, I had enough notice that I was able to finish most of my Obligatory, Not-Fun Christmas stuff -- there were some last-minute gift purchases, furious wrapping of said gifts and some shipping of packages. Still, I was really quite worried about the Obligatory, Actually Fun Christmas stuff. You know, the IMPORTANT stuff.

Friday before last, I pulled Arun out of school for some "family time" so that we could wrap up some of that Obligatory, Actually Fun Christmas Stuff. We visited the Bass Pro Santa, then had some lunch. Normally, we visit the Crown Center Santa, but I simply didn't have time for that this year. And wow -- since Bass Pro Santa utterly blew the boots off Crown Center Santa, all future Santa Visits will be made to Bass Pro. After the Santa visit, we headed to the Union Station for our annual tradition of riding the Holiday Express. I felt a little guilty pulling Arun from school, but we had such a lovely afternoon, I remain unapologetic.

Overall, Team Chaos is handling my working very well. Arun loved going to the daycare last week since it is ran by one of his classmate's mothers. It was a little tougher on Anjali. She did not cry, but was paralyzed with shyness when we went to visit. That is hard to stomach -- watching my normally obnoxious, little hellfire of a girl stiffen with fright. Sigh. I am not sure how long this engagement will last, but it seems I will be onsite for at least 2 more weeks.

If nothing else, my entire little family is getting a little flex in the muscle of Appreciation. Arun has even been HUGGING AND KISSING ME WITHOUT CAJOLING NOR BRIBERY. If you happen to have a little boy in your life, you know how poignent this is.

At the beginning of Christmas, I had made a little Holiday Bucket List for all of the FUN stuff I wanted to fit in (a wee tyke of a Draft that never quite matured enough to be Published). Considering the addition of the J-O-B, we have done pretty good:
  • Attend the Liberty Hall Christmas Tree Festival in Lawrence KS ( this always kicks off our holiday season -- tradition!)
  • Decorate gingerbread cookies
  • Decorate gingerbread houses
  • Bake the kifli
  • Do some Christmas sticker crafts
  • See the Gingerbread House Exhibit in Lawrence KS
  • Drive through and see the Plaza Lights (However, Mama ain't crazy enough to try and PARK)
  • Do some shopping in Brookside
  • Attend the Nutracker Suite performed by the KC Ballet at the Kauffman Center
  • Do some shopping in downtown Lawrence (sadly, I had to nix this)
  • Make Christmas Crack (post on this is forthcoming)
  • Visit Santa
  • Attend Average Jane's fantastic Cookie Soiree
  • Make a snowflake garland
  • Drive through the Neighborhood of Ridonkulous Decorations (seriously, this neighborhood is so over the top that one year, my sister and I nearly got plowed over by a freaking TOUR BUS.)
  • Christmas Books Extravaganza (I've posted some of our favorites in this post)
  • Christmas Movies Marathon
  • Playing outside in the cold, then drinking hot chocolate after (this is something that Arun insists upon doing for some reason)

We still need to make a snowflake garland (I love, LOVE cutting out snowflakes) and do our neighborhood lights cruise.

Fortunately, my family is low-key when it comes to Official Christmas festivities -- we do appetizers/snacks at my dad and step-mom's on Christmas Eve. Then, I host a traditional mid-day dinner on Christmas day where everyone brings a little something. Addtionally, that side of the family is low in the drama-department.

Bring it ON, Christmas.

I'll race you to the next stoplight.

Team Chaos was very conscientious in bringing Santa thank you letters and candy (they did this for Halloween at Boo at the Zoo, too -- taking candy WITH them to hand out as thank you candy to the folks handing out candy.  The year before, Arun handed out thank you letters on Halloween night as well. WEIRDOS.  Polite, sure.  But still....WEIRDOS)

Riding the Holiday Spirit at the Union Station.

See!  They DO love each other! 

Wait a second.  False Alarm!  Arun is doing the obligatory move of filial love called "Why you hitting yourself?"

Anjali got all dressed up for her school Christmas concert and willingly posed.  What a treat, baby girl!

However, one's party dress is not complete without boots.
It just wouldn't do, otherwise. 

Of course not, silly!

December 18, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
The Late Edition

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.

Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

*********

Last year, I wrote about the Story of the Kifli, which included a bit of my baking history and my hopes for my friend Jolene as she fought pancreatic cancer.  That post is still hard for me to read because a year later?  My friend is gone.

Also, inexplicably, I now bake -- even when it is not Christmas.  It started off with cookie dough from Papa Murphy's.  Then, I tried out some Amish Friendship bread.  Even the over-ripe bananas on the counter are getting nervous, folks.

These past few weeks, I've had the pastry mat out more times than I can count for baking gingerbread cookies (again, via a tub of dough,  Although, I have grand plans for next year and have been researching gingerbread recipes.  Yes, ME.  The Non-baker.)  Anyway with practice, I've gotten to know my oven better and have learned that one of the tricks with baking is that the item continues to bake a bit AFTER being pulled from the oven.  I have definitely gotten better at gauging that precise moment when things should be pulled.

The original recipe that I've linked to in the past never quite worked.  For one, the measurements were WAY off and I was left with a ridiculous amount of the nut filling.  This year, I took careful notes so that from now on, I will not have to dig into my addled memory to figure out what I should be doing.  After all, I'm not getting younger.

Romanian/Hungarian Kifli Recipe

Ingredients for 1 Batch of Kifli Dough
(I make 4 batches of dough for 1 batch of filling)
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup butter
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
(Note: I make each of the 4 batches of dough separately with a hand mixer using dough hooks. If you have a fancy mixer, you may be able to make all 4 batches at the same time. This dough is super sticky and at the end, is VERY hard to mix. Trust me, you want dough hooks and NOT beaters for this bad boy.)

Ingredients for 1 Batch of Kifli Filling
3 egg whites
2 cups ground pecans
1 cup white sugar
(Note: Walnuts and almonds can be substituted for the pecans)

Also:
2-3 cups confectioners' sugar for rolling and decoration

Preparation for the Dough
  1. In a tall-ish mixing bowl with high sides, cream the butter and cream cheese. Stir in the egg yolks, vanilla, baking powder and salt.
  2. Gradually add in flour mixture a little bit at a time until everything is mixed well.
  3. Divide dough into 5 parts, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate overnight (Keep in mind that you will have 20 of these dough thingies, since you are making 4 batches of the dough.)

Preparation for the Nut Filling
  1. Beat egg whites to soft peaks and add sugar a little at a time.  Continue to beat the eggs into stiff peaks. 
  2. Fold in the ground pecans, and set aside. 

Baking
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake the cookies for 9 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Roll in confectioners' sugar when cool.  This recipe makes approximately 300 cookies.

And now, for the pictures!

The kifli production line.  I only get out each section of dough one at a time.  As they warm up to room temperature, they get even stickier

I roll out a bunch of 1 inch balls at once and line them up.  Then, using a pastry roller, I roll each ball into 2x3 inch ovals to about a 1/4 to 1/8 inch thickness. Instead of flour, I use powdered sugar for rolling to keep the stickiness under control.




I add a 1/2 teaspoon of filling, then I fold it over and pinch the sides.  Then I continue rolling it over, then I pinch the ends.


Little soldiers, all lined up to march into the oven.


The finished product, all dolled up in confectioner's sugar.  Ready for a hot date with my mouth.

Wait a second, that sounded dirtier than intended.

December 9, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
Working Girl

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.

Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

*********

So, I have a J-O-B. In an actual O-F-F-I-C-E.

The past few weeks have been a flurry of interviews, arranging for childcare, finishing up the Christmas To Do List and most importantly, examining the recent update to the SAS 70 --- its sparkly new sister, the SSAE 16 (non-sponsored!).  It's a short-term contract and I will talk more about that next week.  After all, today is Friday and I'd rather discuss FOOD.

Yesterday, as Manoj and I were talking about how next week was going to work for us, he mentioned the dreaded word......Take-Out.  We already have one day of take-out -- it's Friday -- where I cruise by Papa Murphy's and pick up our usual pepperoni and mushroom deLITE (Non-sponsored! Seriously!)  I LOVE this pizza.  However, I really still want to have a regular meal Monday through Thursday. (Sidenote: Yes, I realize the same day I purport to know anything about food is the very same day I regularly pick up a pizza.  Oh, the irony!)

Listen, I love take-out.  And I am certainly willing to fit in one extra day to pick up a piping hot styrofoam box filled with fattening goodies not prepared by Yours Truly.    However, I do not want to be eating out for four straight days. Folks, these hips don't lie.

So!  My new best friend is the Allrecipes.com Dinner Spinner app (Non-sponsored! For reals!), where I have been digging up some new ideas.  I will also probably depend on some of my favorite stir-fry recipes by doing the prep in the morning -- I do see some pad prik kai and kai kratium in our future (Non-sponsored!  Duh!)   Additionally, I recently purchased a Crockpot (Non-sponsored! Cross my heart, and all that jazz!).  This is my first ever Crockpot, so I am still pretty clueless as to what I am supposed to be cooking in this programmable bad boy.  I have already made a few of my favorite recipes from Rick Bayless (Non-sponsored! Back off FCC!) with tasty results , but I am ready to branch out.

Gentle Reader, this is me, coming to you with my Santoku knife in hand.

Wait, that sounded more threatening than intended.

Anyway!  I need help, folks! What are your favorite quickie, go-to recipes for those days when you are in a hurry?  It does not have to be slow cooker recipes.

December 1, 2011

Wrapping Up More Than Presents

This is not the "I've Been Too Busy To Post" post.  Promise.

I thought, perhaps, I would rather write a "What I Have Been Up To Post" post.  October?  I hardly knew ye.  And November?  Did that really just happen?  Really?

Bridesmaid Bug notwithstanding, October was ridiculously FUN.  We did all the usual fall activities -- pumpkin patch, Boo-at-the-Zoo, pumpkin carvings, multiple dishings of pumpkin curry, a hayride and a bazillion trick-or-treating events, including the extravaganza that happens in our neighborhood every year.  Man, I love living in this suburban prairie, soul-sucking it may be.  Oh!  And we also celebrated Arun's birthday AND I ran slowly jogged the Waddell & Reed 5k (one of the best 5ks I've ever done -- GREAT course).

November?  Rose to the challenge of the gauntlet that October threw down.  I walked the Jeff Taylor 5k with Average Jane.  Later that day, I took the Team of Chaos to see Yo Gabba Gabba Live which was as awesome as Lance DJ fucking promised.  The next week, we went to the Shriner's circus which totally delivered.  The elephants provided Team Chaos' favorite act of the day by delivering huge, steamy piles of poo during their performance (Sidenote: I am still skeeved about the animal acts and allegations of animal cruelty.  Animal acts are NOT necessary and therefore, I remain conflicted about future circus attendances.)  I also attended a theatrical organ concert hosted by The Kansas City Theatre Pipe Organ group.  On the way home from that concert, I am pretty certain I was about to be carjacked, but I am not comfortable writing about it yet.  This is the 2nd time I have had a suspicious event like that happen in Kansas City in the past few years.  However, considering how often I go to Kansas City, I suppose those are still pretty damned good odds and I have no intentions of limiting our trips into the city Sigh.

December is shaping up to holding its own against October and November (I have a December Bucket List brewing)   Perhaps, it is the CPA in me, but overall, I simply adore 4th Quarter.  It's the most wonderful time of the year!

So!  As you can see, I haven't posted not for the lack of fodder, but simply because I did not feel like writing here.  I did, however, write in my journal for the month of November. Each evening, I took a minute to jot down the favorite part of my day.  It was a peaceful exercise, even on a few crummy days, to focus in on the little things in life that make It All Worthwhile.

Before I get back to my Words With Friends queue (ahem), I would like to give a shout-out to a locally owned business.  As many of you know, I crave handbags like a tweaker craves Walter White's Blue Sky.  For a few years now, I have been on the hunt for a red handbag, but I was looking for a particular shade of red -- a deep, deep hue. Awhile back, I began to think of going handmade instead of designer and  I was going to put a call out for local places to hunt (particularly, in Lawrence, KS).  Then, I noticed my sister Jill's handbag.  As I was inspecting the stitching and hardware, I spied the label.  It was none other than Dawn Shew of Growing a Pair, a fellow Kansas City blogger I have known for years.    She sells her bags in a shop in Lawrence, but she has an Etsy site, Seams Fine KS, for her bags.  I noticed that she did customs.  I decided to contact her since I was already impressed by the sturdy stitching, gorgeous fabric and quality hardware on my sister's purse.  A custom order would be perfect.  I contacted her about a custom order and we began talking fabric and exchanged some photos - I was really impressed with her advice for combining types of fabric in conjunction with colors -- all in relation to how the fabric will wear over the years

A week later and I now have the purse I have wanted for all these years:

The actual red is a just a tad darker and deeper than this shows.

Interior includes a zippered interior pocket and dual accessories pocket.  I love how the fabric is pretty thick and the bag has a "structure" to it -- it holds its shape and does not crumple.  Also, after all of my years buying designer bags, I am very particular about hardware.  The hardware on this really impressed me and the magnetic closure is really strong.
.
My Pretend Lawyer Made Me Write This: I paid full price for this bad boy and it was worth every penny. I did save on the shipping because I drove to Lawrence to pick up the bag personally, not because I am some Special Bloggy Type

There is such a huge movement toward buying local these days.  It's nice when it works out even better than buying from a department store!

Left on my local shopping list?  I need to troll the entire downtown of Lawrence KS, per my shopping tradition.  And most definitely, I will need a gander at Stuff and World's Window in Brookside.

Where is your favorite local Kansas City destination for holiday shopping?  I'm always on the hunt for new local goodies.

November 18, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
Giving Thanks

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.

Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

*********

Like many folks, I love Thanksgiving. LOVE. It's simply about food and family with no rushing around buying gifts, no month-long list of activities that generally results in some of stress or guilt.

Food.

Family.

Unfortunately, my family does not come from a long line of spectacular food traditions. We do the basics, the usual dishes -- most of those dishes arrive at the banquet half-warm after having sat in a car for a minimum of 30 minutes. And I am fine with that -- I love a simple plate of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy.  Of course, I have to bring Average Jane's Cranberry sauce because canned cranberry sauce will not suffice since I discovered how easy this sauce is to make.  And I also bring Mrs. CPA's Funeral Corn (truth be told, I've made Funeral Corn just to eat all regular, non-holiday like. For a little "snack". YUM.)  And! Either my Aunt Joan or I will make her delicious Weird Whipped Cream Cranberry Salad. I love cranberries so much that I actively look forward to the mouth sores I get after 2 straight days of eating them.  This is the one dish that I truly associate with all of my childhood Thanksgivings -- the salad is sweet and I always felt I was getting to sneak in a little early dessert under my parents' noses.

When I was a kid, we would pack my grandma's house from the basement to the rafters for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Over the years, we have outgrown that house and now we rent a community hall in a nearby town for Thanksgiving. Easily, 40 of us arrive. Some years more, some years less. It is not warm or cozy as someone's house, but we ALL get to be together for the holiday and that is all we care about.  Although, for Christmas, we do separate off into our smaller family groups.  Not coincidentally, the quality of the food rises significantly (look for a post on how I am getting serious about Christmas Dinner this year.  SERIOUS, y'all.)

So, even though the Thanksgiving food in my family is not all that great, I still look forward to that tepid gravy smothering spoonfuls of cold, mushy stuffing. I am thankful for the opportunity of just hanging out with my dad's side of the family. My grandma's generation is slowly passing away and each year, I choose to cherish the folks who are still with us to celebrate.

November 11, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
The Fancy Pants Edition

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.


Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.


*********
I love, love frilly, pretty dishes.  Lucky me, I have grandmothers and great-aunts willing to donate to the cause.

Honestly, the dishes I appreciate do not have to be in grand fashion or even very expensive.  Some of my favorite dishes are the cheap molded glass sort that are supposed to imitate a fine cut glass.

Last year, my grandma gave me 3 sets of her Serva-Snack trays.  She used them for functions at her church, but people use paper these days.  I think I may have squealed out loud when I opened them up, still in their original packaging.  Since I was wanting to move away from paper plates anyway, I was excited to have a solid set of appetizer dishes.  Now, I almost always use these now when hosting parties -- they are durable, dishwasher friendly and the perfect size for serving appetizers. The cups are actually too small, but the plates are awesome.  I also adore the simplicity of the Colonial Lady pattern. For my Bridesmaids Watch party, I made hand-molded cream cheese mints that were TO DIE FOR.  I cannot wait for someone to have a baby or bridal shower just so that I have an excuse to make these again.



I wish my photo skillz could do justice to how pretty this all looked.

When I was in high school, I commented once that I really liked my grandma's silver pattern -- it is the Prestige Grenoble pattern.  While I was an undergrad, my great-aunt Joan came across the pattern at an estate sale and picked it up for me.  Later, my grandma gave me her collection.  I now how have enough silver to easily host a 40+ person dinner.  Ridiculous, I know.
This is my very favorite piece.  It is a tomato server.

I love the simplicity of this pattern.  When I was in college, this was my everyday silverware since I did not really have the money to waste on buying an stainless steel set.

Even for a SuperBowl party, I love getting out my fancy dishes.  

Buffalo chicken dip never looked better, folks.

October 31, 2011

Vegetable Man

Pink Floyd, 1967

Sometimes, I wonder what my kids will think of this blog -- this spot I have designated as my happy place.  Will they roll their eyes at my posts that were obviously written in soft focus?  Will they remember all the times I screamed, got impatient with them or worse, lost my temper?  Or will they also view these times through the filter that time mercifully often grants us?

This past weekend, I decided to make a very conscious choice to not yell at them, to not constantly get on them to hurry up or slow down.  Each day, I gave them choices and let them decide what we would do for the day.  And except for a poor choice on Anjali's part which involved a broken pencil and the surface of our dining room table, the weekend went swimmingly.

The weather was gorgeous and we spent much of it outside.  I could not have asked for better, unfiltered memories.

First, we went to Boo at the Zoo at the Kansas City Zoo.

I loved this shot of her feeling the wind on her face.

And bonus, she even willing posed for me.  For once.

Arun will almost always pose.  Which results in goofy grins.

On Sunday, we went to Schaake's Pumpkin Patch.  It was our first time there and it was so utterly AWESOME that we will go nowhere else from now on.  It is a lovely, family-run pumpkin patch which offers simple activities - a hayride, hay maze, pumpkin slingshot, etc..  There were no over-the-top amusement park things that so many patches feature these days.  This was all about picking the perfect pumpkin.

Or riding them, as the case may be.

Next year, we will go BEFORE the first hard freeze, before all the vines have died.  Oops.


We saw some witches who appeared to have been tippling the potion.

After Schaake's, we went to the Natural History Museum at KU.

We had a gander at the mosasaur hanging in the front entrance.

And encountered some angry fish.

And an angry girl apparently channelling Olivia Newton John.

Fashion victim, indeed.

The Font Geek in me will rue the day they update all of the information placards.

Then, we went home and carved the pumpkins.

I was skeptical about Arun's choice, but this was truly beautiful.

Even thought it was full of worms (GROSS and yet, Halloween Appropriate)

My favorite emoticon.  It's a design I've done before, but decided to revisit because I love it so.

All in all, it was a perfect weekend.

No filter required.

October 27, 2011

Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast

Pink Floyd, Atom Heart Mother 1970

This is a post title that I thought surely I would never use.  Find out why it seemed appropriate, later in the post. (Gentle Reader, cue the ominous foreshadowing.)

A few weeks ago, I thought it would be fun to host a Bridesmaids watch party.

So, that is exactly what I did.  I carefully made cream cheese mints from flower molds, scrounged up my Serva-Snack trays and grabbed a can of mixed nuts and a copy of Bridesmaids at Target.  Then, I waited for 11 other lucky ladies (or were they lucky??  Stay tuned..... Earworm yourself some Twilight Zone music while you are at it.)

I was so excited that everyone had as much fun as I did digging out their cheesy wedding stuff, bringing pictures and wedding albums, sharing stories.  Seriously, WHAT IS IT about wedding fashion?  It never, ever, ever stays in style.  For example, my sister Maureen just had a gorgeous wedding in September - truly, it was very tasteful and classy.  Pulling out  my very best Olathe Used Car Salesman here, I can GUARAAAAA-NTEE that she will have something to poke fun at in 5 years time (my father decked out in a Frasier clan tartan kilt with a bone-handled knife stuck in his knee high socks notwithstanding. Of course.)

Anyway! Not only did a few ladies bring their wedding dresses, but a few brought bridesmaids dresses and other sundry marital accoutrements.

My friend Christy came wearing her nuptial hat.  She's hardcore like that.  We love her anyway.

Average Jane's vintage wedding dress is the one on the right - it was originally her mother's dress from 1965.  All of us Font Freaks swooned over the original Jones Store logo on the garment bag.  

Now, let us examine ye olde table of Cherished Wedding Clutter:

How precious, right?  RIGHT.

Hey.  Wait a goddamned second.  What is a DOLL doing in there??

Gentle Reader, meet Elizabeth.  She is my Single Girl Freakout Doll.  In my late 20s, I had my heart smashed to bits then summarily handed back to me along with my CDs and VHS tapes. In the ensuing insanity,  I managed to convince myself that I would never get married......  that no one would ever LOVE me in the manner to which I was accustomed...... and that menopause was lurking at my front door much like Jack Nicholson from The Shining.

Heeeeeere's Elizabeth!
Come out, come out, where ever you are.

Yes, in a fit of desperation, I ordered this DOLL from one of those Fancy Pants DOLL Places with the perfectly reasonable explanation (in my Real Life-Like HEAD) that since I would never get to buy myself a wedding dress, I could buy my goddamned DOLL a wedding dress.

It made perfect sense at the time.

Obviously, you know how this story ends.  I found the guy, we got hitched and I now live a life of grand, sumptuous luxury in the Soul-Sucking Suburban Prairie of Olathe. KANSAS.  You would think after all that Freaking Out that I would have taken my Honest-to-Goodness, Real Life-Like Wedding more seriously.  Yet, that did not happen.  We got engaged in May 2002, picked a venue in the fall of 2002 and signed up a priest in New Hampshire.  And then??  I did NOTHING.  Finally, in April, a few of the guests, including but not limited to Average Jane and the aforementioned Hardcore Hat Christy,  began hinting around as to whether they were going to get food or not.  At this wedding of mine for which they had paid Real Life-Like money for airline tickets. For a wedding that was to happen in 2 months. Oh, right.  THAT. So, I picked up the phone and ordered food, a cake, flowers and somewhere in there, made a hair appointment.  I tried on a few dresses and picked one that I liked, but did not love (seriously, my kingdom for a goddamned dress with SLEEVES.)

However, I did hunt high and low for the wedding handbag and the cake topper.  I researched endless online sites for a much-desired Lladro cake topper and trolled through store after store after store.

For a cake topper.  Because I had priorities.  Obviously.

Apparently, I also harbored secret desires for a Silver Fox.    And that ain't Lladro, either.

Anyway!  Friday's party was so much fun.  Then, we had Saturday -- which was low-key.  We had some birthday stuff for Arun that day, dinner consisted of some chicken burritos that Manoj picked up at the nearby panaderĂ­a and then we went to bed. (The ominous foreshadowing just got more ominous. Crank up the music!  J.S Bach be in the house, yo.)

At 2am, I found myself making sweet love to my toilet .....caressing its smooth, porcelain curves.....whispering sweet nothings in its ear.... swearing that American Standard would never tear us asunder.

Food poisoning, right?  Nope.  Turns out, others from my Bridesmaid party also picked up a Bridesmaid Bug.  Oh, the sweet irony.  If you haven't seen the Bridesmaids party here......is......your ......

SPOILER ALERT!  
$#@%* ZOMFG

Yes, FOUR of us from my Bridesmaid party had a fun reenactment of the Groundbreaking, Historic Brazilian Food Poisoning scene from the movie.

A scene that I actually mocked in the invitation to my party.

October 25, 2011

Review and Giveaway: Shutterfly Holiday Cards!

My Pretend Lawyer Made Me Write This: This is not a sponsored post.  Shutterfly gave me 50 free holiday cards for review and additionally, 3 promotional codes for 25 free cards to give away to my readers.  However, I did purchase additional prints with my own money to further test and review the entire process since I am a new Shutterfly user (the auditor in me insisted on completing a "real" payment process.)  All opinions expressed are my own.

Updated 11/16/11
The Winners!
Leah, Jendo89 and AliMomof3!  Congratulations!  I've sent your promo codes for 25 free 5x7 photo cards.  Let me know if you have questions or issues on checkout.

*****
A few months ago, the service I used for printing photos and my holiday cards closed shop.  Forever.  I had used this service for a long, LONG time and when I got the news they were closing shop, I did not relish the thought of finding a new site to use for my holiday cards.

Here's the thing -- I am pretty serious about Christmas cards.  I love, LOVE doing Christmas cards, even way back in the day when I would just grab a box of cards at Target...... back in the day before photo cards were the "cool thing" to do.  Even now, with photo cards, I still look forward to the process of sitting down with a cup of a hot tea (or wine, if it's a Friday.  Ahem.), grabbing a fresh Sharpie, settling down into my chair and getting to the task of hand-addressing each envelope.  Additionally, I always keep a stack of holiday stationary nearby for jotting quick notes to those recipients that I may not have seen in awhile.  I always try to order my cards around Thanksgiving so that would leave me a few weeks to get the cards out in time.

My old service shutting down left me in a lurch until Shutterfly sent me a request to review their Holiday Cards.  Which I had to carefully consider and ponder, of course.

For all of 2 seconds.

When I went to check out the selection of cards, I was little overwhelmed at first.  For example, I went to look at their Christmas Cards and I was greeted with 928 choices.  Gulp. Fortunately, I could narrow those down by size, number of photos per card, color schemes, format (flat vs. folded), themes (i.e. "Religious") and categories (i.e. "Whimsy" or "Merry & Bright").  And that helped.  A bit.  So.... I clicked around some more in their other lines.

The first that caught my eye was the My Favorite Things card in their Holiday Story Cards line:

However, I fear that I am too sarcastic for something like that and I would prefer my grandmothers not leave coal in my stocking.  After all, a few of my favorite things include proper male aim at the toilet, an 8pm Sharp bedtime (for the kids), a slightly warm bottle of Boulevard Amber Ale and a freshly recorded episode of Breaking Bad.  All of which are inexplicably related. Indeed.

I also considered this card from the Holiday Cards line:


I liked this card because it reminded me of Kerala - the tropical area of India from where my husband is from.  He did not grow up with pine trees like I did - instead, he grew up with coconut trees.

I eventually decided on two other designs and made cards with each design (because seriously, that is how easy it was that I could make TWO cards in no time flat.)  I'm waiting for my husband to approve one or the other.  So, which one did I decide on??   It's supposed to be a surprise, right?  Right.

In the meantime, I did order and pay for prints from Shutterfly because I wanted to see their ordering process from end-to-end (yes, I am a former auditor.  Why do you ask??)

Overall, what did I like about my experience with Shutterfly?
1. It was very, very easy to download/organize albums and the download speeds were quite good. The user experience was pretty much exactly what I would expect from an online photo service.  No surprises! Also, I appreciate that my photos are hanging out there, just waiting to be turned into a cool photo gift or photo book.

2. I liked that on the prints I ordered (Disclosure: and paid for with my own money), I could designate text to be printed on the back.  I don't remember that being an option from my previous service and I appreciated that Shutterfly offered it.

3. I noticed for the Christmas cards they have two really cool options.  One of them includes pre-addressing the envelopes for you (I believe the pricing was 25 cents per card) and another option included even directly sending some of the cards (or if you choose, all of the cards).  Those aren't options that I want or need right now, but they are certainly something to consider if you are a small business owner or someone with a really busy schedule.  

Giveaway Time!
Shutterfly has given me promotional codes for 25 free holiday cards to give away to THREE readers (excludes shipping and taxes, valid only in the US).  I am opening up anonymous commenting for this and the rules for this giveaway are simple:

Leave a comment on this post by Midnight, CDT Friday, November 4th, 2011 and I will choose three winners using Random.org.  That's it! Please include an email address if you're not a regular commenter so that I may contact you if you win.


And more!
Shutterfly would also like to reach out to other bloggers!  Are you a blogger? Want a chance at 25 free cards this holiday season? Register here.

October 21, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
Pulling your leg.

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.




Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

*********
Last weekend, we went to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival.  I am not sure how other cities do it, but here in Kansas City, the festival is held on grounds that house permanent structures year-round.  There is no slapping up of tents, these wenches and wizards mean business.

The food is pretty good -- Arun and I had a turkey leg (of course) and Anjali chose barbecue.  Later, I could not resist a crepe with apples, brie and almonds (judge me.  Go ahead.)  For dessert, we had a root beer float.  Here's something -- I LOVE root beer floats now after a lifetime of HATING them.  I discovered this new found Food Love about a year ago. What the hell is up with that??  It leaves me to wonder which tide will turn next on a former Food Hate.  Will I suddenly start craving  ropes of licorice?  Horseradish? Grilled cheese? Cheetos? Zeus forbid, KETCHUP?

In what may be destined to become a tradition, I present for your viewing pleasure some snaps of my kid mowing through a turkey leg at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival

2011


2010

What is it about a turkey leg that makes it so damned delicious???  It's certainly a step up from traditional fair food.   I suppose there is a particular primal satisfaction to be gained from ripping through tendons, ligaments and whatnot with your bare teeth in order to get to that lovely pink meat.

Does your city have a RenFest? Does it also serve up the roasted turkey leg?  Also, have you discovered  new Food Loves after a lifetime of previously hating them?