26 December 2009

I'm a big girl now.

Thanks, Santa Brad! Nine cups! I can cook for real now. *sigh*

Brad had to order this from some random top-secret Santa website, and in the delivery box was.... a brush!

23 December 2009

Christmas wishes and caviar dreams.

I don't think I'll probably have a chance to pop back in over the next two days, and I wanted to be sure to wish everyone the merriest of Christmases! Lots of love to everyone!

And ps, I FINALLY finished my mom's scarf w/ my grandma's old yarn. Hope she loves it! (This is also my first attempt at embellishment... buttons. Oh la la!)

20 December 2009

Who's your mummy?

Not having a job sucks. For all the obvious reasons. And some less obvious reasons. And it messes with your head, at least for a little while, almost every day. But one thing I'm so grateful for is the time it's afforded me to spend with friends and family -- surprise visits from Larry and Jordan, coffee breaks with friends -- and when someone is off for a day, I'm always free. This Friday was one such occasion, as Brad had one last vacation day to kill, and I could just spend the day with him without having to calculate my own time off.

On our way home from the airport last month, we saw a billboard for mummies. All I saw was "mummies" and I was sold. The next day, Brad caught a commercial and was sold, too. We decided we must go to there. The accidental mummies are 30-something mummies from a collection of 100 or so that reside in Mexico -- this is the first time they've ever toured the world. They're just regular old people from the 1700 and 1800s, mostly natural deaths, buried in closed cement tombs in Mexico. When families stopped paying on their plots, the bodies were exhumed to be, well, I don't know what their plan was (dump them back in people's yards?), and they found that some of them had naturally mummified. Not all of them, either -- just a random smattering. How weird is that? Anyway, they're in varying conditions, some are almost just skin and bones, but most still have their socks on, the "witch" is nearly fully clothed, and an infant mummy has an eyeball (so creepy). With technology and stuff (yes, I love technology, but not as much as you you see) they've even determined cause of death for most of them. It's really an interesting exhibit and, honestly, I think even better than the human body exhibit. Weekday bonus: We had the entire exhibit to ourselves. Ahhhh. So nice. For your benefit, I even snuck a few photos illegally. Don't tell. :)


Top left: Mexicans of days past have teeny feet. Like Brad! Throughout: They re-created the cemetery at the entrance of the exhibit. You know me and cemeteries. Even fake ones. Bottom middle: Still in the fake cemetery, pre-exhibit. Only the middle mummy is real (they must not have known much about this guy -- all the other mummies got individual displays with info placards and such).

After the museum, we headed down the street for our annual trip to Slows for a late lunch. I wasn't sure how I'd fare, non-meat-eating and all
, but I actually had a hard time deciding what to order -- in a good way. There is a fake chicken sandwich, a catfish sandwich, a mac and cheese entree (heavenly), and a ton of delicious-sounding sides. I went with the catfish sandwich, which was only ok (I want to go back to try the fake chicken!), a mac and cheese side (which is quite sizable and only 2.99), and cornbread. The mac and cheese is just awesome -- super cheesy, lots of pepper... Yum. And the cornbread was delicious, making up for the not-so-good hunk I had last year. (I wish I had the mac and cornbread in front of me again right now... Mmmmmm.) I saw Michigan-made cherry mead on the drink menu and after hemming and hawing for a while went for it. Glad I tried it, but I wouldn't order it again -- it smells super boozy and tastes super boozy and just wasn't really my thing. I mislead Brad into ordering the wrong sandwich, so he was bummed about that, but I think he enjoyed the new sandwich well enough (just means we have to go back again soon so he can get the right sandwich!). Then we got tempted into dessert with tales of banana pudding. So glad. It was thick and had chunks of bananas and vanilla wafers. The perfect ending. *sigh* Here's a Slows pictorial for your viewing pleasure.


Thanks for a super duper awesome date day, hubby. And for letting me take pictures of you at Slows, even though you were soooo embarrassed by it. xoxo

And while I've got your attention, a quick foodie update. Last week we moved on to trying fake chicken.

I cooked the tenders and chopped them up, then mixed them in with some corkscrew noodles, oil, butter, artichoke hearts, fresh parsley (which, honestly, I don't really like -- but I had it so I wanted to at least use some of it), lemon, and pepper.

Guess what? Fake chicken is actually....... very tasty!! The fake tenders were really good and the texture was fine and I was just really surprised and pleased. Get me some protein and other good stuff, with little fat or calories. Score. I bought two more packages. No pics, but today we even braved fake beef crumbles. I cooked it up in a skillet, added some Ragu (Brad's favorite!), and poured it over some spaghetti. And it was super tasty, too!! And Brad liked both meals -- it wasn't just me. Three cheers for fake meat!

15 December 2009

C is for cookie.

As was expected, Lisa's annual cookie party was a grand success. Trust me, you've never met a HOST until you've met Lisa. As always, she outdid herself, and everyone had a fantastic time. But I get ahead of myself... before cookie party comes cooking making!

I've definitely become a more confident baker, but I still worry, so I decided on what seemed like a fairly easy recipe: no bake chocolate and peanut butter cookies. The good news is that they were super easy, the recipe was perfectly exact (exactly 3 dozen cookies, exactly what I needed), and they were pretty darn tasty.

Stick a butta.

I was so mesmerized by the bubbles I almost burned the mixture.



Now... back to that party!

Our lovely host.
(Who kindly sent me home with all the smoked salmon spread leftovers.)
(Which reminds me, I'm hungry!)

Everyone was sad when cookie party was over.

Can't wait for next year!

13 December 2009

Tv dinner.

We had some friends over for dinner last night, potluck style. What did I make? *sigh* Stouffer's frozen mac and cheese and lasagna. Ha ha! Was it delicious? Hell yes. But I need to get my cooking mojo back on track asap. Good thing I have three dozen cookies to make today!

11 December 2009

Christmas came early.

Note to self: Start knitting with thicker yarn!!! I am well behind on my family-xmas gift-knitting projects. Shame on me! I have made some progress, though. I finished the golf club head cover I made for my father-in-law (although I'm hoping to do another one by Xmas). I'm about 2/3 done with my mom's scarf. But I'm still not even halfway done with the sailor scarf for my dad I've been procrastinating -- at least with that one, I had the foresight to use big needles, if not chunky yarn.

If I needed more proof that Christmas is coming sooner and sooner, there was some surprise advance cheer delivered today.

My two pooches, via a very sneaky husband, sponsored Comet, a three-year-old black lab, at the humane society in my name. Of course that Bradford always knows how to make me cry, and exactly how to spoil me come Christmas. (Although it wasn't supposed to be an early Xmas gift; said sneaky husband isn't actually so sneaky. It came in the mail today - ha!) Hugs and kisses to my hubby, and my pooches, too, of course.
Now which one of you is going to adopt Comet?!

As if I somehow knew the pooches would need a thank you gift, I'd picked up some fleece throws (for $2.99 -- score!) for them. Trust me, there is no toy in the world these two love more than blankets. Heidi always had her trusty Stewie by her side as a pup, but as she got older, and George joined the team, they started actually eating (rather than just angry biting) them and we took them away (this didn't stop Heidi from angry biting all MY blankets). It's been so cold lately, though, that they both have been curling up into teeny balls and tucking themselves in for heat. So blankets it is. Here's a glimpse of them at play with their early Xmas gifts.


Holiday treat update: I ran out of my candy cane oreos this week, so today I stocked up. Yes, I bought four packages. Don't judge. Mmm. Also this week I discovered the yum that is Hershey's mint chocolate candy canes. I've loved everything mint chocolate since I was eight years old and Bubbalicious released a mint chocolate gum (it was a big deal!). I'm all about sweet treats with lasting power, and one of these provides many minutes of delicious joy.

08 December 2009

Don't eat the yellow snow.

What goes better with snowflake pjs than.... real snow!!??

After So You Think You Can Dance tonight, we discovered it had started snowing out -- something we've been eagerly anticipating for weeks. Can't have Christmas without snow! So we promptly bundled up (I am happy to report my homemade creamsicle hat is nice and toasty) and headed out for our nightly walk with the pooches. It's so funny to see them out in the first snow; it's like they've never seen it before. Too cute. Since the snow was coming down pretty hard in one direction, we went the opposite way of our normal walk, discovering some beautiful light displays around the ole 'sac. As always, I have yard envy. *sigh* If only our driveway were lined with a row of matching bushes on which to place white lights. Anyway, when we got back, I ran back outside to snap some quick shots of the new snow -- only a few though; didn't want to risk drowning my camera!


Housewife update
: After listening to my aunt's friend talk about her clean freak husband that vacuums the BED regularly, and watching The Stepford Wives (please watch it so we can laugh about it together -- classic, classic stuff), I've been feeling quite disappointed in my homemaking. So today I washed the sheets on both beds, vacuumed the bed (yes! I am a copy cat) and the bedroom, and remade all the beds. I consider this a step in the right direction. I think I need a chore chart. With gold stars.

***See, I told you. More collages.

06 December 2009

Sweets for the sweet.

Have I not said how much I love the holiday season yet?? I can't get enough. I just love how warm and cozy everything feels this time of year, how hopeful everything seems, if only for a few weeks, and I certainly love a little sparkle here and there. So here's a little more of our holiday sparkle for you to enjoy.


**That's my first ever attempt at stringing lights outside. What a pain in the butt!! I'm not tall enough, half the lights don't work... Somehow half a string is blinking... But I think it looks ok enough.**

***I also just re-discovered the collage option on Picasa. Expect to see more in the near future.***

Treat of the Week: Meijer brand candy cane chocolate sandwich cookies. Now, perhaps there is a brand-name version of these, but I just happened to spot these guys on my way to the checkout within a holiday cookie display. I thought, eh, worth a shot. OMG. Am I so glad I did. These might be the best cookies I've ever had. Like a thin mint, but also like an Oreo... Highly recommended, and I will certainly be stocking up on these before they get pulled off the shelves.

04 December 2009

Santa's no. 1 elf.

Is this just not the cutest ever?

I can't actually afford Anthropologie (can anyone, really?), but the catalogs are just beautiful. I made a little swooning sound over this milkmaid butter dish. It's almost as cute as this:

After discovering how much George likes to dress up, how could I not buy the dogs a little holiday sparkle? (...and some more garland and bows and various accoutrement for the house. I may not be living up to my full housewifery potential, but if holiday cheer was a vocation, I'd be getting a big raise this year!) Clearly, George loves Christmas as much as me. And Heidi, well, she sort of tolerates it.

01 December 2009

My bologna has a first name.

Things are mostly back to normal around here (although now Brad is sick *cough cough*), so we finally dug out the Christmas stuff last night -- HOOOOORAY! My spirits were only slightly dampened upon discovering some mices had used one of my (CLOSED!) boxes as their own personal toilet (we retaliated by putting down all the traps Brad's mom got us, and we already caught our first guy [luckily, it's a live trap and we released him but I still feel bad, BUT he was asking for it!]). We take our ornaments down every year, but otherwise we store the tree in the basement, assembled and with the lights on it. So downstairs Brad trudged to get it, and we mostly got it upstairs in one piece.

Started out innocently enough...

Then Brad decided the tree needed to be taken apart and refluffed and the lights untangled and rehung. What a mess!

Of course, then we also discovered the majority of our lights were now burnt out. The dogs kept their distance.

But Heidi can never resist getting into things for too long.

Eventually the tree was in one piece, we'd found enough lights that worked -- but by that point, I was tired from watching Brad struggle with the tree, so we decided to wait on the ornaments (still waiting...) and sit down and relax with some hot and toasty beverages.

Today I hit Joann with Kristal, and my I was reminded of my love for Xmas decorations... and how little I actually have, despite constantly collecting stuff. Luckily, all the Xmas stuff was 50% off, so I was able to satiate my itch with a few cheap items (we're talking $0.29!). I like cheap and shiny new things, especially when they make friends with my old Xmas goodies.

The door to Xmas?

Officially a fan of shiny red garland.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming....

Pink lady apples, you tempted me with your cute name, but I will not let you trick anyone else I know! Warning: These apples are terrible! They are tough, chewy, and weirdly tart. Don't do it! I don't want to waste them, so I will use them as dog treats and/or will bake them to see if they taste ok as a dessert.

Today at Meijer, I bought some replacement apples (phew) and finally decided to try my first "fake" meat product. What better to start with than... bologna!

It was ok. It smelt of pepperoni, actually, and didn't have much taste. And with the spicy mustard I really couldn't taste it in the sandwich. But I figure it's some protein, or something, right?

Oh, and Heidi is up to her old tricks again.

27 November 2009

My big fat fake Thanksgiving.

Ok so "fake" is a little dramatic. :) But Thanksgiving has come and gone and, honestly, it was kind of nice to not make anything (literally anything) and just relax and eat... and not have a disaster for a kitchen afterward! ("Relax" being subjective -- my dad's having a little bit of a rough time lately, and me being me, while, I just can't keep my mouth shut and several, as Brad likes to say, circular "discussions" ensued.) Here is a mini-glimpse into our day:


Heating food up still requires a super-cute apron!

My first vegetarian Thanksgiving.
(Doesn't look that much different!)

Heidi's never too far from the food.


Buschs' pre-cooked Thanksgiving review: Eh+. It was insanely affordable. I was able to order the day before. Reheating was easy and required minimal dishes. The mashed potatoes were super yummy, and while not as good as mine, the green bean casserole was decent. Brad made a yum face over the rolls and proceeded to eat at least 8 of them. The apple almond stuffing was deeeelish. But Brad said the turkey was kind of chewy and he wouldn't want it again, and I would almost say I disliked the pies -- could be because I know I can make MUCH better pie (we got 1/2 an apple pie [clearly using canned goo] and a full pumpkin, which had a weird, weird taste that I couldn't pinpoint). I look forward to making all the fixings next year and getting a Whole Foods turkey for Brad.

Good enough for leftovers!
PS Look at that left hand -- WE HAVE A RING! WOO!

My favorite parts of the day? After my dad went home, Brad and I turned on Elf and snuck out his mom's old photo albums from the basement. Hours of mini Brad? Bob with a '70s mustache? Priceless. Oh, and the Stouffer's mac and cheese, too, of course.

Since I basically had yesterday off, I really wanted to make breakfast this morning. I so love French toast -- I don't know why I don't make it more often.

...perhaps if I did make breakfast more often, I wouldn't have burned the first attempt at hash browns, setting off the fire alarm and nearly giving George a stroke. Notice there are no hash browns in this photo, either. The second attempt ended in an oily, undercooked mess. Straight into the garbage disposal.

Speaking of today -- Black Friday -- while we did make a quick run to Old Navy (no matter how down for the count I am, I can always muster the energy for $15 sweaters), we didn't do any Xmas shopping. I do, however, have a few Xmas updates. While distracted by a "discussion" with my dad yesterday, I dropped a stitch on my mom's cowl and made a big old disaster. I ended up ripping the whole thing and starting over -- new needles, fewer and smaller stitches. The good news is I'm even happier with how it looks, so it worked out after all.

I also put together step 1 of my Xmas surprise for my mom and Larry. While I'm still devastated *I'm* not going, I bought them tickets to see David Gray in Windsor in January -- top secret tickets. I'm 95% certain they don't and won't have plans for the day of the show, but just to be safe, and since the show is just a few days after I'll be giving them the tickets, I decided to send an anonymous "don't you dare" note to them. I'm sure they'll know it's from me, but I do love a good surprise so dammit I'm going to try. I was vague about the date because I didn't want my mom to go and google January 2 and pull up David Gray and blow the surprise. I hope the surprise works and I hope they are so excited.

I contemplated magazine cutout letters for the address, but then I remembered I'm lazy.

*Written whilst watching The Holy Grail, which I am happy to report holds up post-college days. Even Heidi is mesmerized. She's been sitting up watching it -- seriously! I think if she could talk, she would taunt me like the French knights do Arthur. "You tiny-brained wipers of other people's bottoms." Yep, that's definitely what Heidi would say to us.

25 November 2009

Minty fresh.

I'm excited to finally unveil my "Neapolitan with mint" scarf -- my first straight scarf, first straight needle project, first experimentation with seed stitch (which I loooove), and my first quite-so-multicolored project. As soon as I put the green and pink together, I knew it was meant for Birgit. She of the pink and green bedroom. I hope it keeps her warm and toasty this winter!

Last night, I started on a new project -- a Christmas, well, birthday (same day) gift for my mom. My grandma (mom's mom) died when I was 12 and I don't have a ton of memories of her, but what I do remember is that she was always crocheting (Heidi and I are snuggled up in one of her afghans right now). Earlier this year, Aunt Sandy found a project my grandma had started, still attached to the yarn skein, as well as a second matching skein. I assume she was working on an afghan, but she only got as far as a large, pillow-sized square. My plan is to make a pillow and use the crocheted block as the face of the pillow. I've gone back and forth over what I wanted to make with the extra yarn to give as kind of a matching set, and I finally settled on a button cowl -- so she can sit in her chair with her pillow and read, keeping warm (her house is cold!) with her cowl. I'm kind of winging it at this point -- cast on, experimenting with moss stitch... We'll see how it goes! But so far so good.

Phoning it in.

I must confess, I will not be winning the homemaker of the year award... This morning, I broke down and ordered our entire Thanksgiving dinner from Busch's. Even the pies. Unforeseen circumstances are the culprit, but I still feel a little bit like a fraud. I'll just have to kick my Xmas homemaking up a notch, right? That being said, I must confess I am slightly excited for totally ooey gooey bad-for-me goodness -- I'm sure the mashed potatoes will have WAY more butter than I would ever use, and nothing will be fat free. Mmmm. PLUS... for the first time in nearly a decade, Brad will be home ALL DAY. Which absolutely 100% makes my day -- I can't wait to spend the whole day with him, and I promise to not complain too much when he wants to watch football.

So oodles of love to all my family and friends, who I am endlessly thankful for. Enjoy a little Bing as you get ready for your holiday dinner.

18 November 2009

One happy island.

We've made it home from our Aruban vacation, in one piece but slightly worse for wear. Brad arrived home minus one wedding ring (darn you, ocean stealer!), and while my sunburn has finally gone from stop sign red to a nice bronze, I'm crazy itchy and peeling and covered in sand flea bites (we won't talk about where, either [that's the last time I lay in the surf!]). That being said, it was beyond lovely to get away -- to the beach, no less -- and fun times were definitely in abundance.

What did we think of Aruba? Well, for one, it's hot. Like hot hot hot. Hot in a way I've never really quite experienced. It was at least 90 all day, and I've definitely never felt sun like that (we were only 20 miles from Venezuela! You can practically touch the sun from down there) -- you either had to be in the water (also the warmest, calmest ocean I've ever been in) or in the shade. When you head outside, your glasses (and camera lens!) immediately fog up from the humidity. At night, the temperature dips... to about 80. No cardigan necessary! (Although that is a hard habit to break and I brought one along most nights anyway.) If I weren't such a wuss, it'd of been perfect for nightswimming. Beautiful beautiful beautiful. The landscape is crazy, too. While we spent most of our time on Palm Beach, where the strip of resorts is, we did spend two days exploring the rest of the island where we discovered the strangeness that is Aruba. To your left, ocean. To your right, desert. Cacti, red rock, caves, lizards galore. We couldn't get over it.

We also couldn't quite get over our inability to break away from tourist Aruba and experience the real Aruba. Is there a real Aruba? I'm sure there is, but we couldn't find it. As far as I'm concerned, Aruba is 100% for the tourists (why on earth else would local musicians ever play "Kokomo" twice in a row???). While you can get away from the main resort area, you cannot get away totally from the everything-for-something mentality. Aruba is not cheap. You are conscious of your tourist status the entire time. Which is fine; but after years of trying to not be a cheesy tourist, Brad and I had somewhat of a hard time reconciling with some of it. But that doesn't take away from the island's beauty. It really is beautiful and has a little bit of something for everyone. And we had fun, of course. How couldn't we, when we were there to celebrate the wedding of one of Brad's oldest friends?

Congrats to the amazing couple!

A few of my other favorite vacation things:

Spending time with friends with don't always see that often.

$5 rafts. Best, and only, deal in five days of vacation.

Lizards everywhere. Big, little, green, blue... Out in the wild, you can hear the constant shuffle of hundreds of them running around.

The Rock Wish Garden. Miles and miles of little rock piles. Amazing.

Random crap on the beach. I get such a kick out of weird structures on abandoned beaches. We also saw a giant structure made from garbage that had washed ashore. I would love to know the stories behind these things.

Rolling with our homies.

Snorkeling at Baby Beach. Swarms of purple fish and blue fish and stripped fish and weird eely fish and my new favorite:

The cow fish!!!! Sooooo cute.

And, of course, exploring with my favorite travel partner ever...

My Bradford and I always find the cool stuff. Can't wait to see where the next adventure takes us.