31 January 2010

Rock me Amadeus.

Quick side note: My collection is complete (well, you know, for now). * sigh * Thank you, Border's gift card and 15% off coupon. I don't know how much practical use I'll get out of this, but I love Julia and I could read her recipes all day.

Slightly less quick note: The new Observer came late last week, and inside there was a very intriguing ad for A&L Wine Castle, which, despite being right by our house, we've only ever ventured into once before. Anyway, what caught my eye was L Mawby Sex, Fizz, and Wet on sale for $12.99. $12.99! That's crazy talk! So yesterday Brad and I popped in and picked up a bottle of Fizz and Wet, as well as some Bass that was also on sale. The place is amazing -- they really have everything. Including a huge selection of Michigan wines (from wineries like North 45 I haven't seen around before). So check it out if you're needing some boozy booze.

Not a side note at all: After years of curiosity, Brad and I finally ventured into Amadeus last night. A Central European cafe, it's got Austrian, Polish, and Hungarian dishes and beers and wines from all over Europe. It's been there forever and the menu is certainly interesting, yet I've never heard of anyone else ever having gone there. Are we really the first of all the people we know?

The inside is eclectic and a little old lady, but comfortable and cute and, honestly, perfect. We started our meals with drinks -- Brad a Polish beer and me a little glass of honey wine (don't tell the steroids! Bad me!). I asked our server about the honey wine and she said "it tastes like honey." Ha! I guess that was enough to sell me on it because I totally ordered it. And it was delicious -- like boozy, liquid honey. Super sweet (Brad made a face) but I liked it a lot and enjoyed it before and after our meals. I even liked the sip I took of Brad's beer; the two seemed to actually go together quite nicely.

Before dinner came, we killed a bowl of small tasty rolls and small garden salads. (They also have potato salad and artichoke salads available -- yum!) Then it was time for the good stuff. Brad had been dreaming of pierogies for days, so that's what he went with, choosing three sweet cheese and two potato for his pierogie plate.

Brad started with the potato pierogies, and they got a rave review. (I had a bite and would have to agree.) He wasn't as thrilled with the sweet cheese ones (Hungarian cheese; made with honey), and I agree they weren't as good as the potato but I would certainly still eat them.

There was no way I was going to pass up the Atlantic ducktrap salmon. Smoked salmon, caviar, and hard-boiled eggs atop dill sauce atop potato pancakes. O. M. G. Yeah, it wasn't even an issue. I was all over it.

Pure heaven. A random combination, one I'd never think of on my own, but everything mixed perfectly and I just loved it. (I could have dealt with a little less dill sauce, but it was fine as-is.)

We wrapped up our meals with a shared apple-caramel cheesecake and a cappuccino (me) and glass of port (Brad).

Both of us agreed that our meals were great, the menu was certainly intriguing enough to garner several return visits, the servings were just perfect (we weren't stuffed to the gills), and items were really quite affordable (and they even have something like a $5 lunch pierogie plate special). Is this really a hidden gem, or are people going and keeping it secret so it remains a special little place? Me, I think it's just too darn good to keep quiet about.

27 January 2010

He hates these cans.

First things first, I must give props to PetSmart. For my fellow pet owners out there, I have handy information. If you happen to go into the store to buy food, perhaps a little distracted, and come home with the wrong stuff, they will let you exchange it. Even if "someone" ripped a little ("little" ha) hole in the side of the bag while I was on the phone confirming exchange policy with Petsmart. The bag is in no way re-sellable. But it was a big ole expensive bag, so I am very grateful they let me exchange the regular food for our fatty pooches' diet food!

Secondly, props to my s-in-law and b-in-law for the super fun Amazon Xmas gift card, which we finally sat down and put to use last week. This week has been like Xmas all over again, with a steady flow of little prezzies arriving (poor George, though, having a heart attack every time the UPS guy drops something at the door). Today's prize was a wire shelved can organizer.

Why yes, that IS our Christmas tree, still up, in the background. Don't judge.

This is important because a) we only have two small cupboards for food and no pantry and b) one of said cupboards has one half shelf and is deep and basically a big black hole of cans.

Black hole of Calcutta.
(Note, I found at least 10 expired cans in there.)

Let there be light!

Overall review: I'd give it a B-. It certainly helps, and it allows me to better see smaller items, like my artichokes, tomato paste, and canned salmon that often go forgotten. But given the shape of my cupboard, it doesn't totally solve the problem. But it helps, and it gave me an excuse to organize and re-arrange, so points for that, too. Next, up, the dreaded other food cupboard. * Eeep! * Oh, and I cleaned the house today, too. Woo! "This house is clean!"

25 January 2010

That rock and roll business will never last!

Temporary housewives like music, too! I am stealing fun music game from Jess-er-oo! I was just thinking the other day about how much music I used to listen to, and how much I sought out new music. Perhaps it's a side effect of getting older, but I'm kind of stuck in the same stuff I've liked for a while now, and it makes me happy. I don't get a lot of new stuff -- how OLD does that sound? HA! But I guess when you're 30-ish, 13-year-old girls singing about nonsense just doesn't do it for you anymore. * Insert image of me shaking my cane at youngsters listening to their boom boxes on the corner. *

List 10 musical artists you like, in no specific order (do this before reading the questions below).

1. REM
2. Dave Matthews Band
3. David Gray
4. Ryan Adams
5. Cowboy Mouth
6. Tori Amos
7. Scissor Sisters
8. Counting Crows
9. The Spice Girls
10. The Killers

On to the questions!

1. What was the first song you ever heard by 6? (Tori) Oh goodness... I would have to assume "Crucify" because that's the first track on the Little Earthquakes. I may or may not have had a little (little! ha) crush on a boy who may or may not have been a fan, which of course meant I had to get the album and listen to every second with my little heart going pitter patter... ;)

2. What is your favorite song of 8? (Counting Crows) "Anna Begins." Not very original, this is everyone's favorite CC song, but I flippin love it. And have loved it since I first heard it my sophomore year of high school. I have very distinct memories of driving around town listening to it in my friend's car's tape deck.

3. What kind of impact has 1 had on your life? (REM) OMG, where to even begin. Once upon a time, Sara and I wrote a little letter to our favorite band... and then 20 years later, we actually took a trek across the country to visit their hometown and see them in concert. I get very serious when discussing my REM, and we've had our ins and outs (I'm talking to you, Automatic for the People), but they will always be no. 1 in my heart. SJC and REM TLA.

4. What is your favorite lyric of 5? (Cowboy Mouth) "
Easy to bitch, easy to whine, easy to moan, easy to cry, easy to feel like there ain't nothing in your life. Harder to work, harder to strive, harder to be glad to be alive. But its really worth it if you give it a try." PS Going to see them on 2/5 with Lisa S. Can't wait! It's been YEARS!

5. How many times have you seen 4 live? (Ryan Adams) Three; two great shows, one show that was one of the worst (well, most boring) shows I've ever seen.

6. What is your favorite song by 7? (Scissor Sisters) "Filthy Gorgeous." Never gets old, never fails to make me smile. "You make me feel so nasty!"

7. Is there a song by 3 that makes you sad? (David Gray) "Gathering Dust." Also my favorite David Gray song. Funny that my favorite songs are crazy dance songs... and sad slow songs. Ha! Worth a listen, despite the stupid Into the Wild video (everything else was random dudes playing the song in their bedrooms on their guitars).

8. What is your favorite song by 9? (Spice Girls) It's a tie! Fun vs. ballad. "Stop" (I can still picture Andrew doing the dance moves to this song) and "Viva Forever." I won't torture anyone with a video.

9. When did you first get into 2? (Dave Matthews Band) Freshman year of college, I saw the video for "Too Much" and thought "Hmm, this band that Sara and Matt think is so great isn't bad after all."

10. How did you get into 3? I heard "Babylon" when it was released in the states. Thought, I think I'd like this guy, and downloaded White Ladder illegally from Napster.

11. What is your favorite song by 4? (Ryan Adams) "Come Pick Me Up." Such a sad song, but it's so good it's more of a pick-me-up for me.

12. How many times have seen 9 live? Once. Best evs! Ha ha! The reunion show two winters ago with Lisa S. Thanks for the seats, Quicken Loans!

13. What is a good memory concerning 10? Perhaps not a "good memory," but the Killers will always (for now at least) signify the last day of normal, happy go-lucky adult life before the big layoff. Brad and I saw them at EMU 1/22/09 and it was so much super fun. We were so close, the show was so great -- a perfect "last night" of sorts. :)

14. Is there a song by 8 that makes you sad? (Counting Crows) "Colorblind." I looooooove this song, but it might be the biggest buzzkill ever.

15. What is your favorite song by 1? Also a tie, again one upbeat, one bummer! "Country Feedback" and "I Am Superman." So good. I've listened to these songs over and over and over since I was 13 years old, and I've never tired of either.

(My apologies for the stupid video!)

16. How did you become a fan of 10?
No fun crazy story here. Just heard "Mr. Brightside" on the radio and fell in love. Still one of my favorite songs. And I love watching Brandon Flowers prance around.

22 January 2010

Update schmupdate.

It's Friday night and I'm home sick, missing the Planned Parenthood event I was supposed to volunteer at. So naturally, it seemed like a good time for a few random updates.

Remember that pimento cheese I made the other night for Supper Club? I knew I'd want to do more with it, so I made enough to keep some leftovers at home for me (sneaky sneaky!). I've talked a few times about the pimento mac and cheese at the Roadhouse. I think about it often. So I decided to try my hand at making some at home. I looked around a little and, for the most part, recipes for it call for kind of making a pimento cheese sauce and then mixing with pasta, rather than mixing pre-made pimento cheese with pasta (makes sense; who really needs mayo in their pasta?!). But pre-made is what I had, so that is what I used.

It was a quick meal. Just some rigatoni, the pimento cheese, and a 1/4 to 1/2 cup whole milk. Cooked the pasta, drained it, then mixed everything in (I used a few spoonfuls of the cheese, not all of what you see in the pic). Then I threw the pasta in a couple of our Ted Bundy bowls, and it was time to eat!

Did this taste like Zingerman's pimento mac? Not at all. Was it tasty? Hecks yes! Very cheesy, with a burny bite. So mostly noodley and cheesy. Not creamy like Z's. And I really think that's in the process. If I have leftover pimento cheese, I would definitely make it this way. But I'd also like to try a recipe where you put the elements of pimento cheese in the dish as independent ingredients. I added pimentos to this week's grocery list, just so I can have them on hand when the mood strikes again.

While we're on the subject of food, this week was restaurant week in Ann Arbor again. Neither of the weeks have been well timed for me, and I totally forgot about this one (who planned it for the winter? Ugh!). But I did manage to make it out for one of the week's specials, meeting Lisa at Miki for a sushi lunch. You won't believe this -- the RW special was two for one, $12 (so essentially $6/person), including miso soup, salad, California roll, and five pieces of negiri. That's just crazy talk!

I'm not entirely sure what the gnarly looking brown thing is, and I definitely wasn't eating it to find out. But everything else was delicious, and what a deal! The negiri was even all my favorite fishes. Mmm. Thanks to Lisa for the lovely lunch date!

And finally, a knitting update... I finished up two projects this week that I've been working on for a while. A fake cable mini-slouch hat out of beautiful Michigan-made yarn and my delicious alpaca scarf I started just after Christmas. I loved the hat pattern -- it was just involved enough to keep me interested, but still simple enough to not confuse me. Highly recommended if you're looking for a fun, quick hat knit (and it used less than a skein!). The scarf isn't anything too exciting, a simple diagonal rib. And in hindsight, I wish I would have made it wider, but I didn't know how far the yarn would take me (and it's not cheap, so I wasn't about to buy more). But it's super fuzzy and I can't wait to wear it with my new white coat.

Speaking of knitting, I picked up a new carry-on/knitting travel bag for our anniversary trip this fall. I simply could not resist this adorable bag at, of all places, the Forever 21 accessories-only store. Adorable, sizable, and cheap!

Happy weekend, everyone. Thanks for Friday updating with me!

20 January 2010

I got soul but I'm not a soldier.

Last night marked our inaugural Supper Club. Held at Sarah and Mike's, the chosen theme was "Soul Food." Shall we say... Yum?! As hosts, Sarah and Mike provided the main course, and everyone else was assigned a supporting dish. I landed dessert. Woo! And, just because I wanted to use my food processor, I made a small side dish as well.

I've been thinking about the banana pudding Brad and I had at Slows last month ever since, so I decided to tackle that. I went with the Joy of Cooking recipe, which, while not necessarily soul-ful, is at least old school (and by old school, I mean lots of sugar, butter, and whole milk!). The recipe makes 10 small servings and calls for 2/3 (omg... I've just had an epiphany. Keep reading for details!) cup sugar, 3 tbls. cornstarch, 1/8 tsp. salt, 3 cups whole milk, 3 (or 4!) large egg yolks, 2 (or 3!) tbls. of butter cut into pieces, 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla, 60 to 70 vanilla wafers (I used < 50), and 4 to 5 ripe, firm bananas sliced.

Mini milk!

Get the bananas and wafers ready first.

In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Slowly stir in the milk, then whisk in the eggs; lastly, drop the butter pieces in. Then, stirring constantly, heat the mixture until it comes to a simmer.

Reduce the heat to low and, stirring briskly, bring back up to a simmer and cook for two minutes. Remove from heat and mix in the vanilla. If not using right away, cover the pudding directly with plastic wrap. Since you listened to me and got your 'naners and 'nillas ready already, it's time to get assembling! The JofC recipe says to line the bottom and sides of a 2 quart dish with wafers to start, but I decided to go with a trifle dish instead, also deciding not to line the sides of the dish. I just did wafers, bananas, pudding, wafers, bananas, pudding...


Then you just cover the pudding directly on top with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for at least four hours. Serve with whipped cream.

Next up... time to bring out the big guns!!!

She's so pretty.

I decided to also make some pimento cheese, and in the food processor you see a 4 oz. jar of pimentos, 1 cup mayo, NOT 1 garlic clove, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. dry mustard, 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire, and 1/4 tsp. ground red pepper.


After that's all mixed, add 2 cups grated cheddar and 2 cups grated colby. Give it another QUICK bzzzzzzzz, just until it is the consistency of cottage cheese.


All that was left to do was to eat! We packed up the goodies and headed over to join everyone for dinner. And what a feast it was!

Pulled pork, mac and cheese, greens, cornbread...

Can't forget Birgit's amazing sweet tea drink! My new favorite.
Even though everyone went home and immediately had to brush their teeth. :)

We killed it. Time for dessert.......

I'd whipped up some homemade whipped cream to serve the pudding with. I can't express enough what a difference homemade makes -- more than worth the extra 2 minutes of effort (and you save some $$).

Brads like dessert.

Remember that epiphany I had earlier? When writing out the recipe for this, I realized I made a little booboo when making the pudding... The pudding tasted good. Sweet, and not quite how I remembered the Slows pudding, but fine enough. Well, turns out my eyes somehow translated "2/3 cup sugar" as THREE CUPS! THREE CUPS OF SUGAR! It, of course, seemed like a lot when I was making it, but what do I know? It IS the JofC cookbook -- ha! I'm still laughing about this, and I'm very glad I didn't kill anyone. And while it definitely was too sweet, I don't think it ruined it, so good to know you can waaaay over-sugar pudding and still kind of get away with it.

So overall, Supper Club was a grand success, and thanks to Sarah and Mike for being fantastic first hosts. Can't wait to see what the next months bring!

17 January 2010

You're the party that makes me feel my age.

Ten years ago, I met some pretty awesome girls. They were 20 and I was newly 22, which made me very worldly and experienced, of course.

This appears to be our first photo together. The girls help me celebrate my college graduation.

I did my best to corrupt their young minds, supplying them with jello-shots when they were just shy of turning 21 (*gasp!*).

I'm kidding, of course... We're all pretty well-behaved girls. Except when we're not.

Party time!

I've been lucky enough to have Meg and Liz in my life for all these years, and I want to wish them a HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY THIRTIETH BIRTHDAY!

Even more adorable at 30 than at 20.

Unfortunately, Meg and Liz live on the other side of the world... Well, ok, Indiana. But it's far enough that I don't get to see them very often. Which is why I was so excited to get to spend their 30th birthday with them this weekend. And, better yet, I got to help SURPRISE them for their 30th birthday (and there's nothing I love more than a surprise, no matter how big or small). You see, there is a third amazing E. sister, who I am also quite lucky to have in my life -- and even closer than the other side of the world. Right down the street, in fact. And she invited me to come help her surprise her sisters. So Friday night, me, Sarah, and her bf Mike headed down to West Lafayette. Let's just say, some squealing ensued when we all snuck in the back door and surprised the girls. It was a super fun moment.

Re-creating the surprise.

After surprising the girls, we promptly took over Meg and Juan's apartment for some slumber party action, hitting the hay to get ready for the big day -- Saturday, the actual 30th birthday. We got up early for some smooth jazz breakfast (Sarah and Liz had somer very interesting lemon ricotta pancakes, which Liz let me taste and I really wish I would have ordered for myself! Why do I not remember how much I love lemon flavored everything?), then hit the town for some pre-party errands. Dinner time came quick because, let's be honest, we're all in our 30s now and it's time to start hitting the early bird specials. The girls wanted Thai for their dinner, and luckily I managed to keep my yuck thoughts to myself (it's not my birthday!) so off to Thai we went. And guess what? It wasn't horrible! First there was this thing:

That would be a basil roll. I ordered it because of the basil, in my head assuming it would be like an egg roll. I was confused at first but very pleasantly surprised. No fried anything here, just light and airy, and basil-y. With a peanut dipping sauce. I don't much enjoy dipping sauces and was worried about Thai because I just don't really like most Asian-type flavors, but I am happy to report there was nary a soy sauce sighting on my plate all night. Not even in my main course, the vegetarian pad Thai.

More peanut sauce... YUM. AND peanuts. Double yum. Nothing offensive here, just light and easy flavors with noodles. Who couldn't like that? I am very happy to report I've spread my food culture wings and maybe, just maybe, I'll let someone talk me into Thai food again.

After dinner, it was back to Meg's for party time!! And cake, of course. (Which Aaron made from scratch -- two thumbs up!)

Make a wish, girls.

My partners in crime.

Love you, girls.

I meant to get a group photo, but, let's just say, everyone enjoys champagne. Who can remember to do such things? But shout outs to Juan and Aaron for hatching the scheme, Sarah and Mike for inviting me along, and Meg and Liz for being such gracious surprise hosts and such awesome friends. Let's all get Thai food again, shall we?

PS I almost forgot! Props also for the delicious Sunday breakfast -- homemade coffee cake a la Aaron and Liz and traditional Colombian arepas and cheesy dough balls a la Juan and Meg. Yum-o!

13 January 2010

Babies in hats.

After Jess taught me to knit, my first few projects were mini hats for all the babies my friends were having this past spring and summer. And now that they're all a little bigger, and the weather's a little (a lot) colder, I'm getting to see my handiwork in action. It makes me feel all smooshy.

I got to take this one myself. We saw little Cutie Owen over the weekend and he modeled his hat for me (this is the FIRST thing I ever knitted). He has such a little personality!

Baby Ella Jane is my international baby model, peeking out from all her snugglies to sport her little pink hat. I haven't had the pleasure of meeting this cutie yet, but I'm counting down the months (three!) until I get to give her a big hug in person.

09 January 2010

The green fairy.

Last night we made a spur-of-the-moment trip up to the Roadhouse with Lisa and Brad. It was Friday, so I decided to celebrate with a little adult beverage. And you can bet that when my eye spotted "Absinthe Frappe" on the drink menu, I was sure to try it. I wanted some guidance, though, and asked the server a little about it. Listed on the menu for the drink was "absinthe, benedictine, and ice." Well, absinthe on ice is still just absinthe. So I wanted to know about this benedictine business. I ask the server what it is. His response? "Some kind of liquor." Uh, yeah, you think? Ha! So he went to find out and returned with a little shot of what was basically a super sweet brandy. I was sold. And along came my bright green absinthe frappe.

I ended up being pleasantly surprised. They managed to keep the flavor of the absinthe but kill the fire burn a little. When curiosity got the best of her, Lisa took a sip, made a yuck face, and pretty accurately described it as "the most concentrated Good 'n Plenty I've ever tasted." It took a lot of the ice chips melting to be able to take more than just mini sips, but I did finish it (even if it did take me throughout the entire meal). Will I order it again? Probably not. But it was super fun for the moment.

...Meanwhile, I ordered the pimento mac and cheese that Sara and I shared a few months ago, and it was even better than I remembered. The plain jane Roadhouse mac is still pretty tasty, but I tire of it after a few bites. The pimento cheese has a smoother, milder cheese flavor and I just love it to death. I ate every last noodle. And am craving it again right now. In fact, now that I have my big ole food processor now, I might have to whip up some of my own pimento cheese soon. Yum.