Monday, December 31, 2012

A Turkey-flavored Postscript

Do you know what happens to a toad when it's struck by lightning when you eat insane amounts of turkey for dinner?  I will tell you: by 8:00 you're bumping into walls and giggling at everything because you're SO SO SO SLEEPY.  And then you watch a few Avatar episodes, just to keep yourself awake long enough to eat pie.  And then you laugh some more and then, thank goodness, everyone goes to bed.

But it was so worth it!


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Crafty Christmas

I guess I get crafty around Christmas time because, once again, I got crafty this Christmas.  It was so fun making those Christmas spider ornaments I decided to make ornaments again this year to send to my family.  For whatever reason I immediately settled on making snowmen, without any idea of how to actually do this.  Luckily I found this tutorial, and even though it does not have nearly as many instructions as I like, they turned out so cute and snowman-y.  One thing I learned: sew the buttons on first!  It's so much easier.
This is a partial fleet, as two members were already boxed up.  But you can imagine it.  Can't you???

Then, just because, I decided to make ornaments for my Mama.  These were even easier than the snowmen and I think they look so pretty and wintery.  I kept a few of the uglier ones for us.

I found the instructions here.  I think the model magic stuff gets a better consistency after you've rolled it out and squished it a few times.  I was kind of surprised how light they were once dried...they can look so heavy and pottery-like in pictures.  But this way they will never break, right?  Also I put super glue in the bow because ribbon is slippery, and also because I like to super glue things.

Months and months ago, I had an idea for a present for Drewbles--fish biscuits like the ones on LOST!  I thought maybe you could buy them somewhere, and perhaps one day Harry & David will corner the market on fish biscuits.  But for now, one must make one's own.  Luckily I found these great instructions, and they turned out just right!  Well, aside from me breaking half of the first batch (oops).  Oh, and aside from misreading "quarter" as "half" a bottle food coloring (oops). Here's the process, in pictures:
Also this happened once:

Oh that sneaky Dharha Initiative.  Dharma doesn't even look like a word anymore.

This has nothing to do with Christmas, but I made this today!  
I'm so proud, mostly because it turned out so far beyond any of my expectations.  Can I eat turkey every day?  Or rather, can I eat this turkey every day?  I had a goal for the last two years to roast a chicken--I think this covers it.  And just for reference's sake, I basically adapted this recipe for a turkey (ie, lots more lemons) and followed these instructions (I skipped putting liquid in the pan, and it definitely didn't need any).  Perfecto!

This last Christmas crafty is not mine at all, but something Santa gave me (how did he get hold of it???  It's a Christmas miracle!). Drewbles did the sketch during our weeks in London to document some of the highlights as time went on, and then one of Santa's elves colored it, printed it and framed it for me.  Is it not charming?

It will go perfectly with our London-themed living room decor once we hang it up. Man, I wish I could have that ice cream again.  *sigh*

Well, I think that was enough craftiness for one Christmas.  Of course, this is not including the Christmas baking I decided to do in a weekend instead of over the whole month, like rational people.  Who knows what craftiness is in store for next year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Looks Like Christmas

This year's tree is named Thorin.  You know, from Les Miserables. 
My partial fleet of snowmen.  More on them later!
Christmas spider!
Every year I have said we should make snowflakes and this year we followed through.
Winter makes for some pretty sunsets.
Yep, looks like Christmas!  Also, can I just say how happy I am that clementines are back?  I love oranges but they take me about an hour to eat because I have to pick off all that nasty white stuff (ALL of it).  But I can eat a clementine in the time it takes a normal person to eat an orange!  Win-win-win.  (The clementine also wins because it gets eaten.)

Happy Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

In Which I Boil Down a Two-Week Vacation into a Single Post

The nice thing about not sharing a blog with the Husband is that he sometimes writes about events in detail, which spares me from having to do the same.  So, if you want all the details about our big trip, check out his blog, where he has recounted the whole thing.  We did a lot of amazing things so I'm glad he got into the nitty gritty of it.  I'm also glad because now I can just whittle the whole trip down to a single top ten list.  It's numerical (duh) but not ordered in importance.  Well, except for #1. 

(I should also say that one of the highlights of any trip, regardless of the destination, is the company you have.  Drewbles is always good company, but it was fun to spend so much time with Elise and Jeff throughout.  Jeff is a pro navigatron and Elise makes awesome sandwiches.  Of course it was nice to see Emily and KC again too, who are excellent hosts with excellent food.)

1)  The Colosseum.  

This building (or the remains thereof) has had a special, large chunk of my heart ever since it almost singlehandedly led to my decision to switch from Illustration to Art History in college.  It's so grand and old and Roman!  
This was a recurring theme of the trip, but it is so strange to see something in person that a) you never thought you would see for yourself and b) you'd only seen in pictures.  In some ways it was hard to even grasp that this was, in fact, the ACTUAL Colosseum.  I am still processing this, but as it is, I loved it and stroked the travertine with much fondness (I tried to find patches that looked less tourist-touched).  
2) Food!

We ate SO much food and it was all so good.  A few of my personal highlights were: the sandwiches Elise made for our trip to NYC.  Yes, they were just meat and cheese (turkey and provolone, if I remember correctly?) on potato bread, but I was so hungry and I will never, ever forget those sandwiches.  

*Ahem*  Aside from those delicious things, the breakfast buffet on the ship was truly magnificent (aside from their dry bagels and low-fat cream cheese--travesties, both). Gelato and pizza in Italy were always winners and the nightly sourdough rolls at dinner were my favorites.  Also, there was a turkey and Swiss panini I got more than once from room service.  Free room service!  That's how life should be.
Chocolate gelato in Florence!  It's amazing Drew got any of this.
Pizza in Pompei!
More gelato in Rome!
 3) The D.C. Museums

Because my trip tunnel vision was focused on the Colosseum, I didn't really stop to think about, you know, the Smithsonian and stuff.  We spent most of our first day in D.C. at various (free!) museums, and I was both amazed and impressed at what we saw.  There were so many artists and paintings that I have loved and never seen myself, like Gilbert Stuart and John Singleton Copley.  Be still, my American art-loving heart. 

The other highlight, which must be mentioned, was seeing the ACTUAL Star-Spangled Banner.  For some reason, I did not expect this flag to be real (???) or to still exist.  And then it was just THERE in its own exhibit and it was just amazing to me.  It was so large, so grand full of holes from Americans wanting souvenirs. 

4) The David

Here's a secret: I have never loved Michelangelo's David.  I always preferred (and still do) Bernini's version.  But I will say that seeing Michelangelo's in person was really quite awe-inspiring.  Awe-inspiring enough to not notice the hordes of people everywhere. 

5) Arts

So many arts!  So many things I have only seen in slides!  I saw some Caravaggio, some Gentileschi, some El Greco, some Velasquez, a copy of Laocoon, some John Singer Sargent, some many beautiful things.  I bought many postcards and a guidebook from almost every museum.

6) The European Coast

Um...need I say more?  (No.)

7) London!

Okay, our time here was short (exTREMEly short on the way over), but it was so delightful and inspiring to be back on English soil, even if it was only Heathrow soil.  I'm happy to say that we loaded up on pretty much every English chocolate and candy we could.  And no, we have not eaten it all yet because I want to keep it forever. 


8) Markets

So many markets!  And so many delicious looking things!  I don't even know what to do with most of the goods available, but I wanted to buy them based on how pretty they were.  Wouldn't it be amazing to have something like this in our neck of the woods?  The closest comparison I can think of is the Bloomington farmers market and sadly, that is not in my neck of the woods anymore.
The Barcelona market
French market

9) Supreezes: Barcelona and Sorrento

Here's another secret: I have never had any interest in Spain.  I have no explanation or reasoning for this, other than that I can only have so many countries in my heart at once and the ones already there aren't budging.  But both of these cities were such pleasant surprises, and were so pretty and interesting and full of interesting things.  Barcelona had the amazing market, and Sorrento had the ocean views and narrow streets you expect from Europe.

10) Seeing-all-those-things-you-never-think-you'll-actually-see-in-your-lifetime.
(Insert like 20 more pictures here...too much work)
Like I said, this was a recurring theme.  I always have trouble registering when I am in a new place after being hundreds of miles away the day before and this happened many days in a row.  So, I am still absorbing the fact that I have, in fact, seen the Duomo, been to Italy, walked through Pompei and dipped my toes in the chilly Mediterranean.  I will probably still be processing this in a year, but I do really enjoy seeing these places on TV thanks to hours of international House Hunters and recognizing them.  I always SAID I would surely go to this country or that one, but I don't think I ever thought I would ACTUALLY go.  And now I have!  Wacky.  I like this life of mine.

(No, this won't be followed up by a list of 10 Lowlights.  But in case you're wondering, it has one item and it's called "Too many airplanes.")

Friday, November 30, 2012


I have had this post percolating for months now, but left it unpublished because I thought it was "too soon" for another food post.  Then I thought 1) it's been a long time and 2) when is it ever "too soon" for anything food related?  (The answer to that rhetorical question is: after food poisoning)

If a lot of these seem a little summery, that's because, well, we ate most of these things during the summer.  So don't forget these things come next summer!  In the meantime, enjoy your hot cocoas and pies and perhaps some ham. 

Zucchini Rice Gratin
I had never really made anything like this before.  Partly because, well, I just don't really like rice.  But if there's a way to make me eat rice (besides making it sticky), it's to cover it all up with tomatoes and cheese.  This was delicious!  I think as it is, it's a good main dish for two hungry people, but for more I would probably double it, if only for leftovers.

Strawberry Summer Cake
I'm not even sure how many times I have made this cake now.  It's so easy, it's so tasty and it's so pretty.  I love my triple-decker cakes, but this is a little more...shall we say, practical.  (PS, I love smitten kitchen.  It never fails me!)

Pizza Stromboli with Spinach, Mushrooms and Cheese 
Try to look past the unappetizing photos!  It really was good.  I prefer my pizza crust recipe from Betty Crocker, but theirs is fine too (a little tougher/denser).  It was quite a pretty thing to behold right out of the oven!

Avocado Brownies with Avocado Frosting
I know, right??  But trust me, these were SO good.  We ate the entire first batch ourselves.  The brownies don't taste like avocado--just like super fudgy, dense brownies.  The frosting, if you add all that powdered sugar, doesn't tastes like avocados either.  Personally, I thought the frosting was way too sweet, but it's definitely a taste-as-you-go situation.  I liked having it taste a little more like avocados.

Dark Chocolate Banana Cookies
An easy, tasty way to use up bananas.  They aren't terribly pretty but that's never stopped me.
Tomato and corn pie 
I wanted to try this out both because it looked so pretty but also as a different take on our regular tomato pie.  They're both winners, but this one is definitely a little more labor intensive.  Also I had corn all over the kitchen.  It's a small price to pay!  Gosh, I want some tomato pie right now.
Avocado Enchiladas
So delicious you won't even notice they're vegetarian.  I like my enchiladas stuffed so I used 4 avocados, and of course it's flour tortillas all the way because corn tortillas are barfy.  

Smitten Kitchen Brownies 
Well, not my favorite brownies, but, you know...brownies nonetheless.

(Still hanging in there?  Like I said, this has been building up for a while now...)

Spicy Shrimp and Bok Choy Soup 
Maybe bok choy isn't my thing, but while I liked this soup, it did not amaze me.  I made it a little too spicy on accident, which didn't help, but Drewbles was a big fan so there's an endorsement for you.

Grilled Ham and Cheese Pull-Apart Sandwich Loaf 
This is not high-brow eating.  But it IS good eating, when you're in the mood for something a step up from a Hot Pocket.  We baked ours.  

Jalapeno Popper Dip
Over the last year or two I have become a big, big fan of poppers.  I save them for special occasions when I need something to look forward to, but since this isn't *technically* poppers, I could make it for no reason whatsoever!  And then eat it all.  

Oreo Pudding Cookies
Another item we ate all on our own...with no complaints.  Maybe we need friends?  Anyway, I was a little skeptical about these cookies, maybe since Oreos aren't my favorite.  But, hear me, blog world, you want these cookies and you want them ASAP.  Do yourself a favor and eat them fresh out of the oven.

Panko Mozzarella Sticks 
You KNOW these were good.  Don't even stop to wonder.  Bonus: they fried up nice.  Much nicer than the poor, ill-fated fried cheese curds...

Baked Mac and Cheese
This summer I kind of went on a homemade mac and cheese streak--partly because I've never met a homemade mac and cheese I love more than Velveeta and partly because, well, I've also never met a mac and cheese I didn't like (except YOURS, Ikea).  Anyhoo, this was one of the experiments.  Better than Velveeta?  Hah!  I thought it was a little heavy and didn't have the smoothness that I like.  But that doesn't mean I didn't scarf it down.

Banana Ice Cream
Meaning, made out of bananas.  Though it's kind of annoying to have to use the food processor, this really does work!  And it even tastes like ice cream.  It's just amazing, and worth a try if only to see how it really works.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Consequences of Watching LOST

Lately I've been rewatching (ie, relistening) to LOST at work.  It works out well except when Jin says anything.  Anyhoo, it's led to a few changes in my diet and mental wishlist.  Par example: 

(Pictures link to the original sources, if you're curious)

I want to eat these all the time:
In fact, I do.

I want to eat these all the time:

Alas, they're not in stores.  Do I even like papayas?  I have no idea.

I want to eat this all the time:

In fact, I do.  (And here I thought I had killed my interest in Kraft mac and cheese with too much in the college days.  Not so!  Thanks, Dharma.)

This would be okay too:

(Haven't gotten to this...yet)

I would like to be here:

I also wouldn't mind my body looking like this:

So close!  ...  (We both have four appendages.)

As for everything else, well, I think I'm okay without submarines, dinosaurs smoke monsters and Benry.  FOR NOW.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Did It Myself

Why blog about big exciting things like cruises and holidays and...well, that's it...but why blog about those thing when you can blog about small crafty things you accomplished?  The answer is this: it's a lot faster to talk about crafts than a big trip.  Hold tight, cruise, I'll get to you one of these days.  

Anyway, the last few weeks I have been trying to make some things that we generally buy.  I'm not clear on my motivation, but I think sometimes I see these how-to things as a challenge from no one the universe.  I just like putting my fist in the air and saying, "I can make that!"  One day I will make my own flag to wave in these moments. 

Thing the First: Freezer Jam

I am daunted by the canning process.  I don't actually know what that process is, but I know it involves a lot of pots and a lot of jar boiling.  So, you can see the appeal of freezer jam for me, which involves no pots or jars or stoves.  I used the recipe that came with the pectin but it is essentially this: mash the fruits up, add some pectin and sugar and put it in the un-boiled container.

Thing the Second: Ranch dressing

I re-stumbled upon this recipe and, since we were out of ranch anyway, I decided to give it a whirl.  I have never been huge on ranch, but the Mister would happily use it on anything so we go through bottles regularly.  And while he would gladly eat any kind of ranch, I think this is already my favorite kind!  It's closer to the Cafe Rio ranch than, say, Hidden Valley, but...the Cafe Rio kind is better than Hidden Valley anyway.  

Thing the Third: Glass cleaner

Lately I have been intrigued by homemade cleaning supplies, and this was my first foray (I used the winning recipe found here).  I tried it out in the bathroom, and it cleaned up nice.  No, it wasn't the most amazing glass cleaner in the world and it does run, but since our bathroom is small and windowless, I appreciated the lack of ammonia fumes.  
Plus it works pretty well for general cleanup, as you can see from how I cleaned off the windowsill before taking the picture.  

Now all I have to do is not get it mixed up with this bottle of water for Drew's haircuts: 

You know what else I can make myself?  A sandwich press. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Things I Learned in Las Vegas

Weekend before last we took a jaunt down to a little redneck town called Las Vegas.  I had never been (unless you count driving past on the way to Disneyland), and it seemed like high time.  We were only there for a weekend, but I learned a few life lessons along the way:

1) The GPS is not always right.  How did we learn this?  By trusting it to take us to a long-term parking place but instead it led us to the heart of downtown Salt Lake.  Consequentially we missed our flight...

2) All is not totally lost if one misses one's flight.  Well, maybe it is sometimes, but it was not for us.  We missed it by less than ten minutes, thanks to the GPS, a crawling shuttle, long security lines (at 7 AM??), extra security hassles and having a gate at the very end of the terminal.  You know, pretty much everything.  BUT Southwest bumped us onto the next flight and we made it to Vegas just a couple of hours later than planned with no further issues. 

3) I do not want to own a timeshare.  On the way to check in at our pyramid, we were unwittingly suckered into what turned out to be timeshare presentation.  Long story short, we spent several hours with Mr. Timeshare and got free lunch as well as some dirt cheap tickets for a few different attractions.  He kind of looked like an older Karl Urban and by the end I was having a rather good time telling him no.  I don't think he had as much fun.

4) I very much enjoy a buffet.  Intent on stuffing my face as much as possible, we got an all-day, unlimited pass for the buffets at the Luxor and Excalibur hotels.  Naturally, we went to both at each meal.  Highlights included the chocolate milk (yes), a cheese-stuffed something, the desserts, crab legs and...well, that's all I can remember.

5) Aquarium tunnels are just as magical as I hoped.  

One of our timeshare benefits was tickets to the aquarium at Mandalay Bay.  It was pretty small but fun and they had a tunnel!  For some reason I have always longed to feel as though I am at the bottom of the ocean...

6) There are slot machines for every fandom.  Do people really walk through a casino and say "Oh man, a Wizard of Oz slot machine??  I will gladly give it hundreds of dollars in coins."?  Speaking of which...

7) People waste a lot of time. 

8) People waste a lot of money.  Egads.

9) People are unscrupulous.  This wasn't really a surprise, knowing Vegas's reputation, but I'm still amazed at the lengths businesses/people go to to push their sordid, seedy entertainments.  And with kids walking around and all!  Of course, that also begs the question of why anyone would bring small children to the Strip.

10) It is delightful to eat with one's hands.  I was skeptical about the Tournament of Kings (in which you are given a medieval-ish meal [sans silverware] and entertained by a horse-filled medieval play of sorts), primarily because it cost about $60 a person.  Ridiculous.  But thanks to Mr. Timeshare it was about $5 for both us.  Now, maybe I was just starving, but I devoured that little Cornish hen and everything else.  In fact, maybe we also LOOKED starving because the waiter offered us extra soup. 

11) I still got it, or, I prefer Drewbles.  While Drew waited in line to pick up our Tournament of Kings tickets, I went back to the hotel to pick up some stuff.  Whilst on my way back, I met with a few fellows, one of whom declared himself in love with me and tried to lead me away from my matrimonial obligations.  I think not!  Later, while Drewbles was still gathering his crab legs, another fellow tried to talk me into eating dinner with him.  Oh ho!  Dudes.

All told, Vegas has its fun things and it was a fun trip, but overall--and I don't think this will come as a surprise to anyone--it has a fancy exterior with a cheap substance.  It reminded me of a creme puff I ate once, that turned out to have mold on the inside.  But at least there was no mold at the buffets. 

Here, have some pictures:

The real New York has a roller coaster in the midst too, right?
The closest I will probably ever come to one of my very favorite works of art in the world.
What a delightfully fancy mall.
Drewbles surveys the kingdom.
This amused me to no end.  No end!

These little globs enchanted Drew to no end.  No end!
Another lesson: Las Vegas is very hot and sunny.

One day I hope to compare this to the original.
I give the fountain show two thumbs up.

This also amused me to no end.  And yes, I did cut out the strip show ad below it.  Take that, Vegas!