Sunday, November 29, 2009

From Eeek! to Chic



A couple of weeks ago my sister and I were bored and decided to check out a local thrift shop. As I was meandering through the aisles, this bowl instantly caught my eye. Why it did, I am not quite sure as it was under some ugly wood shelf-thingy and it was tarnished beyond belief.



Nonetheless, it was mine and for only $2.99, I had high hopes. See the bottom of the bowl in this picture? That is how I knew it had promise so I grabbed my Tarnex silver polish (which makes your house smell like rotten eggs for about 20 min.) and went to it.



Voila! After about 5 minutes of some good polish, my crummy little bowl looked like this!



Isn't it pretty? There is something so simple and perfect about freshly polished silver. I guess I just like that you can totally give a face look to something so quickly. Instant gratification.



Oh look - my reflection. Boy am I glad that my camera is in front of my face in this reflection. I was unshowered, unkempt and unpresentable, to say the least.

And yes Mom, I know that unpresentable and unshowered are not words and that this is making the editor in you squirm. For this, I am very, very sorry.

So, I had a pretty silver bowl that was empty, empty, empty. What to do with it...



Earlier this month I was invited to attend a charity event in which I bid on, and won, a table centerpiece. The centerpiece was basically a wine chiller bucket full of these pretty blue ornaments. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them at the time but I love the way they look in my pretty silver bowl.



Not too shabby for $2.99, eh? It has actually inspired me to perhaps go blue with the decor for this Christmas season. We'll see.

Yay for Christmas!!!!!

Thanksgiving Quick Recap

Another wonderful Thanksgiving has come and gone. I ate too much, laughed a lot and truly felt thankful for all of the blessings I have in my life - so all in all, it was just as it should be.

For every Thanksgiving that I have had EVER in my life, we have spent it with the same family friends. Some years, it is the only time we see them, but it is as if no time has passed. They are the kind of family that you choose and I look forward to seeing them every year. Depending on who brings who as a date and who has friends in need of a Thanksgiving to attend, we usually have somewhere between 12 - 16 people at my Dad's house every year. It is a bit chaotic but I would have it no other way.




To make it easier on everyone, we are all assigned certain items to bring which for me is always pecan pies and quiche for the next morning since our friends always stay the night at my Dad's place. I make 2 pecan pies, 1 quiche Lorraine and 1 broccoli cheese quiche. They are really good, if I do say so myself.



The day of course, always starts with cheese, and lots of it. From cheddar to blue, brie to manchego - we have it all. This is, in my mind, the ONLY way to start the day. Cheese for breakfast? Don't mind if I do...



Lots of crackers to go with the cheese. Duh.



Now - this is a picture of the stuff that comes in that little bag in the turkey. I like to pretend that these things don't really exist and I am actually really shocked I got close enough to even take this picture. My Dad, however, loves these nasty little bits and was eating them. Gross. GROSS!!!



Speaking of my Dad, here is he basting the turkey. Oh delicious turkey - I am so, so thankful for you. Also - not so sure what he was doing with his lips in this picture.



You may be wondering what in the heck-fire this is and I don't blame you. However, despite it's obvious strange appearance, this is what is lovingly referred to in our family as "The Jello Thing" as in, "Hey Dad, are you going to make that jello thing?" The jello thing is a bit of a legend around our house and no Thanksgiving is complete without it. Apparently my Great-grandma picked this recipe up in the 50's and it has been going strong since. My Dad is the master chef of this and while I still don't know how to make it, I know that it has whipped cream and walnuts in it and that it is delicious and I will love it forever.



Calling all American blog readers: ever had Yorkshire Pudding? No? It's okay - I hadn't either until I started fraternizing with a bunch of Brits, but let me tell you - it is a darn SHAME that this is not a regular in the American diet because it is delicious. Last year was the introduction of the Yorkshire Pudding to our Thanksgiving, thanks to my English fiance Dan, and it is here to stay.

In short, according to the recipe that I used from an English cooking site, the batter is simply equal parts egg, milk and flour all mixed together. You then get your oven really hot (approx. 450 degrees) and pre-heat some muffin tins with 1/2 tsp. oil in each cup (however, traditionally you use the drippings from a beef roast). Once the oil is smoking, you fill each muffin cup 1/3 of the way and quickly put back in the oven. Then, you wait and DO NOT open the oven. Yorkshire puddings are a bit like a souffle in that you just have to trust it is working. After about 12 min. they are done and this is what happens:






These puppies puff up like crazy and they are SO SO amazingly delicious and perfect. We now have them in place of dinner rolls. Because of the way they puff up, they have these little wells in the center that hold gravy and what have you just perfectly. I had never had to make these on my own without the guidance of my Englishman so I was nervous, but they turned out really great.



The other really great thing about Thanksgiving was that my brother Conor, who has been away studying and expanding his mind at university, was home. This makes everything better instantly and I already cannot wait for his return at Christmas.

He is turning 19 soon. Sniff sniff.



And last but not least, here is a picture of all the food that ended up in my tummy. See the yams at the top of the plate? My Mom makes those. They have apples and cranberries in them and are the best yams this side of the Mississippi. I swear. Yum. Just looking at this makes me hungry for it all again. Everything was excellent.

Oh how I love Thanksgiving.

I hope that you all had a great holiday weekend and that happiness and good cheer is with you as we all dive head first into this holiday season.

Cheers!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Survey


Okay - really important question:

If you had to choose one Thanksgiving dish to keep on the table always no matter what and one to banish from the table forever, what would you pick?

(**Note** Just because you banish a dish doesn't mean that you don't like it, just that you could really take it or leave it.)

For me it would be, keep the Turkey, banish the cranberry sauce.

Remember- this is a very important question!

Oh how I do love myself a good hypothetical.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Items That Make Life Easier

Thanksgiving is about 3.5 days away which means that homes around America are in the thick of the annual prep for the big day. Whether this means cleaning, cooking, baking or decorating - just about everyone I know has a to-do list in their pocket.

Then, once Thanksgiving is over, it's time for the ultimate quick-change to Christmas which seems to literally happen on 12:01am the following day. Frankly, as much as I love it, it is all a bunch of craziness really.

That is why, in times of such madness, I find myself mercilessly searching for any and all items to make my life just a little bit easier. After years of trial and error, I think that I have complied a pretty good list. These are basic goods which don't just talk the talk, they walk the walk. They are the cat's meow. They are all that and a bag of chips. They are, as the English say, the dog's bollocks. (I will let you figure that one out yourself.)

So, without further ado - here are my tried and trusted, go-to, fail-safe tools to make my life just a little bit easier. I hope that they help you as they have helped me:

This list had to include these. HAD TO. I really hope that everyone has already discovered this modern miracle of a cleaning product, and if not, go right now to get some. I am totally not kidding here. There is nothing, I repeat, NOTHING, that these cannot clean. From caked-on spills in the kitchen (not that I ever have those) to bathtubs to crayon on the wall - I am telling you - these will get it all out with ease. I continue to find new ways to maximize these puppies. And - the best part? All you have to do is run it under water. No harsh chemicals at all. This is an AMAZING, amazing sponge.


This is a Silpat baking sheet. It is made in France of silicon and fiberglass and you simply just place it on your cookie sheet before adding the cookie dough. Once you bake cookies with one of these, you will never want to go back - I promise you. Baked cookies slide off with ease and clean-up is so simple. It is heat-resistant, oven/freezer/microwave safe. You can find these all over from Amazon.com to Williams Sonoma. Get one. Do it.



Now, this next item might not look like much, but let me tell you, this is hands-down, the last windshield ice scraper you will ever buy. It is called the Scrape-A-Round and I first picked one up at a local ski and snowboard show here in Portland. The company is based out of Utah where they know snow! What makes this special (as you are scraping your windshield when it is freezing cold and you are already running late) is that due to its shape, there is an 18" scraping surface and no matter which direction you use it in, you are scraping the windshield. I usually just move it around in a big circular motion and it gets the job done quickly. But wait - it gets better. One the very top, there is a surface with little spikes on it and this is to help you crack through ice if it is really on there thick. THEN - if for some reason you need to fill your car with extra coolant or the like, the top part comes off and acts as a funnel so that you do not spill. If you live in a place with ice and snow and you HATE scraping your windshield like I do - you need this product. They are sold in packs of 3 for $15.00. Not bad at all.

Sometimes I am tired. Sometimes I am lazy. Sometimes I am both tired and lazy and I simply cannot waste any time between getting ready for bed and actually getting some shut-eye, so I reach for one of these. Because I am actually pretty anal about my skin care routine, one of these packs lasts me a long time because I use sparingly - but, let me tell you, when you are so tired that you think How I Met Your Mother is actually funny, do yourself a favor and give your face a quick once over with one of these and call it a night. They actually do a really good job removing make-up and smell nice too. You can thank me later.


I am one of those people that gets really excited about cuddly, fresh smelling laundry. There is just nothing like it as it is pulled out of the dryer. However, often to achieve such fluffiness, you need to use fabric softener, which I never bothered with until I discovered the Downy Ball. I mean, I'm sorry...but there is no way that I will remember to go add fabric softener during the rinse cycle - just isn't going to happen. With the Downy Ball, however, all you do is fill it up when you first put in the laundry and toss it in. It opens when it is supposed to and that is all you have to do. Love it.

Part of our family Thanksgiving tradition is having a big breakfast the next morning because apparently we didn't get enough food they day before. Over the past few years I have become the designated maker of quiche which is maybe my most favoritest food ever. That and salmon. And mashed potatoes. Grrr - why do I even try to play the "name your favorite food" game? Anyway, whenever I have to grate a lot of cheese, I am so thankful for these graters from IKEA. They cost $5.99 for a pack of two are are just about the greatest thing ever. Because you are able to grate with a downward pressure instead of awkwardly holding something sideways, it goes a lot quicker and is much friendlier on the arms. Then, as you grate, all of the cheese goes into the attached dish making it a quick and easy clean-up.

Last but not least, I will share with you one of my little luxuries: a shu uemura eyelash curler. The is the BEST eyelash curler around - it really is. At $19 however, it is a bit spendy, but I'm telling you, it is worth the cost. I do not know how they made this different, but they obviously know something that other eyelash curler manufacturers don't know. There is no pain or pulling, no straining and zero kinks in the eyelashes. You hardly can tell that you have a strange metal contraption so close to your eye :) The downside is that it comes with only 2 rubber pads and they do not sell replacements which means that you have to buy a whole new curler once you have worn them out, but if you are a curled eyelash freak like me, you will appreciate this item.

Okay - that is all for now. I am sure I will do another post like this in the future as there are a lot more products that I hold near and dear, but I am sure you would all like to move on with your lives. I hope that you have a great week and that the Thanksgiving prep is smooth sailing.

Cheers!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The New Leonardo(s)


Last night my sister and I went to a midnight screening of New Moon, the latest installment of the Twilight saga. While I did enjoy the first film, I have not read the books and I do not consider myself a mega-fan, but my sister has read the books and was so excited to go to the screening. Somehow she talked me into it despite the fact that we would be spending hours in line at the theater, outside in the cold, on a work night and surrounded by teen girls who took to squealing at the mention of the names "Edward" or "Jacob". I was basically just along for the ride.

After about 3 hours in line, we finally got in and settled. The actual film did not start until about 1am, which meant by the time I got home and in bed it was about 3:30am. When my alarm went off at 6:30am this morning signaling the unfortunate and disgusting truth that it was time to wake up and attempt to function, I kind of wanted to punch something.

I'm just being honest.

However, despite being overwhelmingly tired (which I am telling myself is good practice for when I have children), I did enjoy the film and I think that it is worth seeing. I really had zero expectations going into it but I came out feeling like I had been thoroughly entertained by the tales of vampires and werewolves. In the same vein as the Harry Potter films, you are quickly whisked away into a completely new world where the lines of good and evil are not so clearly drawn as they may seem and it is quite a wild ride complete with teen angst, young love and lots of guys with their shirts off.



Oh yes - the guys with no shirts. This caused QUITE a commotion in the theater as all of the young teen girls who surrounded us hooped and hollered whenever their on-screen crushes displayed their dreaminess. I was most entertained by their reactions and it took me back to a time when all I really cared about was one thing: Leonardo DiCaprio.


I was 15 when a little film called Titanic hit the theaters. To say that I was obsessed with Leonardo after seeing that film does not even begin to describe it. He consumed my thoughts. I would sit in class and dream about him. My bedroom was lined, wall to wall, with Leonardo DiCaprio pictures. I even wrote to Oprah, telling her I was his BIGGEST fan and that if she could just arrange for me to meet him on her show, I would be forever grateful.

SO WEIRD I never heard back from her...

In total, I saw Titanic in the theaters 8 times. 8 TIMES PEOPLE!!! It was ridiculous.

Over the years however, my acute passion for Leo became a bit muted and less of a distraction, but listening to those girls scream the second that Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner graced the screen took me back to that time in my life where I actually thought that perhaps, one day, Leo would knock on my door, tell me he has been waiting for me his entire life and whisk me away to live happily ever after. I couldn't help but smile as I heard a girl say to her friend, who were both sitting behind us, "Ohhhh...I want him to kiss ME like that!"

It was just adorable and made up for the waiting in the cold and the exhaustion today. That time in our lives is so fleeting and brief but also so important and it was just a nice reminder of years gone by.

If any of you go to see the film with friends, daughters, etc. I hope that you enjoy it. I also hope that you get to experience some of the frenzy and that it takes you back to that one celebrity that was IT for you.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

L-O-V-E



L is for the way you look at me



O is for the only one I see



V is very, very extraordinary



E is even more than anyone that you adore, can



Love is all that I can give to you



Love is more than just a game for two



Two in love can make it



Take my heart and please don't break it



Love was made for me and you


Monday, November 16, 2009

Wind Wind, Go Away...

Ohhhhhhh man, the winds are HOWLING outside as I type this. Many areas around me are without power, but so far we have been lucky.

However, there is a small part of me that always loves a power-outage, except when I don't have a way to dry my hair in the morning - then all the fun of THAT situation quickly flies out the window.

Eeeeeekkkksss....I wish you all could hear the wind outside right now. It is really something else.

In case you can't tell, I am scared of wind. Really scared. It all goes back to a MAJOR storm we had here in December of 1995. I was 13 and the Pacific NW got hit with one of the worst storms in our recorded history. We had sustained winds of 70 mph and gusts over 100 mph. All of the beautiful and lovely trees that we are famous for suddenly started to topple over like toothpicks and the damage in my neighborhood alone was unbelievable.

See - we have BIG trees here. Very big trees. When they fall, it isn't pretty.

I remember after the storm had passed my Dad decided to have us all jump in the car so that we could drive around and see the damage. The images of that night have really never left me. Houses in the neighborhood were split in half. Cars were destroyed. Roads were impassable. Luckily, nobody we knew got hurt and somehow, our house was spared. We were without power though, for almost a week in the middle of December. You could see your breath in the house.

Thank God for fireplaces. That is all I have to say about that.

Anyway, since then, I have found myself feeling very anxious of the wind and so I just try to distract myself when it gets bad, hence, this lame-o post :)

Isn't it funny though how childhood fears can lurk within us and then suddenly present themselves full force as if they never left at all? Sometimes they are even so irrational - but it doesn't matter. It is as if they are just a part of our DNA - solid, forged and determined.

Do any of you have fears left lingering from younger days? I always love to learn more about my readers, so if you feel like sharing, please do.

Alright - another big gust. **shudder**

I am off to bed with my ear plugs. Hopefully it will have calmed down by morning.

Where is Sister Maria from The Sound of Music when you need her?????

Friday, November 13, 2009

And...They're Off!

Today is a good day.

I finally completed the last of the immigration applications yesterday (well...for the time being, anyway) and FedEx'ed them to Dan with a planned arrival of Monday.

I cannot even begin to explain the weight that was lifted knowing that those are all completed and ready to go. Because, you see, it is never simply the application. Oh no - it is the application and then 20,000 pieces of "supporting documentation" proving that you are not lying about anything on the application. It's taken us a month and a half to get it all together and I cannot be happier that it is all ready to go.

In addition to that, we had been waiting for an official letter from the Oregon State Police stating that, while Dan was living here in Portland, he never was arrested or anything of the like. That letter came today too. So - once Dan receives the applications he will sign them and send them off to the US Embassy in London, which is one of the final steps we have to take for him to get the visa and come on over across the pond.

Like I said - today is a good day.

Having all of these little bits and bobs (as the English say) sorted out has left me with a little bit of extra space in my over-filled mind to focus again on the wedding. I will admit, as excited as I am for our wedding day, the immigration situation has been totally taking over my every thought so it is nice to get back to the wedding excitement.



This picture is basically the inspiration for our entire design plan and has been the basis of many of the choices we have made. I have ALWAYS been a fan of Toile patterns and so when I saw the linens in this picture I had what Oprah calls an "Ah Ha" moment. Toile linens! Per-fect-a-mundo!

We are copying a lot of what is in the picture, complete with the pink napkins and the black chairs. There will be pops of pink throughout the room, but not too much. I don't want it looking like a bubble-gum, pop-tart, tween birthday - but I just love the black, white and bright pink combo. The venue itself is very urban and almost industrial looking, so I think that it will be a nice contrast.


Here are the exact linens that we are using and I am SO excited about them. They could not be more perfect. I know, I know - we could be using the white linens provided by the venue - but as soon as I saw these, I knew there was no turning back.

Now, I am off to search the internets for flower girl dresses that are equal parts cute, classy and spring-time wedding appropriate. Yay!

It feels so good to feel so good.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Auction Fun


My Dad is a commercial insurance broker. That means that if you are a company looking for insurance but aren't sure what to get or where to start, then you go to someone like my Dad and he will do the legwork for you and find the best deal. He has clients who run all sorts of different companies, but over the years has gotten more and more involved with construction and manufacturing businesses.

Those in the construction field are often involved in fund raising for scholarships developed for young men and women looking to study the sciences and other fields directly related to construction/engineering. Often these fund raising events are in the form of big dinners with auctions which, if we are lucky, us kids get to sometimes attend with him. The latest was for an organization called N.U.C.A which stands for the National Utility Contractors Association and it was a big event.

I love these events. It is an excuse to get dressed up and the chance to eat some really good food which I didn't have to prepare. Those are pretty much 2 things I am always down for.



It was held at The Governor Hotel which is a historic hotel in downtown Portland. The entire building is beautiful with ornate details and a certain old-fashioned grandiosity that is rarely seen in newer construction.


Our party was in one of the ballrooms and I was kind of obsessed with the lighting.


So pretty! These were on the ceiling and they just added a really lovely feeling to the whole room.


See? What did I tell you? There was a feeling.

There are some things in life I just never joke about, and one of them is the feeling in a room. Very, very serious about it.

Very.



Again - the lighting. Really awesome. Maybe it is the little film nerd in me that notices this stuff, but it was so well done.


The night started off with a silent auction. The items up for bid were placed on tables around the exterior of the room and you had about an hour to go around and bid. I snapped this photo quickly of my brother and me as we were about to take a stroll to see what lovely items were in the auction.


This was one of the first things that caught my eye. I think partly because I am naturally drawn to the color pink (just look in my closet) but also I am naturally drawn to cake - so there you have it. This was an entire set with everything you would need to make cupcakes. Yum. (Jana - I thought of you when I took this!!)


All of this went for only about $100, which surprised me. I loved seeing all of these stacked together, but again, I think I was attracted to all of the colors. That, and the fact that I love games. I am just one of those people.

Especially Trivial Pursuit. I ROCK at Trivial Pursuit. Just sayin'.


Ohhhhhh - PRETTY! You could bid on this fully decorated tree, which looked divine. I am still in a bit of shock that Christmas is nearly here. If anyone would like to give me some insight as to what in the heck-fire happened to 2009, I would love to hear it.


This auction item gave me little flashbacks of summer and made me happy. My Dad actually went home with this one, because apparently the 18 sleeping bags, 12 tents, 9 lanterns and 3,000 coolers he already has in his basement just aren't quite enough.


I liked this one. It was basically a tree of scratch-it tickets. Odds of making your money back? Probably not great. Odds of feeling really hopeful for the 20 minutes it takes you to scratch them all off? Phenomenal.



These were two separate auction item groups you could bid on during the live auction portion of the night: the girl dream package and the boy dream package. Is it wrong that I actually wanted to just sit on the floor and play with it all? I think that each one went for about $1,000. The pictures don't really to do them justice, but these were BIG toys. There are some kids out there who have no idea what is comin' their way.


Here is the only thing that I bid on during the night - the centerpiece. Each table had one and you could bid on as many as you wanted. They then took all the top bidders from each table and entered them into a drawing to win $1000. There were only 30 tables, so I figured those are the kinds of odds I like to work with.

Especially since I hijacked the bidding sheet from our table so nobody else could bid on it. I justified this to them by saying that I am getting married and need the money. I think they were all cool with that...I think...

I didn't win though. I was robbed. ROBBED, I tell you.



Another fun little money-maker they did was that for $20, you could buy a set of cards. One said 'Heads' and one said 'Tails.' Then, those with the cards all stood up and the people on the stage would flip a coin - BUT, before they flipped you had to put either the heads card or the tails card up in the air. Whoever picked correctly got to move into the next round until there was only one person left, who would win $1,500. My brother took part in this one and got into the 5th round before he chose 'Heads' and the coin landed on 'Tails'. It was a real crowd-pleaser though and a good one to keep in mind if you are ever trying to raise some money.


Shortly after that, we got to eat and it was SOOOOO good. The salads had blue cheese, pear and candied walnuts. That is a combo I love almost as much as the old Friends/Seinfeld/ER days on NBC.

Must see TV baby. Ahh - I miss those days.

After the salad came salmon, filet mignon, mashed potatoes and asparagus. I was too busy enjoying every last morsel that I forgot to take a picture, but it was scrumptious. I actually ended up giving most of my steak to my little brother, Conor. He was home for the weekend from college and we had recently had this conversation:

Me: "So, have you been cooking yourself meals?"

Conor: "Uhhhh...yeah - kinda."

Me: "Like what kinds of food?"

Conor: "I dunno - like Top Ramen."

I figured he would appreciate that steak more than I would, so to his plate it went. Besides, I had more important things to get to:



Okay - I know that the picture quality here is quite lacking, but this was the MOST amazing cupcake I have EVER had. It was light but decedent - and the frosting...oh deary me...the frosting. It was perfection on a plate. I wish I knew who made them and then I could send them to you all. So, so delicious.

After dinner, they had a live auction with a professional auctioneer whose voice and style had me mesmerized. How do they talk so fast? I love it. It is an art form, I think. Sometimes he would be repeating "five hundred" so many times in a row that it would start to stress me out and I desperately wanted someone else to bid so he could move on to saying "six hundred" over and over again.

Perhaps that is part of the tactic.

That and a bunch of people who have been given free wine and beer all night. I think that helps too.


All in all it was a really fun night and nice to get to get to spend some time with my brother and Dad. I hope that NUCA raised a lot of money to help feed the wallets of those young and eager minds.

I also hope my brother reintroduces vegetables into his life.

And that I can find out who made those cupcakes.

Oh - yeah, and what happened to 2009. Reeeaaallly curious about that one...
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