I have this friend, Serena. We were best friends in Jr. High. This is us back then:
We lost contact with each other in high school because she moved away. It was the olden days, we didn't have email or Facebook back then. I think we tried carrier pigeon for a while but my letters were too long so the poor little birdies couldn't get off the ground. But fast forward 24 years, and through the magic of Facebook, we found each other and picked up right where we left off! This is us now:
After catching up, it turns out Serena and I are really more like twins who were separated at birth. We listen to the same music, we read the same books, and we both love to cook. And we share the same view that "homemade" is usually better. And it's always more fun.
Serena has twin girls and on my last visit to their home in WA, we sat down at the kiddie-table with them and played with play dough. But it wasn't the store-bought stuff, it was dough that Serena had made herself. Besides the "homemade" factor, it's really great dough! Way better than the store-bought stuff because it's really smooth and pliable. And it's super cheap because it's made with ingredients you already have in the pantry.
Serena sent me home with the recipe and I made it the other night while babysitting my niece & nephew. Here is my niece Mia, very intent on impaling her gingerbread men. She's a stinker:
This is the snowman Mia and I built. Don't make fun of him, he has issues and is in therapy.
And here's the recipe! This recipe is for a big batch, but simply cut the recipe in half or quarters to make smaller batches of multiple colors. You can also make the big batch but hold off on adding the color until you get the ball of dough on the board and divide it. It's a little messier that way, but it will work.
This was a collaboration with one of my best-buddies Bree (aka: Lucy), owner of weddingtulle.com , for best-buddy LeiLani's baby shower when she was pregnant with Mia. Here we are the day of the shower:
The approach was simple: LeiLani was obsessed with damask and these black chandeliers she had seen at Urban Outfitters. So obsessed that she decked baby Mia's whole room in it. Naturally we ran wild with it and not only designed the invitations in damask & chandeliers, we decorated the whole shower that way!
This invitation brings back some wonderful memories and you can order it or other custom invites at www.weddingtulle.com
As a child, did you ever play that card game called "Memory?" Actually, my mother called it "Concentration" and we played it with regular playing cards but essentially it's the same idea, find the matches.
I've recently realized that game was an excellent training tool for the grown-up version of "Memory" I now am forced to play on a weekly basis. It's the "Find-The-Matches-To-The-White-Socks" version. Except in the grown-up version, sometimes you end up with one sock that has no match and you automatically lose. I lose this game a lot.
Something happened today that has reminded me that kindness, even amongst strangers, still exists in this world. Let me share...
Last night I went Christmas shopping with my sisters. We had a great time, found some wonderful deals, and rushed home with armfuls of bags. We got home late, so I threw my bags on the floor and promptly went to bed, not realizing that I had accidentally dropped one of my shopping bags on the ground back at the mall. This morning, I received a phone call from a woman named Melissa who told me she thought she found one of my shopping bags and wanted to return it to me. She found my name and phone number on a receipt the store made me fill out. She and her husband had been walking around the mall with their small son, remembered walking by my sisters and I, then later saw the bag after we had moved on. She and her husband wandered around the mall looking for us so they could give the bag back, but we had already left to come home.
I was simply shocked. I hadn't even noticed that I was missing a purchase but mostly, I was so surprised by the kindness of a stranger to go out of her way to make sure I got my bag back. She didn't even live in my town, it just so happened that she was visiting her father who did. We met up this afternoon and sure enough, it was my bag. She gave me back the bag and I gave her a Starbucks card because I knew I would never get her to take money for it. She gave me a hug and her toddler son told me "Happy Holidays!"
And the holidays will be happy, if for no other reason than I will carry the kindness of Melissa with me throughout the season.
I have a suggestion I would like you to consider for the next holiday season, a time when the greatest number of your birds are consumed. In the future, would you please include a locator-devise, perhaps a little remote-like gadget that beeps or even just a pull string, that will make finding the handy little bag of guts you so kindly include with the purchase of your birds?
This would solve a great deal of confusion for me as this is the 2nd year I searched high and low for the treat-bag containing both giblets and neck that is supposed to be in there. And for the 2nd year I was unable to find it because the bag was so tightly packed into the inside the cavity of the freezing cold bird, it was undetectable. This year, by chance, I happened to find the bag containing the neck and after unsuccessfully searching high and low, out and uh... in, I assumed that was all there was to be found. But once again, while preparing to carve my gloriously roasted bird, out dumped a white bag full of turkey guts.
So it would be a great help to me if you added a homing device to the bag of guts, or put them in a more conspicuous place, like the outside of the bird.
I am going CRAZY for these!! I can think of so many people in my family that would enjoy these CD labels, especially my Brother-Eddie who is obsessed with his turntable. I always give my dad a mixed-CD full of retro music for Christmas and I can't wait to see his face when he opens this one!
I have a confession to make. This is difficult for me, because at heart I am a Foodie and what I have to say is going to be offensive to most other Foodies. I apologize in advance, please forgive me but... I really don't understand what the big deal is about sushi. As a youngster, it wasn't attractive to me because I associated it with raw fish, which I had not yet acquired a taste for. Later, I associated it with seaweed, until I found out not all sushi is wrapped in nori. Then I was told that the reason I don't like sushi is because I hadn't had GOOD sushi (reminds me of the "good vanilla" discussion!) and that I just need to to go to a reputable (aka: expensive) sushi restaurant and THEN I would change my mind.
I am here to tell you, I have now been to a GOOD sushi restaurant and although I did come away from the experience with a previously absent respect for the cuisine as a whole, and there were some definite highlights to the meal, and I am actually looking forward to taking my BFF's to that restaurant on our next Girl's Night Out, sushi still not one of my favorite things.
I am grateful, however, to chow.com for posting this little video just days before my sushi outing because I did not feel quite so much like the country-bumpkin that I am. Plus it saved me the embarassment of asking for the "training chopsticks", which Brother-Eddie did.
My best friend and I have a revolving-trade-agreement going on. I help her out with her marketing materials, she pays me in makeup. Most of the time I feel like I'm getting the better end of that bargain! This is her new business card for her business, Makeup By Leiani. She and I collaborated on the look and feel she was going for starting with a new shape, the oval, and designed around it. She didn't want to clog this card up with a bunch of text. She conducts most of her scheduling online so we decided just her name, website, and phone number were necessary. It's part business card, part calling card and it has been receiving rave reviews. It really stands out on a desk or in a sea of other business cards and it's really fun to pass it out at mixers or other industry events.
As mentioned recently by my Sister-Amy at her delicious blog Amy's Kitchen, Nielsen Massey Vanilla is, well...in a word... divine. Sent from heaven above to infuse our world with perfumed loveliness and goodness. If you have ever watched Barefoot Contessa (the brilliant Ina Garten), no doubt you have heard her refer to the importance of using "good vanilla." THIS is the "good vanilla" you may have noticed her using.
"When buying vanilla extract make sure it is labeled "pure". The imitation vanilla extracts are made with synthetic vanilla (from glycoside found in the sapwood of certain conifers or from coal extracts) and leave a bitter after taste. Products labeled Vanilla Flavoring are a combination of pure vanilla extract and imitation vanilla extract."
Many times when preparing baked goods and even sometimes savory foods, the recipe will call for the use of a whole vanilla bean. It's like adding the ultimate vanilla experience to whatever you are making and although they are pricey, it is worth it.
This can present a couple problems, however. 1) Whole vanilla beans do have an "expiration" in that, they will eventually dry out. If it has become hard & severely shrivelled, it has past it's prime. 2) Although they are commonly found nowadays, it is possible that your neighborhood grocery doesn't carry them. Now, if for whatever reason you cannot get your hands on whole vanilla bean pods, you can use good vanilla extract as a substitute and your dish will still taste yummy. But......
One tablespoon of this product equals one whole vanilla bean! I'll be honest, the job of splitting the bean in half and then scraping out the teeny beans makes me nervous so this jar of vanilla luciousness is going to become a staple in the "magic cupboard."