Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Vacation

I am writing from my parent's house, relaxing and enjoying my vacation - finally. Things got off to a very rough start.

On Saturday, CC, Red and I performed Act 1 of the Couch Shuffle. First a little back story: CC is moving into an apartment and he bought a beautiful cream colored couch from the Arhaus Loft Clearance Center. This is the same place I got my couch. They have sweet deals and I love it. If you live in the Cleveland area and need furniture, I highly recommend it. So Saturday morning, CC and I picked up the couch and headed over the apartment to move it - just me and him. We only got the couch out of the bed of the truck before I decided there was no way I was going to get far with this couch. So we recruited Ruby's BF Red to help (oh lucky him).

This couch is so crazy heavy that CC and Red had to take a break after about 50 feet of carrying it. So they get it to the door and it does not fit through. We tried EVERYTHING to get it through the entrance - every angle, we took the light fixture down to get more room, and we broke two panes of glass in the door. It was a MESS. Then we realize, not only is there no way we are getting this couch through the front door - there is NO WAY it is going to make it through the apartment door. Did I mention that you can't return things to the Clearance Center? So what now?

Couch shuffle. My couch is much lighter and is in two parts - two seats and an attached chez lounge. So our solution is move the crazy heavy/wide couch to my apt and the lighter/two piece couch to CC's. Red helped move the couch into my apt and on Sat night I had two couches in my itty one bedroom apt!

Sunday morning CC and I began Act 2: Move my couch to his place. This started out well enough. The chez piece we moved with no problem. We should have known it wouldn't be so easy. Piece 2 made it to the apt door, but would not make the turn to get into the apt. Our last desperate attempt to get a couch into this apt was to take the heavyass apt door off the hinges. We still had to shimmy, but by golly it worked - a Christmas miracle! Moving this couch is up there with tetanus shots on my list of things that don't seem bad at first but end up being the WORST IDEAS EVER.

By Monday I thought I was home free to enjoy my vacation. The weather had a different idea. It wasn't bad downtown, but I drove into a blizzard in Mentor. Route 2 was a mess and I was sliding all over the place. I got off at Heisley, heading southbound and the roads only got worse. I drive a rear wheel drive mustang and I went to slow down and ended up sliding to the other side of the street and hitting a guard rail - my first car accident! No worries, I'm fine. I was going about 10-15 mph, I don't even think my seat belt locked. But I managed to do a whopping $1600 worth of damage! The cop was "nice" enough not to cite me for failure to control my vehicle, puke. Snow tires for Christmas - YES please!
My poor little stang:

Add into the mix of all this a few hours of work, cleaning my apt, a dentist apt, laundry, and an eye apt, the last few days have not been fun. I know what Ruby's mom tell me to do, "call the waambulance". Sorry, I had to vent. Moving on - its Christmas Eve. On today's to-do list - relax! And make peanut brittle - yum yum yum!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Secret Santa

Tonight was the secret santa party for the ladies at work. We had to give our person three small gifts with clues to our identity and then one large gift to open tonight. My secret santa got me a starbucks giftcard, fuzzy socks (currently wearing), a horse bookmark (this gave it away), and a gift card to TJ Maxx. Yay for presents!

The peppermint cookies were a success. I will not go so far as to say they were a hit, but I definitely received several compliments and someone asked to take the leftovers home. And the true test of a recipe - I will make them again.

The countdown is on: three more days of work until Christmas vacation. Biggest Loser Finale is on!! GTG!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Cookies 'n' Such

I can't keep letting myself get behind like this. I have just been accumulating things I want to share and I apologize that this post is going to be long and possibly rambling. But have no fear, there will be LOTS of cookies (and some interesting outfits) along the way!

I have been a busy baker. And I have discovered something interesting about cookies - keep it simple. People love the tried and true cookie recipes. Two recent examples: (1) Some of the gals at work got together to make cookies at Mrs. Brownie's house and after sharing the various trays of cookies with various people, the consensus was clear - people's favorite out of the variety was the toll house cookies from the recipe on the back of the bag. Or as Phoebe (and Joyce) would say its a secret family recipe from "Nestle Tollhouse" (in a french accent). (2) I also just loved and devoured the cookies that Skids brought to the Harvest Party. I asked her for the recipe (see below) and low and behold, the almost exact same recipe is on the Eagle Brand can! So while I am always up for trying a new exciting recipe, sometimes I think you are just better off with the recipe on the back of a box, bag or can. Here it is, Cookie Recipe #1:
Seven Layer Bars
Melt 1/4 lb of margarine in 9 x 12 pan. Sprinkle over the butter 1c. graham cracker crumbs (I use a rolling pin and plastic bag). Sprinkle over that 1 c. flaked coconut. Sprinkle 1 sm. pkg. of choc. chips (1 cup) and 1 sm. pkg of butterscotch (1 cup). Drizzle all over one can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk. Sprinkle over top 1 1/2 c. chopped walnuts. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Allow plenty of time for them to cool.
I cannot share Cookie Recipe #2 with you. It is up to Snickerdoodle who has promised me she will write a guest blog post on her sugar cookie recipe. And I hope for everyone who reads this blog's sake that she does it soon, cuz they make the darn cutest cookies you have ever seen! And I love and adore almond extract so they are way up there in my book. And they are at the top of Blaze's book. Here is a teaser:

It isn't just cookie baking that has had me busy and turned me into a negligent blogger. I have also been attending Holiday parties!! Could there be a more valid excuse? Friday night the Brownie family had us over for some more Christmas beer pong (the same as regular beer pong, just played in December) and impromptu photo shoots. I don't have the pics to share unfortunately, but use your imagination: a dog, two different Cavs wigs, Romeo Crennell, some ranting on Bailouts, and Fritzy!

Saturday brings us to Cookie Recipe #3 and an Ugly Sweater Party. White people love ugly sweater parties, it is a proven fact. I think this blog really sums it up. My contribution to the party was a cranberry delight cream cheese dip and Giada's Italian Chocolate Sandwich Cookies. I thought they were yummy and different and the corn meal in the batter gives them a distinctive texture. However, the cream cheese dip and Ruby's buffalo chicken dip were definitely much bigger hits with people. So now I have learned two things: people really like recipes that taste familiar and anything with cream cheese in it.

The party was so much fun! Something about wearing a christmas tree turtleneck, snowman vest, santa earrings, matching pin, and a santa hat that just makes you merry. Maybe that is why fourth grade teachers are so chipper. Below: Ruby, me (no longer being a grinch), and Rae Rae (unfortunately not pictured: Rae Rae's Christmas flamingos).

Tomorrow we are having a Secret Snowman exchange at work. I don't think my Secret Snowman reads this blog so I will let you in on the secret. I got her two books I enjoyed this past year: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and Run by Ann Patchett. And to this holiday party I am bringing Cookie Recipe #4. This recipe is adapted for the season from a Maple Walnut cookie recipe. Just scrap the walnuts, replace maple extract with peppermint, and top with some crushed candy canes. They are so pretty! But are they good? I will have to get back to you on that tomorrow (I promise).

Maple Walnut Cookies (thank you H's sister)

3/4 c. butter
1 ½ c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 ½ c. flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 c. sour cream
2/3 c. chopped walnuts

Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and eggs. Alternately mix in dry ingredients and sour cream. Add nuts. Drop by teaspoon on baking sheet and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Cool before frosting.


½ melted butter
4 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. boiling water
½ tsp vanilla
1 tsp maple extract (NOT syrup)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

TiS tHe SeaSoN - part 2

Two posts in one day - cool or pathetic? I have to share pictures of the Christmas tree I bought today. It's just a four-footer but I love it!

And in case you didn't get catch the Cathy reference in the previous post, see below. I can't find a video of Andy Sandberg's impression, so you will have to settle for this.

TiS tHe SeAsoN

Last night Bones and GiuGiu (pronounced JuJu) hosted a holiday dinner party at their very lovely home with some of our co-workers. Mrs. Brownie and I were in charge of apps. I brought my no fail chorizo stuffed dates wrapped in bacon. I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but I got it from Cleveland Foodie. It is easy and always a crowd pleaser. This time I also made a veggie version for Bones, no bacon and stuffed with goat cheese. I also brought Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese and Walnuts. These were tasty, but mostly they were very pretty and festive:

Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese and Walnuts

4 pears, halved, but not peeled – Scoop out the seeds, it makes a nice pocket for the blue cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 bunch fresh thyme (I substituted rosemary cuz that's what I had)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup crumbled good-quality blue cheese
1/4 cup walnut pieces

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Arrange the pears, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Strip the leaves from the thyme branches and sprinkle over the pears. Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake 20 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and spoon a generous teaspoon of crumbled cheese in the center of each pear half, return the pears to the oven and roast until they are tender and the cheese is soft, about 10 more minutes. Meanwhile, put the walnuts on another baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Chop. When the pears are cooked, transfer them to a serving plate and sprinkle the toasted walnuts over the top. Serve hot.

After dinner and our ornament exchange (Bones tripled the number of ornaments I own and I now need to buy a tree, stop being a grinch, and give in and decorate my apt to showcase these ornaments), things got serious when we moved the party to the basement for a beer pong tournament complete with 7 teams and brackets. Sadly, Elf and I were the first team eliminated. Bones and CC were very serious, but came in third place:

And the winning team is.... GiuGiu and Mrs. Brownie! Congratulations! The final game was played with Christmas Ale, ack!

It was such a fun night! Thanks again Bones and GuiGui! I love holiday parties!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tree O'Yarn

So far I have one picture from Saturday's Harvest Party: my girlfriends and the giant cat toy, I mean yarn tree. Hopefully there will be more to come- pictures that is, not yarn trees.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Lake View Cemetery

CC and I occasionally like to enjoy something I call "Cultural Sunday" or sometimes "Cultural Saturday". This started when I moved out of my parent's house a few years back and realized that no one was going to stop me from wasting an entire weekend sprawled on my couch watching non-stop MTV, E!, and the Food Network (Blaze and Snickerdoodle can attest that I am expert at this). And there is so much to explore here in Cleveland, so thus Cultural Sundays were born. All you have to do, is leave the apartment, and go do something interesting. Eat, shop, walk, explore, drive, photograph, relax, whatever, just do something. Luckily for me, CC hates laying around and is very good at pushing me off the couch on the weekends.

This fall, CC and I enjoyed one of my favorite Cultural days to date at Lake View Cemetery. I know that sounds a little strange, but it is the most beautiful place I have been to in Cleveland. We spent a lot of our time taking photos around the Garfield Monument on a beautiful fall afternoon. It has these amazing blue doors, see:

Here are some interesting facts about Lake View Cemetery: Did you know that President Garfield, John D. Rockefeller, and Elliott Ness are all buried here? The interior of Wade Chapel is original Tiffany glass designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany himself and the chapel has to be heated very slowly so that the glass won't break. Lake View's most famous piece of graveside sculpture stands atop the grave of Francis Haserot and his family, near the Mark Hanna mausoleum at the edge of the cemetery proper, the Haserot Angel:

Among other tours offered at the cemetery is one called "Angels of Lake View: Guides, Guardians and Messengers". It is such an interesting and beautiful place. I can't believe I lived in Cleveland for 20+ years before first visiting this place.

So if you are free this Saturday there are some Holiday events taking place at Lake View that CC and are planning to attend:

SCHWAN GRAVESITE TREE-TRIMMING (Mrs. Schwan was my fourth grade teacher, fyi)

Saturday, December 06, 2008 10:00 AM
Join us as Hope Lutheran Church decorates a tree at the gravesite of Rev. H.C. Schwan, of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, known for bringing a candle-lit tree into a public sanctuary for the first time on December 24, 1851. Parking is available on "Lake Road" in front of Section 25.


Saturday, December 06, 2008 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM
Please join us for our 14th Annual Holiday Program in the spectacular, historic Wade Chapel. The merry music, bright candles, and lovely chapel surroundings are sure to lift your spirit for the season. Parking is available in front of the sections surrounding the Chapel. Reservations requested, as seating is limited.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Catching Up

I haven't posted in a week and I feel light years behind. What a week, I'm exhausted just thinking about it. So here's the recap...

Wednesday was spent marketing. I needed to get the goods for Thanksgiving at mom's and the Harvest party on Saturday. So I headed to Westside Market and Dean's Supply. Dean's Supply is a restaurant supply store and I got some sweet deals on wine glasses (99 cents each that were $5 each at Pottery Barn), beer glasses (79 cents each), forks, plastic plates, napkins, and some serving pieces. If I had some more storage room in my little apt I would have gotten a set of party plates (and I'm not talking the yellow ones that go on your car).
Thursday was an all day cooking extravaganza! I think Aunt Rita was a little scared to even enter the kitchen. My mother's not so large kitchen with minimal counter space was full of a mom, three daughters, Uncle Dick making Parker house rolls (or is it Porter?), and one very large golden retriever - my favorite visitor, Joey. Behold, my pride and joy:

Can you smell the citrus and garlic and the thyme! Aunt Jeannie said a Hail Mary to Grandma and behold, her pride and joy:

Good family, good food, good punch, an overall lovely Thanksgiving 2008.

On the ominous Black Friday (it sounds so scary), CC and checked out an apartment (for him, not us, just so everyone is clear), and we both got party clothes at my shopping heaven - Filene's Basement. Afterwards, I went home and began preparing for Saturday's party and then drove down to Columbus.

I haven't mentioned yet that my Grandmother passed away last Saturday. She had a cancerous tumor in her abdomen which I think caused the stroke on Wednesday and by Friday when I saw her she was sleeping soundly. But she waited until the whole family was with her on Saturday afternoon before she let go, very peacefully, and it seemed, without pain. Its bittersweet, but after 68 years of marriage, she was ready to go be with Grandpa. Saturday morning was a memorial service and luncheon and our family was back to the Church of the Messiah a lot sooner than we had anticipated. We shared a lot of memories and tears and needless to say both Bill and Mary left a tremendous impact on countless people.

Saturday afternoon I drove back to Cleveland where CC and I hosted our Harvest Party at Spaces Art Gallery. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures, but my brother did, so maybe I can get those up at some point. Bo and M provided the music and sound system which was amazing! And we had way way way too much food and only finished half the keg of Magic Hat #9 (mmm). The party was partially catered. Well, I shouldn't say that. I thought it was partially catered, but it was actually plenty of food and I am sad to say we had to throw a lot of it away at the end of the night. But I couldn't pass up making party food and I had lots of help from my friends and sisters. I made Smitten Kitchen's Pepita brittle, and will definitely be making this recipe again.

And Sunday, glorious Sunday, was spent eating copious amounts of cheese (obviously not tossed at the end of the party), watching Forgetting Sarah Marshell, and eating Sushi Rock take-out, a wonderful capstone to a very busy week.

And now it is time to start thinking about that next big holiday. When did it get to be December 1?

P.S. I have to mention a Meaningful Beauty update - I think I am allergic and have ceased using it. So much for my second foray in infomercial shopping. Has anyone tried the Power 90X work out dvd's? That may be my third attempt.