Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Board Games and Mini Pizzas

Roomy and I had a gaggle of friends over last weekend for a board game night. We played Taboo and Mad Gab and Roomy's new favorite, Quelf.
Quelf was really good for my friends (and especially Roomy) because it's not really competitive.  The description states that Quelf "gives random a new name," and that is certainly accurate!  There are quiz cards and category cards, but the best are the action cards.  My personal favorite actions from game night included having to toast "to ancient times and distant music" every time we drank and when one of my friends had to pretend he was a cowboy riding an ostrich around a beached whale, giving a monologue.  Hilarity ensued!
Of course, it would not have been a womanly party at my house without food.  A while ago, I saw this caramelized onion and prosciutto pizza made by my hero, Pioneer Woman.  I knew it needed to be in my mouth!  It gave me a brilliant idea for party food, mini pizzas!  I knew most of my friends would not be interested in high-brow toppings, like caramelized onions, so I provided lots of different topping options and let people make their own pizzas.

I was so proud of my whimsical tags!  I don't think Roomy thought I was as cute as I thought I was, but she was secretly pretty impressed.
I was leery of Pioneer Woman's dough because there was no kneading involved and in a trial run, her crust turned out really average.  It killed me to do it and it felt like a betrayal, but I went with Alton Brown's Pizza Crust.  I'm glad I did because it turned out great.  (I'm sorry, PW, can you ever forgive me for not being in love with everything you do?)

Would you forgive me if I tell you that this pizza was just about perfect?  The balance of the sweet and salty, the flavor of both parmesan and mozzarella cheese....Delectable!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Roommate Date Night

Last week, Roomy and I decided we needed a reason to be cute and girly, so we took ourselves on a Roommate Date on Friday night. We decided to really do it up!  Roomy had a new dress to wear that she recently bought at a consignment shop.  I did not have a new dress because I hate to shop for clothes.  Luckily, Roomy has a closet full of clothes that are stylish and fun that she is super generous with.  She always lets me borrow great stuff.  I really like and appreciate it, but a small part of my brain thinks she is enabling my dislike of shopping and that it may not be healthy.  The rest of my brain tells the little part to shut up though and I get to wear new clothes without having to shop.

Roomy's new vintage dress

Roomy's other dress that she let me borrow, thus enabling me to continue refraining from shopping.
Seriously though, if you got to borrow clothes like these, would you spend your own time and effort looking for other dresses?
We spent ages getting ready, making our hair and make up perfect.  Roomy curled her hair. I ratted my bangs.  I wore sparkley eyeliner and glittery make up.  Roomy went with a more adult look. To compliment my whimsical make up, I broke out the whimsical accessories.
1. A cute little clutch with a bow that always makes me think of the wedding I bought it for.  2. A hair bow I decided to make at the last minute that turned out adorable.  3. Bow earrings that belonged to my great grandmother. When she passed away, I inherited 130 pairs of earrings! 4. A necklace that also belonged to my great grandmother.  I love wearing her jewelry and thinking about why she bought it and where she wore it.  My grandmother gave it all to me because she said it was meant to be worn and loved, so I try to honor that.

When we were finally ready - perfection takes a while - we headed into the city to go out to dinner downtown.  We found a parking spot in a lot that we though took debit cards because neither of us had cash.  When I tried to pay, the cute but mumbling and sort of awkward parking attendant told me that I needed cash and that I could get it from the ATM across the street.  Roomy was still locking the car, so I left her and headed to the crosswalk.
Because it was a special date night, I decided to wear high heels.  I don't often wear heels because I'm a little on the clumsy side and heels make accidents more frequent.  I really should have known better.  The sidewalks downtown aren't very even and there are lots of spectators, and to top it off, these particular heels are just a skosh too big.  Of course, just as I stepped off the curb, my heel got caught on something.  I managed to take three or four wobbley steps.  They were the kind of steps when everything is in slow motion and you know you're going to fall and you're trying to work out how you can kind of salvage the situation and fall gracefully. They lasted just long enough for me to get out into the center of the intersection, and then I fell.  It was not just a small trip.  No, I did a face plant into the crosswalk, in front of a line of cars and countless spectators enjoying their Friday night. 
When I managed to peel my dignity off the street, I quickly checked myself for bruises and abrasions.  Miraculously, I was totally intact.  I even managed to hang on to the debit card in my left hand!  The woman in front of me in the crosswalk asked if I was alright and then exclaimed that she had been afraid that I was going to fall on her.  A couple sitting outside a bar told me that nobody had seen. Countless drivers stared open-mouthed.  So much for graceful falling. I wonder exactly how many people got a peek at my pretty, pink panties.
I made it to the sidewalk and looked for Roomy, who I was sure must be on the other side of the street laughing her head off.  She wasn't laughing.  She wasn't even looking on with concern for my safety.  She was too busy flirting with the parking attendant!  She totally missed the whole incident, flying limbs, short skirt and all!
Since Roomy had no idea I had fallen, I decided to play it cool.  I didn't have to tell her that I was not capable of walking across the street.  Instead, I would act like I'd managed it, just like any other normal person.  I went to the ATM fully intending to return with the cash and act like nothing happened. 
There was just one problem.  When I got to the ATM, I realized that I had suffered a casualty in the battle with the street.  My poor, old debit card did not survive.  I only made it through with one half in my hand.  If you find the bottom half of an ATM card on the street in Belltown, it belongs to me.  Tell it I appreciate its sacrifice and that it was all worth it because I didn't scrape a knee or an elbow.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hello Cupcake!

There is a cupcake themed give away going on at Mayhem and Moxie.  It's cute and fun and right up my alley!  One of the ways to enter is to blog about the prizes.  'I have a blog,' I thought.  'And I could do some pretty womanly stuff with those prizes!' 
So, here goes!

Prize #1 Le Poppy Design Party Package
Roomy's birthday is coming soon!  She's definitely older than the little cutie in their sample picture, but I have a feeling that Le Poppy Design could rock some sweet 80s themed decorations for Roomy's bowling party!  I can just see the hyper colors now!  Seriously, if I win this, I need all decorations to center around these stylin' shades!

Prize #2 Wilton Cupcake Package
If you've been following my blogging adventure, you know that I really heart cupcakes and I really heart making them.  My deep, dark, guilty cupcake secret is that I'm a cupcake perfectionist.  I'm almost never happy with the way my cupcakes turn out.  My last batch for St. Patty's Day went well until the purple frosting.  I should have known better than to dye it, but even if I had left it white, there's still an issue with the application.  It was a little sloppy.  My mom actually forbid me to talk whine to her about the state of my cupcakes ever again when I wanted to throw all of my Halloween cupcakes away last year.  It's hard to be as perfect as I want to be!
Prize#3 A Story written by Mama Kat
This prize from Mama Kat is the hardest for me to imagine using myself.  It's a really cute concept and Kathy is a fun and engaging writer, but it's definitely for kids.  Maybe I could use it for a prize for one of my Sunday School students?

Prize # 4 KitchenAid Professional Stand Mixer
Oh, what couldn't I do with this?!  Actually, as un-Womanly as it sounds, I don't even have a hand mixer!  All my cookies, cakes, etc. are mixed by my strong arms and a wooden spoon.  It has put a damper on my icing choices. If I had this baby, I would make fluffy meringue pies and pavlovas and fancy frostings and I might even try those macarons that everybody is so crazy about, even though every recipe I find is in grams.  I've also always wanted to make marshmallows ala Martha Stewart.
Stand mixers seem so grown up and Womanly to me.  Even though I've wanted one for quite awhile, I've only felt worthy of one for the last few years.  This Christmas, I seriously considered asking my parents for a red KitchenAid to match my new red dishes that I bought myself.  My chef step-mom would have probably jumped right on that and been happy to do it.  She likes to enable my kitchen ambitions.  I decided against it though for a very silly and slightly embarassing reason.  I've been saving myself for marriage.  I mean, KitchenAids are such a great wedding gifts!  They last forever, they're used all the time and a shiny red one is a great focal piece on the kitchen counter top.  How romantic would it be to get to remember your wedding day everytime you mixed up a batch of your husband's favorite cookie?  I think it's my friend, Leisha's, fault that I idealize them so much.  When she moved out of her parents' house, she inherited her mother's "wedding" kitchen aid. After 30 years, her mom decided to upgrade. Leisha now gets to use it and think about her parents wedding and all the recipies they made together with the extra ingredient of love.  I want my daughter to inherit my starter KitchenAid and think about my wedding, my love!
Fortunately, practicality has overcome my romanticism and I'm now ready for a KitchenAid!  (Did you read that, Kacey and Francesca?)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Chips and Salsa

My womanly knitting friends asked me to stop baking for knitting nights.  I think they enjoyed the baked goods a little too much and it was not good for the snugness of their pants.  That's what I'm telling myself any way.
This week, I decided to switch things up a little and make one of my favorite snacks that I'm really good at convincing myself is healthy: homemade chips and salsa.
When Roomy and I did a Daniel Fast, we discovered the greatness of making our own tortilla chips.  We cut regular corn tortillas in quarters, sprinkle them with vegetable oil and salt and bake them in a single layer on a cookie sheet at 350°.  I never set a timer; I just bake them until I can smell them, usually about 12 minutes.  This method occasionally leads to trays of burnt chips, but it works out around here because burnt ones are Roomy's favorites.
Why I like making my own chips: 1) They are delicious! 2) The crunch factor!  They are thicker and crunchier than say Tostitos. 3) They are baked, not fried. 4) I have total control of how much salt and oil go on them. 5) Because they're thick, they hold up well under the mountain of salsa I pile on top.
Why I don't like making my own chips: 1) It takes quite a while.  I usually spend most of an afternoon rotating cookie sheets of chips in and out of the oven. 2) The crunch factor!  I literally chipped a tooth on one of these babies.

I'll admit that I'm a total salsa snob! I generally hate store bought salsa and won't even go near Pace or it's jarred buddies.  I make pico de gallo often, but in the winter, it scares me.  Pico de gallo is so easily ruined by unripe or overripe tomatoes.  Thank goodness my hero, Pioneer Woman, has a salsa recipe made with canned tomatoes to help a girl out!  This recipe is amazing!  (Was there ever any doubt?)  Roomy declared that it's the only salsa she ever wants to eat again!
It turned out great!  (Please note that this picture is Almost Womanly because my chips are in an aluminum bowl because I'm seriously lacking in the adorable serving bowl department and both bowls are sitting on the carpet in my living room to catch the light.)
I also enjoyed making PW's salsa because I got to use one of my best friends in the kitchen, my super old, cracked almost on it's last legs food processor.  I inherited it from my step mom, the chef.  Unlike most people, when I moved out of my parents house and into my first apartment, I had a fully stocked kitchen, thanks to hand-me-downs like this!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

the Luck of the Irish

In honor of St. Patrick's Day last week, I baked these adorable cupcakes that I copied from a cute blog I follow.  She copied them from here.  They were rainbow-tastic and delicious.  I tinted the frosting purple to sort of complete the rainbow, but in retrospect, I wish I had left it white. But you know what they say about hind sight.
I was really happy with my decision to mix the colored batter in disposable bowls.  It made clean up much nicer.  The batter reminded me of Hook.  You know, when they have the food fight?

Also in honor of St. Patrick's Day, I'd like to talk about the Luck of the Irish, which seems to have missed my branch of the family tree.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining!  I don't have particularly bad luck in general, but I am often followed by embarrassing and awkward situations AND I am horrifically clumsy!

I submit to you an example of one of those embarrassing and awkward situations.  I'm not sure what about this post is womanly, but it's a pretty amusing short story. You decide whether you think I've inherited good luck from my potato farming Irish ancestors...

When I was 21, I had the fantastic opportunity to teach English at a boarding school in Austria. It was a dream come true!  Not only did I get to live in a castle on a lake in the Alps, but I got paid to do it!

(I know at this point you are not seeing the lack of good luck, but it's coming!)  The kids in my class were all a lot of fun, even if they were spoiled, little rich kids, and I loved the other teachers.  I especially adored the sports teacher.  By "especially adored" I sort of mean "was madly in love with."  We often stayed up late together talking and on one memorable night,we laid out on the castle lawn and watched the stars until we both fell asleep. 
One weekend, we took a school hiking trip.  Unfortunately, I am not very good at walking, even on flat, smooth ground, so I fell and twisted my ankle.  It was pretty dramatic.  I managed to limp down the mountain, but had to go to the emergency room.  After x-rays and lots of conversations in German that I did not understand, I ended up on crutches and in a hard, plaster cast. The plaster cast in conjunction with the fact that I had no idea what the doctors and nurses were saying leads me to suspect that I may have broken something inside my ankle, but to this day, I have no idea what really happened.
When I got back to school, the principal decided that I had to move out of the castle and into the boys dorm.  The castle was just too far from my classroom for me to have to navigate on crutches.  All the other teachers, including the love of my life -the sports teacher- were super helpful and supportive and offered to wait on me hand-and-foot.
Wrapped in a cocoon of their love and support and possibly a little high from European pain meds, I accepted the devastatingly handsome sports teacher's offer to move all of my belongings from the castle to my new room without even thinking.  As he started to walk away, the wheels in my brain began turning and I remembered back to the previous week, when I had lead a group of girls on a raid of the boys dorm.  Maybe it was all the teen-age-hormones floating through the air, or maybe it was a fleeting moment of insanity, I'll never know what made me do it, but in the confusion of the raid, I had stolen a pair of the sports teacher's boxers.  They were currently sitting smack-dab on the top in my underwear drawer.  I would DIE if he found them!
"Wait," I called after him.  "You don't have to do that.  I can move all my stuff."
The sports teacher came back and looked right into my eyes.  "Awe, you're sweet,"  he replied patting me on the head.  "But it's no trouble for me and I don't think you could carry all of your stuff on crutches."  He turned and bounded away again.
"No, I have personal stuff in there!  Somebody stop him!"  I guess all the other teachers thought I was being overly modest, after all I am a puritanical American.  Nobody stopped him, and when I tried to get up and follow him, I was pushed back into my easy chair. 
So, there I sat, blushing deeper red every second, while the amazingly sweet sports teacher boxed up all my possesions and found out just how much of a stalker I was.  He returned with all my stuff in one big box, with his green, plaid boxers sitting right on top.  He set it on my new bed and walked out; he did not awknowledge the fact that he had found his boxers mingling with my undergarments.  Maybe I dodged a bullet, I thought.  Maybe he didn't see them and he doesn't think I'm a lunatic.  He would have said something, right?
Throughout the rest of my time at the school, my love for the sports teacher grew.  He was amazing and lovely and adorable and as far as I knew, had no idea that I secretly had a pair of his boxers. 
When school was out, he graciously agreed to drive me to the train that was the first leg of my trip home. I stood crying on the curb while he pulled my backpack out of the car and set it on the sidewalk next to me, then pulled me into a tight embrace.  "I'll miss you," I said between sobs.
He leaned over and gave me two quick, European-style kisses on the cheeks.  "I'll miss you too. You can go ahead and keep those boxers as a souvenier."  With a mischievious grin, he hopped into his car.  I stood there mortified.  He'd known?!

See?  Awkard.  And embarassing.  And not very lucky, well except living in a castle on a lake in the Alps part. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gluten Free Baking

Before I write this post, please note that it is not my intent to write a baking blog. I want to write about all kinds of womanly stuff, but apparently baking is the most common womanly thing that I do, which may explain my pant size.
One of my womanly knitting friends has Celiac Disease.  Every week, I lay out a tempting spread of baked goods, and she has to decide whether to cave in and hurt her body or to stay strong and resist.  Last Sunday, I decided it wasn't very womanly to keep tormenting her, and looked up a recipe for my first ever attempt at gluten free baking.

I found this recipe on Epicurious, which looked easy, had good reviews and only called for ingredients I had on hand, and I gave it a go.  I melted the chocolate and butter in a double boiler, which I always love to use because they make me feel like a real pastry chef!

Then I mixed it all together. In less than 15 minutes, it was ready for the oven.
Look how fast I stirred!  It's like a whirlwind!

And it came out......really average.  The flavor was rich and chocolatey, but the texture was not great.  In fact, it was dry and crumbly.  The moral of this story is that either I can't bake or 250 epicurious readers can be wrong.  Don't worry though, we ate it all.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring Time: An ode to Seattle

It is officially spring time here! The birds are back singing outside my window; the enchanting, well kept grounds at the hospital where I work display a new splash of color every morning. It's wonderful, glorious. I feel like breaking out in song, even though some days that song would have to be "Singing in the Rain." It makes me remember all over again why I love Seattle!
Say what you want about the dreary, rainy weather in Seattle, I'll take it over the harsh winters and hot, humid summers the rest of the country suffers thru!  In this Washington, the cherry trees started blooming by the first weekend in February!  I took this sweet picture Super Bowl Sunday on a walk around Greenlake, when the other Washington was enduring record breaking blizzards.

Daffodils, the cheery heralds of the new season began popping up weeks ago.  By the end of February, the whole city was colored yellow and white with the promise of impending spring! 

Last weekend, I even discovered baby buds on a magnolia tree!

Now there are flowers everywhere!

Yep, it's spring!

The flowers are beautiful and hint at the out-of-this world greatness of summer in Seattle, but to me, they're not the best part of my city.  Seattle is nestled snugly in the Puget Sound basin, hugged on all sides by the most marvelous sites nature has to offer.  For me, the best part, the absolute best part is the mountains!  I didn't really appreciate them until I was away from home for a whole year.  When I came back, I realized how much I had missed them. As my plane circled the city to land, I looked out my window and gasped.  I couldn't get enough of the rugged peaks of the Cascade and Olympic Mountain Ranges.  They're so young (geologically speaking) and fierce!  I vowed to never take them for granted again.  Now, on clear days, I can see the Olympics from my driveway.  I love to sit in my car and drink in their splendor!  How can deny the existence of a good God in the face of such beauty?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Favorite February Pictures

One of my womanly goals when I first decided to blog was to take more pictures.  After all, a blog is a great place to stash all those pictures that you don't quite want to post around the house or scrapbook, but still enjoy sharing.  With that in mind, I tried to bust out my camera every day in February to capture every-day moments.  The result was many, many bad pictures, but practice makes perfect, right?  Here are some of my favorite shots of "little things" last month!

1. A beautiful winter sunrise
2. Ice cream at my favorite local shop, Molly Moon's
3.  Old photo albums
4. A parasol in the rain
5. Cherry blossoms at Greenlake

Friday, March 5, 2010

Oh, Canada!

Last week, Roomy and I took a quick trip north to the Olympic games in Vancouver with our cute, womanly friend, Christina.  We had a lot of fun and walked miles and miles in the rain, up-hill-both-ways.  Roomy and Christina tried to convince me that we walked ten miles each day we were there.  I'm a little skeptical, but I do wish we had pedometers.  It was great fun to weave in and out of crowds with a giant back pack on and rain dripping from the edge of my hood, enduring a sore back and cold toes all for the sake of adventuring.  I felt like a pioneer, an explorer, a woman!
The crowds were tremendous!  We had to stand in line for everything.  One of the best lines was to see the Olympic Cauldron up close.  We saw it after dusk on a blustery evening and it was pretty spectacular!

See!  Tremendous crowds! The lovely, welcoming city of Vancouver blocked off two major streets downtown to create pedestrian zones that were (to borrow an Australianism) chock-a-block with people and street performers, like these terrifyingly cheeky Abominable Snowmen or this bronze statue/robot/cowgirl.
My traveling companions had a positive womanly influence on my style during this trip.  When it comes to my morning routine, I'm very low maintence.  It's a good day if I manage to brush my hair and a banner day if I put on make up.  Roomy and Christina are not so much like this.  While Roomy and Christina each brought duffle bags with an assortment of clothing choices, I underpacked to such an extent that I forgot to pack enough shirts to last the whole trip!  I was content to wake up ten minutes before we planned to catch the train into the city, but Roomy and Christina wisely reminded me that we would be the subjects of many (approximately 6 billion) pictures and I would really not want to look like a scrub in all of them.  They helped me with hair and make up and made me cute for our grueling trek around the city and of course, made me fee even more womanly!  Thanks, ladies!  You're great pals and I had so much fun!