February 29, 2008

The Best Thing that Ever Happened to February v.3

Many of you have asked how my birthday party went, so while it's still February, here's a synopsis.

Megan and I have been having a joint birthday party for years now. We were born six days apart in the same town, same hospital. We grew up together but then she moved 30 minutes away which could have been to Australia for as much as we saw each other. Our paths crossed during our early single days and then out of the blue one day she called me to see if I wanted to move in to an apartment together in Pasadena since she had accepted a job close to there. I responded with an enthusiastic affirmative and we've been great friends ever since. We lived in that very cool apartment on El Molino (we became self-proclaimed Molineras) for two years, at which she married Brett.

The first February we shared together Megan proposed we have a joint birthday party. Though we weren't running in all the same circles, our mutual and individual friends would totally get along. In planning the party, we were trying to figure out what to do for entertainment, and she came up with this great idea of telling people that instead of bringing a gift, they were to bring a talent - ANY talent - to bring and share. We had a ball coming up with our own talents. I can't remember what I did, but Megan did a FABULOUS tap dance, and we did a bit of a comedy act about our birthday trip to Hawaii. Another big thanks to all the hilarious acts that ensued. I have photos, but they're on that thing called "film". And I don't have a scanner.

And so, without further ado, here are the acts that made us laugh, sigh, and wonder how in the world they do that: (explanations/captions are below the pictures)

The Showoffs (official name) Phil and Claire, singing and playing a number from Jekyll & Hyde. How did she know I heart Linda Eder?

Their show-off spawn, Thomas, who sang "Teach Me to Walk in the Light" complete with cape. His brother, who rocks the karaoke place with his rendition of "Sweet Child o' Mine", was sick and had to cancel his show. Tickets will be refunded.

I did a little Peggy Lee ditty with the always fabulous and stunning Michelle Budge at the piano. She ratcheted up the sass, and I was [ ] this close to climbing up on the piano, but my subconscious remembered at the last minute that my mom just had it refurbished. Not a good idea.

My own father upstaged me with a recited story of a man standing in a cow pasture, witnessing the game of football for the first time. All in a hick accent. Priceless.

Mike Moore channeling Bob Marley and his "Redemption Song." The thing I love about Mike (well, one of them) is that he has no issues about laughing at himself. He forgot a lyric, paused the whole song, 4 people sang the line he forgot and he just picked right back up again. When we go to weekly karaoke, he does the same thing, but his fix is usually more entertaining than the actual lyrics.

Phil busted out some magic tricks with ropes and coins - had me all in a tither about how he did it. That's my brown head in the foreground - transfixed by the goings-on, ready to catch a flip of the hand to prove it's not magic. Alas, it was magic.

Emily did "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on her eyebrows. Awesome.

YMCA dance party, accompanied by a classical pianist. 'Nuff said.

Megan (on the right) and Carol Ann singing "I'll Fly Away" from O Brother, Where Art Thou? Megan also started the festivities with a song she wrote long ago drawing similarities between the hardships in our lives and the La Brea Tar Pits. I love folk music.

I didn't get a picture of one of the acts - my very own husband roasting me. It was hilarious, and I was so busy trying not to wet my pants that I forgot to pull out the camera. He'll post about what he did later.

And what's a party without food? Here's the main spread: Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Mini Pesto Parmesan Pizzas, Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms, Baked Chicken Sandwiches, Veggies, Cheese & Crackers. We scarfed.

The dessert spread, which is also a main spread for me: Cream Puffs with Caramel, Raspberry, and Chocolate Ganache dipping sauces, Ted's Almond Cake slivers, Fruit Platter, and the Birthday Cake - Vanilla Bean with Lemon Curd and Blueberries.

And what's a birthday without blowing out the candles?

Yay for 31!

This next one is my favorite, and not just because Ted and I look so cute.

Thanks to all who joined in the fun and sent all their birthday wishes! We look forward to another great party next year!

February 26, 2008

New Favorite Cheese

Ted and I seldom get to eat dinner together. I'd have to use the fingers and toes of both of us plus my other (undisclosed) lover to count how many times I've been asleep when he gets home. Same for the number of times I've left and he's still conked out. Recently, we've been working on coordinating a little better so we can have a few more meals at home. Well, on one of these nights, I was busy slaving away at various teacher-related tasks, having picked and nibbled all night. He came home and was hungry, so he started banging pots and pans around in the kitchen.

And then I heard it. The tell-tale sound of a VHS-sized cardboard box being ripped open and the unmistakable shimmy of dried pasta sliding out of it into a pot of boiling water. "ARE YOU MAKING MACARONI AND CHEESE?!?", said I. Long ago, friends of mine mentioned they refer to it as "yellow death" and I admit the name has kinda stuck. As the 8 minutes ticked by, however, I realized I was actually a teensy bit hungry.

"YEAH, YA WANT SOME?" he replied.

"UM....A LITTLE BIT. REALLY LITTLE." (We were in different rooms, see, so we had to yell.)

More clinking and a small clang. Then he enters the living room proud as a peacock, yet not smiling, and he set this in front of me and all my papers:

As I was laughing with glee, his first words were, "And it's SHELLS and cheese." And as he walked back to the kitchen, "Oh, baby. Don't you know it's all about presentation?"

Becky, I don't have arms long enough to thank you for that training. I was still laughing when I took my first fresh-ground-pepper bite. It was really good! I had to compliment Ted on his masterful work, to which he retorted, "I don't mess around with the macaroni. I was king of it in college. The secret is heating up the butter and milk before you add it - makes it creamier."

Consider me converted. I know what to ask for next time he cooks. hehehehehehe

February 21, 2008

An "Outtasight" Valentine's Day

I used to dislike V-day because "hate" is a strong word. When I was single, fellow singles called it "Single Awareness Day" and I didn't dislike that at all. I downright hated it. My reasons for hating it weren't necessarily because I didn't have a consistent person with whom to share it (though one can't help but be barraged with how unattached you are on that one day), but for other, more petty reasons. Come to think of it, I wasn't getting petted often enough either.

My birthday is four days prior to 2/14, so growing up, decorations were always pink and hearty. I hated pink (and hearts) for a long time because of that, though now pink and I are like Farrah Fawcett and feathered hair. I'm still not the biggest fan of hearts, either. Unless they're edible, consistently pumping blood through my body, or drawn on a Sacrament Meeting program by my husband.

The other main reason I wasn't a big fan of the day was because of the commercialism that commonly surrounds it. A bunch of roses on any other day suddenly balloons up to three or even four times a normal price just because there are such high expectations for spouses to "prove" their love through monetary means. The adverse effect of such heightened expectations for bepetaled ovaries all over one's desk is that if someone is without a partner, extreme measures are taken to save face. A local radio station proved my point a few days leading up to V-day when they read a report on the air that people have been known to order flowers for themselves on Valentine's Day for the sole purpose of flaunting self-worth. There's no need for people to have such concentrated negative feelings once a year! Instead, they should be allowed to wallow and drown in self-pity for days and weeks on end.

But now the tables have turned. I got me a man. A goooooooood man. We had a Valentine's Day to celebrate last year, but frankly, it wasn't all that great. Ted was sick, we were in the middle of planning a love celebration (our wedding), and we didn't realize restaurants (the good ones, at least) fill up their reservations for that one day a month in advance. We ended up going to Big Mama's Rib Shack & Southern Cookin' here in town, where we waited an hour and a half for our food (Ted's nose dripping the whole time) only to get a lot of greasy fare that would have failed my mother-in-law's presentation standards. I still say those hush puppies were TDF, though. I miss the south! In addition to the sad night out, we weren't married yet, so...I wasn't allowed to give Ted any fuzzy G-strings. But THIS year......

Are you kidding? Ted would never have posed. I had to get someone else.

We were actually excited for The Day o' Love this year. We mutually decided to have dinner at home, and I must say, I'm a big fan (at least before the kids come). When I got home that night, I found Ted already home, arranging flowers bought at Trader Joe's instead of an overpriced florist, and folding origami lilies and lips. Yes, lips. They even move, like they're making out. I love 'em. There was a box of See's candy, hand-picked so I get nothing but my favorites, and I had done the same thing for him. It's been the best, because nothing goes mysteriously missing. He went back to lab while I made dinner, and then we had a major eating fest.

The menu: Shrimp cocktails

Porterhouse steak with homemade onion rings, baked potatoes, and roasted asparagus and tomatoes.

Dessert: mint fudge hearts (it's okay - they were edible), and cream puffs with chocolate ganache and fresh blueberries. mmmmm....

Our home was getting a wee bit cold at that point, so we retired to our snuggle-rific bed. I wish I could say we stargazed through our bedroom skylight, but we don't have one. Besides, the Hubble Space Telescope found exactly what I was looking for anyway. Mi amore, here's to you.

(For those nerdy enough to care, this photo is of the Rosette Nebula, only 5000 light years away, featured for Feb 14 on NASA'S Astronomy Picture of the Day website)

February 14, 2008

Wanna Make Out?

Hello. My name is Allison, and I'm a kissaholic. Yes, it's true. Kissing is my own vice and virtue. Thank goodness marriage has done nothing to upset that delicate balance. Ted and I discussed the book "The 5 Love Languages" and quickly determined that we are both under the "Physical Touch" category as far as giving and receiving love - a good thing, since that's all we have time to do lately. Our schedules overlap, so I'm often home and engrossed in some activity (grading, reading, cooking) before he walks in the door. He'll come right over and kiss me - y'know, one of THOSE kisses that forces me to drop the red pen, the book, the wooden spoon, and as he walks away I'm absolutely forced to grab his shirt and pull him right back to my lips where he belongs so he'll repeat all that kind o' business.

When we were dating "the first time", I happily recall a night when I was taking him back home in my car. He leaned over to kiss me goodnight (we'd kissed a few times by then) and 2 hours later, he got out of the car (which had been running the whole time) leading to Tamar and Shalynn dubbing him "Two-hour Ted". I still call him that.

So on this day of hearts and candy, I honor my LoveMunch with many pictures of our scandalous scrumptiousness.

Baby... I will be awaiting your arrival with puckered lips.

February 8, 2008

Crippling weaknesses

This "weaknesses" admission will be entirely about food and is by no means a conclusive list. I have had conversations at length with many of my grub-lovin' friends about everything from gourmet risottos and reductions to inane tater tots and toaster strudels. And while I like to cook and experiment and devour the yummy-yet-not-so-common goodnesses, I by no means have a snooty air about it. In fact, I would like to pay homage to 3 particular vices, definitely not of the epicurean variety. First and foremost:

Anyone who has walked with me down that Target aisle next to the cash registers will notice that I never pass by it without slowing my pace and gazing at those yellow bags that call to me like a firefighter ripping off his shirt after battling a three-alarm blaze. I don't bother with the size pictured above - I call those "teaser packs". Bring on at least the 14 oz bags (now Costco sells the XXL bag with the Fresh-loc Zipper that seldom gets employed). Target often has those blessed "pills" (as my mother dubs them) on sale, in which case I get several. Yes, I speak of the peanut M&M. I cannot gauge how many pounds of those sweet little ambrosias I have consumed in my lifetime, but I have no doubt that some of the pockets of peanutty fat from my butt have existed for at least 15 or 16 years.

I recall making this confession not to a man of the cloth, but to a fellow chocoholic in my ward. As it all came spilling out, (the confession, that is) I realized I was holding back. They are even better... "accompanied by a Diet Coke?", Dana filled in. "Yes!" I exclaimed. How did she know?!? The skinny blond shares my vice, but not my pant size... Grrrr....

And now, a haiku.

Fridge solitary—
Keeper of my love blossom,
Flow, blessed nectar

Sachia, entire Ellis family, Christian and Candacy, don't even try to pretend you don't know what I mean. Lately, my only problem with this artificially sweetened goodness is that I can't consume it after 7pm, or I'll never fall asleep at my new 9:30 bedtime. Stupid...friggin'...teaching profession.

Am I saving the best for last? Not really. I have equally strong love for all three vices of which I speak this day, though they fulfill different craving (and nutritional, if we're talking about Peanut M&Ms - right, Mom?) needs.

My fetish for pork products is no secret. I've actually been thinking of joining that one group, PETA. Doesn't it stand for "Pig ETAs"?

My whole family was here in California for Christmas 2007. Since that meant 2 parents, 10 children, 7 spouses and 15 grandchildren, a lot of food was required. We were assigned specific meals to provide to the whole group, and my brother and I busted out Christmas breakfast. I had a whole menu planned - Creme Brulee French Toast with Raspberry Sauce, Spiraled Ham (fried pig), orange wheels, and Bacon Broccoli Salad (fried pig pieces). Notice that doesn't say "Broccoli Bacon Salad." It used to. But that recipe called for 6 pieces of fried bacon. "HA!" said I. Then I told Ted to bust out the George Foremans (yes, we have 2) and get to it. Two pounds later, the salad finally looked decent. As for my family, there were yums all around. Thanks for piggin' out, y'all!

Another bacon story. Our ward had a campout back in September, and while Ted and I hadn't planned to sleep on anything that resembled dirt on a cold and drizzly night, we wanted to go see all our friends anyway. On the way, we stopped at Wendy's because there isn't one close enough to us to warrant the "not going" due to its proximity. You know how it is. If it's a rarity, you go every time you pass by: like Nielsen's Frozen Custard or Cafe Rio or Paris. I'm a big fan of the Junior Bacon Cheeseburger ("Junior Bacon Cheese" for those of us in the know) for obvious reasons, so there's never really a choice to make once we get there except whether to get a regular chocolate Frosty or one of those new-fangled vanilla ones with the root beer in it. What do they call those? Floats? Anyhoo, so we stop in on a Friday night when the less-than-desirable high school crowd is making me hold my purse closer, and that's when I see it. A big sign advertising their next big thing: The Baconator.

Holy atherosclerosis. Two meat patties, two pieces of cheese, SIX STRIPS OF BACON. I admit I wasn't hungry enough that night to order this satanic temptation despite the pillar of light that surrounded the picture, for I knew it would take a fast Sunday or two before the growlings were too large and long to hold me back. But I swore on my grandfather's medical records (he died of a heart attack due to...something) that I would not rest until I accomplished that feat.

Fast forward a couple months later when we went to Utah for Thanksgiving 2007. We planned to go to Mamma Mia! at Mandalay Bay in Vegas on the way back since Ted had not yet seen it, and just happened to be famished on the way out. I figured we'd head to the In N Out on Tropicana before taking to the road again, but Ted wanted to venture a little farther down that street. We didn't find anything. Until that red Wendy's signed sent out its eerie neonic waves, pulsating with "baconator, baconator, baconator" on its crests and troughs. Well, troughs was just about right. I ordered the blasted thing. I barely finished it. That there sammich was a good'n, but it didn't taste how I expected it. Despite its toutage of SIX STRIPS OF BACON, I could barely taste it! All I got was greasy beef when all I wanted was something more like this:

Except I'd use whole wheat bread. It's healthier.

The ride home was interesting. I'll leave it at that.

The experience did not cloud my love for bacon (and subsequently, all things porky), but I'm noticing that my clothes just ain't fittin' like they used to. I'll have to lay off the pig and peanutty goodness and up my consumption of that life-giving serum for a while. Or....


The Cooling Rack

Baked goods are only half the story...