February 18, 2011

Big Girl/Little Girl Birthday Tea Party

I've been building up for this one. Years ago I started a teacup and saucer collection. Thanks to ebay and Anthropologie, it got big enough to host a full party.

Well, it wasn't a full party, as in "number of guests". A full party for me constitutes attendance in the dozens. :) This wasn't that kind of party. We could only fit so many people at the big girl table, and only 4 at the little girl table, so what we lacked in numbers, we made up for in decorations and food.

Tessa turned 2 last week, and I turned....into an old hag. Time to celebrate!

My friend Melissa was at our house (as she often is, bless her soul) when I pulled the teacup boxes out of storage to show off and clean up for the day. She helped me unwrap them and I think I heard her exclaim more than once how it felt like Christmas morning. I told her my plan and she immediately asked if she could decorate. Since I have absolutely no talent in that arena, I gave her full discretion. So she turned our living room into a dainty little wonderland.

We were particularly fond of the party favors for the little girls. M&Ms and felt cupcake stickers with monogrammed notepads? Come on.... The big girl favors were even tastier though - homemade toffee (recipe and photos coming!) bagged and sealed with a shabby chic fridge magnet.

The food:
  • Chocolate cinnamon tea cakes
  • To-die-for (seriously) lemon bars (or triangles, in this case)

  • Chocolate-dipped animal crackers with peppermint
  • Chocolate almond mousse balls
  • Masala naan with garlic hummus
  • Cucumber lemon water (it's so refreshing! try it!) for those who didn't prefer tea

  • Fruit and cream puff kebabs with caramel sauce
  • Blueberry bran muffins with lemon curd (I had to try to be healthy somewhere)

  • Curry and garlic chicken salad in mini croissants
  • Wheat rounds with pesto, tomato and parmesan
  • Individual baked pepper jack and cheddar macaroni and cheese
  • Bittersweet chocolate torte with chocolate ganache and raspberry sauce

Yes, there was a lot of chocolate, but I didn't hear anyone complaining.

I see the notepads were a big hit.

And the birthday girl looked smashing in her ruffles and pearls.

Recently I reunited with an old friend from high school. She moved right into our ward, we saw each other on their first Sunday here, and we promptly freaked out. We've been in every made-up club together ever since. She and her twin girls came, and gave this sweet little dress to Tessa:

I don't have a decent picture of the adorable zippered (with an inside pocket!) clutch she made for me (which happily contained....more chocolate), but I've already used it. And I have two kids in diapers, so small bags aren't my thing currently. But it's awesome.

Happy Birthday to us! And thanks so much to Melissa for making two girls' dreams come true!

February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day 2011

Ted was very sentimental in his annual Valentine's card to me. He was sweet in his words and his gift-giving, watching me unwrap things I absolutely wanted (a candy mold! Barefoot Contessa's newest cookbook! An etsy crochet pattern!), and I gave him fabulous food in his belly (can't argue with Chicken & Dumplings and a Bittersweet Chocolate Torte), a gorgeous new orchid plant, and these:

Can I be any more direct?

I know my mother-in-law reads this blog, but I'm okay with it. Becky, if you don't know me by now...

February 1, 2011

Crippling Weaknesses

I think one of my first ever blog posts had this same title, where I touted the many attributes of Diet Coke, Peanut M&Ms, and bacon. While I still swoon at the thought of any of those three things (though Diet Cherry Pepsi has eked out to first place in the artificially sweetened carbonated caffeinated beverage category), it's time to get a little more serious and pay tribute to things that can love me back.

Over Christmas, Ted and I tried hard to get together with the two men you see pictured below. For good reason. Jamal (name has been changed) and Adler (name has not been changed, but also goes by "Uncle Ads") became our go-to Settlers companions because they are as addicted to it as we are.

Let me back up. Settlers of Catan, particularly the Cities & Knights version, is how Ted and I got back together after a messy breakup and period of silence. Our first game we played with two other guys was quite awkward, but we all loved to just play, so we kept getting together. Then Ted and I had to sit next to each other because we were the only people laughing at each other's dumb (read: racial and/or inappropriate) jokes. Then we became good friends. Then lovers...

Wait. This isn't a Valentine's post. Sheesh.

Anyway, we played with all sorts of people, including other married people - some with kids, some without. We loved that, but one couple moved away, and then the other, but the wife of that couple didn't love it the way the rest of us did anyway. So we started placing an ad in the classifieds* for people who had a sickness and therefore had to play at the very least, once a week (hopefully more). We found them. And it turns out Uncle Ads worked with Ted and Jamal bakes incredible cookies, so it was a win-win-win-win. We had Dinner & Settlers often, sometimes twice a week. I referred to my husband and the two single awesome guys as "my boys", and cooked accordingly. We ate well, we played lots, and the nights were filled with loads of laughter and some of the best intellectual and thought-provoking conversations of my life. These guys are A-1 in my book.

Then we moved. And God found it in His infinite mercy to bless us with people here who are as addicted as we are. Don't think I don't thank Him in my prayers for that.

I flew back to CA a few months later to visit and help my mom pack up for her move. Visiting "my boys" was high on my priority list, so we cooked up a pound of bacon and had a jolly ol' time, though we missed Ted for that game.

To reprise our gaming over Christmas was its own gift. Jamal just got married last October to a fabulous girl, so I spent 90% of the game time engaged in conversation with her and was happy to feel like we all fit together well. And I still managed to win. Neener.

When Jamal was single, I loved going to his apartment because he was the ultimate bachelor. Maybe I shouldn't say "ultimate". He didn't have a "man cave" and his place was clean and hobbit-feet-smelling-free. But the reason I use the word "ultimate" is because of his kitchen, particularly his fridge. It's no secret I love my M&MS (peanut), and in this, Jamal is my soulmate. One night, while Ted and I were there, he ushered me into his kitchen, prepped me for the opening of his fridge door, and watched my reaction once my eyes beheld its contents: not just M&Ms, but Snickers and Reese's and sodas and Grasshopper cookies and chocolate chips for his awesome cookies and more and more. Then he opened his freezer: tiny cups of Haagen Dazs in all flavors and Haagen Dazs bars and more chocolate chips and Ben & Jerry's and and and and ohhhhhh. I made an audible gasp while he grinned at me and briefly considered breaking off my engagement to Ted and throwing myself at this man's feet. He is a sweets FIEND.

Naturally, while at their house over the holidays, I stole into his kitchen to look into his fridge to see if getting married had changed his ways. I saw milk. And cheese. And vegetables. And a couple containers with leftovers. And some chicken or something. What the hell? I expressed my disappointment, but then his lovely (and skinny, which I can't understand given the state of things) wife opened their cupboard and I saw THIS.

You can't see the pillar of light that was shining upon it because my flash was on, but it was certainly there. Look at that thing! A stack of Kit-Kats. Literal BAGS - a pound each - of chocolate-covered peanuts, almonds, cashews, pecans. Gummi rings. Gummi worms. Yogurt raisins and pretzels. Lindt truffles. M&Ms, of course. Licorice, mints, candy bars, oh my! I had to ask his wife, "Did you marry Willy Wonka??"

There you have it. Three more crippling weaknesses. Settlers, my boys, and candy. Yes, chocolate DOES love me back. It loves me on my buns, my boobs, my thighs... It loves me all over.

*I wasn't quite that desperate, but I wouldn't put it past me.


You know that person who can eat whatever, brush whenever, floss never, yet every dentist visit yields the same phrase: "no cavities here!"? I've never been that person.

Until today!

About a year ago, I went in with a major toothache that ended up in a root canal. Plus 8 cavities. EIGHT. I was a twice-daily brusher, occasionally more often than that. I flossed seldom, but I was very good with my fingernails. I couldn't believe it - who gets eight cavities between dentist visits?? While the hygienist was scraping away, she asked about my flossing habits. I sheepishly admitted I didn't floss as much as I should. I could tell it was a common tale for her to hear - it didn't even phase her. But to cover her bases, she gave me a line she probably gives everyone who comes in with bleeding gums and missing teeth (no, I'm not at that stage). She said, "The more you do at home, the less we have to do here, and it's cheaper."

Cheaper??!? Well, why didn't you SAY SO??? No one had ever put it into bargain terms for me before, and Frugalese is a language I speak. From that day I decided I was going to floss daily. It's taken me how long to get that conviction? You'd think from all the nasty pictures and real-life ugly mouths I've seen, I'd be scared into the best dental hygiene possible, but it's easy to get lazy.

Today marks the second time that I've gone in for a cleaning and 1) the hygienist had very little to scrape, and 2) the dentist looked at x-rays, poked around in my mouth and said, "no cavities here!" It made me feel like this:

So if you're someone who dreads the dentist because you'll need two hands to count the number of cavities you'll have, come and join me on my bandwagon. I've been playing a different and awesome tune.

The Cooling Rack

Baked goods are only half the story...