Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sky Rockets in Flight...

Mmmm, yogurt!

Every time I go to the grocery store, I pick up something that I feel like I should be eating, and yogurt is usually on that list. I take home a kind that seems healthy and looks like it might taste decent, but end up only eating half of the container. Over the years, I have thrown away many containers of perfectly good yogurt that I let expire uneaten in my refrigerator.

Most of the time, it's the artificial sweetener that gets me. I understand why people try to avoid high sugar foods, but I just can't agree that filling up with chemical sweeteners is a better idea. Besides, they leave horrible aftertastes that stay with me all day, no matter what else I eat. I also don't like the creepy chunks that seem like they can't possibly be real fruit that are typically blended in.

Ok, so normally I am not really a fan of yogurt, but this stuff is actually good! Really, it seems more like pudding than anything. Though sucralose (Splenda) is a primary ingredient, the main flavor that I tasted was caramel. This specific flavor may be too sweet for some, but I was feeling like sweet, and it was perfect for me. At 100 calories, a cup is perfect for a mid-morning or -afternoon snack, or as a nice substitute for ice cream in the evening. I picked up the Chocolate Raspberry as well.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Still I Find Why...

Bullet for My Valentine and All That Remains at Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ with Jenna, Tommy, and Judy.

One of the main reasons that I'd gone to Rock on the Range in Columbus back in May was to see All That Remains. They've been around for a few years, but just haven't been in our area in a long time. The ROTR set was really short, but I thought they were great. This time around, they were even better. So much energy, even with a stand-in drummer, and the bassist looked way more comfortable on stage this time around. Even Judy liked them!

I'd seen Bullet twice at Taste of Chaos shows last year, and been disappointed both times. I really like their music, but for some reason, I just can't get into them live. Their sets tend to bore me, between playing songs other than what I want to hear, and putting too many like songs one after another. Unfortunately, I felt the same way at this show, and was getting really tired by the end.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

...One Ear Against the Ground...

Rise Against and Rancid at Roseland Ballroom, NYC, with Tommy and Jenna. It was actually supposed to be Tommy, Judy, Dave & I, but Dave suddenly had a double-header to play, and Judy had a baby shower or something to attend. We were able to sell Tommy's extra ticket for almost face-value outside the parking garage, and I just gave Dave's to Jenna for free. I had been in the hospital for vertigo a few days before, and still wasn't feeling well, so Tommy had to drive. Rancid was awesome, but I don't know much of their music. Rise Against was high-energy and great, as always, but by the end of the main set, I just couldn't stand up anymore. We left before they even did any encore.

Friday, July 24, 2009

You Are My Sunshine

For Mom's 56th birthday, we gave her a gift certificate for a massage and facial with a friend at a local spa. When it came time to make the appointment, she decided to invite me along. In the car on the way over, I thanked her for inviting me, and said, "But I didn't expect this when we bought the gift certificate. I thought you would take your best friend." She looked at me with a smile and said, "I am."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

You Must Have Been...

Ah, new pots!

A few years ago, Mom and I were in Macy's and stumbled across a major cookware sale. I picked up a Tools of the Trade Cookright open wok for something like $9, and it immediately became my favorite pan. Made of hard anodized aluminum, the non-stick surface allows me to cook most foods without any oil, which is important to a person who doesn't process high fat foods properly.

Anyway, after all these years, I finally thought to find out the manufacturer of that pan and do a web search. As it turns out, Tools of the Trade is Macy's own brand, and they do make a full set! They're good looking pots, dark anodized, with glass lids just like I've always wanted. I took a chance and bought the set, 12 pieces on sale for $99!

I was a little nervous, taking the plunge like this, but so excited to have matching pots for the first time in my life. Even the pots I grew up with in Mom's kitchen were a mishmash, and it was wonderful to get rid of all of the scratched and scorched pots and pans. It turned out that Pete was in need of some kitchen basics, so he came over and picked what he wanted from the pile.

From the first usage, I loved these pots. A few weeks later, I haven't managed to cook in all of them yet, primarily because the chef's pan gets used just about every day. Every time I go to the cabinet, it seems like there is a perfect pot for whatever my application. The glass lids are great, the silicon handles stay nice and cool, and I've never seen pots clean up as easily as these do. Decent, name-brand sets containing fewer pieces than this one cost upwards of $250, so I feel like I got a great deal!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I Wish I Was Comfortable

Before the season started, my boss gave Dave & I tickets to a Yankee game. This time, we were able to leave work a little bit early so that we could walk around the stadium before the game started. The main difference between the old and new stadiums is that there is no separate entrance for the bleachers now. We were able to walk all the way around the entire stadium and look at the many vendors and history that has been brought over. Once we found our seats, we had some awkward moments when we found out that we were actually sitting with my boss' parents and daughter, which he had not told us. Having to be on our absolute best behavior made the game slightly less enjoyable, but we still had a nice time.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

...Bluest Skies You've Ever Seen

So, there isn't a whole lot to do in Seattle. We managed to see pretty much all of what we were told to see in about 4 hours, including the market, aquarium, and Space Needle. The two-day long conference that Dave & I were there to attend was agonizingly boring, and we sold very little product. Gina met us out there and didn't have to work like we did, so she took field trips (Mt. Ranier and such) and had a great time.







Definitely, the h
ighlight of our trip was the Mariners vs. Twins game at Safeco field. On our way into the stadium, Dave snagged a batting practice home run ball (it actually hit him in his nether-regions on a bounce). It was a giveaway day, too, so we all got little Seattle Mariners toy trains to take home. I'd gotten us tickets for the last row on field level behind home plate, and we had a blast.














Oddly enough, at home we were on our second month of all rain, all the time. In Seattle, it was 85 degrees and sunny the whole time we were there.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The God of Wine...

While Dave was working as a bartender at Alpine Country Club, he became friends with his boss, Michael. Though neither of them work there any longer, they have managed to keep in touch and remain friends. Michael recently wrote a book on wine (see it here), and asked Dave to help him by taking instructional pictures to be included in it. When the book was released, he had a book signing at this cute little cafe in Nyack, and presented Dave with a copy of the book. It even has Dave's name mentioned in the Acknowledgments!

Michael also announced the news that night that he has been contacted by the Culinary Institute of America's California Campus to possibly use his book for their wine course next semester!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Home, Home On The...

Matt, Jenna, & I took an interesting road trip (Jenna's first) to Columbus, OH for Rock on the Range. I first heard about this show while looking up dates for Avenged Sevenfold. Even after seeing them eight times, I'm always ready for another show of theirs. It turned out that they were playing at a weekend-long rock festival in the Columbus Crew soccer stadium, along with Atreyu, Slipknot, Korn, Chevelle, All That Remains, and about thirty other bands that we wanted to see.

We left around 8pm on Friday night, and didn't arrive at our hotel until around 4am Saturday morning. It was a relatively uneventful trip, except for a wrong turn onto the Ohio Turnpike, and when a sleeping Jenna was attacked by a humongous beetle. (We named him Ringo, and he stayed with us in a water bottle for the entire trip.)

The first band that we were interested in seeing didn't take the stage until after 1pm, so we had plenty of time to sleep and get ourselves together. We sat in miles of traffic to get into the stadium, but made it there in time for Jenna's first pick: Halestorm. They were decent, but I grew tired of the Joan Jett-modeled performance pretty quickly.

I caught a bit of a bunch of different sets that day, but the main ones that interested me were All That Remains, Atreyu, Chevelle, and Slipknot. Chevelle was on the main stage, and they were pretty good, but I left halfway through their set to wa
it around for All That Remains. Their set was short, but they were awesome, and I couldn't wait to see them again.

Matt did a meet & greet with Atreyu in the afternoon, and they all signed his ticket stub from last ye
ar's Taste of Chaos - Asbury Park, which is where he met Jenna. It was a cute idea, but somehow the two of them got into an argument over it, and were pissed off at each other for a few hours. They were over it by the time we were waiting for Atreyu to start, and the three of us got a great spot all the way up front. Atreyu was excellent, as always.

We wandered around for a bit and grabbed some munchies, waiting for Slipknot to
start. It was getting really cold and windy as it got dark, and we agreed that we probably wouldn't stay for the entire set. When they finally got started, we were way back in the crowd, and I really couldn't see anything. Even the video screens were difficult to see, there were so many people. The band was tight and crazy, and the crowd was totally invested in it. That's when we found out that moshing in Ohio is more like country line-dancing combined with football practice. The kids would start standing still on opposite ends of the circle, and run at each other full force, slamming their shoulders into one-another. It reminded us of what it must look like to go cow-tipping. Anyway, though I didn't know much of their music after the first album, I'd always wanted to see Slipknot live, and they did not disappoint. Our only complaint was that whenever Corey Taylor would talk between songs, he was just too damn nice! I've always loved his voice; it's probably my favorite in rock. By the time we were shivering so much that we left, I already had a mental list of the songs I would be downloading when we got home. We headed back to the hotel to collapse, and do it all again tomorrow.

Sunday was an easy-going day, with very few bands on my must-see list. I watched a bit of Clutch, some of Hoobastank, and a couple of songs from Saving Abel. Matt & Jenna got their lips pierced during the afternoon, too. Finally, I moved all the way up front on the main stage for Shinedown, then waited through Buckcherry, and pushe
d my way to the rail for Avenged Sevenfold. It took hours of being crushed by the crowd, but I finally got to see my favorite band. Unfortunately, some huge guy behind me decided he needed to be where I was standing. During the second song of the set, he started crushing me against the girl in front of me, and then wrapped his fat arm completely around my face and tried to suffocate me. For the first time in my life, I tapped a security guard and asked to be pulled out of the crowd. Hours of waiting, sweating, unable to breathe, for two songs. I was pretty pissed off, practically crying, as I walked through the crowd and all the way to the back, where I met up with Matt & Jenna. I cheered up as I watched my favorite band perform, and when they were finished, we beat a hasty retreat to avoid hearing any of Motley Crue.

Back at the hotel, we gorged ourselves on Domino's pizza and breadsticks, and crashed early. We were up pretty early in the morning to eat free Holiday Inn Express breakfast, and get on the road. The ride home was equally uneventful, with Matt sleeping most of the way. At one point, Matt woke up, looked at me driving and Jenna in the back seat, and said, "How long was I out? Did you guys stay up the whole time?" No, Matt, I decided to catch a quick nap while I drove...


Monday, May 4, 2009

Like a Band of Gypsies...

Ah, on the road again...this time to Grand Rapids, MI.

Dave was supposed to be making this trek with me, but at the last minute, our nephew was being baptized the same weekend. Missing Alex's baptism didn't make me very happy, and neither did a twelve-hour drive by myself, but I was already committed to working this gluten-free event.I left New Jersey bright and early, hoping to make it to the Kil's place by dark. The ride out was mostly uneventful, though I do remember texting Jenna to comment that everywhere I stopped for gas, the locals were staring at me. She replied, "They probably haven't seen a new face in a long time!" It's funny how self-awareness always comes in a flash... "Actually, it may be because I'm a tattooed, pierced, skull t-shirt wearing freak with Jersey plates..."I knocked at the back door and was received by an extremely excited Ike. He presented me with all of the nearest toys, including his ride-on giraffe, before I could even put down my bags. It was already dinner time, so we packed him up and headed out for some grub.We did a couple of laps around the block while waiting for our table, and I figured Ike would sleep pretty well that night. As usual, I had a blast chatting it up with Dave and Sarah, and it was great to see the little guy that Ike had turned into. We stopped at a liquor store on the way home for a couple of six packs, then headed back to the house for some relaxation. Ike was asleep pretty quickly, and we just lounged on the couch for a few hours.
On Saturday, I had to get up relatively early and drive to the college where the event was being held. They were nice enough to provide a volunteer to help me make samples through the day, and everything went very well. I was out of there by three o'clock, and headed back to the homestead.
We spent Sunday morning relaxing and playing outside with Ike, then loaded into the station wagon and drove to Aunt Mary's house for a barbecue. I met her boyfriend Cyrus, played some badminton with Johnny, and followed Ike around the yard, taking every rock he presented me with. At one point, he started to fall onto the deck, and I quickly grabbed him to keep him up (successfully), spilling beer all down the baby's back. Way to go!
Johnny, Sarah, and Aunt Mary made some yummy food, and we all chowed down. Then we headed back up to Freeport to get some rest before my long drive home the next day.
I'm getting awfully tired of this bridge.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

...To the Ballgame

My boss had four tickets to the Yankee game that he couldn't use at the last minute, so I bought them off him and took Dave and my parents. The stadium is really amazing, though Dave & I agreed that it feels a bit sterile and needs a break-in period.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

...Crossed Another Cold State Line

This weekend was spent working in Farmington Hills, MI (a suburb of Detroit), on Saturday, and Akron, OH, on Sunday. Saturday's event was a vendor fair that we had attended many times before. We normally sell quite a bit there, but sales were very slow this year. It may have been due to most of the attendees already knowing us, but I think it was more because of the economy.

The best part of the weekend was being able to convince my boss that we could make a little side trip to Clev
eland on Saturday night. We only had to work until 2pm on Saturday, so we were able to make it to Progressive Field with plenty of time to spare before the Indians/Twins game.

The park is pretty neat, with a glass-walled restaurant taking up most of the third base line, where most stadiums would have a second or even third tier. There is a two-level monument park in center field, featuring bronze reliefs of famous players throughout all of Cleveland's history.

By chance, Bob Feller was in the stadium signing his new book, so Victor bought one and we had him sign that and a baseball to give to Dave. It was really exciting that we just happened to find this out, and we had plenty of time to wait in the line to m
eet him. I took a picture of him with Victor to send to Victor's dad, who had met Bob Feller many years before.

Our seats were great, just slightly to the first base side of home plate, field level, about twenty rows back. Those same seats in Yankee Stadium would have cost about $350 apiece, but in Cleveland they were only $50 each. We had a nice time, relaxing and enjoying hot dogs. We even found a beer stand that carried beers other than Bud Light and Miller Light! By the sixth inning, many of the fans had left, and we moved up to the second row. After the game, I picked up a shot glass for our collection, to go with the autographed ball, and we headed on to Akron.

We were able to get a decent night's sleep, since the organizers of Sunday's event knew that many of the vendors were coming from Saturday's event in Michigan. Overall, it was a productive day, and we found many new customers, but we didn't sell very much product. We also had fun,
though it was very stressful, doing a cake decorating program with all of the school-age children. Because of that, the organizer really wanted to pay us something, which we didn't want to accept. In the end, Victor told her to make the payment check out as a donation for my Avon Walk! Very cool, and she actually turned out to be a breast cancer survivor.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

You Will Be Shown

Music As A Weapon - Disturbed, Killswitch Engage, Lacuna Coil - with Matt, Jenna, & Tommy at the Izod Center (formerly Continental Airlines Arena, Brendan Byrne Arena), East Rutherford, NJ. We had floor tickets for the rear area, Mike & Larry were in the VIP floor area, Chris was in the seats. Lacuna Coil was great. Jenna agreed to push through the crowd with me during Killswitch, so we had fun for that. Draiman was sick, so Disturbed was a bit tuned-down, but still good.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Step Up to Me

Sevendust and Black Label Society at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ, with Jenna. This was Jenna's birthday present to herself, and nobody else wanted to go. Sevendust was good, and the lead singer was wearing jeans that were Bedazzled on the pockets, haha. Black Label Society just seemed to go on and on. They did a poigniant memorial in honor of Dimebag Darrell that we really appreciated, but unfortunately, it went on for over 30 minutes. We left towards the end of the set, when all of the songs started blending together.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Reminds Me of That Night

Live at Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ, with Dave, Matt, Jenna, and Melody. There were some opening bands that none of us had ever heard of, and overall, it was just a really long night. I was really surprised that we seemed to be the youngest people there. I expected the average age of the crowd to be somewhere between Dave's and my ages, given when Live first became popular, but most people seemed to be in their forties.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

...At the Rock Show

Avenged Sevenfold in Hershey, PA, with Joey & Seong. Buckcherry also played, but I'm trying to block that out. We also saw a couple of songs of Papa Roach's set, and they were pretty good. This show was pretty bad, between bands that I didn't want to see, A7X playing an awfully short set with no encores, and the fact that Joey didn't realize that there were two general admission levels when he bought the tickets, so we weren't on the floor.

Friday, March 13, 2009

...Walking, Yes Indeed

Hey Everybody!

Just wanted to drop you all a note to let you know that the link for my donation page has changed. The old link will still work, but this one is a little bit easier to remember: http://www.avonwalk.org/goto/Larisa.Perino

I'm now also selling Pink Ribbon Car Magnets for $10 each. $5 from each magnet will cover my cost, while the other $5 will be donated to the Avon Walk. In addition, each person who donates more than $10 directly to the Avon Walk will receive a Pink Ribbon Car Magnet.

To everyone that has already donated, thank you so much for supporting me in this effort! Every dollar that we raise helps in the fight against breast cancer. I will be sending out your magnets soon!

Thank you to everyone for your support!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

...Hold Her When I'm Not Around

We flew into Louisville, KY for Brian & Melissa's wedding in New Albany, IN, meeting up with Gina and Andy once we got there. By the time we all got settled, we were starving, and we ended up at TGIFridays for something to eat. Afterwards, we got in some cosmic bowling with the locals.

Ryan was flying in at the last possible moment, so Gina and I arranged with the guys th
at we would go pick him up while everyone else got ready. It was the only time that we got to spend with him, since he left immediately after the ceremony, and didn't even get to be introduced at the reception.

They had arranged for a party bus to chauffeur everyone around for the day, so we took a ride down to the church, passed the converted movie theater that was their reception hall, with their names up on the marquee. The church was very pretty, with far more colorful architecture than I was used to. Melissa wore a beautiful champagne dress, and looked incredibly thin. All of Brian's brothers were in the bridal party, as well as Melissa's two sisters, and some friends of hers. Brian's niece was adorable as the flower girl, in a dress that matched Melissa's. They had a full Catholic mass, which included incredible singing by a friend of theirs from Clarksville, TN.

Next, everyone loaded back into the party bus to head over to the reception. Everyone
but us, that is. Apparently, the bus driver told Dave the everyone else had walked, and the reception was just a few blocks away on a gorgeous day, so we decided to walk, too. Of course, we go lost and ended up wandering around town for 40 minutes, haha. It wouldn't involve Brian if somebody didn't get lost! We finally made it to the reception, and spent the evening eating, drinking, and dancing. They had planned many cute and fun moments, like swing-dancing during their first dance, and tables having to sing songs with the word love in them to get them to kiss.

Afterwards, we jumped back on the party bus for a quick trip back to the hotel to change. Our group loaded back on the bus with the wedding party and some other family members, and headed to a casino for the after-party. There was no cell service there, so when we all split up, it was difficult to find each other again, but eventually we met up at a restaurant for some munchies, and headed back to the hotel together.

As my gift to Brian and Melissa, I bought a bronze wall cross, and brought it with me. After the ceremony, I had the priest that married them bless the cross on the altar of the church. I also bought two copies of a little book with a prayer for each day, and explained to them in a letter that it was for when they were far away from each other, so that they would know that the other was saying the same prayer before bed.

In the morning, we met up with some other friends of Brian's for breakfast at the Waffle House next door, then relaxed in the hotel lobby until it was time to head back to the airport. Andy was on our flight back to Newark, so we had plenty of time to chat with him.

Monday, February 23, 2009

...Build Me Up...

This was tonight's dinner. The flavors, especially the sauce, were not what we were used to, and turned out to be really yummy. The combination of the chili powder in the sauce and the rotel in the filling added spiciness at the beginning of each bite, and heat at the end. Obviously, I made enough to eat some for lunch the rest of this week.

Chicken Enchiladas

Filling:
1 lb boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 can Corn
1 can Rotell
1/2 chopped Red Onion
Cumin Powder
Paprika Powder
Garlic Powder
Shredded Cheese (I use 4-cheese Mexican blend)
8 Tortillas
Sour Cream

Mix together small amounts (that's precision) of cumin, paprika, and garlic powder. Rub into both sides of each chicken breast. Heat Olive Oil in skillet; cook chicken 3 minutes each side, or until cooked through. Put chicken aside. In same skillet, saute onion until soft. Add corn and rotell and allow to simmer 2 minutes. While simmering, shred chicken with a fork and add to skillet. Stir together well, cover and allow to simmer while making rice and sauce.

Rice:
1 cup long grain White Rice
2 cup Water
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 chopped Red Onion
2 cups Chicken Broth
3 tbsp unseasoned Tomato Sauce
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Paprika Powder
1/2 tsp Cumin Powder

Place rice in a bowl with 1 cup water. Allow to soak for 2 minutes. While soaking, heat olive oil in pan and saute onion until soft. Drain rice well; add to onion and saute for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add remaining water and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in garlic, paprika, and cumin. Add tomato sauce and stir well. Let boil uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep rice from sticking to the pan.

Sauce:
2 cups Chicken Broth
4 tbsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Cumin Powder
2 tsp Garlic Powder
3/4 tsp Salt
1 pinch Cinnamon
1/3 tsp Sugar
5 tbsp Cold Water
5 tbsp Flour

Combine chicken broth, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt, cinnamon, and sugar. Heat to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and cook 3 minutes, whisking frequently. Add cold water to a bowl; whisk in flour slowly, breaking up all lumps. Turn heat up to high and slowly whisk in flour mixture. Continue to whisk for 1 minute.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Warm tortillas in microwave to make flexible. Spoon small amount of sauce onto center of tortilla. Add some of chicken mixture. Fold in both sides of tortilla and roll up tightly. Place seam side down in large baking dish. Continue until all tortillas are filled and dish is full. Spread remaining sauce on top and cover with shredded cheese. Bake at 325 degrees until cheese is melted. Serve over rice and top with sour cream.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dancing on a Weeknight

Etown Concrete at Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ, with Jenna, Swanny, & Ira. Once again, we met up with Ira's friends Cheryl and Billy.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Walk On By

Once again, I am planning to participate in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. The walk will take place in and around New York City on October 10 & 11, and will cover 39 miles. I was unable to participate in the Walk last year because it was on the same weekend as my wedding, which makes me that much more excited to get out there this year!

In the coming months, I will be keeping you updated regarding my training and fundraising. If anyone would like to participate in the Walk with me, please visit www.avonwalk.org to sign up!

In 2007, I was able to raise over $2200 for this cause, so I have increased my personal goal for this year to $2500. In these difficult economic times, I understand that money is extremely tight. Even the smallest donation contributes to my goal, and furthers the fight against breast cancer! Please visit my page to make an online donation, or contact me for information on other payment methods. http://info.avonfoundation.org/site/TR/Walk2009/NewYork?px=3527749&pg=personal&fr_id=1850&et=h8mrc94SGA8STZtjxinyPA..&s_t

Thank you for all of your support!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

...Cob Pipe and a Button Nose...

Cornbread

1-1/3 Cup Coarse Yellow Stone Ground Corn Meal
1 Cup Unbleached Flour
1/4 Cup Granular Sugar
3/4 Tsp Coarse Kosher Salt
1 Cup + 2 Tbsp Buttermilk
9 Tbsp Melted Unsalted Butter
1 Egg + 1 Egg Yolk Beat Together

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl; add wet ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon. Allow to stand 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter 9" x 5" x 3" metal pan. Bake for 40 minutes, until edges brown and toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes; turn out of pan and cool completely on rack.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

...See We're Together

Hmm, since wedding planning is over, I guess red can now be the color of family stuff.

On Saturday, Orion had to be at the groomer at 8:30. It was Valentine's Day, so I stopped at Walgreens on the way to pick up a little heart of candy for Mom. There was a larger tin of candy that was round instead of heart-shaped, so I picked that up for the staff at the Grooming Post in Waldwick. They're very nice people, and take good care of Orion, so I wished them all Happy Valentine's Day with some candy.

Next, it was over to Mom's house. Dad and Uncle Jack had gone to the Catskills for the weekend, and taken Indiana with them, so she was home alone with Casey. We hung around the house chatting for an hour or so, then headed over to Andy's Corner in Hawthorne for some breakfast. We were there for a long time, like always, and finally left when we saw people waiting in line for tables. Back at her house, we relaxed at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee for her and some glasses of water for me, then it was time to pick up Orion.

John, the owner of the Grooming Post, and I chatted about business for a while. They seem to be doing pretty well, as an established business that's been in Waldwick since 1989. I remember taking our Springer Spaniel Cindy there way back when, and all of our dogs have gone there since. Mom and Dad stopped using them when they moved out of town, but I've taken Orion and now Haley there continuously. Orion came out looking cute and smelling sweet, and I loaded him into the car and drove home.

Dave was hanging out with Haley on the couch, so I gave him a quick kiss and headed back out the door to pick up Melody for lunch. On the way up route 202 in Suffern, there was an accident that included a car knocking over a telephone pole, and the wires were hanging down over the street. Everyone seemed to be fine, and I stopped traffic to allow the ambulance to get through to treat them. I made note to try and remember to tell Aunt Marsha to avoid 202 if she was headed that way, since the pole would take a long time to fix.

The night before, I had made another batch of cornbread with the last of the buttermilk, figuring Aunt Marsha, Uncle Jack, and Melody might like to try it. Melody was getting ready to leave, so I had a few minutes to chat with Aunt Marsha about food and recipes, which is always fun. She was headed out to see her sister, so we parted ways in the driveway, and Melody & I made our way down to Mahwah for some lunch. Aunt Marsha had suggested Roxanne's, which was a great idea. We ordered a small pizza with smooth tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil, and then some eggplant and zucchini chips with cucumber yogurt dip. Everything was great, but the dip was a little bit salty. I wasn't used to eating all of this greasy food! It was fun chatting with Melody about her internship and life at Aunt Marsha and Uncle Jack's house.

Melody mentioned that she needed some kind of dish to bring for a potluck lunch at work on Tuesday, so after lunch we went back to my house for a quick look through the massive pile of cookbooks that I have. Melody likes our new house; just like everyone else, she says it feels rustic and cozy. I found an Asian noodle recipe that appealed to her in this huge vegetarian cookbook that I have, so we found something to mark the page with, and off we went. On the way back, Melody showed me the route she takes to get to the train station in Ramsey, which is where she parks her car for her commute to NYC every day. We talked about making dinner plans for the near future, and maybe going ice skating at Bear Mountain with Anna next weekend, then I dropped her off.

Dave and I have a tradition for Valentine's Day where we buy each other a DVD, then make dinner at home and just hang out on the couch watching the movie. He had sent me flowers at work the day before, so I stopped at Blockbuster in Tallman to pick out a movie. There were two there that he wanted to see, so I bought them both: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and Zack & Miri Make a Porno. They also had August Rush, which I had seen the first half of at Mom's house one day, so I picked that one up for myself. Next, I stopped at CVS for a gift bag and a card. They had a great card that talked about how much we love doing things together, including cooking, so I got that one. He was very surprised that I found one that represented us so well.

We were lazy and had both eaten lunch late, so we ended up getting a pizza and bread sticks from Pizza Hut, something that I don't think we'd EVER done before, at around 9pm. It was a full day of greasy junk food! Haha.

...My Dance In The...

Pete asked me to take a look at his taxes on Thursday night, so I made dinner for us. I also invited Rick over, so it ended up being a nice meal for the four of us. I had some Gorgonzola cheese in the house, so I followed this recipe for the chicken:

Chicken Gorgonzola Roulades

I had a few minutes to waste before beginning to cook, and there was still buttermilk in the house from dinner a couple of nights before, so I made up another quick batch of corn bread. I'll have to post the recipe when I get home. It's so easy, and doesn't take long at all, but everyone that has eaten it thought it was great. Dad said it reminded him of the corn bread that Nana used to make all the time when he was growing up.

Excluding the corn bread, which takes 75 minutes exactly (5 minutes to measure and mix ingredients, 30 minutes to sit, then 40 minutes to bake), the entire meal took 35 minutes to prepare and cook. For the sauce, I threw everything in a food processor for a few seconds, then just poured it in a pot and heated it through. I also made Risotto, and for that Rick was my helper, handing me measured cups of wine and chicken broth while we chatted.

I put a scoop of Risotto on each plate, a piece of chicken on top, and ladled a little sauce over everything. I removed the toothpicks from the chicken, but I didn't slice it as the recipe had said, just left the pieces whole. Overall, the meal turned out well; the guys thought the Spicy Roasted Pepper sauce was excellent, and Dave wants me to make it again.

I only had six chicken breasts for the four of us, three of which were big guys with large appetites, so I also made some peas with roasted garlic. In the end, only Pete ate two pieces of chicken, and we had one piece left over. None of us even touched the peas. The risotto was very filling, and everyone felt stuffed quickly.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm

After a recommendation from Jenna, I tried a can of Campbell's Select Harvest Light soup. It sounds too good to be true, but each can is only 100-180 calories! There are about two servings in a can, with 50-80 calories per serving, and no fat. The sodium is rather high, but since I eat fresh meats and vegetables the rest of the day, it's not too bad.

The soup is complete, not condensed, and yummy! The broth is cloudy and there is a lot of it, with not much as far as the rest of what makes up soup: vegetables, chicken, beans, pasta, etc. However, an entire bowl is a large amount of liquid, and it fills me up for hours! So far, I have tried four of the recipes that they offer. The Vegetable and Pasta flavor was just ok, but the Southwestern Vegetable and Italian Style Vegetable were very good. The other flavor I tried was a Savory Chicken with Vegetables, which was not very good. The entire can contained only four pieces of chicken, and after gnawing through one rock-hard cube, I picked the rest out.

Overall, I really like these soups, and they have become a staple of my work lunches. However, I recommend staying away from any type that has chicken in it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

School's Out Forever

Another one of those notes about me:
I would love to go back to school. If I did, it would be the culinary academy.
I really enjoy my job, but planning and prepping meals like the one mentioned in my last blog is more satisfying in a creative way. I love to work with my hands: chopping, measuring, mixing, etc. Cooking is probably my most artistic outlet, the only one where I can make things look and taste beautiful. Having grown up as an extremely picky eater, it amazes my family what I am willing to eat now, and the dishes I prepare generally include ingredients that I would never have eaten fifteen years ago.

I wish I had the drive and the funds to learn cooking as a craft. I feel as though I have a natural ability to put common ingredients together and make them taste new and original, but I lack the technique to make sauces always be the right thickness, or have meat be perfectly cooked every time. Cookbooks and the internet can only teach so much!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Can I Make It Up...

Last night was Mom's birthday, so I had her, Dad, and Pete over for dinner. Dave's family had planned his mother's birthday celebration for the same time, so he wasn't able to stay home with us. I decided to go all out with the meal, so this is what we had:
First Course:
Cubed Anjou Pears with crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese and Toasted Walnuts
paired with a white wine called Traminette from Arcadia Vineyard in the Finger Lakes of New York

Second Course:
Roasted Pork Tenderloin stuffed with Roasted Garlic, Dried Apricots, and Dried Cranberries
Roasted Red Potatoes with Rosemary
Green Beans in Walnut Oil with Toasted Walnuts
Cornbread
paired with 7 Deadly Zins Zinfandel
All around, everything was perfect. I loved getting to use all of my serving dishes, pitchers, and decanters that I never get to use. I made everything from scratch, and the only issue was not being used to the oven in our new house, so the pork took about a half hour longer than I had planned for. No big deal! I had so much fun planning the menu, prepping, cooking and serving, and I didn't even mind the cleanup. I need to plan another dinner party soon!

Pete brought Mom's birthday cake, per her instructions: White Cake, Lemon Filling, Vanilla Icing, and Coconut; and I served espresso.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

...I'm Coming Home...

Definitely one of the coolest stories I've seen in a long time:










Boy Unwraps Solder Dad

...Hiding Behind the Words...

I recently filled out a note on Facebook that called for 25 random facts about me. It took me a while to decide what to write in the list, and it ended up being quite different from what I had expected when I started. Since these items must be important to me, or funny, I thought it would be fun to discuss each one. So, my reader(s), haha, can expect these over a whole bunch of blogs.

Since I was a kid, I've had three creative goals to complete in my lifetime:
write a novel, compose a ballet, and learn to play the violin.

When I was thirteen, someone gave me a blank journal for my birthday. I remember this birthday very well; 11 April fell on Easter that year, and Lori, my best friend from summer camp, was allowed to sleep over and spend the holiday with us. Lori was Jewish, so this was a whole new experience for her.

Anyway, so I received this blank journal. That night, I decided to try my hand at writing a poem, and I thought that it turned out pretty well. I submitted that poem to a contest, and it ended up being published in an anthology. Feeling more confident now, I also submitted that poem to a teen magazine, and it was published there as well. Rapid success inspired me, and throughout high school I wrote hundreds of poems, and had many of them published. This is something about me that just about no one knows, not even my family or my friends from high school. Most of what I wrote dealt with my home-life, and it wasn't exactly pleasant. I've never let the people close to me read my work, preferring only strangers to know my deepest thoughts.

I kept writing poetry through college, and branched out into short stories through some classes there. In the end, I graduated with a degree in Communications, concentrated in Creative Writing. Since then, I've barely written anything, other than this blog, of course. But I still have all of the journals that I filled over the years, and sometimes its great fun to go back and read them.

...Brown Eyes Blue...

Dave is on a ski trip to Hunter Mountain this weekend with a bunch of guys, so I'm home alone with the puppies. It's been a long time since I had nothing to do and could just hang out on the couch for a while. When flipping through the channels this morning, I came accross Blade and decided to look up Stephen Dorff online to find the answer to some random question. I found this funny video making fun of his role in Brittany Spears video for "Everytime":

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Feel the Magic, Hear the Roar

Improving my diet has come with issues that I had never thought to consider. For instance, if I want to eat better while I'm at work, I need to have food there to eat. I've recently been bringing my lunch and snacks with me every day, which saves me money as well. I'll bring a protein bar to have as breakfast with my coffee in the morning; some cheese for a snack; Grape Nuts, yogurt, and a banana for lunch; and a cucumber or pepper to slice up and dip in ranch dressing for an afternoon snack. Since I require some way to carry my food with me, I felt that a vintage lunch box was in order. Specifically, a Thundercats lunchbox. Thank you, ebay!

Jeepers, Creepers...

With regard to the post I made the other day about the peanut butter situation not being as scary as the melamine situation, I stand corrected!
The Georgia food plant that federal investigators say knowingly shipped contaminated peanut butter also had mold growing on its ceiling and walls, and it has foot-long gaps in its roof, according to results of a federal inspection.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

...To Stick With You...

I've found recently that I eat less, and eat better, when I have appropriate snacks around. I can easily avoid eating the Pop Tarts, chips, ice cream, and cookies that Dave always has in the house, as long as I have red and green bell peppers, cucumbers, Hidden Valley Ranch Non-fat Dressing, low calorie protein bars, Dannon Light and Fit Yogurt, and/or bananas to eat instead. The 100 calorie packs that are out there sound great for snacks, but it's very little food for what turns out to be quite a few calories. I can have a big bowl of raw sliced peppers or cucumbers with two tablespoons of ranch dressing in a cup to dip in for about 50 calories. Dannon Light and Fit yogurt is made with Splenda, and each container is 80 calories. A banana is 100 calories, and definitely better for you than three mini twinkies. I've found that eating unprocessed, healthy food (not that Splenda is in that category, but still...) makes me pay closer attention to how things taste, and I no longer enjoy overly-sweet chemical concoctions.

I also happen to love cheese, though it is high in calories, and it's so easy to eat more than I should. I don't eat a whole lot of meat either, so I have to be mindful of getting enough protein from other sources. I recently found Sorrento Sticksters, which are single servings of Mozzarella, Cheddar, Pepper Jack, or (my favorite) Colby Jack cheese. They range in calories per stick from 70 to 110, which isn't bad at all. I eat one for a snack between breakfast and lunch, or have one later in the evening with a big glass of water.

Monday, January 26, 2009

...Kept My Secrets...

Since I work in the food industry, I've been following this very closely, but it doesn't seem like most people I know are even aware of what's going on:
Two Sentenced to Death over Chinese Melamine Milk Scandal
While the current issue of salmonella contamination in peanut butter is terrible, I find blatant negligence and cover-up on the part of the Chinese government far more disturbing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Devil Went Down...

What is your personal Hell? Dave has decided that mine is saving seats for people for eternity. I can't stand sitting there in an empty row, having to argue with people that my friends are on their way; it will easily put me on the verge of having an anxiety attack. If I made the effort to be there early, and so did the people that want to sit in those seats, why should whoever I'm waiting for not be expected to do the same? To me, disrespecting someone you don't know is just about the same as disrespecting a friend.

Anyway, my personal Hell has been revised to include the cover band Pump City playing incessantly in the background. Dave's consists of swimming in a vat of Bud Light Lime with an annoying acquaintance of ours, while the band Burn Halo plays. Rick would be floating in a lake of differential fluid while snakes and ex-girlfriends attack him. Jenna's personal Hell is driving in a snowstorm while the band Alkaline Trio plays in the back seat.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

That's Just the Way...

And although it seems heaven sent,
We ain't ready to see a black president.
I wonder what Tupac would be saying now...

...All the Things I've Got...

Reel Big Fish at Roseland Ballroom, NYC, with Dave, Matt, Jenna, Tommy & Judy. Matt drove his listed Suburban, and the look on the parking attendant's face when we pulled up was priceless. We met up with Rob & Holly there, too.

Monday, January 19, 2009

...and Dozy Dotes...

Plot synopsis by mystic80 of The Hills Have Eyes (http://www.imdb.com/) -
Wes Craven produces this remake of his 1977 classic of the same name, about the Carters, an idyllic American family travelling through the great American southwest. But their trip takes a detour into an area closed off from the public, but more importantly from society. An area originally used by the U.S. Government for nuclear testing that was intended to be empty...or so they thought? When the Carter's car breaks down at the old site, they're stranded...or are they? As the Carters may soon realize that what seemed like a car casually breaking down, might actually be a trap. This trap might be perpetrated by the inhabitants of the site who aren't pulling a prank, but are out to set up a gruesome massacre.
Though not a fan of the movie itself, this summary is one of the best I've seen. The usage of incomplete sentences sprinkled with commas and innappropriate question marks has always been a favorite of mine...or has it?

Friday, January 9, 2009

...To Catch Up With the Sun...

Check out all of the new blogs I've put up in November 2008! They talk about the wedding, our honeymoon, and some other exciting events! Still more to come, too.