Life is more fun when you RAWR!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Book Report: Bossypants by Tina Fey

I promised myself a comedy after the last book I read, and I followed through with Tina Fey's memoir "Bossypants".
I have a serious girl crush on Tina Fey - and have since she was reading Weekend Update on SNL.   Something about her really speaks to my nerdy-girl heart.  I get excited when I hear Terry Gross say that Tina Fey is going to be a guest on "Fresh Air."   My sister introduced me to 30 Rock and boy is it funny.   Oh and Date Night anyone?  I laughed so hard at that movie we had to pause it so I could catch my breath (and put the baby back to bed since he woke up from the loud snorts and screams).

The book just makes her more awesome.  She nails so much of the proverbial "it."  From what she calls "teat nazis" (I call them lactavists) who judge women based on their breast feeding choices, to the constant battle of condescension  based on how a baby exited your body, to the fact that women face insane battles in the work place to how we do the dumbest things to get attention from boys. Either Tina Fey is finally telling everyone how life really is or she & I are just cut from the same nerdy cloth.
I actually did laugh right out loud while reading "Bossypants."  She talks about the creative process behind some of the funniest scenes from 30 Rock and I was fascinated to learn the behind-the-scenes stories from Saturday Night Live.  (Jimmy Fallon is only mentioned like twice in the book and yet, somehow, I manage to like him even more for his mere mention.)  My husband kept asking what was so funny and I would end up reading about three pages out loud before offering to just let him read the book on his own.
The story of her first Pap smear had me rolling.  I mean, that is some seriously funny stuff.  I thought my 1st pap smear was bad.  (The doctor was enamored with my father who was on TV at the time.  He wanted to know all about my dad and my dad being on TV.  I wanted this stranger's face out of my crotch)  Her story is worse.  It's also hilarious.

"Bossypants" is a fun, enjoyable book.  It's honest but still kind (even towards Sara Palin).  It makes me wish I wasn't too old, too mommy, too suburban to move to New York and work with the cool kids on Saturday Night Live... so I just read about them then go sneak into my son's room to take his temperature because he felt really warm and worry why he's running a fever again.  It's a glamorous life I tell ya.

I highly recommend "Bossypants" and will leave you with her "Prayer for my Daughter" (it's all over the internet but now it's here too)

First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Bea......uty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, May she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with Beer.

Guide her, protect her
When crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels.

What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day – And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, That she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.

“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.  

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday Weigh-In

It's been a while and yea, I haven't tracked a point in a couple of months.  It's bad.  I've gained back all but 2 of the pounds I lost.
So I'm starting over.
I went in this morning... weighed in... and I'm back to counting points.  How I wish I was a naturally thin person.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It's Sew Wednesday!

A quick, thrifty sewing project to share today.  One of the boys needed a duvet cover.  I found a great Martha Stewart for Macys striped sheet at a thrift store.  I picked up a coordinating dark blue sheet at Ikea.  I sewed the right sides together then turned it (so that the right sides now faced out).  I sewed a little Velcro on the bottom ends to keep the duvet inside.  And PRESTO!  A brand-new duvet cover for under $15 and it took less than an hour to make.

It really is as comfy as it looks.  I kind of want to dive in right now.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuneful Tuesday

It's tuneful Tuesday!  I have eclectic and often obscure taste in music. I'm also always looking for a new song to fall in love with.  So here's how Tuneful Tuesday will work.  I'll list the songs I'm craving this week.  You list yours and I'll check them out.  It's a great way to hear new stuff on a good recommendation. 

1) "Kate" (Ben Folds Five, Whatever and Ever Amen).  Ben has done this song live at every concert I've been to.  Recently I've been listening to the original and it's really rockin.

2) "Love You Madly" (Cake, Comfort Eagle)  This song is fantastic.  It says a lot of about love.  "All the dishes rattle in the cupboards when the elephants arrive."  Isn't that the truth?

3) "Bold as Love" (John Mayer, Continuum) This is a cover of a Jimi Hendrix tune that is also fantastic.

4) "Does Your Mother Know" (Mamma Mia!, The Movie Soundtrack)  This is a cougar tune that makes me want to get together an audition and sing and dance to this song in public.

So what's stuck in your head this week?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

I hope all of my friends had a wonderful Easter weekend.  We really did.  It was very busy and quite lovely.
But now we're back to reality!

Here is my menu plan for this week:

Monday - Ham, potatoes gratin, asparagus, homemade rolls, angel food cake. (leftovers)
Tuesday - bow tie pasta bake.
Wednesday - chicken with mushrooms, rice, green beans
Thursday - vegetable curry
Friday - homemade pizzas
Saturday - Sausage sandwiches
Sunday - burgers and fries

I have a full week of blogs coming your way this week.  I hope it's a great one!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Buckle up for a busy week!  This is going to be nuts!
Monday - Burgers and fries (We didn't eat them on Sunday and I've got a hankering!)
Tuesday - Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
Wednesday - baked pork chops, leftover mac & cheese, salad, green beans
Thursday - chicken tacos, rice, beans, salad  (also, a reminder to myself when I look at this blog for my grocery list... I need to send cookies to school for the Easter party).  My in-laws will arrive at some point on Thursday evening.  They'll be exhausted from a really long drive and tacos are an easy dinner to reheat if they're delayed.
Friday - we're having a ton of grad students over for a cook out.
Saturday - dinner out
Sunday - Easter!  I love a traditional Easter dinner.  Ham, potato gratin, roasted asparagus, salad, homemade rolls and I need to come up with a yummy desert.  Maybe strawberry shortcake.  Oh yea, yum!  Strawberry shortcake it is. 
I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Book Report: Two Kisses for Maddy by Matt Logelin

After a rough pregnancy Liz Logelin gave birth to her daughter Madeline seven weeks early.
The next day Liz died... as she was on her way to the NICU to hold her daughter for the first time.
Let's just pause and soak in that awfulness.
Matt, her husband, blogged his way through the pain, the tenuous days of being a single dad with a premie, through the minefield of memories some as simple as a rubber band hanging on a door knob, some as complex as being back at the place where they fell in love.
I found Matt's blog about six weeks after Liz died and followed it faithfully for a really long time.  Something about the horror of my own near-death with G and the raw emotion of what Matt wrote had me transfixed.  I was rooting for this guy.
He announced on his blog that he'd be writing a book and I knew as much as I didn't want to read it that I needed to.
And tonight I did.
In one three hour stretch.
I wish I could tell you there was a big happy ending.
But there can't be.
Liz is dead.
"Two Kisses for Maddy" is, at its heart, a love letter from Matt to Liz.  An amazing remembrance of a husband who was totally in love with his wife.  Just as she was.  A touching tribute that is so beautiful and honest it sometimes feels like an invasion of privacy to read it.
And yet, I did.
I couldn't put it down.
It's not all downer.
There are lots of triumphs among the tragedy.
Regular blog readers will remember some of the bigger milestones... and they're in the book.
What a gift for Maddy to have.  A touching, wonderful tribute to her mom, written by her dad.
As a reader, it's also nice to have some of the background to the stories he's written over the years.
This book is a heavy read.  Read it when you can embrace the emotions involved, when you can feel the love and cry and laugh.  I knew that even if I was up half the night I'd have to finish it in one sitting and I'm really glad I did.  I have to say though, I come away from"Two Kisses for Maddy" feeling refreshed, optimistic.  There are bad things that happen in life and while they change you and where you thought life was going, you can survive.
But seriously, my next book is going to be a damn comedy!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Another week of menus to plan and our weather is decidedly warmer.  Soon we'll (hopefully) eat fresh veggies right out of our garden. Oh caprise salad... I can taste you already!!
So let's see what we'll have this week:

Monday -  baked Chicken fingers, mashed potatoes, steamed veggies, salad
Tuesday - mushroom alfredo, green beans, garlic toast
Wednesday - Hawaiian haystacks
Thursday -  Carolyn Kebabs over herbed rice.
Friday - homemade mac and cheese (it was decent last week but I need to work on my cheese sauce.  The boys had NO idea about the cauliflower in it... so I'm going to keep working on this one!)
Saturday - homemade pizza and salads
Sunday - burgers and fries

It's going to be a fantastic week with lots of yummy, healthy food!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

In which I learn why we always wear gloves while gardening.

A beautiful weekend and no obligations means it's time to work in the yard.  And our yard needs work.  There's one spot I just don't even know what to do with besides set a fire to the area and hope for the best.  We mowed and weed-ate (weed-eated just doesn't seem like it could be right).  And I started pulling weeds out of our front flower beds.
When suddenly, a shot of pain right in the palm of my hand!
I thought I'd just poked a wood chip from our mulch until a second, stronger shot of pain made me scream out loud.  Then, I saw it.
A velvet ant walking away.  And I knew I was in trouble.  Velvet ants aren't ants at all.  They're wingless wasps.  And they're bad news.
I ran to my husband (screaming "owwwwwwwwwwww" the whole way) and stared doing the pain dance.  He was reinstalling the child safety seats into my car after they had become so dirty they grew voice boxes and asked me to please please wash them.  I was, at this point, in shock and was still dancing around the driveway.  I told my husband I'd been stung by "the bad red and black thing that looks like an ant but isn't an ant it's a wasp."  He looked at me and chuckled and went back about his work... until I showed him my hand which was now so swollen it looked disfigured.  All he could say was "that is going to hurt for a while."
And he wasn't kidding.
I was done for the day.
The pain of the stings made it so I couldn't move my hand, bend my fingers, touch the skin without actual tears falling from my eyes.  Ice made it manageable but as soon as the numbness wore off the pain came screaming back.
Hours of this.
Hours of me googling in hopes of finding a magic cure or anti-venom.
Finally, around 5pm I had to give up and take Benadryl.
And it did nothing.
At 8 (after consulting with medical professionals) I took 4 motrin and 1 vicodin.
And they did NOTHING.
Well, they did make me tired... but I would wake up wincing in pain every hour or so.
I slept with ice packs all over my hand.
And still, I couldn't use or bend it.
After one of my kids woke up throwing up around 4 - I was now holding a puking child with one hand and trying to not scream in pain because of the other.
I got to sleep it off for an hour and when I woke up it wasn't as bad.
Finally this afternoon I can use my hand.  It still hurts in that dull ache... the pain is down deep in my bones but I can deal with it.
So if you're reaching this blog because you're googling velvet ant sting or cow killer sting*  then here's the deal.
Our best guess is that the Velvet Ant stung me at least two possibly three times.
It hurts like nothing I've ever experienced... and I've had two c-sections and 3 root canals.
The searing pain lasted for nearly 24 hours and nothing that I tried came close to relieving the pain.  My hand was swollen to about twice it's normal size.
At nearly 36 hours post-sting the sting sites still hurt to the touch and are still visibly swollen but I have regained function of the hand.

The moral of the story:

** the velvet ant's nickname is the cow killer because of the sting being so painful people thought it was strong enough to kill a cow.  It's not.  But it is rated a 3 out of 4 on the sting pain scale... with a regular wasp being a 2 and a bee being a 1.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Trip report: Top Chef Atlanta!

Top Chef is my very favorite television show. 
I've seen every episode. 
Several times.
I've rooted and cheered for eight seasons.
Now, I've tasted their food.
My mom, sister and I decided to meet in Atlanta for a girls' weekend where we would go to Richard Blais's restaurant FLIP and Kevin Gillespie's restaurant Woodfire Grill.  As fate would have it, Blais won Top Chef All-Stars just before we went.  Even better, Blais is my favorite Top Chef contestant of all time.  Kevin comes in a close second.
My geek level for this trip was off.the.charts.
Atlanta is just four short hours from Charlotte.  I loaded up a road-trip play list on the iphone and headed out.  Mom, Katy and I met early afternoon and went straight to Flip. 

The goal was to taste as much as possible.  I apologize in advance that these are all iphone pics.

So we decided on ordering two burgers, all of the FLIP sides and two shakes (made with liquid nitrogen!) to share.

We chose the Pimento cheeseburger and the turkey burger.  YUM.  As in crazy yum.  The burgers were juicy and flavorful.  The turkey burger had sprouts and avocado on it (as well as other stuff).  The cheeseburger had thinly sliced bacon and (we all agreed) not enough pimento cheese.

The FLIP sides will haunt my dreams for years to come.  Let's start with the sweetbreads.  I was the only one willing to try them.  Sweetbreads are the cow's thymus gland.  They were deep fried and covered with a spicy buffalo sauce.  I liked the first three.  The texture got me on number four.  Plus, I was full.  Next, tempura onion rings served with a smoky ranch sauce.  Awesome.  Not a lot of onion involved though.  The french fries are fried in duck fat.  Need I say more?  Served with Richard's famous curried ketchup and smoked mayo.  Loved the smoked mayo.  Loved.
Now, let's talk about his fried pickles.
Pause for a moment to allow the angels to sing at their mere mention.
They make their own pickles.  Slightly sweet... but not sugary.  Fried perfectly.  Heaven.  I could have eaten a whole bucket of those fried pickles.

Now for the nitrogen shakes!  We got the burnt marshmallow/nutella shake and the krispe kreme shake.  Yum.
 When you're having the nutella shake... EAT IT WITH THE MARSHMALLOWS... don't just drink the liquid.  The burnt taste cuts the richness of the nutella.  Divine.  The krispe kreme shake tasted just like you'd expect.  I loved it because it was slightly salty.

Also - a Food Network star was there while we were.  Can you see her in this pic?  If you can tell me her name I'll kiss you square on the cheek... I can't remember it for the life of me.

Flip is a casual fun restaurant.  There are two Atlanta locations.  Buckhead and Midtown.  They also have Flip in Birmingham, Al.  If you have the chance GO!  They change the menu regularly though so all I can advise is be adventurous and you won't be disappointed.

The next night we had reservations at Woodfire Grill.  This is a fine dining restaurant and the absolute highlight of the weekend.  I've read tons of reviews online and I knew we wouldn't be let down.  I also knew that the restaurant is in a rough neighborhood.  Glad I knew that in advance.  Lots of gritty strip clubs near Woodfire Grill.  Don't let that deter you.
The restaurant offers complimentary valet parking so your experience really starts in the parking lot.  The valets were friendly with a "Welcome to Woodfire Grill" and I have to say I was so excited/nervous that I couldn't even respond.  Walking in, the first thing we noticed was the smell of the actual wood-fired grill.  It smells smoky and wonderful without smelling like the restaurant is burning down.  Think camp fire but in a beautiful restaurant.  We were seated right away (next to the grill!) and our waitress came right over with the menu.  We'd decided long ago to do the five-course tasting menu.  Our waitress suggested that we mix it up and have one of the three of us get the vegetarian tasting.  Genius.  It was like we got to taste 10 dishes!

It started with an amuse of compressed celery root, lemon marinated raisins, pecan aioli and micro celery.  The amuse is meant to be one perfect bite of food that sets the tone for the meal.  What made this so special was the pecan aioli with the raisins.  Sweet, delicious, it made is so excited for what was to come.

Next they brought a basket of homemade breads (three different kids) and a herbed butter.  I don't know if I can go back to regular butter.  This stuff made me want to lick the bowl.

Time for the first course.  We had "First of the season wild salmon tartare. red potatoes. english peas. ginger aioli. lemon vinaigrette. micro greens".
Apologies again for the bad picture.  I was in a hurry to eat! That blurry pic is mom's plate.  Turnips with grapefruit, aged balsamic and micro greens. (I don't have her souvenir menu so I can't give their exact description unfortunately)
We decided to do a Top Chef judging to compare vegetarian to regular and this course went to the meat-eaters.  I've never had salmon tartare before and it blew me away.

Second course. Pan roasted diver scallop, crispy red potatoes, local arugula, spicy tomato frito.
 Cabbage leaf stuffed with black eyed peas and other yummies.
My mom and sister voted for the vegetarian plate this course. I loved my scallop.  Perfectly cooked.  The rich flavor of the frito was balanced nicely by the crisp arugula.

Time for a palate cleanser.  Chilled potato soup, crispy country ham, chives.  Mom had the same thing minus the bacon.  I've never had a cold potato soup.  One shot of this was enough.  A bowl would have been too much.  Rich but tasty and a nice transition to the heavier items.

Third course.  What I came here for.  The pork belly (to be specific).  Wood grilled local quail and smoked pork belly.  roasted local turnips.  creamed sweet onion farro.  turnip salsa verde.
My eyes welled with tears when I took that first bite of quail.  Delicate but intensely flavored.   I've never had quail before and I don't know if I can again.  This was too perfect.  The pork belly was smoky and fatty and it melted in your mouth.  But for me the real star of the course was the farro and turnips.  I can still remember the taste... so new to me... and so instantly wonderful.  If I had to pick one dish to have again this would be it.
 My mom's third course was the first of the season pea risotto.  This was her absolute favorite dish of the night.  I believe it was my sister's favorite as well.  the amazing thing about this dish was how much better it tasted when you ate the risotto with the salad that came on top.  It cut the richness and really changed the whole flavor.

 Fourth Course:  Wood grilled grass-fed Colorado bison coated in pastrami spices.  Bubble and squeak, country ham, sweet mustard, pickled onion.  Yum.  One bite of bison, mustard and picked onion is all you need to know why this is genius.  Delicious.

The vegetarian fourth course was a bit of a snoozer.  Grilled mushrooms with salad on top.  It was very meh.  Bison won hands down.

Fifth and last course.  We were sad that our evening was coming to an end.  We had the chocolate bread pudding with Frangelico Bavarian, coffee ice cream, hazelnut cocoa nib crumble.  Now, I am not a coffee girl.  I was a little crest fallen when coffee ice cream came as part of the desert but I knew Kevin wouldn't lead us astray.  So I ate it.  And I'm so glad I did.   It tasted just like coffee smells.  Sweet and a bit bitter but combined with the richness of the chocolate bread pudding... um, yea.  It was fantastic.  The perfect follow to the rich bison.

 The vegetarian desert was notably lighter.  That's a rose sorbet on a (I believe) vanilla Bavarian with strawberries in strawberry water.  It was amazing.  Vegetarians win the desert course hands down.

I haven't even mentioned yet the impeccable service.
We made our reservations six weeks out and got one of three remaining tables so be sure to plan ahead.   But most of all, go!  This is an experience not to be missed!!
Best of all getting to spend so much time with my mom and sister was a real treat.  We're already talking about our next girls' weekend!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

I will post a full report of my amazing Top Chef weekend very soon.  I have pictures of what we ate and a full description.  It was fantastic.

But now I'm back to reality and that means Menu Plan Monday!

Monday:  baked chicken fingers, quinoa, veggies
Tuesday: Macaroni and cheese bake (and cauliflower), salad (meatless)
Wednesday: Hawaiian Haystacks
Thursday: Bowtie noodle spaghetti (new recipe that I'll ask if I can share.  It's CRAZY good)
Friday:  Homemade Pizzas (this will also be meatless!)
Saturday: steak, baked potatoes, salad.
Sunday: burgers and fries.

Two meatless meals in a week!!  A record!  I wonder if the family will notice?
Spring has arrived in North Carolina so we are spending a lot of time outside playing.  We need tasty, healthy dinner that don't take all day to prepare but are filling after a hard day of building forts, sliding, swinging and generally going nuts.  I think we've done a good job for the week.