I love secrets

I got a lot of great gifts this year – I’m a lucky girl. Last night we did the final gift exchange with my family – there is absolutely no more gift giving and receiving after this. It’s over. Done. No more I tell you!

My little bitty sister gave me this really cool book I thought I’d share with you. It’s less of a cookbook and more of a nonfiction book about chefs. Right up my alley!

It’s full of beautiful photos and recipes, but it’s really storytelling about the chefs. What they do, why they do it and how they do it.

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It’s written with a sharp biting wit and doesn’t take itself too seriously, look at these hilarious quotes…

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The other cool thing about this book is all the wacky food the chefs make. In the world of Instagram and 24/7 food trucks – where everyone’s a foodie and Harissa and truffle oil are almost old school – I love reading about unusual food. Lebnah… Tasso … This is no everyday kimchi cookbook. There’s actually a line on page 267 that reads, “This is not a traditional baba au rhum, so purists, stand back!” Wtf?

Will I ever make it? Probably not. But I will sleep better knowing that there are people out there that do.

Ok – gotta go source some Kajmak cheese.

checking in…

So whatcha been up to? Hope you’ve been having some Christmas fun.  Here’s what we’ve been doing – non sequitur.

  • Started my Christmas shopping in September hoping to get ahead of the game, but the game won. I am still not done and it’s 2 days after Christmas.
  • Went to the ER the day before Christmas Eve (long scary story with a happy ending, all is good).
  • Made 12 dozen cookies. 12. Dozen. 144 cookies. Know what I learned? Even after making 144 cookies I still want to eat cookies.
  • Headed to NYC on Christmas Eve and came home with tons of great gifts and happy memories (and saw a truly ugly sweater, thanks Aunt Stacy).
  • Hosted a neighborhood gathering at our house a day after finishing my first week at a new job. It sounds stressful but it was so much fun. It was the perfect way to kick off our holiday fun – and I learned how to make eggnog. And I also learned that you can only drink about 2 cups of eggnog before wanting to throw-up!
  • Had some killer Chinese food on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Fa ra ra ra ra, ra, ra,ra ra.
  • Decided to cave in and get the kids a trampoline for Christmas. Look for future posts titled, “Why did we buy a trampoline?” and “Were we nuts when we bought the kids a trampoline? Yes!”.
  • Dropping off my girl for a session of winter camp today, sniff…sniff. It’s only 4 days but I really don’t like it when she’s gone.
  • Went to see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Don’t listen to all those Rotten Tomatoes. It’s a sweet, visual, musical movie. Does it have anything to do with the short story? Nope. But it does make you want to visit Greenland and Iceland – so there’s that.
  • Only watched A Christmas Story 3 to 8 times, much less than last year.
  • Santa brought our son some more inappropriate Xbox games. What can you do, that Santa is a crazy mofo.
  • My girl wanted a saxophone for Christmas and we decided to go for it. Instead of buying it outright (incase she changes her mind like the guitar. or the ukulele. or the harmonica. or the…) we decided to rent it from a music and arts store. What happened next was a tragedy of errors that resulted in us going to that store 4 times. I have only one thing to say to the 8 dudes that work there,” dudes, wearing a skinny tie and having a hipster beard only makes you look smart if you aren’t completely incompetent and stupid. You morons.” Sorry. That is all.
  • After we drop off my daughter at camp, we head directly to my parents house for Christmas Part Deux. Time to push aside the figgy pudding and make room for the garam masala.

To go with the bullets that make no linear sense – here’s some random photos from the past few days! I’m sorry the boy has no shirt on – but that’s how he rolls in the house. Just keepin’ it real. xoxo

 

Here’s me wrapped up in a blanket reading my new cookbook (Pioneer Woman!) and my son looking like an angel playing a killing game. I have guilt. Can you tell?

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Can you guess which plate of food is mine? Hint: it’s the one that burns going down.

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Even in her “ugly” sweater she looks beautiful!

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Here’s my two favorite men. I think next year they can switch places in the picture :-).

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She loved her saxophone, no thanks to the dopes at the music store. Sorry.

 

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This is my kids exchanging gifts they bought for each other. Is there anything better than that?

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To brine or not to brine…

All of a sudden, everyone is dissing the brine. It’s jumped the shark, they say. It doesn’t really impact the taste, they shout.
The tide has turned. The brining backlash has begun!
Ok not really. I’m just consumed by it tonight.
I’ve got turkey on the brain.
Here’s to a golden, juicy bird no matter what you do or don’t do to it!
I’m brining.
Just so you know.

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Our table runneth over

I don’t stress Thanksgiving anymore. Mainly because I do the exact same things year after year. I don’t experiment, I don’t jump at new fangled trends. I’ll never deep fry a turkey. I’m sure it’s great but it took me years to figure out how to cook it the normal way. You want your stuffing gluten free and made with kale? Sorry, no can do. Anyway – I’m good. I’ve got people bringing things – which is a huge help, and the past two years our youngest cousin has taken over the ricing of 20 pounds of potatoes! Done!
My point is. I don’t stress. Except when figuring out how to fit everyone at the table.
Here’s where I’m stuck. 15 people at one table is what I’m aiming for. But I have all the wrong tables and all the wrong chairs to make it happen.

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This is my original table. Isn’t it beautiful? Beautifully unfit for 15 people. But the other table is oddly shaped. And the chairs are too big.

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It’ll all work out.
As I was whining about the chairs and the table and the mismatch-hotmess of it all – I realized something and immediately stopped. I don’t ever want to have enough seats. I hope that every year our table gets bigger and bigger.

It’s like a slap in Thanksgiving’s face

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It’s sad when you pine for a blow-up turkey on the lawn. This is a house in a nearby ‘hood.
Can we take it one holiday at a time people? Can we? Please? Put up a light of two, but don’t break out snowmen.

I’m riding my pumpkins out until the very last day of November. Whether my pumpkins like it or not.

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I did it for Columbus!

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Pasta. Fresh sauce. Basil. Extra red pepper flakes. These are the loves of my life tonight.

Hope everyone had a tasty long weekend.

Monumental

We took a quick trip to DC after Easter – literally.  As in we cleaned up, packed leftovers, said goodbye to our family and hit the road.

My husband and I have both been to DC often, but just for work. From train to conference room to train. This was an all out tourist trip.

We landed in the  capital at the stroke of 11pm. After miles and miles and miles of traffic, here’s what we saw heading into our hotel. Pretty friggin cool.

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For the next two days we traveled by trolley, monument to monument, museum to museum.

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It was cherry blossom festival time but a late snow meant no blooming trees (actually there were a couple but we couldn’t see them with all the Japanese tourists surrounding them. True story).

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This is Julia Child’s kitchen. Recreated spoon by spoon at the Smithsonian. This was my favorite monument in all of DC. Cluttered. Utilitarian. Completely unMartha. It was awesome.

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Thanks Easter bunny.

Easter Mash Up

This is Pulaski’s meat market. Every year I trek there for kielbasa, ham, pierogies, etc. for our mix and match Easter. North American Catholic traditions, check! Eastern European homage to pork, check!

I wait my turn with old school Polish, Ukrainian, Czech couples. One of these things is not like the other. And that thing is me people.
I get my number and start the wait. I’m #93. They are on #18.
No, you can’t wander about the market while your number is called. There’s no side shopping while you wait. This is like the soup nazi for meat. Wait your turn. Know what you want. Do not hesitate.
But I’m not scared. This isn’t my first polka. I may look completely and utterly out of place. But I know exactly what to order.
2 1/2 hours later. Success.
It’s not Easter until my Subaru smells like kielbasa.

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5 Star Problems but a **** ain’t one

I have a problem.

A Tripadvisor problem.

It happens every year.

At about this time, my mind and body starts craving/dreaming/needing a vacation. Somewhere different. Preferably to a place where trains are called metros and where you can stay in a flat instead of an apartment. Or maybe a tropical turquoise retreat where I can drink from a coconut and lay on beach.

A place where I can be Vacation Mom and Vacation Wife. The one that doesn’t worry and nag and yell and order. The one that lets you buy obscenely pricey gum from the gift shop and stay up until you feel like falling asleep. The one that doesn’t care if anyone has brushed their teeth or combed their hair. She’s awesome. I miss her.

But in order to transform into this groovy, go-with-the-flow chick we need to get the hell out of dodge first.

And in order to do that we need to find a place to go.

And every time we find a place I am compelled to that damn website to check out the reviews.

It never ends well for me.

Everyone has an opinion, and I read every last one.

MaryS from Wichita thinks the rooms at a certain resort in Puerto Rico aren’t clean enough.

George from New Jersey didn’t like any of the restaurants but loved the pool at his hotel in Hawaii.

clevergirl8 from Texas loved Peru but had a horrible time with customs at the airport.

I try to focus on just the positive. You can’t make everyone happy, I say to myself.

But then I toss and turn and doubt. And doubt.

Are people just really really picky?

I realize that I could never have been one of those people backpacking through Europe or Asia or Idaho. I need research. Data. Background. I need to know that others have gone before me and had a good time. Or not.

So we’ll make our plans for vacation and it’ll be very exciting, but deep down I’ll be thinking about MikeP from Albany, who thought Dublin was beautiful except for the hotel concierge who was a bit grumpy the whole time.

I give Tripadvisor.com 3 out of 5 stars. Lots of consumer information which usually results in the firm knowledge that no matter where you are going or what you are doing – it could have been better somewhere else.

Faux Baking

It’s not really faux.
You do turn an oven on.
Our wonderful neighbors make this every year and I promptly stole the recipe.
Actually it’s more of a trick than a recipe.
But it’s so good and it’s so easy.
Here’s what you need 3 ingredients:
Small pretzels, Hershey kisses, and M&Ms.

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Preheat your oven to 175. See, told you it was baking.
Then spread your pretzels out on a sheet and put a kiss on top.

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Bake for 4 minutes and take out.
Add an M&M and smush down. Smushing is a technical baking term. Let them cool and done!

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Trust me, your people will be happy. Your people will love you. More. Finally.

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