Wednesday, September 30, 2009

One more reason I love cats.

I was feeling like a pretty good dog owner up until about an hour ago. Recently, I finally got the gist of using the pinch collar on Crumley which is helping us both out immensely. And earlier today we had a successful drop-off at the groomers. (Anytime I take the dogs out in public and everyone gets home in one piece it's a success.) While the big guy was gone, I took Iris on a walk and to the dog park for some play time. She was so happy to be an only child!

I should have known that Crumley might give me some trouble after I picked him up from the groomers tonight. Joe and I are always saying the once Crumley gets groomed he always turns into a different dog. When he has longer hair he is more like Eeyore and as soon as he gets a haircut he's this super zippy guy full of too much energy.

We made our way home without any problems and as I was unlocking the door (with the leash still around my wrist) Crumley took off lightening fast and bolted into the house. Of course I went with him and, in the process, the key broke off in our front door.


I tried toothpicks. Nada. I tried tweezers. Nada. I tried needle nose pliers. Nada.

Finally Joe came home and got the key out with the needle nose pliers - thank goodness! I think I'm going to take a hot bath and call it a night.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Recipe Roulette: Aunt Peggy's Old-Fashioned Meatloaf

I'm a big Paula Deen fan (who doesn't love recipes that contain lots of butter and cream?) so I was ecstatic to get one of her cookbooks for my birthday. In favor of my new cookbook, Nichole and I decided to use the random number generator this week to select our recipe from the book. The choice, meatloaf, was a pretty basic recipe and was a huge success. It was served with mashed potatoes for the perfect meal!

Aunt Peggy's Old-Fashioned Meatloaf contains:

1 pound ground beef
One 6-ounce can tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, tomato paste, onion, green pepper, oats, egg, salt and pepper. Shape the mixture into a loaf and place it in a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup, brown sugar and mustard. Slather the glaze on top of the meatloaf and bake for 1 hour or until the meatloaf is firm and cooked all the way through. Serve hot.

For Nichole's results, go here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What would Emily Post say?

My mother received a baby shower invitation in the mail this week addressed to her, my sister and me. This has happened approximately 50 times in the past ten years and each time I shake my head and roll my eyes. Just a couple months ago, my mom got one invitation that said, "Linda and girls." I understand and agree with the one-invitation addressed to mother and daughters when you are in high school (or younger). Or college. Or maybe, just maybe, if you're still living at home with your parents. But none of those things hold true for me. I am 32 years old. My sister will be 35 next month. When I am 50 will my mother still be getting mail addressed to "Linda and girls?"

Monday, September 21, 2009

Recipe Roulette: Gingered Pork Burgers

This week's recipe roulette served up gingered pork burgers. (Nichole's pick.) I only bought a pound of pork and this recipe still made 5 burgers. And I omitted the sauce (a mayonnaise and soy mixture) because I try to avoid mayonnaise whenever possible.

My husband LOVED this meal. He easily devoured two burgers immediately and raved about how great it was. I was less enthused. I am a purist and have rather simple tastes when it comes to my burgers. I prefer your traditional, all-American beef cheeseburger. Nothing more. Nothing less. And I am not a huge fan of the flavor combination with the ginger, pork, sesame oil, cilantro, etc. But it wasn't entirely up to me. The meal was a success - Joe loved it. The burgers cooked easily and there were no kitchen disasters. Yay for RR success!

Another reason the burgers may have gone over especially well is because we do not eat burgers at our house. I have a raw meat phobia which means I avoid touching it as much as possible. So making burgers is out of the question. We have had burgers maybe once or twice and I am not above buying the pre-made burgers at the grocery store. No sir. Thanks Nichole for making me stick my hands in a bowl of raw meat and make some burgers. Yuck.

Go here to see how Nichole's gingered pork burgers fared.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A day at the zoo

Cathy, Bryon and Adyson came to visit this weekend and we spent the day yesterday (along with Uncle Joe) at the Brookfield Zoo.

Also, on Friday I got stung (by a bee or a yellowjacket...I didn't see it) and my right hand has been swollen, itchy and painful to the touch ever since. I've been taking Benedryl, ibuprofen and using hydrocortisone cream on my hand but this sting has really done a number on me. I guess I shouldn't be surprised considering how violently my body reacts to a regular mosquito or bug bite. Yuck!

She squealed and giggled! Adyson had fun petting and feeding goats at the zoo.

The zoo was featuring its Dinosaurs Alive exhibit which showcased an array of dinosaurs to scale which also moved and made noises. Pretty neat!

Cathy and Adyson taking a break on one of the many animal statues.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A vaccuum break

My mom is starting her second round of radioactive iodine treatment tomorrow which will keep her at home again. At this point, we're really not sure how long that will be. (The last time she couldn't go to the store or church for six weeks for fear she could run into someone pregnant or any children. It was also awhile before she could be around the rest of the adult population, too.) She has stocked up on some essentials and is planning on even doing a little painting inside.

I'm trying something new tonight. In an effort to meet people, I'm joining some ladies from church for a bunco night. I do believe I have only met one of them - maybe two - before. I hope it's fun. I used to not consider myself to be shy but I actually feel like the older I get, the more shy I am. It's scary making new friends when you are 32! Wish me luck.

Back to cleaning. Laundry, vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, dusting - all in one day! Who am I?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

It seems that a lot of celebrities have passed away this summer but no passing has broken my heart like Patrick Swayze. He reminds me of growing up. No, seriously.

Maybe that's why every girl I know seems to have very strong emotions about Dirty Dancing. Come on, who didn't fantasize about vacationing in the Catskills with their parents only to be pulled out of the corner (by a hot, older guy) at the end-of-the-summer bash to dance on stage, front and center? I remember singing the soundtrack until I knew every word. And that famous lift? I practiced it over and over in my family's swimming pool. I never quite got the hang of it.

When the movie Ghost came out, I remember my sister going to see it on her first date. I was so excited, I waited up.

I can remember going to the dollar movie-theatre (back when there actually was one) to see Point Break with my sister and some of our girlfriends. We loved it. Later, I would watch it over and over on VHS.

And my favorite SNL skit of all-time? It's the one where Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley play wanna-be Chippendale dancers. Hands down, my favorite.

I guess to me, Patrick will always evoke some of those feelings. Some of the laughter, the excitement, times that were so long ago but so much fun.

Recipe Roulette: Caramel Apples

As soon as I saw this week's recipe, I knew it had the potential for disaster...and inducing diabetes. This recipe also had the potential to be great.

I think this is the first time I have ever used a candy thermometer which is one of the reasons why I thought it could be disasterous. Turns out, the caramel was great!! I only wish it were on top of ice cream instead of apples because I just couldn't seem to get the caramel to stay on the apples after I'd dipped them. Most of it just slid right off. I thought maybe I didn't let the caramel set up quite long enough because the last two apples I made ended up being my best two apples...but even they were far from normal.

My recommendation, when you want a caramel apple go buy one. Yes, they can be expensive but so is buying the ingredients to make your own when they don't quite turn out right. Read Nichole's take on this week's recipe roulette here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Weekend Adventures

(Please excuse the fuzzy cell phone picture.) I have had a very nice birthday weekend. I had amazing crab legs with my dear husband. I have a working car stereo for the first time in a couple years! I met up with an old friend that I haven't seen for much too long. Went bike riding at the Arboretum. Oh and my husband took me to see a Beatles tribute band. Don't judge.


Friday, September 11, 2009

32 and You Don't Know Squash

Yesterday was my birthday. My husband was working all day and had class until late last night so we are celebrating tonight with crab legs. (Well, I'll be celebrating with crab legs, he'll be celebrating with something else.) Anyway, all was not lost. I had an amazing birthday night with Alison at a cooking class/demonstration - You Don't Know Squash. (Well after I finally made it to the class. Was supposed to take about 45 minutes so I gave myself an hour and a half and it actually took about two hours!! CHICAGO TRAFFIC!!) Squash was probably not my preferred class to be featured on my birthday but it was actually so much fun. The menu: Southeast Asian Coconut Pumpkin Soup; Zucchini Pancakes with Citrus Creme Fraiche; Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage; Pumpkin Ginger Flan. We got to sit around a table and watch someone prepare and discuss a four-course meal and we got to eat!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

1. I recently bought the book, My Life in France. Instead of seeing a picture of Julia Child on the cover - it is HER autobiography - there is a picture of Meryl Streep dressed as Julia Child. Yes, I get this. Marketing for the movie, Julie and Julia. I just don't like it. I don't want the movie cover edition. I want the real edition but it's nowhere to be found. If you want to read the book, and buy it new, you have to get a picture of someone pretending to be Julia Child instead of just a picture of the real deal.

2. The season premier of Glee airs on Wednesday. If it's anything like the first episode, which first aired last spring, then I think it will definitely be my new favorite show! If you haven't seen the first episode, watch it online. You won't be disappointed. I already can't wait to buy the soundtrack which comes out later this month.

3. I was just reading that you can now download a "Facebook Friends Checker" which will inform you if anyone is ignoring your friend requests on Facebook or will let you know if someone has deleted you as a friend. Um, don't we have better things to do? Don't get me wrong, I love Facebook as much as the next person but I will admit I've become increasingly annoyed with it in recent weeks. It is fun to reconnect with people you haven't seen since high school graduation and I love being able to easily keep up with current friends but I find myself realizing lately that sometimes high school doesn't seem so far away...

3. Oprah is taping a show on Michigan Ave today. No tickets needed and anyone can go. When I first heard about it, I thought I would definitely go. Why not? Lots of celebrity guests and musicians and it would be a fun way to get out of the house for the day. Then I realized that they were opening the gates at noon but taping didn't start until 5pm...and would still last a few hours beyond that. That's a lot of standing. That's a lot of time to do nothing. And, of course, everyone I know in Chicago has a job - imagine that! So, no, I didn't head downtown for the festivities today. I think I feel old.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day Weekend Getaway

Terrie and Kirk graciously let Joe and I stay at their home in Door County, WI over the Labor Day weekend. We had such a great time enjoying the view of Lake Michigan and all that the area had to offer. Mostly it was fun to just be lazy in a beautiful setting!

This is Joe enjoying the view from where we were staying. We had breakfast one morning at Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant. See the goat on top of the grass roof?

A closer look at one of the many goats on top of the roof.

Here I am at Whitefish Dunes State Park.

Just on our way out and about for the morning stopping for some local dairy cows. And, yes, we came home with some cheese!

We also went to a traditional Wisconsin fish boil one evening at The White Gull Inn. We loved the hospitality and the atmosphere.

Recipe Roulette: Potato Crusted Fish

mango salsa

It's week two of Recipe Roulette and I'm not sure I'm feeling much better about the outcome. I picked this potato-crusted fish with mango salsa. (1) Like I mentioned last week, I love fish. I also like to sneak it in to our menu on a fairly regular basis. (2) I think I've only "dredged" something once. I never batter and fry stuff so I thought this would be another semi-new thing for me. (3) I was intrigued by the fact that instead of using bread crumbs to coat the fish, you use instant mashed potatoes! (4) I've never bought a mango. So there you have it - potato-crusted fish with mango salsa.

I didn't think the type of fish was all that important where the recipe was concerned so I used Orange Roughy. Also, I may have miscalculated my red pepper flakes - very spicy. I was proud of my "batter-job" but noticed that a lot of the breading started to fall off once it was in the pan so my pride quickly vanished. And as for the potato crust (I used cheesy instant potatoes) you couldn't really tell it was a potato least I couldn't tell.

The salsa - which was good - made way too much. I also couldn't find a "small" red onion so I used a large one instead. Not sure what I will do with a bowl full of leftover mango salsa but it looks pretty!

After the spicy fish, we decided to cool our tongues with a trip out for ice cream. Ice cream + spicy fish = no good. My husband quickly headed upstairs to look for the Maalox.

Read Nichole's take on this week's recipe roulette here.

One recipe. Two eager cooks. Two different outcomes. Each week follow Amy and Nichole into the unknown as they test a new recipe and wade through the results. This isn't your mother's cooking!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Seriously, I should be a detective

My back was as good as new before we moved. Since then, I feel like I've been hit by a mack truck every couple of days. Specifically, the right hand side of my body aches, usually in between my shoulder blades, and even today I woke up with my right hip hurting. I am a young 30-something trapped in the body of an old lady. Today, it dawned on me why this is happening. The only thing that has changed in the past month is our move. And since we moved, I've never gone more than a day or two without hurting and being in pain. What is different about our move? Before I was letting the dogs go outside by themselves on a stake in our yard. Now, we don't have a yard or a stake so I have to take the dogs outside on leashes several times a day. At 70 lbs, Crumley is extremely hard to handle. He jerks me around and sometimes my entire body seems to fly after him. It's 70 lbs of weight jerking my body. Today I was feeling pretty good. Then I took him outside where he spotted a man walking a pit-bull and begun to bark and race after the dog. It was everything I could do to contain him. And now, I feel like I've been hit by a truck. Ugh. What to do? Either Crumley is going to have to hold it all day or he needs to go to boarding school.

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