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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Preparing for GREEN living.....

Bring on my March Madness! 

Only 17 days to get St. Patrick's Day-READY! 





It is very hard to believe that March is so on our doorstep that we can feel it...... 
For me, that means that the Christmas holidays are a distant memory, Valentine's Day and all the romantic hoopla (or nonhoopla) is over and  there's a green party in the very near future!
For anyone who knows me or  has read my blog for any length of time knows that I get FULLY IMMERSED into the St. Patrick's Day spirit. 
 I do the parade stuff, the Irish bands, the Irish sing-alongs, the green hair...... yes, I do it all.
It's as much of a tradition that dates back to my childhood as it is a huge release for me.
The holiday is not a lot of work for me entertaining-wise, I'm not planning menus or cooking (Irish cooking is not a big thing!), I don't have to buy gifts or make any special plans....it's just a day to do the things that bring me pleasure that one day of the year.  
I have a pack of friends who woop it up with me on parade day and then I have a group of dear St. Patrick's Day friends that I only see on parade day.  We've been doing the same routine for years---going to the same bars, eating at the same places, seeing the same bands.  
As much as it is a helluva good time, there's also something very comforting about it all.  
When March arrives, my mind turns to all things GREEN.....(well, not green beer....ugh!)....
It's as if a great sense of relief comes over me. 
I take a huge deep breath.  
My version of living GREEN.....





Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mid-week, mid-winter, mid-life.....

I CAN'T WAIT UNTIL _____________________!!!!! 
(fill in the blank)

How many times have you said or thought....I can't wait until the weekend, the summer, my vacation, my birthday, when I can retire, etc.....?????
Come on, admit it.....we all look forward to things and get excited about things and look forward to special times and milestones or we just can't wait for a time to relax and take it easy or see the sunshine....   
Then, there are times we even have those thoughts or utter those words because we just want to get past the moment or the day or the week that we are currently in....

The reality of any of that thinking is that we are wishing away time.  
We all do it.  Please say you do it too. 
Living in the moment is sometimes awfully hard.  
Especially when you are having one of those weeks that just drain the life out of you.
I try.  I really do.  I try NOT to wish away time.  
I try.  I really do.  I try to live in the moment. 
But, sometimes the moment is just too damn complicated to live in!
Looking toward the future is much easier!
That is the way I am feeling today.
Yesterday was just one issue after the other being hurled in my path.
If it wasn't a pesky work issue, it was the annoyance of dealing with the perils of my sorority girl while trying to juggle those work issues or the snafus with my husband's travel schedule while trying to figure out what-the-hell-to-do-about-that-other-thing-we-are-committed-to or the fact that I somehow didn't believe that hotels would fill up a year ahead of time for the weekend of my sorority girl's graduation so now we might have to stay in some podunk town in some podunk hotel about 30 miles away and everyone is upset..
Add that to my inability to say NO to anyone who asks for something from me  plus my normal dealings with too much work at work, my father's needs and everything else that needs to happen in the course of living life in Judiland AND I just wanted to pull the covers over my head today and sleep straight through to the weekend.....
But, I tried telling myself that if I did that, I might just miss something BIG, something so AMAZING and WONDERFUL that it would change my ENTIRE life.....
So, I threw off the covers and yanked my body out of bed and trotted down to make a cup of tea and do a blog posting......
Optimism is a trait that I don't want to ever lose no matter how impossible life seems....
 

Perhaps something will happen today that will CHANGE MY LIFE.....
Now I'm starting to panic.
DO I REALLY WANT MY LIFE TO CHANGE?

Oh the perils of being an optimist!  













Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pantspeak......


My pants can be quite the chatterboxes.  Perhaps they kissed the Blarney Stone.....

Sometimes the scale is not the voice of authority.
Sometimes you just have let your pants do the talking.....
at least that's the way I have been trying to live.....
At the moment, my scale is telling me that I am up 6 pounds from my "maintenance" weight of a 115 pound weight loss. 
To be honest--6 pounds on the scale does not freak me out when I know that my schedule as of late has got me into some bad habits--- more snacking, totelling more than just tea a few times a week and not being as responsible with packing lunches and planning snacks plus not adhering as strictly to my walking regiment.  Not to mention all the meals in restaurants and at parties.....
I'm fully ready and able to chisel those 6 pounds off of me by going back to my good behavior.
Yet, I am plagued by the question.....can I count on 6 pounds to be the difference in how my pants feel?
It's causing quite a condundrum for me. 
Why?
Because even though I do weigh myself regularly, I made a promise to myself that I would stop my scale whore ways and let my clothes tell me how things were going. 
My weight is so flighty that I can be one weight one day and a full 4 pounds different the very next day.  So, I had to stop all the scale hopping and try to find a different way to gauge how I was doing with maintaining my weight.  
But, now that I am looking at the scale along with assessing my pants comfort,  my head is spinning. 
Now, I am wondering if things are just shifting around on my body......due to...GULP.....middle age?
Or, now that my weight loss phase is over, is my body just readjusting and putting fat where my body naturally puts all of its fat.....as in my belly?
Am I deluding myself by believing that my body is naturally shifting weight around?
Will I be able to comfortably wear my pants if I return to my healthier lifestyle and get rid of those 6 pounds?

I just don't know......but I have to find out!  

I have a history of my body and the scale telling different stories. 
I will freely admit that there were times during my weight loss days when I found myself shocked and perhaps just a wee bit concerned.... yet overjoyed and excited..... that my pants were feeling a tad bit loose.   Even when the scale did not report any significant loss. 
Those sudden spurts of getting smaller didn't happen in direct correlation to a certain amount of weight.  I would see a loss on the scale but no difference in my pants.   The difference in my pants was a delayed reaction.....
So, I am sure you can understand why I find myself  plagued......
There were days when I knew I had misbehaved by eating just a few too many treats yet my pants showed mercy and did not fight with me when I went to zipper them or they didn't  make me feel like a sausage all day long......
Oh how I loved those time when I somehow outsmarted my pants. 
Yes, those were the days.....the LOSING WEIGHT DAYS.

Now that I have been living in maintenance land for going on 3.5 years, can I still count on my pants? 


Monday, February 25, 2013

How did they do that?

.....get into those dresses, I mean......
That always seems to be the question......


Like the rest of the celebrity, fashion-obsessed world, I watched the Oscars last night.   We went to a pre-award red carpet party at one of our favorite local places to benefit our neighborhood theater.  However, since it was a Sunday night and we had quite enough partying this past weekend and since Carmen had a very early hit-the-road this morning,  we wanted to spend Oscar night in our own living room with our own drinks and snacks---in our comfy clothes, lounging around without pretense.  So, we dressed up a bit,  stopped in for a drink and a few nibbles and to chat with some friends.  We watched the red carpet arrivals show  and then we high tailed it home to put on our not-so-elegant lounge wear, mix up our drinks, get our snacks out and curl up with our blankets ......
It was definitely the right way to celebrate the night.   Watching the celebrities arrive, strutting their perfect bodies in their fabulous fashions, dripping in jewels  was best done with normal people in a bar instead of sitting home wearing leggins, a big t-shirt and an oversized sweater vest, eating stuffed dates wrapped in bacon.   It made it all so much easier to watch the show itself as I lounged on the couch in my leggins and big -tshirt and oversized sweater vest eating those yummy stuffed dates wrapped in bacon.  Watching the show itself was so much easier remembering all of the comments some gals pals and I (and lots of others as well!) shared as we huddled around our Hollywoodesquey cocktails at the end of the bar, watching the svelte stars arrive at the Academy Awards. 
What's with all these skinny bitches?   I heard a woman across the bar ask her girlfriend....
Didn't she eat for the past 6 weeks?  My friend hissed as we watched yet another actress glide across the red carpet in her skin hugging size ZERO......
Can we all give Adele and Octavia Harris a standing ovation?  My other friend enthusiastically bellowed as she fist punched, standing on the rungs of her bar stool trying to rally everyone to support two beautiful not-size-zero starlets...
But, the most-asked question of the night amongst the normal women at The Walnut Grill had to be one version or another of how in the hell those celebs got into their gowns....
I'm still wondering about that this morning......
Just another DEEP MONDAY......

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Eat, drink and walk the red carpet.......

Just another weekend in Judiland.......

The decadent cake Chef Len prepared for us.....chocolate raspberry mousse cake. Can you say OMG?  OMG!


Last night was our annual Chef's Table night when we have one of our favorite chef's---Chef Len--cook a fabulous gourmet meal for a group of friends.  As always, he put together a great night of yummy wines and downright amazing food while sharing his culinary adventures as he whipped everything up for us.  He puts on such a showstopper that we never want to night to end.  Each year tops the previous one.  This year, our group grew quite a bit.  The word is out.....
What started out four years ago as Carmen wanting to do something special for Valentine's Day by having Chef Len cook for us and another couple (my college roomie and her husband) has turned into quite the event.  It's definitely one of my favorite things we do each year.  Everything is absolutely stunning....from the ambiance to the conversation to the food to the wine and spirits. 
I  am more than a wee bit sad that it's over for another year.....
Last night, as we lingered over a perfect  after dinner drink consisting of apricot brandy, triple sec and lime juice,  I got to thinking about how food draws people together in such a special way and wondered aloud if good food has a certain magic to it or if it's not about the food at all.  Of course, as soon as those words came out of my mouth, I wanted to take them back.  Questioning the magic of good food is not something you want to do at a chef's table after he has cooked a magnificent meal for you....
Thankfully, I wasn't escorted out right then and there. 
Instead, it sparked a lively conversation that left me even more appreciative of my Lapband than I thought possible.  The fact that I could truly enjoy food openly without a hint of shame and participate in the feeling of community that sharing food brings and that I was not completely transfixed on eating or on the worry that everyone was watching me eat is a giftA gift that my Lapband gave me.  No one can understand that unless they too lived in a world where food and their relationship with food dominated every crevice of their thoughts......I don't want to ever forget what it was like to love to eat so much that I couldn't enjoy the food.....
And, that gift will serve me well again today as we get ready to walk the red carpet with all of our celebrity friends in their stunning clothes and jewels and  as we sip pretty cocktails while we cast our ballots for our favorite movies and stars and cheer the winners while nibbling on delightful morsels and delectable treats.....

Yes, it's just another award season night on my couch.....

White Diamond Cocktail
(since I won a drawing at martini night this past week that included a big, big bottle of White Diamond Vodka.....this is our Oscar night drink!)
2 oz White Diamond Vodka
1 oz Amaretto
1/2 oz melon liquer
1/2 oz peach schnapps
3 oz Orange juice
garnish with a slice of orange and raspberries

Bacon Parmesean Stuffed Dates
(omg....these are easy and scrumptious!)

18 large dates, preferably slit lengthwise and pitted
18 pieces good-quality Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano, each about 1 by 1/4 inch
6  slices good-quality smoked bacon, cut crosswise into thirds
Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Insert a piece of Parmesan into each date. Then, wrap each date with 1 piece of bacon, securing it with  a wooden toothpick.
Arrange the dates 1 inch apart in a shallow baking pan. Bake for 5 minutes. Then, using tongs, turn the dates over. Continue baking until the bacon is crisp, 5 to 6 minutes longer.
With the tongs, transfer the dates to paper towels to drain, carefully patting them dry with more paper    towels. Serve immediately.

Hot Crab Dip in a Bread Bowl
(I got this recipe on Allrecipes a few years ago....it's always a hit!)
Ingredients:
11 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 small onion, finely chopped
5 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 (6 ounce) cans crabmeat, drained and
flaked
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 (1 pound) loaf round, crusty Italian
bread
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, onion, mayonnaise, crabmeat, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Spread mixture into a 1 quart baking dish.
3. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven. While the dip is baking, cut a circle in the top of the bread, and scoop out the inside to create a bread bowl. Tear the removed bread into pieces for dipping.
4. Remove baked crab dip from the oven, and stir well. Spoon the mixture into the hollowed out loaf. Place bread bowl and chunks of bread on a medium baking sheet, and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Serve hot. 
Truffle and Parmesan Popcorn
(it's the movies.....gotta have popcorn! Glam it up!)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
2 teaspoons black truffle oil
 Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 bag microwave popcorn, popped as directed


In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and chives. Saute until the butter is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and add the truffle oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the popcorn into a large bowl and pour over the truffled butter and sprinkle in the Parmesan. Toss well to combine and serve immediately.


And, the OSCAR goes to........

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pantry Challenge--Week 3 in Review

Here's the deal----my pantry and my fridge and my freezer are STILL  filled to the brim. 
Part of the problem is that I have not been home to do much cooking. 
The cooking I have done has been mostly pulling things I already made out of my freezer.
Thus, no creative recipes are needed.  Just thaw, heat and serve.
Not exactly what I had in mind when this whole thing started...... I really imagined myself like those cooks on TV who are given a basket of odd items to use and they compete against each other with the recipes and menus they come up with using the ingredients in their baskets.    
Now, that sounded oh so fun.....
 
When does the fun start????



Clearly, I picked the wrong month to declare that I am doing this challenge.
Leaving me to wonder....when would be the right month? 
My guess is that there's never a good time---it's probably something I should be doing all the time. 

Just so that you don't leave empty handed, I do have one recipe to share with you that I whipped up last weekend when I managed to break away from my dad duty for a Saturday late morning to early evening date with my husband.   We kicked off the day at a little place we had wanted to try during Mardi Gras----a New Orlean's themed restaurant in the  Market Square area of Pittsburgh---Nola.  Although we enjoyed the atmosphere, our sever was very fun and their drinks were creative (Carmen had a Mango-Jalepeno martini which he enjoyed), the food was so-so.  It was a little disappointing since this particular restaurant took the space where one of our all time favorite Market Square establishments sat for years---1902 Tavern.   We have so many special memories from that place.....
I guess we just expected too much.  
After our lunch, we ventured into another of our favorite  neighborhoods---Shadyside-- where it was too cold to stroll around Walnut Avenue.  So, I slinked into one of my shoe love places and then stopped into my newest addiction--L'Occtaine--while Carmen checked out the vodka selection at one of our hangouts from yesteryears--Cappy's.  When I was done with my excursion,  I met up with him for a quick drink.  Thankfully, that place retained all the charm we remembered so it sort of  made up for our disappointment over our lunch restaurant selection.  After we soaked in the ambiance, recalled some fun times we had there and chatted with the bartender, we made our way to another end of town to catch a movie---Argo.   We both loved it.  I highly recommend it.  We had thought we would stop somewhere for a light dinner on the way back to my sister's (where I had been staying with my dad) but I was missing the comfort of our home and so we decided to go home, light a fire, shake some martinis, whip up a light dinner and just relax......
My  Version of Caprese Flatbread
Yes, I had everything on hand to make this  very yummy treat! 

Everything below is from Trader Joe's

*1 Lavash Flatbread
*1/2 cup of basil marinara
*2 slices of fresh mozzarella (cut in half)
*Generous handful of shredded 4 Cheese Italian
*4-5 Basil leaves (torn)
Spread all ingredients on flatbread like you would assemble a pizza.  Place it on a lightly greased pan or a pizza stone and bake for about 10 minutes on 500.  Keep an eye on it..... 






TGIF!!!!!!

 

 




Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lessons from a sandwich......

You can learn a lot from a sandwich......


Even 5.5 years into this Lapband thing, I have to be reminded of a few things every now and then.

The other night, out of sheer exhaustion and a whole lotta  self pity, as I raced through snarled traffic and snow flakes flying,  I decided NOT to cook dinner for my father.  
Call me a lousy daughter but listen up.....
It was cold, I was running late getting out of the office, I had a caregiver to relieve,  traffic was lousy, I was on my 4th day of disrupted sleep, I had a few hours of office work to finish up that night, I realized that I had forgot to pack a certain outfit enhancing accessory for the following day and I just didn't feel like cooking in a kitchen that wasn't mine.   Oh and that pricey new lipstick that promised never to fade had faded.  
So, you get it....
On my way to my sister's to do my daughterly duty, I pass by several fast food places.  But, trying to be mindful of the fact that my father's ankles were swelling at an alarming rate because I had been feeding him all the wrong stuff (which he loves!) , I opted to go to Panera to pick up something just a tad more healthy for him.  So, I called the caregiver and told her I'd be late and yes I know I owed her extra money for her trouble and I headed to Panera....
As I stood in line, I decided that my dad would do best with a soup and sandwich combo.....half a sandwich and a cup of soup. 
As I was reading the  menu board,  I was hit with an overwhelming craving for a tuna salad sandwich on a soft bread..... 
I have not had a sandwich in years......probably close to 5 years to be exact.  Even before that,  during those early Lapband days, when I did try to have a sandwich, things got ugly didn't go all that well.  Yes, I was trying to eat the entire sandwich...I didn't understand the idea of just a few bites....
After that....BAN THE SANDWICH! 
So, for the past 5 years,  I have stayed as far away from sandwiches as possible.  I might have tried grilled cheese a few times and I might have had a PBJ on toast once or twice  but never, ever, ever, ever a sandwich with soft bread. 
But, that sandwich was yelling my name from behind the counter.  And, before I knew it, I heard myself ordering that sandwich.....

Okay, so it appears that I  CAN EAT A HALF A TUNA SALAD SANDWICH ON SOFT BREAD.  
Sorry, I didn't mean to yell in all CAPS!
But, here's the beauty of it all..... after I finished the half of sandwich.....I was 100% full  and completely satisfied.  
The rest of the night, I didn't go scrounging for little snacks in my sister's pantry or raid her fridge for just a little something or ransack her cheese drawer for a little extra protein.
And, even better (or so I thought!)....I was left with another half of sandwich for the next days's lunch. 
Well, that was until my father noticed I wasn't eating the other half of my sandwich and said that he wanted to eat it.  So, I gave it to him. 

One of the things that is so easy to forget about being banded is that you got your band to limit your intake.....NOT to limit the  foods you eat. 
A  Lapband provides restriction so that you don't eat the massive quantities of food that your body allowed you to eat before you got your band.  
ISN'T THAT WHY YOU GOT YOUR BAND?
Yep, me too.  
Here's what we need to remember.  No, here's what we need to carve into our brains..... 
YOU CAN EAT FROM ALL FOOD GROUPS!  
YOU CAN EAT THE FOODS YOU ALWAYS ENJOYED.  
YOU CAN ENJOY YOUR MEALS.   
And, you should.   
Doesn't that sound so much better than you can never eat a tuna salad sandwich or pasta or FILL IN THE BLANK again?
YES!!!!  
Naturally, it's always good to choose wisely---with health and nutrition as your major focus.
But, so many times---we (myself as the #1 offender) lead ourselves to believe that we really have to stay away from certain foods.  FOREVER.
That sounds pretty terrible....doesn't it? 
When we only eat those foods that are band friendly (and we ALL know what foods they are)...aka known as foods that go right through that band with no problem....no matter what quantity you so desire.......WE ARE COMMITTING A BAND SIN & WE ARE DISRESPECTING THE GIFT OF THE BAND!
And, we wonder why we are having a hard time controlling our weight!
Guess what?  Calories are calories.  
Just because creamy soups and chocolate and loaded mashed potatoes go right through my band, that doesn't mean they don't count.  Yes, I knew that.  Why didn't I know that?

And, even though I do enjoy creamy soups and chocolate and loaded mashed potatoes, there are a million other things I enjoy more.  
So, why not eat the things I enjoy more?
BINGO!

Now, just to be sure that half a tuna sandwich thing was not anomaly, I decided to try it again.
I find it's always safest to conduct sufficient research before really saying BINGO.  
So, yesterday, we had a little social luncheon at the office where they offered a table full of snacky foods and sweets in the conference room.  Most of the offerings were very Lapband friendly....for me at least.  I could have definitely had a very calorie laden lunch eating from the table. 
However, before venturing into the conference room to join the crew, I decided to test out my tuna salad sandwich thing.   I went to the food court and ordered a tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat with lettuce and tomato.   I asked the server to wrap each half separately.  One for yesterday and one for today.... 
I figured the key to my little experiment was to see if after I ate my half a sandwich if I was inclined to eat any of the snacks and sweets in front of me.  
Since these things were right smack in front of my face, I was curious what I would do.....
Would I reach for the chips and the dips or the brownies a piece of the cherry pie after I ate my half of a sandwich?

 Thankfully, the tuna salad sandwich experiment worked like a charm.
As everyone chatted and snacked and complained about all the calories they were consuming, I happily indulged in my fabulous tuna salad sandwich.  I wanted for nothing more.
YIPPEE! 
Hold on a minute.....the experiment is not over.  It took an unexpected and unplanned-for turn.....
After the little social activity was over, all the leftovers were transported to the kitchen.....where they remained the entire rest of the day.  No one would have seen me eat a brownie while I was in there getting more water or ice or heating up my tea.....
But, I didn't indulge.
As a matter of fact, even when I had to clean up the kitchen (since it's my turn this week), I didn't touch a single morsel that was leftover.....

LESSON LEARNED.....


Hello Sandwich.....come to MAMA!








 








Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Let me entertain you.......

Although my house and my body have not completely recovered from the November to January holiday hoopla, I'm at it again.
The menu planning, the recipe hunt, the table settings, the mood, the music, the drinks, the making myself just a little bit crazy about it all....just so that I can be crowned.......


At the moment, I am caring for my father full time (with the help of a caregiver so I can go to work!) so having something completely brain numbing to occupy my mind (besides work and parental care) is a good thing......  

In reality, I'm doing you (but mostly me!) a big favor here.....considering that I don't think you want to hear about (and I don't really want to recount it all!) my latest adventures with my father's swollen ankles and his demands for special treats and the daily wranglings of a day in my work life, I figured I'd give you a little peek into what's going on in Judiland that has nothing to do with either.....

Here we go....
I'm starting to obsess about seriously think about a business entertaining event for my husband that I was going to do over the holidays but just became entirely too overwhelmed to do take on.....
My work-is-my-life husband is now anxious to get this event underway.
Just when I thought I managed to escape it.......he reminds me.
Of course, I had to remind him that we also have to consider the fact that we have our annual  Easter Eve wine tasting to host and that we have our son coming into town for an alumni event along with some guests in mid-April plus we have been talking about having a cocktail party type of thing to honor our new college graduate come May.
And, of course, we've got the St. Patrick's Day  high holy days wedged in there....
What that means is that  HIS WORK-RELATED event has to be strategically placed somewhere in between all of that....and the regular everyday shit stuff....

Alright, just when you thought I was going to give you a run down about just how busy we are partying up a storm and just when you decided that maybe you didn't want to hear how hard it is to party party party party  to read  any further.....have no fear.  I'm done.
 I only presented all that text to give you the background story to explain why I've been toiling into the night searching for the best home entertaining bloggers so I can steal their ideas to uncover their latest and greatest tips and scouring the internet and quizzing anyone who will take my call after 10 pm on tried-and-true ideas  for  hosting a quasi-elegant party (as in....no paper or plastic ware) with the greatest of ease while being budget minded.....
THE GREATEST OF EASE WHILE BEING BUDGET MINDED?
Well, that's what some of my old and new entertaining guru friends are telling me.
And, I am choosing to believe them.  It makes life so much easier that way.  


Did you know.....
*if you want to serve your guests in style--with nice looking, matching dishes and glassware, you don't have to spend a fortune?  The DollarTree can save you tons!  The DollarTree---who knew??? And, you don't have to visit every DollarTree store within a 50 mile radius to  amass coordinated dishes and goblets and glasses for 24 or more people!  You can order cases online!  I learned that new trick from a very stylish blogger.....The Reluctant EntertainerHonest-to-goodness, her blog is so full of great ideas that I have lost oodles of sleep thanks to her!   I followed her guidance and ordered cases of their Elegant Cut Glass dishes, bowls, goblets and glasses. (don't tell anyone but I also ordered a case of the blue wine goblets for summer cocktails...) They are being shipped to my local DollarTree at no cost!  Even better! You might want to do yourself a favor and check out her blog to see how nice a table looks using these very versatile  cut crystal pieces.  I'm beyond thrilled that I can use these for all kinds of entertaining!  And, I have so many ideas on how I can dress them up for any occasion.....my mind is on fire....
*that Pinterest is addictive?  Yes, I am sure you did.  And, if you didn't.....if you click on that link, you will soon find out! There are so many amazing  easy-to-do, budget friendly, elegant and why-didn't-I-think-of-that table scapes, party ideas and recipes that my head is just swimming with ideas.  I mean....really....will I ever sleep?  
*that you don't have to deal with Sterno or keeping things in your oven or on your stove top to keep things warm?  Yes, that's right.  I found this amazing product, and this one and this one  over the holidays and they saved my sanity and my hostess-with-the-mostessessness on several occasions.  Although these things might be a bit of an investment all at once, I can guarantee you that you will be patting yourself on the back and doing cartwheels each time you whip them out for a party.  I bought these items in November and so far I have used them about a dozen times and have lent them out to friends and family probably about a dozen more times.  Just sayin'
*that you don't have to keep repeating what's on the buffet line to every Tom, Dick, Harry, Mary and Sally?   You can get yourself a set of these cheapy little do-hickeys to place in front of each item on your menu.  Just make sure your guests can read.....
* that if you feel the need to hire help, you shouldn't do it for the entire party.....just for the last few hours?   That's when you need it the most (you're tired, you've had a few drinks, there's dirty dishes, you just feel like letting loose!).   So, set aside $100 of your party budget and find someone you trust who needs an extra $100 (the son or daughter of a friend...just not the son or daughter of anyone who is at the party!) and ask them to come about 2 hours into the party.   It will be an instant ahhhhhhh-thank you-God moment....
*speaking of setting aside a few extra bucks......may I suggest paying a professional to clean for you the day before the event?  You don't need the entire house cleaned.  Just the areas you will be using.  Do some research and find someone who can do it within your budget.  I got this tip from my friend who runs a successful little cleaning service in our area.  She was so right!  So, now I figure this mini-clean into my entire budget and plan.  I set aside $60 for day-before-entertaining cleaning....that gets me what I need.  I make a must-do list and say "do what you can for $60!"   It's a small price to pay for some peace of mind and the removal of dust bunnies.....
*that there is math involved in entertaining?   I am what you would call an overcooker.   Shocking to hear, I know!  But, before you shake your finger at me for my overcooking ways, let me also tell you another truth.  I am not good at math.  Put those two together and what you've got is a helluvalota leftovers.   And waste.  This blogger helped me to see the light.   Plus, she made it elementary enough for even me to comprehend.  I'm studying it each night!   Now, I just need to tell myself that we won't run out of food....
*that when you get dressed to entertain at home, you should dress like you are going to a party?   Yes, I know it's hard!  But, since entertaining is about your guests, it's important to consider them!  No guest wants to see their hosts dressed like servants or in their working-at-home clothes! It just doesn't feel right!   Yes, I read that somewhere a long time ago.  But, to read in black-and-white that I was right felt pretty damn liberating!   I think I always knew it!   Ever since I read that little piece of advice several years ago, it  formally validated my feelings of discomfort when the host (s) of a party or a holiday or a dinner "looked" as though they were "working" instead of "entertaining".  It was always a pet peeve of mine.  But, I never had the guts to tell anyone!
So, how to you avoid looking like a kitchen witch when you just cooked up a storm, screamed at your husband a few  hundred times, had a few super major melt downs and your marinara sauce just splashed all over you?  
First of all, give yourself enough time before the clock strikes PARTY.   Go ahead and do all the messy stuff wearing your comfy, messy clothes.  Then,  take a shower, put on your party clothes and accessories, do your hair and put your make up on after that stuff is all done.  And, you make sure you have a cute little apron to cover your nice outfit while you wrap up the last minute details.  And, make sure that the cute little apron is one you wouldn't mind being caught in should a few guests arrive a bit early for the party!  I prefer the full aprons (to cover as much as possible!).  I have great luck finding them at great prices at Marshall's, TJ Maxx, Ross and on clearance at Anthropologie.   In fact, one of my favorite gifts to give is a cute apron....

How do you entertain with ease when you need to be comfy all over?
First rule of thumb is to make sure you have a few pair of amazing party shoes that you can stand in all night long.   I typically choose shoes that are either darn cute and comfy.....like these (I have them in a few colors/prints) or these (I got them for a steal at TJ Maxx) or I choose   "conversation" shoes that I love ......like these (the most comfy shoes ever ever) or these (this brand is amazing....artistic and comfy comfy!) or  a pair of my stand-by Dansko's if (and ONLY if...) they  happen to go with what I am wearing.....
Second, make sure you have a few entertaining "uniforms" that are either playful, elegant, laid-back or woo-hoo....depending on the theme or feel of your party.   One of my all time favorite go-to's are   Traveler's from Chico's......comfort and style that can dressed up or down with accessories and can usually fit into any scenario......  
 Of course, everyone has their own favorite brands for either fit or style when it comes to shoes and clothes but trust me....with a little fashion pre-planning.....you can be the bell of your own ball! 
 

Okay, I think I have sufficiently cleared my brain.....time to kick start another very ENTERTAINING day....












Monday, February 18, 2013

Yes, I'm working today.......

But, I had to take a moment out of my work day to wish my friends who are NOT WORKING a very special holiday greeting...... 
GO SHOPPING!  
Here's wishing you find some awesome sales today as you celebrate! 

 I'm leaving it in your hands to keep the American economy going while I maintain our economy by helping to strengthen the future of our world by getting the best and the brightest college students jobs! 
Tough jobs......but someone has to do these things!  We can't just leave it to our PRESIDENTS!   



Saturday, February 16, 2013

The thing about Spanx.......

despite their miraculousness when wearing a body hugging outfit, they can play havoc when it comes to drinking......


Spanx might very well be the higher power when it comes to looking good and feeling pretty awesome in one of your more figure clutching dresses but they are not the best thing to be wearing when you follow that 8 glasses of water a day rule.  
Why?
Well, let's just say those bathroom visits can become mighty strenuous.
Lots of wiggling and girating going on in the stall.
There's even some stomping of the feet in your heels.
Sort of like a Zumba class......solo.....in a 2X3 stall.....hoping no one hears you or sees your feet going at it trying to get them back on!
I'm telling ya, friends, as much as I am a huge fan of Spanx.....for more reasons than I want to list here....they are not a water drinking girl's friend.  

The moral to my story is:
-Do not wear outfits that require Spanx and drink water all day.

When I shared this problem with one of my spirited girlfriends, she just had to one-up me. 
She said that Spanx are also not a girls-night-out-on-the-town friend either.....especially after the second drink...
She's lost her Spanx on several occasions.....by depositing them in bar bathrooms' trash cans after having one too many Spanx wrestling matches in the stall.


There's two morals to her story.....(so yes, she did one-up me)
-Don't wear Spanx when you go out with your girlfriends for a night on the town drinking...they won't look at your rumbles after the first drink anyway.
and
-If you are ever looking for a pair of Spanx while you are out at a bar or a night club.....you might want to check the women's restroom trash can.  You can save a lot of money that way.  


 Just thought you'd want to know.......


Happy Saturday!  




Friday, February 15, 2013

Pantry Challenge.....week 2 in review.....

As much as I'd love to give you an amazing account of how week 2 of my pantry challenge went, I have to warn you.....there was nothing amazing about it.
First of all, I'm staying with my father for awhile while my sister and nephew go to Disney.
With the help of a caregiver--so I can go to work--I'm  in charge of the adventures of my darling daddy during my non working hours.  Yes, that means from sundown to sun up. 
For the most part, I am living out of my sisters' pantry....which, I might add, is nowhere near as stocked as mine.  Clearly, she didn't inherit the same food hoarding and cooking-to-excess genes that I was blessed with.
But, have no fear....I did manage to empty some of the contents of my freezer before I moved lock, stock and barrel into my sister's house. 
In preparation for my stay with my father, I did pull out a few goodies from my freezer to feed him---clam chowder, wedding soup, meatloaf and stuffed peppers.   Yes, they were all sitting in my freezer....no shopping involved. 
And, upon hearing that one of my daughter's sorority sisters would be in town today, I cooked up a few more batches of soups to send back to my girl in collegeland---potato soup, more wedding soup and a tray of chicken parmesean just for good measure (and because it's her fav!).  Yes, I had all of the ingredients on hand....no shopping involved.  
I guess you can say that I am doing what I said I would do---using what I have and not shopping for anything else.  But, it hasn't allowed me to be as creative in the kitchen as I thought I would be.  I suspect that's because I had SO MUCH premade food in my freezer from my many comforting cookathons and of course, because  I'm not at home cooking daily meals.
Since I won't be home much of next week either, I might just have to extend my Pantry Challenge into March!
IF I CAN DO IT.  
I really do miss grocery shopping.....




Thursday, February 14, 2013

Don't give me a box of chocolates!

A martini would be just fine......
I would prefer a twist with mine......


Happy Valentine's Day! 

Give me a second martini and I might be a Peggy....


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The PARTY is ALMOST over.......

.Yes, it's FAT TUESDAY.....
It's a party in a glass!


Way back in October, a party erupted and it hasn't stopped.
It happens every year.
Halloween arrives, followed by Thanksgiving then it's eating leftovers time and then there's  the pre-holiday party season, followed by Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and the holiday week party season then New Year's Eve followed by New Year's Day and then comfort food time and then my pre-birthday celebrations then my birthday and then my post birthday outings and then my dad's birthday and then the February work-till-you-drop week then there's Valentine's Day to be followed by President's Day of course.....
All of this arrives after a full summer of parties and weddings and barbeques and vacations and throw-caution-to-the-wind partying in the hot summer sun.
No wonder some of my pants are fighting with me.....
Although I am a party girl from way back, I think it's ALMOST time for  the party to end. 

Thank GOD for LENT! 



I am not GIVING UP anything.
I am just going to QUIT DOING SOME OF THE THINGS I WAS DOING.....as in banishing those pudding cups at night and stopping the extra snacking.....and a few other things.....

Thank God for my Catholic upbringing......

Now, it's time to finish up the party.......





Sunday, February 10, 2013

What happened last night.......

Last night didn't happen exactly as we had planned.
But, what happened couldn't have been planned.


After a week of crazy schedules and lotsa work and  personal obligations gone wild with some major intensity thrown in for good measure, we decided that Saturday night was ours. 
We had very special plans.
Plans for two.
That doesn't happen to often in our life.
So, it was very special.  

What do they say?  Tell God your plans and HE laughs.
This time, HE laughed.  
And, we laughed with HIM.
Thank GOD!

Saturday started out as it always does---I had my dad duty and Carmen made plans to hang with our nephew for a day of  Tex-Mex food and movie-going.
We had plans to meet-up afterwards for a night of just the two of us
We promised that we would not talk about work or kids or chores or our buckling down spouts.
Reservations were made.
A special outfit was carefully planned.
But, life got in the way.   
I found myself with  a few errands that had to be run.
There was no escaping those errands.
So, we readjusted our plans.
No time to run home to change into that special outfit.  
We weren't going to make our reservations. 

We decided we weren't going to let these changes deter us.  
In an effort to save our night, we decided to meet up for drinks some munchies at one of our favorite places.
I tried to get there on time.....I really did. 
But, sometimes an aging parent has other ideas....

Yep....things didn't turn out quite as we had planned.
I didn't have my special outfit on.
We didn't get a chance to go to that special restaurant.
We couldn't even keep our alternate plans.
So, we decided to try for another plan.....a quick drink and a movie.
That didn't work out so well either.
That quick drink turned into something even better than a movie....
We ran into 2 special friends who we haven't seen in over a decade.
Two very special friends who were a very special part of our lives for so many years.
Friends who knew us when....
A few drinks later and lots of  reminiscing and many  laughs later, we found ourselves making special plans for something very rock and roll  this coming summer....
Sure, I would have loved to wear that special outfit and go to that restaurant where we had  special reservations.
 But, I wouldn't would have wanted to miss this special night with special friends making special plans.......
Yes, GOD laughed.
And, we never laughed so hard.....

















Saturday, February 9, 2013

Just when I thought I was out......

THEY PULL ME BACK IN......  
-Michael Corleone, The Godfather III-
I shouldn't go to meetings at work!

 It's been a week of work at work.
Lots of work.
But, there's also been those moments that tell me that 33 years doing what I do  means something.
A whole lot of something.  
I am clearly the only one who gets what I get, who loves what I love and cares beyond reason.  
I think I am  hearing the call. 
It's a true calling.
That no one else really hears the way I hear it.  
People don't get it the way I get it. 
Self preservation and self defense is beginning to make a lot of sense to me.
I know you have no idea what I am talking about.
But, that's okay.  I'm counting on YOU not knowing what I am talking about.  

All I can say is....
A few weeks ago, I was thinking about retiring.
Now I'm thinking about conquering.
Funny, isn't it?
Now, the big question that is gonna be out there is....WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO ABOUT JUDI?
Yeah, I know, you still don't get it. 
Stay tuned. 

Michael knows exactly what I am talking about!!! 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pantry Challenge.... Week One Review!



 I started this challenge with the age-old question that I am sure everyone has grappled with at least once in their lives.....
What's a girl to do with 12 cans of tuna?  
No, you've never grappled with that one?
You haven't ever lost sleep over having too much tuna?
Must be a ME THING..... 


After having lived through one week of the Pantry Challenge, I can now--without the least bit of hesitation--confirm what my children have been saying all along..... I AM A  FOOD HOARDER.
~~It's comforting to be able to tell you that I come by this trait honestly.....my grandfather Angelo was an Argo Fig hoarder.  After he died, one of my jobs was to clean out the kitchen (I have NO idea why!) and I found enough cans of Argo figs to build a replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  How do I know that?  I did it!~~
Anyway..... not only do I have an unusually abundant supply of tuna, my salad dressing inventory is one for the record  books.    
I'd tell you the number of bottles that I have but then I'd have to kill you.  Because you just never know who you might tell.... I can't risk someone coming into my home and robbing me of all of my salad dressing riches.  

So......


What did I learn after Week One?
I definitely have a very distorted view of how much food we eat when I cook! I managed to add to my freezer inventory instead of subtract from it by cooking larger portions that needed then freezing it.   Although this week was one hell of a  work week for me, most weeks are pretty busy for us so we don't really have a lot of at home dinners for 2.  So, why do I need to cook such large quantities?  We definitely can't eat it all and I know that!    I am perfectly fine with taking leftovers for lunch or  eating them for dinner the next day.  Carmen is not a leftover kind of guy (and I am never going to change that about him!) plus he is not home a good portion of the week and when he is--many of his meals are business oriented.   So, if I can't freeze it, lots of food goes to waste.   That's notsogood. 
 
In other news.... I am now down to  7 cans of Tuna and I now have 1/2 less bottle of salad dressing thanks to these three quick and easy things I made this week.....
With Lent on the horizon...it's probably best that I still have a good supply of tuna!!!  

ITALIAN TUNA SALAD
This was actually pretty good if I may say so myself! Unfortunately, this was enough for several meals and since I can't freeze it, I might have to toss what's left of it......ugh!
1 can of White Tuna--flaked and drained
1 can of Italian Tuna in Olive Oil--flaked and drained
1/2 bottle of creamy Italian dressing
handful of grated parm cheese
4 basil leaves--julienned
handful of pignolia nuts
lotsa pepper, a little salt

Mix it all together and mangia!

ENDIVE TUNA BOATS
Yes, I always have endive in my house....I love to fill the leaves with stuff!  And, I swoon for goat cheese so it's always in my fridge.   This recipe was both delish and fun! But, again, it made entirely too much for just me.  So.....this may also find it's way to the garbage disposal.....double ugh! 
1 can
2 small heads of endive or radicchio               
8 oz. goat cheese, softened
Slice off the root of the endive to allow the leaves to pull apart without breaking.  Sort through to find the best leaves. Spread each leaf with approximately 2 tsp. softened goat cheese. Top with approximately 1 Tbsp. tuna


LEMON GARLIC TUNA BURGERS
These were really really good!  I made 4 with this recipe...2 for me and 2 for the freezer 
(yes, now there's more things in the freezer...! )
 
2 cans tuna fish, drained and flaked 
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs 

1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced 
1/4 teaspoon each, salt and pepper 
juice of half a lemon
3 tablespoons sour cream 
1 egg 

___________________________


Combine tuna, bread crumbs, green onion, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, lemon, sour cream, and egg, and mix well with your hands. Form into 4 patties (they will be wet), place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees F.


Onward to WEEK TWO!

If you're doing the Pantry Challenge.....
please share your review, tips and menus/recipes!!!!!   

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I am the WINE.......



My darling, suddenly
the line of your hip
becomes the brimming curve
of the wine goblet,
your breast is the grape cluster,
your nipples are the grapes,
the gleam of spirits lights your hair,
and your navel is a chaste seal
stamped on the vessel of your belly,
your love an inexhaustible
cascade of wine,
light that illuminates my senses,
the earthly splendor of life.

- Pablo Neruda, "Ode To Wine"-  



 A lovely way to view our loveliness, isn't it?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

When the going gets tough.....

The tough look for quotes on Pinterest......
I agree completely.  Don't you? 



Heading out into the ART that is my LIFE......

Monday, February 4, 2013

Have a SH*TLOAD of veggies on hand?

ConfessionIn preparation for my pantry challenge, I might have went a little overboard in the veggie shopping department.  
My only defense is that I'm learning.

Yes, I had a minor moment of panic at the market.  While the entire South Hills of Pittsburgh raided toilet paper shelves and stocked up on milk and eggs in anticipation of the promised weekend snow, I was hunkered down in the fresh produce section stocking up on every veggie I could get my hands on.
As I reflect on my frenetic excessive veggie buying, I sit here red faced.
It appears I traded my regular excessive grocery shopping for excessive produce shopping.
One more lesson learned.
Although, you know....an over abundance of veggies is much better than an over abundance of tortilla chips...right?
Say I am right.  

Last night as the Super Bowl blarred on our ridiculously big screen TV with Carmen and his side kick--our dear nephew Jared--shouting their obvious displeasure, I  decided I needed to deal with my ginormus veggie haul.
I started out by surveying everything---hoping to get a little inspiration.
I figured out one thing very easily---one of my favorite soups--Carmelized Onion and Portabello Mushroom Soup with Goat Cheese Croutons
Yes, it's as yummy as it sounds.
I immediately got to work putting it together--all the while thinking about what else I could possibly make ahead of time so that I would not waste any of my beautiful veggies.
As my onions carmelized, I consulted one of my favorite foodie bloggers....Marie, The Proud Italian Cook and I found that she recently admitted to having a bit of the very same excessive veggie buying affliction that I suffer from.  So, she roasted them and made this recipe that looks amazing--Roast Veggie Pie in Phyllo Dough.  Yes, I had phyllo dough.....in my freezer.  So, I yanked it out of the freezer and set it out on the counter and decided I would roast the veggies and then put it all together this morning when my dough had a chance to defrost....


So, excuse me as I head into my kitchen for some early Monday morning kitchen time.....


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Something SUPER for your BOWL!

Yeah, yeah, I know it's SUPERBOWL Sunday.
No big deal.   
This is Steeler Nation.   Enough said.  

Since there ain't gonna be a party in Judiland, I am going to treat myself to a SUPER special day by meeting up with my oldest and dearest friend for a little chai latte, a little retail therapy and a little dining at a  new-to-us restaurant .  
Before I kick off my day....I wanted to share what will be cooking at my house on this cold and snowy SUPER BOWL SUNDAY.  Even though it's not a celebration day here in Judiland, I am making this today so my  football-lovin', remote-obsessed hubby has something to eat while I'm doing my thing and he's doing his (sitting in his recliner with his remote watching the NFL Channel all day and then the Super Bowl all night).   I'm taking a loaf of crusty Italian bread out of the freezer so he has something to sop up all the saucey goodness in the bottom of  his BOWL......
Fingers crossed that  I have some leftovers for me to eat on Monday! 

Cioppino 

SERVES 4–6

INGREDIENTS

¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 cups fish stock
1 ½ cups whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed
10 leaves basil
1 lb. cod, cut into 2″ chunks
1 lb. cleaned calamari, bodies cut into ½″-wide rings
12 oz. medium shrimp, deveined
12 oz. bay scallops
16 clams, cleaned
16 mussels, cleaned
2 2-lb. Dungeness crabs or snow crab legs, halved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat oil in an 8-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chile flakes and garlic; cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add stock, tomatoes, and basil; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add cod, calamari, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, and crabs, cover with lid, and cook until seafood is cooked through, about 8 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

 

DISCLAIMER: Even though this recipe hails from an amazing little bistro in San Francisco...that doesn't mean  I'm rooting for the 49ers!  I just have a freezer filled with all of the seafoods needed in this recipe and every other ingredient needed(remember-- I'm doing the Pantry Challenge).

  

GO TEAM!!!!  

 

 

I hope the team YOU are rooting for wins!  But, be prepared if they don't by doubling this recipe so you can at least look forward to leftovers!!!  

 

 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

HOGARITA TIME!!!!







Yes, friends, there is such a thing as a HOGARITA!
(and it's super yummy)
In a blender pour 1 3/4 cups cracked Ice, 3oz Fresh squeezed Lime Juice, 2oz Tequila, 1oz Triple sec, 1/2oz Grapefruit juice (For bite), 1/2oz Welches grape juice(Nice pink color). Blend Until perfect.


Celebrate Responsibly!  

Friday, February 1, 2013

Greetings from my pantry to yours.......

Have you taken stock of what's in your pantry lately?
In preparation for my February Pantry Challenge, that's exactly what I did yesterday morning before I dashed out into the frigid January temperatures.
What the hell can I make with these 4 things?  Reservations?


From what I have to deal with, this month is going to be mighty interesting......


Happy Pantry Challenge!  
(to you and ME!!!)