Sunday, November 23, 2008

Barefoot Contessa & Chef Boy-R-Ib

It's that time of year when I put my baking skills to good use...and it's finally not too hot to use the oven!

Today, in preparation for our upcoming Thanksgiving feast with the Rawn Family, I decided to whip up my infamous Pumpkin Roll. My mom started baking these years back for the holidays. Since Ib is such a huge pumpkin pie fan, I thought I'd try my hand at making them in the hopes he'd like them too.

Turns out, he does like them.

A lot.

So this is my third year making them. They can be tricky little things. You've got to dump the sheet of pumpkin cake off the cookie tray in one piece so that you can roll it up with a cream cheese filling. Definitely worth the work, but tricky nonetheless.

The trick to getting them off the sheet in one piece is to grease and flour. I hate using Crisco. It's just gross. And it's hard to wash off. So I decided this year that I'd use cooking spray and then flour the pans. Much neater.

Except that it burned the cake, which stuck to the sheet. *Sigh*

After some minor surgery with a spatula, I managed to save most of it. Then I scraped off the crunchy parts. One faired a little better than the other. I'll let Ib have at the more "well done" of the two tonight. If it's OK, then I'll feel better serving the other one. Otherwise, it looks like I'll be heading back to the grocery store to get more ingredients! And GREASING the pan this time.

So after a busy morning of baking, I sat down to a lovely lunch with my husband. I made and froze meatballs a few weeks back, so he warmed up some delicious subs for us today. No sooner did I sit down on the couch and took a big bite out of my sandwich when a cat started walking across the front yard.

Now, due to no one's fault but our own, Cooper is obsessed with cats. He sits in the front windows watching day and night for the many strays in our neighborhood. And when he spots one, he hurls himself at the windows clawing, growling and barking as if he's going to rip the thing to shreds. And when the cat is out of view, he'll tear out the doggy door and run around to the fence and bark some more...just to let that cat know who's boss. The truth of the matter is, he's terrified of cats, which we figured out by testing him in the presence of Littles, Nini & Markus' cat. But we like to let him think he's a ferocious canine killer, protecting the house and everything in it.

Anyway, I had just taken a bite out of my sub when the cat started across the yard. Cooper went flying to the window, as usual. Well sometimes, ground level just isn't the best vantage point to be sure that the cat keeps on his merry way. So he lept to the back of the couch, by way of my dinner plate balanced on the arm of the couch. The next thing I knew, spaghetti sauce was flying and there was a meatball in my hand where the TV remote had been only seconds earlier. I sat there in shock for a few seconds, but by the look of sheer horror on Ib's face, I knew it couldn't be good. Cooper found himself outside, with the doggy door locked behind him. When I finally managed to get up, there were little spaghetti-sauce paw prints from one end of the couch to the other.

Hooray for Scotch-Guard! I sprayed it with carpet cleaner and every last spot came up. Whew!

Cooper is lucky he's so darn cute.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mah Gurlz

So, after spending a whirlwind weekend together at the wedding, my girls and I decided that we should do it Chicago. The first weekend of October, Amy hopped a train, Mish and I booked flights and Jen drove the SeX-T to the Windy City. We just needed a reminder of how much fun we have when we're all together. And once a year just isn't enough girl-time!

Jen arranged some lovely accomodations for us in China Town. It was just like our college apartment...only without the sparkly unicorn curtains.

I did a little google research and decided that we should try out the Won Kow restaurant for dinner, which was conveniently located right across from the hotel. We had the family meal, which was more like food for an army, and this fantastic fruity beverage that was on fire when they brought it to the table. We left with full bellies and called it an early night...after a rousing "The Sound of Music" sing-along and a lullabye from Mish.

The next morning, after packing our Chinese-leftovers lunch, we set off for the Art Institute. Those clever parking authority folks made it really easy for us to remember where the car was.

That crafty Jen heard that most museums will give you a discount if you are an educator. So she made us some awesome fake Teacher ID's. We tried to use them at the art museum, but they only offered discounts to Illinois teachers. Lucky for me, it was Bank of America customer appreciation weekend, so I got in free anyway!

We spent a lovely afternoon imitating art.

Then it was off to Millenium Park to enjoy a late lunch. There's nothing like eating cold fried rice out of a Zip-Loc with a plastic fork and washing it down with some Ben & Jerry's...especially with the girls.

From the park, we walked to Howl at the Moon, a dueling piano bar. We enjoyed (literally) buckets of libations and sang along with crowd favorites like Friends in Low Places and Baby Got Back.

I even found Bono on the way there!

Jen took us to Burger King before tucking us into bed. Sunday morning we packed our bags and checked out of our China Town suite. We had Chinese brunch before dropping Amy off (almost too late!) at the train station. Jen, Mish and I headed to the Shedd Aquarium since we had a few hours to kill before our flights home. We flashed our fake Teacher ID's and they let us in for free! Then I got in trouble for taking this picture...with the flash.

But even the poor sports at the Aquarium couldn't rain on our parade. There's nothing like being with the girls!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Winds of Change

Until this year, with the country in shambles, I never cared to vote. Democrat. Republican. Whatever. I really don't like any politicians because, well, they're just that: politicians. I figured that my vote couldn't single-handedly keep the bad apples out of office, but I certainly wouldn't be held responsible for putting any of them in, either.

My great-grandma Gina, on the other hand, worked the polls for 40 years. She loved it. So much so that she worked the polls 3 days after her 100th birthday. Yesterday she would have been 102.

Anyway, after 8 years of bumbling idiocy, I decided to be part of the change. With very little time, I tried to educate myself as best I could on the candidates, including those running for my local offices. It was kind of like having homework again, but I found it exciting at the same time. Ib and I got up this morning and were at the polls at 6:00 am. We did our civic duty and it felt good.

So here's to change, to the future, and to Grandma Gina.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Trick or Treat!

Ib and I attended our first Halloween party Saturday night. Woody, one of our custom fabricators, and his wife Leslie host the party annually. After being invited the past 3 years, I thought it might be nice if we actually showed up! So we did and we had a great time. I thought it'd be really cute if we went as Mr. and Mrs. Potato-Head, but Ib wouldn't bite.

So he dressed up as a skater...little did everyone know that it was nothing out of the ordinary! My costume could have used a little work, but for $7 and about an hour to cut out the pieces, I don't think it turned out too bad.