Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Flatscreen + Direct TV = Heaven

About a month ago, we finally purchased the plasma TV we've been dreaming about for ages. It now has a place of honor above our fireplace in the living room.

There happened to be a promotional offer to switch to Direct TV. We hate our cable company so we took the opportunity to ditch them (and save some money).

Between the lineup of new channels and the clarity of the picture (football in HD? The best)...sigh. I'm sorry, I'm starting to get emotional.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I had to attend a meeting at school last night. G graciously acted as chauffeur instead of sitting at home; he took a book and relaxed at a Caribou Coffee for an hour. Afterwards, we stopped for a sandwich for dinner and found this little wine shop right next to campus. What a find!

We spent the next hour comfortable and warm, tasting wine, and chatting with other wine lovers. A little slice of heaven in a Livonia strip mall. Who knew?


Layer Cake Shiraz, Australia

Monday, November 26, 2007

Time Off

I was super busy last week preparing for Thanksgiving dinner and family visits. Now that I've definitely entered the Holiday Zone, I won't be posting daily for the rest of the year.

Please stay tuned!


I'm becoming more ambitious with my Thanksgiving leftovers. Figuring out ways to use up the turkey and stuffing, etc. is almost as fun as creating the whole dinner.

This year, I fried up some stuffing the morning after Thanksgiving and served it hash-style with a fried egg on top. We had grilled turkey sandwiches, spread with cranberry sauce, some gravy, and a slice of cheddar cheese. Saturday morning, I made a cranberry cheese danish. Yesterday, I made a turkey sage chowder, using the rest of the turkey, some potatoes, and the leftover veggies I had in the fridge.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I'm Grateful For...(Thanksgiving Edition '07)


Our family

Our home

A stress-free Thanksgiving

Days off from dining room service

Champagne cocktails

Great football games (four overtimes??)

Charlie Brown holiday specials

Online shopping

Tree trimming during the first snowfall

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Dinner

Our dinner turned out really well. Here was the menu:

Champagne Cocktails
Sweet and Spicy Nuts

Butternut Squash Soup
Herb Roasted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy
Fennel/Pear/Sausage Stuffing
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Triple Cranberry Sauce
Green Beans with Caramelized Onions
Carrots with Balsamic Glaze
Red & White Wines

Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake
Apple Crostata

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pep Rally

Michigan alum G received an email today about a Michigan/OSU pep rally tonight on campus. When I arrived home from waiting tables today, he asked, "Do you want to go?" Of course!

We bundled up in our winter coats, gloves, and earmuffs and made our way to campus. What a spectacle. Thousands of fans showed up to cheer the team. We even saw a few people in Ohio State garb. What nerve they had attending our rally. Talk about brave.

I didn't get to see much (being 5'1" and all), but I heard Mike Hart rallying the crowd. We sang the fight song and was definitely the place to be tonight. G and I left a little early because our hunger couldn't be ignored. We went to Pizza House (large pepperoni and mushrooms...mmmmm...) and enjoyed the crowds of fans inside. A bunch of guests stood up at one point and sang the Michigan fight song.

All that's left now is the battle between archenemies tomorrow at noon.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dining Room Service

The last class in this semester's rotation is Dining Room Service. Four days a week, our class will act as waitstaff for the school's restaurant, American Harvest. The point of this class (besides free labor for the school again) is to become acquainted with front of the house duties.

I have never waited on tables in my life, so this class proves to be entertaining. We still have to wear uniforms, but now it's black pants, white blouse, a black tie (I chose to wear a bow tie), and an apron. No dorky chef hat. Whoo hoo!

Each shift, we all have "side work" prior to service. My task is to make sure that we are stocked with butter, lemons, canned/bottled beverages, takeout containers, doilies, and linens. The menu changes each day so at 11:30 AM we line up and listen to the chef describe that day's menu. The pastry class makes desserts each day and we have to familiarize ourselves with those as well. A second year culinary class makes the food and we serve it.

So many details...serve from the left, retrieve from the right...garnish the soup correctly (today's soup was puree of corn with rock shrimp, garnished with cracked black pepper, lobster oil, and cilantro) the dessert plate properly (the point of the dessert (cake, pie, etc.) should point to the guest (always say guest, never customer)...

And no, we don't get to keep the tips. They go to a scholarship fund.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Call Me Old Fashioned...

but there's just something wrong with this headline I found this morning on

How to Date While Pregnant

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I'm sitting at a coffee shop right now enjoying my first white chocolate mocha of the season. Dee-lish. I've exiled myself here for the afternoon so that I can catch up on my posts. I've started half a dozen in the last week but I haven't been able to finish them. So, yes, I've been slacking off here, but not in my real life. Once my finals were over last week, I realized that I then entered the holiday zone.

My thoughts are swirling with Thanksgiving recipes, table setting ideas, wines and cocktails, Christmas lists, when to start shopping, etc...

Then there are the dull, but necessary thoughts: clean the house, mop the floor, prepare for guests...

But right now, I'm focused on this. And my tasty mocha.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gym Again

Today was my first trip to the gym in weeks. We belong to a community gym that is super convenient. Just a five minute drive (with traffic lights) straight north from our street. That street has been under construction for a few months though and I've used that as my main excuse for not visiting the gym.

The barrels are gone now and my waistline has expanded so it's back to the gym I go. When I pulled into the parking lot this morning, the first thing I saw was a woman leaving the gym lighting up a cigarette. So I entered the gym chuckling to myself. Ah, and that brings back the childhood memories of going for bike rides with my parents. Sometimes they would light up while they were pedaling alongside me. I would always try to speed up. They probably thought I was avoiding the smoke. Actually, I was trying to make sure that no one thought I was with them.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Paper and Pen

Since sending holiday cards is on my to do list, I thought I'd write about my lifelong love of pen and paper.

The minute I held a pen, I never wanted to let it go. Just the exercise of writing fascinated me. It didn't matter what I wrote. My name over and over again, a letter (even to a school friend who lived two blocks away), a list of the films of Hitchcock or Spielberg (to keep myself awake in a boring class), a recipe. I started writing in a journal at age ten, not only because I was overly analytical, but because I wanted to spend time with that paper and pen.

Collecting new pens and pencils as well as stationery became a hobby for me. To this day, I can't write with what I call a boring pen. A black or blue Bic? No thanks. I won't even bother to pick up one of those. My stationery drawer isn't as full as it used to be since email became THE way to communicate. But I still try to write a few notes to my friends across the country. It's already become a lost art form. My sister-in-law gave me notecards in the shape of high heel shoes once. And my dad gave me Super Friends notecards one Christmas. I was beside myself.

I've always given the keyboard equal time, as the head typist for my high school newspaper (all those years at the piano gave me speedy fingers), as the writer of many a college term paper, and now as a blogger. But I still prefer sitting down at my desk with a spiral notebook or Aquaman notecard and putting pen to paper.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Football Brunch

Because the football game was at noon today, I decided to make some brunch food. When G & I were in California for our dreamy honeymoon last year, we found a breakfast burrito to die for. When we returned home, we recreated it and made it an easy go to meal for our repertoire.

All I do is scramble some eggs (with hot sauce), heat up some refried beans and a few tortillas, and then assemble the burrito along with some green onions, cheese, salsa, and guacamole. For our accompaniment today, I baked some of G's favorite muffins, apple cranberry. To wash it all down, mimosas.

Friday, November 9, 2007

CMA Award Night

I had to address the Country Music Awards. The live show was on last Wednesday night. I've seen my share of CMA shows (since my initiation to listening to country radio circa 1992) and this one was well done. Well directed, well produced...but don't get me started on the rotating (mostly poor) hosts. Just let Kimberly Williams do the job. She's married to country star Brad Paisley and is always a riot in front of a microphone.

The live performances were mostly non-cringeworthy, which is actually a high compliment. The one complaint I had was that the tradition of country music wasn't showcased. This year's Hall of Fame inductees weren't given a segment (especially a shame since Vince Gill, at the ripe age of 50, was honored.) Yes, it's hard to balance all of the traditional/contemporary/middle-of-the-road acts in three hours, but come on! The producers let Rascal Flatts perform twice. Ridiculous.

The best performances included: Sugarland, a duo, that performed a ballad with one guitar and Jennifer Nettles' powerhouse voice; a very emotional Kellie Pickler (someone I've never even heard before); new Grand Ole Opry member Josh Turner (now that's a country voice); and the always great Keith Urban.

(postscript: G asked, "Why do these country people use the Star Trek symbol?")

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Madeleine Peyroux Concert

One of my favorite finds in the music bin last year was Madeleine Peyroux.

Peyroux was born in Georgia and lived there until age 13 when her family moved to Paris. At 26, she released her debut album, Dreamland. It was a hit with critics and fellow artists, but the bigger story turned out to be that Peyroux didn't release her sophomore effort, Careless Love, until eight years later.

She's been called a modern-day Billie Holiday. Even though her work has been labeled jazz, you can find blues on her albums, as well as songs from the country genre, such as Patsy Cline's Walkin' After Midnight. I've become a big fan and listen to all of her CDs (a third, Half the Perfect World, was released in 2006), so I was looking forward to her live concert in Ann Arbor.

Peyroux performed at Hill Auditorium, a venue on the U of M campus that seats around 3,500. She brought with her a keyboardist, a bass player, and a guitarist. She also accompanied on guitar. My expectations for the concert were high and unfortunately, they were not met. First of all, the mood was very laid back (think Chet Baker and a few jazz players hanging out) and I think the large auditorium dwarfed the performers. Peyroux was extremely laid back, almost hippie-ish. Don't get me wrong, I love hippies. I would've been a hippie protester in the 60s if I'd been around. But the catalog that she chooses to sing is timeless and classy, so I expected a different delivery. Even a different wardrobe choice. Is that being superficial?

OK, enough about the trappings, how was the music? Well...the musicians were talented. I thought that the arrangements were uninspired and predictable (every song had a piano solo, then a guitar solo) and Peyroux's singing was too improvisational for my taste. I guess I happen to side with those people who go to concerts to hear songs that they know and love. The songs don't have to be exactly like the recording (dullsville). But as G said, "I've heard you play her CDs and I don't recognize a single song she's singing."

It pains me to write this. I don't want to dissuade you from listening to Madeleine Peyroux. Maybe she just an off night. I still recommend that you check her out on iTunes, especially if you like standards.

Fave tracks:
Don't Wait Too Long
This is Heaven to Me
I'm All Right
A Little Bit

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Food Tech Final

When I woke up this morning, I opened my eyes and the first thoughts running through my brain were: "Take out the butter first thing so it comes to room temp." "Don't forget to slice some garlic to infuse the olive oil for the snow peas." "Make sure to sear those scallops in a really hot pan."

I arrived at school and set up my station. Initially, I felt like I'd never cooked a thing in that kitchen. My brain was on vacation. But I finally got in my groove and worked hard to produce some great tasting food for the chef.

The chef loved my seasoning, he loved my food. I am sooooo happy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

New Microwave

Last July, I was in the kitchen cooking lunch (per usual). I'd placed a few strips of bacon in the microwave (which sat on the kitchen counter). Now I'd done this, cook bacon in the microwave, dozens of times before, but this particular time the dish, the microwave, the glass plate in the microwave, (I never was completely sure) decided to explode. Luckily I was on the other side of the kitchen with my head in the refrigerator because glass flew across the kitchen. The explosion scared the living daylights out of me.

After cleaning up and ditching the microwave, G and I enjoyed the extra counterspace, truly appreciated our other nonexploding appliances, and lived microwave-free for months. We'd originally planned to have a microwave installed above our stovetop, so we just waited until we were ready for that. Well, yesterday was the day.

I remember sitting in a lunch room at work years ago listening to the other women chat. They had a big conversation about vacuum cleaners, types they preferred, price comparisons. When the conversation came to an end, I remember saying, "If there comes a day that I sit and talk at length about my vacuum cleaner, I hope someone just shoots me."

And here I am writing about my microwave.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Knees are Knockin'

My practical exam in Food Tech is this week and I'm nervous. I spent most of the day studying and creating a work plan.

Here's my mission:

Beef Consomme with Brunoise Vegetables and Fine Noodles
Pan Seared Scallops with Saffron Tomato Infused Beurre Blanc
Fresh Snow Peas
Tourneed Parsley Boiled Potatoes

Tuesday's class will be entirely prep (mise en place) for cooking on Wednesday.

The trickiest part of the menu is the fact that the potatoes are tourneed, which is a knife cut that shapes the potato into an oblong, sort of a football shape with blunt ends. Ugh. Other than that, the fine noodles are homemade which causes me stress. The day that we made pasta in class was not extremely successful.

Other than those possible pitfalls, the menu is pretty simple. All I have to do on Wednesday is make the consomme (throw a bunch of ingredients in a pot and let it simmer), sear some scallops (which I can do in my sleep, and sometimes do), and boil some veg. Yes, I've not addressed the beurre blanc, but it's a sauce. I should be able to handle sauces. Besides, I'll practice that in my own kitchen a few times before Wednesday.

This is sort of an Iron Chef America on training wheels.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Lazy Sunday

I didn't really do anything today. OK, I read a tiny bit, I made breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I started to study for my final. I did one load of laundry that's still sitting in the washer. Oops...better go put those clothes in the dryer after I write my post.

Other than that, I sat on the couch and watched Aeon Flux and the Cleveland Browns/Seattle Seahawks game (the Browns were victorious in O/T!) Total laziness.

I did want to write about the dinner G & I enjoyed at Mom's last weekend though. We drove up and spent the afternoon noshing and watching college football. A perfect Saturday. Mom made dill dip and veggies, ribs, cole slaw, and cheesy broccoli. I brought a mashed potato casserole and dessert, a French cranberry apple pie. The meal was delicious. And my stepdad introduced me to a tasty beer, Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat.

I was especially proud of my pie. Doesn't it look yummy? It was a big hit and will remain in my repertoire.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Football Saturday

Michigan is playing its archenemy Michigan State today (our next big rival after OSU). We're having a few friends over to watch the game.

I'm up early so I can make some snacks for the game, plus I have to register for winter semester classes online.

Today's snacks:
Homemade baked beans
Cole slaw
Chips & dip
Chili cheese dip & nachos
Leftover Halloween candy

Next classes:
Pastries I
Breakfast & Pantry

(Go Blue!)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Class Menu - Week Four

This week's assignments included:

Grilled flank steak with Asian marinade

Grilled salmon with

Barbecued ribs


Yes, I said sushi. I wasn't really excited about this. I don't eat sushi. I don't plan on eating sushi. (I did try it once on an early date with G. I wanted to show that I was adventurous and a good sport. Once we were an item, no more such sacrifices were made.)

Surprisingly, I enjoyed learning about sushi. I felt like an artist with a palate of pickled veg, wasabi, and roe. And look at my finished product!

I brought home the sushi for G's dinner. I think he loves me just a little bit more now.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Jack O Lanterns

Yes, the stores are already stocked for Christmas(!!), but I'm still in the Halloween spirit.

Besides making some homemade snacks (snickerdoodles and malted milk bars), I continue the tradition of carving pumpkins each year. I've had pumpkin carving parties a few times and they're a big hit. Of course, to make it a grownup activity, I include some adult beverages. Hot buttered rum, spiked cider...this year G & I just opted for some good ol' fashioned bottles of beer.

Here are our creations.