Feb 3, 2010
Jan 13, 2010
If we were playing word association games and you shouted the word 'switch' at me, I'd respond with 'Will Smith.' If you don't remember his 2005 segue into almost real-ish hip hop I suggest you look it up. You'll be singing it all day. It was a solid hit Will, I give you that.
I am going somewhere with this.
Tonight we ate at a restaurant called Switch, and not only was it amazing, but I have been singing that stupid song ever since.
I'd never heard of Switch before tonight, but came across it in a magazine that I blatantly stole from my chiropractor's office. Sorry Dr. Cas: you make me wait, I steal magazines. It was the most recent edition of Phoenix Magazine and the cover story was the 21 best sandwiches in the Valley. While a sandwich is not my go-to, Jim lives and breathes for a good one and I knew this mag would come in handy. I conveniently slipped it into my purse on my way out. (Once a clepto, always a clepto, that's for another post).
two fantastic dining establishments. The atmosphere is what my brother calls hot and chic. Basically, a place with fancy high top tables, trendy light fixtures and weird unisex bathrooms, among other criteria. There was a pretty decent crowd for a Wednesday night so I looked past the hotandchicness and ordered with an open mind.
We started with the bruschetta appetizer and it was hands down the best bruschetta I've ever had. Yes, even better than Postino. Here's their description: "Grilled baguette with sliced tomato, roasted onion, EVOO and balsamic (3) and parmesan, white bean spread, sopresetta ham and roasted red peppers (3)."
For dinner I had to go with the sandwich featured in the mag: The Murano. "...It starts with an excellent, crusty, artisanal roll, piled high with just the right proportion of mild roasted chicken and salty prosciutto. A layer of gouda cheese brings a little tang to the party, and chopped Greek olives, ripe tomato and a slick of aioli finish it off for $9.95." Not sure why this baby shares it's name with a Nissan SUV but I'm okay with it.
Fyi to all you Phoenicians, this place is just off the Light Rail, and I hear people are wearing pants on the trains again so it's safe.
* I'm not sure if it's ever really appropriate to use the word booty when not referring to the body part. Still deciding.
** I was going to capitalize the word 'french' in french dip since I capitalized Greek olives, but after recently reading Sarah's Key I am not so fond of the French at the moment.
Jan 12, 2010
We love Thai food in this house. Sometimes we're bold enough to experiment with making our own. Tonight was a success, and so simple:
We cooked some onions and mushrooms in a skillet and added frozen green beans. I suppose you could add any veggies you like.
Next we added a jar of Thai red curry sauce (we got it at Safeway) and a can of light coconut milk from Trader Joes. Season as you wish with chili powder and garlic.
Turns out the little guy can now leap onto the top of the wall and hang there to get a better view into our neighbors yard. That's right - my dog is a peeping Tom. This photo isn't him, I found it online, but it's exactly what we saw:
I turned to Google for help - my trusted advisor on all strange situations, and we got some great ideas on ways to modify our fence that wouldn't leave it looking like a penitentiary. I opted for fence modification over any sort of electric collar or underground fencing in that Bruno would likely find a way to get around this system or hurt himself - he's rather accident prone. I was floored at hoe much info's available on modifying fences to keep dogs from jumping. I took comfort in the fact that my little hurdler wasn't alone in his plight to escape. This site was particularly helpful: http://www.dogsdeservebetter.com/clova.html.
It took a lot of trips to Home Depot and a day's worth of work but we found a way to contain our dog. We affixed wire (similar to chicken wire) as almost a rim to the side of the fence he was jumping onto. Cross your fingers - but it's been a week and he's still grounded. Now if only I could find a vine to grow along the wire and make it prettier...
Jan 5, 2010
It's rare to discover a restaurant on a whim that exceeds all of your expectations, but tonight we succeeded.
I tend to spontaneously buy any Groupon that's close to the house, and jumped on one for Fuego Bistro last month. I paid $10 for a $30 credit. I remain obsessed with Groupon, but that's really for another post.
I'm glad we looked this place up before we headed out because we never would have found it. That's part of the appeal for me - it had immediate hidden gem potential, provided that the food, service and ambiance were all high quality. We eventually located it next to a ballet studio and walked in through the beautiful courtyard. I have a thing for eating outside, and it was beautifully lit, although even with space heaters I chickend out at the idea of eating outside in January.
There are only about eight tables inside alongside an impressive bar. Out hostess and server were both outgoing and pleasant. Jim was excited with the extensive drink menu, and chose one of their specialty mojitos. The have over 90 kinds of rum which means very little to me, but was fascinating for my other half.
We shared the special appetizer of the evening: three mini tostadas topped with organic black beans, pickled cabbage homemade salsa and a chipotle cream sauce. Fabulous.
Jan 3, 2010
This is embarrassing, but until this weekend I had no idea what a dumpling was. I associated it with it's Asian cousin the pot sticker - ok gyoza, but really had no clue. I had a predetermined dislike for dumplings based on their named. Too similar to Humpty Dumpty or something.
But...ever since we started dating Jim's been asking me to learn how to make chicken and dumplings. I'd been successfully procrastinating by not asking his grandma for the recipe, but out of sheer boredom - and love - took the plunge this weekend while I was quarantined with a cold.
The recipe I used came from a google search. I bypassed Rachael Ray and Paula Dean to find a somewhat more generic version (without EVOO - heavens!) from Taste of Home called Grandma's Chicken and Dumpling Soup. You had me at hello.
The recipe was a tad too complicated for my sick self, in that I was unable to leave the house, so I improvised this into my own version, here goes:
Take a few boneless skinless chicken breasts; boil in 2 qts of water w/ chicken buillon cubes for an hour until chicken is softened.
Skin any foam/fat; Remove and chop chicken then add chopped carrots, celery, onions (as much as you like), a can of cream of chicken soup and a can of cream of mushroom soup, salt and pepper and a bay leaf.
Cook for another hour at a gentle boil.
Then for the Dumplings -
Combine two cups of flour, a tsp of salt and 2 tsp of baking powder. In a separate bowl combine 2 tsp melted butter, 3/4 cup of milk and one beaten egg. Add wet to dry and blend into a stiff mixture. Add salt and pepper. Some of my dumpling research said it should be the consistency of mashed potatoes - but mine was very sticky. I wanted to keep it simple for my first go at dumpling (look at me using it as a verb) but I imagine it'd be delicious to add grated Parmesan cheese or seasoned breadcrumbs to the dough.
Then all you do is drop spoonfuls of the dough into the boiling soup. It made a lot more than I anticipated! Cover the pot and let it cook for about 20 minutes. Tada! All done.
The dumplings make the soup a great creamy consistency - must be all the flour.
I was too sick to remember to take a picture; here's the one from the recipe site...
In the three years I've been dating and cooking for Jim I don't know that I've ever gotten this exuberant of a reaction to anything I've created. Unfortunately, I'm so congested that I can't tell what it tastes like, so you'll have to try for yourself.
Dec 29, 2009
I’ve eaten meat my entire life. Despite a prolonged resentment toward hamburgers (ages five through eighteen), I’ve never thought to eliminate it from my diet. In fact, during my years living with Anna, I often pressured my sweet vegetarian friend to ‘just try it.’
A little confusing, but maybe the fact that I can’t efficiently metabolize meat is part of the reason my body is turned off to it. Not to mention the fact that I’ve always been hypoglycemic and feel ill and get tunnel vision if I go too long without eating. So far, I’m a believer. Let’s continue:
Type AB should avoid caffeine and alcohol, especially when you’re in stressful situations. Dr. D’Adamo recommends that Type AB focus on foods such as tofu, seafood, dairy and green vegetables if you are trying to lose weight. “Avoid all smoked or cured meats. These foods can cause stomach cancer in people with low levels of stomach acid,” recommends Dr. D’Adamo. There is a wide variety of seafood for Type AB, and it is an excellent source of protein for Type AB. A few highly beneficial fish are mahi-mahi, red snapper, salmon, sardines, and tuna. Some dairy is also beneficial for Type AB – especially cultured dairy such as Yogurt and kefir.
Ok, does this Dr. D’Adamo know me? I don’t believe we’ve ever met, but this stuff sounds just like me. I’ve avoided caffeine for years and years. Any time I drink coffee or soda I feel sick. Redbull? Forget it. As for eating fish and cultured dairy, I love seafood and cottage cheese. One question, wtf is kefir?
Even though people have different capabilities for accommodating stress, we ultimately all have a breaking point. Given enough stressors of a high enough intensity for a long enough period of time, anyone will maladapt. For a Type AB, when it comes to stress hormones, you most resemble Type O in your tendency to overproduce catecholamines like adrenaline. Yet you also have the additional complexity of Type B’s rapid clearing of nitrous oxide, so you suffer the physical consequences of high emotions.
I vouch for that – I get sick when I get over-stressed. But doesn’t everyone? I’m starting to get confused.
Your greatest danger is the tendency to internalize your emotions, especially anger and hostility, which is much more damaging to your health than externalizing it. Exercise plays a critical component in stress reduction and maintaining a healthy emotional balance for Type AB. Dr. D’Adamo recommends a combination of both calming activities and more intense physical exercise to help maintain an optimal balance. For example, three days of aerobic exercise such as running or biking and two days of calming exercise such as yoga or tai chi.
And we’re back. This is totally me again. Exercise has always been a critical component of my life. I’m also guilty of internalizing too much.
Type AB often receives mixed messages about emotional health. While you tend to be drawn to other people and are friendly and trusting, there is a side of you that feels alienated from the larger community. At your best, you are intuitive and spiritual, with an ability to look beyond the rigid confines of society. You are passionate in your beliefs, but you also want to be liked by others and this can create conflicts. In an independent study, Type ABs described themselves as emotional, passionate, friendly, trusting and empathetic. Type ABs are considered some of the most interesting of the blood types, both John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe were Type ABs and although both are long gone, they hold a place in our national psyche to this day.
Just took the MBTI and assessments on trust and listening skills in my MBA program. This explanation matches closely with my results.
Whoa. Who knew blood type could play such a significant role in your daily life. I’ve honestly never thought twice about my blood type outside of donating blood. After this enlightening experience I did some more research and learned that not only is AB+ very rare – only three percent of Caucasians have it - but I’m able to receive donations from anyone. My blood can only go to others of my type though, I’m selective apparently.
I don’t think I’m going to start following a specific diet as a result of all this, and I can’t give up meat completely: wouldn’t get enough protein and too inconvenient…but it’s nice to know there’s potentially some rationale behind my herbivorous inclinations.
Dec 24, 2009
I started today on a mission. I will not get the Christmas Blues.
What are the Christmas Blues you ask? A unique phenomena affecting Jewish people in largely Christian communities. Every December 24 to 25 you're suddenly isolated. Your friends are all busy, stores are closed, the only music you hear is Christmas-themed...even restaurants are closed (aside from Asian establishments - bless you China King). Homework assignment: ask any one of your Jewish friends what they do on Christmas and they will undoubtedly tell you that they go to a movie and eat Chinese food - it's all we're left with.
Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas...the lights, the cookies, the holiday cards plastered across our fridge. I just wish I had an equivalent celebration. My parents did a great job making Hanukkah a magical occasion for Dan and me when we were younger, and always surrounded us with people of our faith. That said, we never got school off, and even now I have to take a personal day on Jewish holidays. As an adult, it's harder to get jazzed up about a holiday that no one around you understands or celebrates.
The factors above have somehow conditioned me to feel a sense of dread for the Christmas season, culminating with Christmas Eve. I always feel like I'm missing out on something. But, like I said, this year my mission was to combat the loneliness and make the most of the holiday.
Today I left work around 1:30 and instead of going home to mope, I remembered my mission and decided to take Bruno to the PetSmart Dog Park at Washington Park. After that I went for a hike, got a haircut and made dinner. Jim and I made a Christmas cake and watched a movie and the entire time I was concerned that he wasn't having a traditional or festive enough Christmas Eve. After we talked about it I realized that there's actually no standard for what you need to do on a holiday (or it's eve).
The more I think about it, the more I realize that regardless of which holidays you celebrate, make the most of them. Don't compare or set standards or expectations, just surround yourself with people you love and appreciate just being together. I think that's more important than Christmas trees or menorahs or any kind of cookie.
Dec 12, 2009
I think you'd have to be a circus freak not to love puppies.
Example One: The Puppy Bowl. I stumbled across this joy fest last year and almost passed out with glee. It's like the world has finally evened the score for those of us who don't like football. Set your DVR to record it on Super Bowl Sunday. You will not be disappointed.
Bowl is an annual television program on Animal Planet. Shown the afternoon of the Super Bowl, the show usually consists of footage of a batch of puppies at play inside a model stadium with commentary on their actions by the late Harry Kalas - a narrator for NFL Films and longtime play-by-play voice of the Philadelphia Phillies. The first Puppy Bowl was shown on February 6, 2005. The puppies featured in the Puppy Bowl are from shelters, and the show contains information on how viewers can adopt rescued puppies and help their local shelter. The bowl seems to have an age limit of four months, so there have been no recurring players."
Example Two: Chapman University puppy therapy.
Why oh why did ASU not initiate this when I was in college. This is the best.idea.ever. I think this concept could be mimicked at international peace summits. Think about it, if all the leaders in the middle east sat down over chocolate milk and french fries and played with puppies for a few hours, it's clear we'd be a little closer to harmony.
A Chapman University student group wanted to find a way to relieve stress during finals week, so it came up with an innovative approach: puppies. On Wednesday, in the middle of "cram week," a bunch of puppies will be stationed outside the university library for students to pet and play with. The event, called "Furry Friends for Finals," is being organized by the university's Active Minds club, which promotes mental awareness.
The next time you're feeling sad or stressed, or just losing faith in humanity, text me and I'll bring a puppy over - free therapy.
Dec 7, 2009
Jim and I started dating almost three years ago. During our entire courtship (I refuse to call it anything else) he's been with the same company, while I've transitioned through several jobs and one unfortunate-yet-miraculous layoff.
Let's get to the reason behind this random outpouring of insight, shall we?
This holiday season at work we're collecting donations for Packages From Home.
"The mission of Packages From Home is to send care and comfort packages to deployed American military heroes who are stationed in active duty theaters around the world, as well as to facilitate activities that elevate morale of all veterans."
They even send care packages to K-9 military units overseas. Does it get any more warm and fuzzy?
People at work have become so motivated by this drive that they're forgoing gift-buying for their friends and families and instead using gift funds to support this cause.
Collecting stuff for our drive made me realize that even if Jim and I never have the same work schedule, I'd never, ever trade our situation for those of couples separated by military deployment. Or couples suffering from health issues, financial problems, family strife or any number of issues. Jim may work Saturdays, but at least I know that we're going to bed together every night.
(Is that last line a U2 song...)?
Dec 6, 2009
Today I decided that I could no longer procrastinate; I had to start my holiday shopping. I started at PetSmart, because yes, the puppies get presents. I was pleased at how calm the store environment was, despite predicted holiday craziness. My only obstacle was Santa trying to get me to pose for a picture with him. Sorry St. Nick - that's not my style.
I managed to hold it together as I waited in the line that was easily 30 people deep. The woman who got into line behind me was about 65 years old. She had her little white dog in the shopping cart who I came to know as Winston.
Obviously I'm a dog person. Obviously. But I'm a stickler when it comes to bringing your dog into inappropriate places. Largely because people with small dogs get away with this while large dog owners don't have a prayer. Well this woman seemed to think it was totally fine to A) talk to herself loudly amid crowds of shoppers, and B) tote Winston into the store with her.
Store Manager: Ma'am, is that a service dog?
Wiston's Mom: Well, no, I mean he does serve me.
Store Manager: I need you to take him outside. We sell food in this store, only serice animals are allowed. Go put him in your car.
Winston's Mom: But...I only need to return something. Just one thing it's too big I bought it last night.
Store Manager: Yes well you need to take him outside immediately.
Winston's Mom: What? No. I don't understand I just need to return something. Winston will get anxious in the car.
*She leaves to put the dog in the car, only after asking everyone else to note her place in line. After she returns she waits in line still talking to herself about the atrocity she just fell victim to. After a few minutes, the entire line is equally annoyed with this lady. Then, the icing on the cake appears as Winston's Mom starts walking along the line of people waiting to pay, waving her receipt, and begins this diatribe:
Winston's Mom: Hello? I'm sorry, my dog Winston is in the car and he's very anxious, he could get stolen. I don't know why they're forcing me to wait here I JUST HAVE TO RETURN ONE THING. Is it alright if I cut in front?
Note - no one says yes, yet she pushes her way to the front of the line to complete her transaction. The moment that made it all worthwhile was when a fellow shopper turned to her and said, "you know, my kids are in the car and you don't hear me having a fit."
At this point I'm cranky. I finish waiting to pay then leave the store. I head to the PGA Tour Shop in Scottsdale to look for things for the aspiring golfer in the household.
My experience at the PGA store was as positive as the Marshall's experience was negative. I met Leonard, a store associate who was easily in his late seventies. He was charming, patient and dedicated to my cause.
Overall - a good day, it's just hard to believe how this season affects people. I worked retail for many years and have been on both sides of the hubbub. For me, the hardest part of the holidays is not hitting pedestrians in parking lots or going mad from Christmas carols. For now I'll I try to drone them out by humming 'Dreidel, Dreidel.'
Dec 3, 2009
Nov 29, 2009
I stole an idea from my brother and gave all my friends an assignment this Thanksgiving. I wanted everyone to keep an ear out for any obscene or unusual one-liners spoken by the people they were celebrating with, and to then e-mail them to me.
"Wait, so all female chickens lay eggs?" "Yes, and all female humans."
"How come when she talks about pigeons it's cool but not when i talk about goats?" "Because she never cut a pigeon's balls off."
"I'm just giving the turkey a douche."
"I feel like I'm holding a cold pooch."
"He just gets a look in his eye, I can't describe it. It's only every few days that I'll catch it and it's much easier for both of us. No pressure for him."
"I want to regurgitate every time I think about the fact that my mom made salmon loaf."
"Don't those gay men like the theater and stuff like that?"
"Lady Gaga is a man...he would love to help stuff this turkey."
"I have uncomfortable shoes."
"I used to think I was a conservative until I started conting up how many sexual partners I've had."
So, just in case you thought you had an especially awkward or inappropriate family, just remember the majority of us are in the same boat. Thanks everybody for participating - round two starts this Christmas Eve.
Nov 28, 2009
My favorite dessert is apple pie with vanilla ice cream. Sadly, I don't have the time or caloric allowance to enjoy this as often as I'd like. I've figured out an easy way to create almost the same result with much less effort and calories.
step one: butter a small baking dish
step two: slice a few apples into very thin slices (you can add in pears, berries, etc)
step three: toss sliced fruit in some brown sugar, granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon and some softened butter. I don't measure, just use fairly even amounts and make sure it coats the fruit.
step four: bake at 375 for 25 minutes; serve a la mode.