I Tell You What I Ate (Or Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day)

So, here I am all wide awake at 6 am on a Saturday. This is what happens when you have a big Boxer puppy sleeping in a box next to your bed: he whimpers all sweet and plaintive-like until you take him outside in your bathrobe and Uggs so he can pee on your trees. Now before you judge me for venturing out in such a hideous ensemble, I must tell you that there is an old Asian lady in my neighborhood who walks around with a parrot on her shoulder looking like some sort of lost pirate. Also, I walk him before my latte, and I’m not really required to be presentable — or coherent — pre-espresso.

So anyway, it’s probably a good thing he gets me up early because I’m not naturally a morning person. At all. Plus I have a big day ahead of me prepping for tomorrow’s dinner party, but first things first…

It’s Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day!

Katie from Talk Less-Say More sent me a thoughtful package and a nice note. There were a variety of items in the box, including her homemade banana trail mix cookies, complete with the recipe and all. (Very thoughtful!)

The highlights for me were Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter (sort of like eating a melted Ferrero Rocher treat on your toast), and the Archer Farms Fruit Strips. Many of the items in the box were expensive, healthy bits like Sweet Potato Pop Chips, Luna Bars, and whatnot. Frankly, it was quite a revelation to discover that the moist, flavorful fruit leather was available at Target!

Here’s the chocolate hazelnut butter on my homemade bread. I’ll post the bread recipe later, K? I promise.

Now I may have to add Target to my grocery store rotation, which already includes Trader Joe’s, Ralph’s, and Costco. (See, I have this thing were I must pay the lowest possible price for say, Jarlsberg Swiss, even if it means wasting gas and driving all over the eastside of LA to do so. It’s just the principal of the matter.)

If you want to learn more about Foodie Pen Pals, check out Lindsay’s blog, The Lean Green Bean, here.

Now it’s time to crank up the Kaskade and do something about my place before 10 television writers invade tomorrow expecting to be fed.

Kisses!

The Lean Green Bean

Tomorrow’s To-Do List (Or I Procrastinate on Pinterest for Hours)

So, it’s Friday night. I have no less than 10 people coming over for dinner on Sunday, and I haven’t committed to a menu yet.

I have paint splatters all over the hallway from my birch tree stencil experiment.

Even Albus is dismayed by the state of our hallway.

There are bare nails peppering my empty walls as a result of my complete indecision about the artwork in basically every room of my apartment.

I also need to do something about the arrangement of those fluffy orbs. They’ve been hanging unfinished for weeks.

Nails all over my very naked walls. Indecision hurts aesthetics, folks.

PLUS, I have unfinished drawings scattered all over the place that are intended to replace the “ocean-scapes” that line the backs of both of my aquariums.

Even Albus agrees the hideousness has to go. It’s so 1984, and not in a good George Orwell kind of way…

Oh, and did I mention my balcony resembles the Sandford and Sons’ Salvage Yard?

This is an epic mess. I want to cry every time I go outside to water the basil.

So, what am I doing?

Oh, playing on Pinterest, listening to My Morning Jacket, and procrastinating, of course.

I’m telling myself I’m looking for a good carnitas recipe for Sunday. That sounds like a plausible explanation, right? I vowed to put the final touches on the birch tree walls tomorrow. Once I have stenciled the red bird in the trees (long story for another time), I will get out the Goof Off and fix the paint-splattered floor. I promise I’ll explain the bird, the birches, AND tell the whole stencil story next week. You know… just in case you feel like stenciling an entire room with black paint yourself.

Hell, maybe I’ll even make up my mind about the beads and the ribbons on the lights as well. I’m only about a month overdue on those decisions.

There’s nothing like ten people converging on your home to motivate you, which just may be the real reason I’m having a dinner party in the first place.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why I’m home on a Friday night and not doing something fabulous like drinking overpriced martinis in a bar teeming with metrosexuals… well, I don’t really have a good excuse for that. I’m just not in the mood to be bothered by boys who don’t own any power tools tonight. I’ll add that to tomorrow’s to-do list.

Tired Glue Gun Trigger Finger (Or How to Make a Chandelier from Coffee Filters)

A few months ago, I discovered the DIY instructions for making a chandelier out of a chinese lantern and coffee filters, and I just HAD to try it. Not because I had any need for the fluffy orb, mind you, but because it just looked like fun to make. I figured I’d will it into some sort of design submission eventually….

Initially, I only intended to make one hanging pendant, but in a turn of events that surprises no one… I got carried away.

As soon as I finished covering my 14″ paper lantern with coffee filters, I went to Pier 1 to buy the actual light bulb part of the lamp. I learned that Pier 1 doesn’t sell hanging light fixtures in California. (It’s due to some law requiring all lamps sold in the state to come with a light bulb in them.)

SO, I had to buy a battery-operated LED pack instead. A few cool things came out of this:

1) The battery-operated element solved my “how-in-hell-am-I-going-to-hide-the-cord?” conundrum.

AND

2) The remote controlled version of the LED only came in a 3-pack. This inspired me to make two more orbs of smaller size.

Of course I ran into some other pitfalls along with way, and I will share them with you to spare you from making my mistakes.

First of all, I recommend semi-soothing music for this task — especially if you’re the hyper sort like me. It takes a long time to cover the orbs, and you’ll start to go a little crazy if you’re listening to, say, the GG Remix of Grenade.

I had to break up the task over about a week and a half to keep myself sane – and to prevent blisters from forming on my glue gun trigger finger.

Incidentally, it also helped that I was still in the “training my Mary J. Blige Pandora Station” stage because I had to stop what I was doing frequently to inform Pandora, “I would like more Trey Songz pretty please.” And, “Less LMFAO, thank you very much.” (LMFAO belongs on my Britney station. For real.)

In all, I think it took about 1,000 coffee filters, and about 300 miniature glue sticks to complete the task.

I still need to adjust the placement of the lanterns now that I have three of them. I also haven’t completed embellishing the orbs with ribbons and beads yet, but I’ll get around to it, eventually….

Oh, and I have absolutely NO idea how to dust them.

Any suggestions?

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Free Stuff is Fun (Or How to Remove Carpet Indentations with Ice Cubes)

I love free things. Like really love free things. And by free things I mean, actually free. Not the kind of free that’s free for the first 30 days and then you have to remember to cancel or you get stuck paying $50 a month until you get around to calling.

So, when I came across a trick for removing the indentations in your carpet using only ice cubes, I was like, “Um, yes please. I have ice cubes.”

Today I decided to give it a shot. I discovered it’s best to put the ice cubes down when your dogs are in a coma-like napping state after a long hike. You probably shouldn’t do it when they’re feeling frisky from putting their faces in your morning latte. If you do it that way you end up with dogs who think it’s a game to lick and kick the cubes all over your carpet.

That was sort of how the first round of my ice cube experiment went.

Albus began licking the ice cubes while Woodley watched cautiously. Then Albus discovered it was super fun to kick the cubes. Still, Woodley watched. She eventually summoned the courage to approach the ice and quickly began contributing to the chaos as well. She’s never the instigator, but she’s always a willing participant once she overcomes her initial trepidation of, well, everything.

There I was, eager to see if the trick worked, and they were convinced we were playing a game. I placed the cubes on the carpet. They hit them. I put them back. They hit them again. And so on until I distracted them with bison and sweet potato biscuits….

So anyway, here’s what I discovered:

It actually works if you can keep your animals away.

Also, after the ice melts you have to use your hand to rub the carpet fibers back and forth to get them to stand up. One application of ice cubes was sufficient for the shallow indentations, but it took three applications of ice for the deeper dents.

After surveying my free fix I put on a little Oh Carolina and did a happy dance to some vintage Shaggy, circa 1993.

Too bad the ice cubes can’t fix how ugly the carpet is….

Do you have any easy tips you want share?

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I’m Feeling Nostalgic (Or How to Make Orso’s Seafood Saffron Risotto)

Seafood Saffron Risotto with Parsley Garnish Inspired by Orso’s Dish.

It was January 2004, and Brett Favre was still known as the Packers’ Super Bowl-winning QB instead of a grandfather accused of sexting with a Maxim model on the Jets sidelines. For some reason I was feeling cocky (pardon the pun) during the NFC playoffs, and I placed two bets on the Eagles/Packers matchup with two of my best guy friends.

Needless to say I lost both of those bets after the Eagles got a first down on fourth and 26 (devastating clip below). Not only did I lose a case of Heineken to Neil, but I also owed Josh $50. Never mind that my team also lost the game…. It was kind of a bad Sunday.

I’m not going to lie: handing over a dozen Heinekens to a diehard Eagles fan hurt a little, but I’m not one to bilk my buddies on a bet. I was also prepared to fork over 50 bucks to Josh (even if he only bet against my team to antagonize me), but he decided it would be more fun if I took him out to dinner instead. I never pass up an excuse to go out to eat, even if I am paying, so obviously I agreed.

How we ended up at Orso, an Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills, at 10 pm is a very long story that involves a Brett Ratner movie wrapping late, Dick Cheney’s fleet of black Suburbans backing up traffic all over LA, and Nozawa, the Sushi Nazi of the San Fernando Valley, refusing to let us in when we arrived five minutes late.

So, anyway, there we were on the Orso patio, absolutely famished. Everything that could have gone wrong with our dinner plan had gone wrong thus far. Our luck changed when I surveyed the offerings and saw that the rotating menu included seafood saffron risotto.

“Sweet salvation by carbs!” I cried. (It was my favorite dish at the restaurant, and it was not always available.)

Even if Dick Cheney’s cavalcade of cars had kept us from our fancy raw fish, I was still able to have some seafood, and the dish was divine.

After salads, entrees, pinot grigio, moscato, and biscotti, I think my $50 bet ended up costing me more like $150, but we had a blast, and it did make me forget about the end of the Packers’ playoff run, if only for the night.

Sadly, the restaurant (named after a Venetian dog) closed years ago.

So, here I am eight years later, unable to name a dog “Brett” as I had once planned (see earlier sexting scandal), and feeling a bit nostalgic about football and the seafood saffron risotto at an LA restaurant that is no more.

I created my own version of the dish as best I could from memory, and I intend to eat it tonight while watching Michigan’s overtime win in the 2012 Sugar Bowl that is still saved on my DVR. You might want to pair your meal with something more soothing like, say, Chet Baker, but I need more football in my life.

My version of the recipe is below:

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Seafood Saffron Risotto

5 Cups chicken broth
¾ Cup dry white wine
6 Tablespoons butter
4 Garlic cloves
½ Teaspoon saffron threads
1 Pound of Trader Joe’s mixed seafood (shrimp, calamari and mini scallops)*
2 Shallots
1 1/2 C Arborio rice
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish

Bring broth, saffron threads, and ¼ C of wine to simmer in a saucepan. Reduce the heat; keep mixture warm.

Place the frozen seafood in a colander and run hot water over to slightly thaw it. Drain completely.

Melt two tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add 3 cloves of minced garlic and the seafood mixture. Sautee the seafood until the shrimp begin to turn pink. This should take about 2 minutes. Add the remaining ½ cup of wine and simmer until the seafood is cooked. This will take about 2-3 minutes. Set aside the seafood and cooking liquid.

Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped shallots and 1 remaining clove of minced garlic. Sautee until the shallot is cooked, about 4 minutes. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat, about 2 minutes.

Add 2 cups of the broth mixture. Simmer until the liquid has been absorbed, stirring frequently. Continue adding the broth mixture, 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently, and simmering until the liquid is absorbed before adding more. This will take about 20 minutes. Stir in reserved seafood liquid and the seafood. Cook until the rice is slightly tender, and the mixture is creamy. This will take about 5 additional minutes.

Season the risotto to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve.

*You can obviously use fresh seafood, which will improve the taste. I was looking to cut costs a little. The dish is still very tasty even with the frozen fare.

We’re Happy Puppies! (Or We Received the Illuminating Blogger Award)

 

Albus, Woodley, and I were very proud puppies when we were awarded the Illuminating Blogger Award by Kenley of Beyond the Green Door. If you don’t know about Kenley’s blog, you should check it out. She writes about great stuff! Also, she lives north of Austin, Texas where I long to live.

Seriously.

I have spent nearly 11 years in LA, slowly growing apart from the city I once loved. It’s still home, but I desperately want to escape. Daily.

I sometimes think I’m still here out of inertia – or the delusion that I will one day meet a single guy in this city who doesn’t drink white wine at bars and owns at least one hammer.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the sunshine and the sushi, but I miss humidity and affordable real estate. Before I quit my job in the entertainment industry, I was considering buying a home. Rat-infested crack houses on my side of the hill run around half a million, so I was looking at places deep in the San Fernando Valley where none of my remaining single friends would ever venture. Ever.

SO, anyway, I quit my job (long story), threw away my real estate dream, and started redecorating my apartment instead.

I have always suffered from the condition of don’t-bother-to-do-anything-unless-you-can-do-it-big syndrome, but I was determined to change that.

I started decorating my tiny apartment because I couldn’t rip down the walls in a new home. I took a three-day ski trip with my dogs because I couldn’t afford to go to Aspen for a week. I drove up the coast and hit dog beaches from Santa Barbara to San Francisco and stayed in the Motel 6 instead of the Four Seasons. I made my own small compost bin because I didn’t have room on my tiny balcony for a bigger one….

And that was sort of the birth of this blog.

By returning to writing and my childhood love of art and design, I feel inspired each morning. I am incredibly grateful to everyone who reads my posts, and I hope you all find inspiration to follow your heart the way I did.

Below are five blogs I enjoy. They are all worthy of the Illuminating Blogger Award, and I’m pleased to nominate each of them.

LindO Designs: Angela is an incredibly talented artist, architect, and designer. Her blog includes DIY projects and lots of informative links. You can also visit her Etsy stores to purchase the objects she refinishes and designs!

Southern Secrets Carolina Style: Not only does Jen have a great eye, but she also conveys a strong sense of Carolina pride. She makes her readers feel like they have just visited North Carolina without leaving their living rooms. Her blog features great recipes and party planning ideas.

346 Living: This blog is full of fabulous photos and fantastic step-by-step instructions for DIY projects that anyone can tackle. I adore the blog, and the photos of the precious pups are an added bonus!

Parlour Home Blog: Nichole is an interior designer with a great eye. Her blog includes inspiring design ideas and DIY projects!

You Are My Fave: Melanie’s blog is full of delicious recipes, fabulous DIY projects, and inspiring event-planning ideas.

Patience is a Virtue I Don’t Possess (Or How to Make a Dipped Vase)

I share a birthday with Tony Bennett,  Tom Brady, and Martha Stewart. While I can’t sing to save my life, or throw a spiral like a Super Bowl MVP, I do fancy myself rather handy with a glue gun and glitter paint.

Today I decide to make a gold dipped vase I found on You Are My Fave.

I start with Martha’s gold paint left over from my dipped table experiment and a $6 vase from Home Goods. I pop on a little Jay-Z featuring Panjabi MC and get to work. I pour the gold paint into a bowl and dip the top of the vase inside. Then I set the vase on a brown paper bag and wait.

It doesn’t look like enough paint, so I pour a little more around the rim of the vase to create additional drips.

It’s supposed to be easy, but of course I manage to mess it up the first time. (Maybe I’m not much like Martha either….) The good thing about this project is that you can simply peel off the paint and start over if you don’t like the finished project.

Here’s what I learned about dipping vases:

It doesn’t take much gold paint to create the look. I overdid it the first time because I underestimated how far a little paint would travel down the side of the vase. Pouring the extra paint around the rim of the vase made too many drippy bits coming down the side and made the finished product look messy.

In the end, you just have to be patient (not my strong suit) while the paint slowly drips down the side, and it’ll all work out. This is probably some sort of metaphor for life, but I’m not really in the mood to be philosophical today. It’s probably because I’m grooving to a little hip hop Bhangra.

I haven’t decided what to put in the vase yet, but I’ll eventually get around to it when I’m done stenciling tiny birch trees all over my hallway walls. (More on that later…)

I’m leaning toward some sort of white crepe paper flowers so I don’t have to continually update a wilting mess of a floral arrangement.

Suggestions?

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