I Love Scapulae and Sticky Fingers BBQ Sauce (Or It’s Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day!)

The shoulders of the US men’s volleyball team are pretty much enough to make a girl suddenly patriotic. I mean, like, whoa.

Good shoulders are absolutely non-negotiable. (Photo courtesy of ibitimes.)

OK, now that we’ve covered my love of clavicles, scapulae, and Team USA, let’s talk about my other favorite thing: food.

Today is Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day, and I’m excited to tell you about the fabulous box I received from Leigh at One Day at a Time. She sent me absolutely delightful snackies.

Get jealous of my goodies.

Her adorable son even picked out the suckers to put in my package! I must have had PMS or something when I read that part of her note because I swear I almost got tears in my eyes. (For real.) Leigh originally hails from South Carolina, so I had the distinct pleasure of scoring Sticky Fingers BBQ sauce from her, and whoa, is that stuff good.

I’m absolutely up to my eyes in birthday and baby shower prep at the moment, and despite spending obscene sums of money on food, I don’t actually have anything to eat in my house (aside from this heavenly swag). I have basically been living on a rotisserie chicken from Costco for the last two days, and I have been slathering it with that heavenly, heavenly sauce. It tastes a bit like a honey mustard – but so much better.

There were many other wonderful items in the box, but that was by far the star. Plus, it was cool to try something I can’t find in LA.

Some of the other highlights were the white cheddar popcorn and the Haribo gummy bears (which I coincidentally sent to my Foodie Pen Pal). Oh, and the fruit leather saved my life last week when I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown from low blood sugar. I’m actually still working my way though the box of loot, but I’m loving everything so far.

But back to that BBQ sauce for a moment. You should get some. Here’s the link. You know, just in case you have a Carolina Classic Emergency or something….

So, anyway, I need to turn up the Neon Indian and return to my pirate cookie situation. They’re cooling on wire racks atop my tall book shelves to keep my Boxer from investigating them with his face while I write.

I’ll post that recipe tomorrow, K? I promise.

The Lean Green Bean
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I Begin My Birthday Week with a Flesh Wound (Or Here’s the Compost Update Because I Can’t Do Anything Else)

So, I think it’s a great idea to begin my birthday week by slicing my thumb open. Yeah, that happened Saturday night….

There I was, having a picnic on the lawn of the Academy (as in, “I want to thank the Academy”), enjoying truffle popcorn, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and good company when I decided to partake in the salami sitting in front of me. Now, being a moron who is generally used to rather dull and ineffectual paring knives, I thought nothing of holding the salami in my hand and slicing toward my thumb. See, when I do this with my own knives, it doesn’t slice through my finger — the knife just sort of bounces off my flesh without incident. I was not using my own knife, however, but a viciously sharp one instead.

Um, yeah…

I’ll spare you the rest of the gory details (and the bloody, bloody photos) and just say I should have gotten stitches instead of sitting on a blanket sipping wine and watching the movie introduced by Frank Oz himself. (Sorry to be a name-dropping starfucker-type, but I really like Miss Piggy. And Yoda.) I made a makeshift tourniquet out of many, many (SO many) paper towels and my hair tie so that I’d make it through the evening – and also so I didn’t bleed all over the nice picnic spread out in front of me.

Now, I know from my last thumb carving incident 6 years ago that one needs to get stitches within eight hours of an injury or it’s too late. (That particular incident involved a dinner party of 25 people, a new Shun knife, an eggplant, and me nearly passing out twice throughout the course of the evening.) Even though I probably could have made it to the ER in time, I decided to skip it all together, because I’m dumb like that.

I did a bit of internet research last night in an attempt to find out how long the tetanus booster is effective, and it looks like it’s about ten years. There is some information indicating that one should get another booster within five years if one is in a tetanus-infested area (whatever that is, I doubt it’s Hollywood), and if one has a particularly gory wound. I have deemed this wound un-gory, though very painful despite heavy wine consumption, so I am skipping the tetanus shot.

I would like to take this moment, however, and ask any medical types out there – particularly any of you I tutored in calculus (you know who you are, and you owe me) — if my last booster of 6 years ago will be sufficient to prevent me from dying or whatever.

So, anyway, now I’m trying to figure out how one makes sixteen owl sachets, a papier mache tree, and about 152 cupcakes with only one thumb. Oh, and just in case you don’t think I’m a complete lunatic yet, I’ll show you how I fixed up my thumb when I got home. (I’m out of actual medical tape.)

Apparently, I think it’s OK to use painters tape to adhere sterile bandages to my person.

It should come as no surprise that my father thinks it’s appropriate to make a tourniquet out of a dishtowel and duct tape. He also doesn’t bother to go to the ER when he slices his forearm open – despite being on blood thinners. Oh, and he gets fillings without anesthesia because he’s actually insane. So, yeah, that’s my gene pool. (This explains a lot.)

Anyway… my thumb hurts and I’m not in the mood to make the skull and crossbones cookies I had planned to make today. I think it’s because I’m exhausted from five and a half hours of grocery shopping for two parties this afternoon — and also from a trip to the USC Credit Union to sort out an issue involving credit card fraud with my check card and some jambonie who tried to buy $102 worth of cigars in Spain. (As my friend put it, “They didn’t even try to buy good cigars!” So, yeah, my credit card thieves have poor taste in tobacco in addition to being general thieving asshats.) Also, I think I just need to unwind by watching shirtless Americans dive into a pool. (God Bless America. And the Olympics.)

Woodley is judging me for slacking on the sugar cookie front.

In other news, my balcony no longer smells like it’s hosting a rotting raccoon. My plan to dry out the compost in buckets actually worked. Today I put the liner back in the bin, along with a bunch of soil. I placed the soil from the smaller buckets back into the bin because that soil had dried properly. I transferred some of the soil from the larger buckets into the smaller buckets so that it would dry as well. I also added more paper to the bin and stirred it for an hour. (No lie; it was cathartic and whatnot.)

My soil dries in buckets. That’s the situation.

I think it’s probably time to start a second bin. It turns out I generate a lot of kitchen waste.

Playing with Candy (Or How to Dip and Decorate Marshmallows)

When you’re prepping your birthday party candy bar, it’s probably best to listen to happy music like Mtume’s Juicy Fruit (if it sounds familiar it’s because Biggie sampled it for Juicy). Or Michael’s The Way You Make Me Feel. It’s also a good idea to wander into your bedroom to make sure your enormous dog isn’t eating anything like, say, the remote control to your hanging lanterns.

Well, I thought it looked like fun. Also, you were playing with candy and you weren’t giving me any.

So anyway, today I decided to experiment with marshmallows and sprinkles. I used white chocolate and corn syrup as agents to attach the sprinkles to the marshmallows. I think I prefer the white chocolate method; it adds more flavor, it dries faster, and it basically just works better all around.

I played around with the sprinkles I happened to have in my pantry for this draft, but I will likely discard most of the dipped marshmallows for a variety of reasons. My green gum balls are supposed to arrive from Amazon on Monday, and I intend for them to anchor the candy bar. Once I have them in the apothecary jar, I’ll have a better idea of my actual color palette.

I dried the marshmallows on a cookie sheet to prevent them from sticking to the table. I still managed to make a big mess of things anyway.

By the way, if you decide to use melted white chocolate chips as a dipping agent, make sure you add Crisco to the chips, otherwise you will never achieve the proper consistency to adhere the chocolate to the marshmallows. Remember my cake pop disaster? Yeah, the same principles sort of apply to marshmallow dipping too. Also, if you want to dip both ends it’s best to dip one end, let it dry for a bit, and then dip the other end. (I found that less of the sprinkles slid off that way.)

Now that we’ve covered white chocolate and gravity, it’s time to move on to the next part of the candy bar: the gummy crocodiles. While I was on a quest for affordable sprinkles to fill the vases for my floral arrangements, I found amazing gummy gators. Since a flesh-eating crocodile (croc/gator, close enough) is featured prominently in Peter Pan, I thought it was only appropriate to buy every box they had… even if they only had two.

I love gummy anything, and these “gummi” gators are super yummy. (I had to sample a few — you know to make sure I’m not poisoning my party guests or whatever.)

It’s quite likely that most of our partygoers won’t know the book as well as I do, so I’m making little cards with quotes from the novel explaining the more obscure details of the party décor. For the gummy gator/crocs, I’m going with this passage:

“’I have often,’ said Smee, ‘noticed your strange dread of crocodiles.’

‘Not of crocodiles,’ Hook corrected him, ‘but of that one crocodile.’”

Oh, and speaking of crocodiles, this croc will be chasing my watermelon Jolly Roger carving.

Amazon had other plastic crocodile options, but this one seemed appropriately feisty. And just basically, bad ass.

I’m going with this quote for the pirate ship/plastic croc display, “’It liked my arm so much, Smee, that it has followed me ever since, from sea to sea and from land to land, licking its lips for the rest of me.’”

This greedy croc has stolen my suckers.

Once I wrestle my suckers back from him, I have plans for the confections that likely involve hanging them from trees with ribbons. More on that later….

Flower Meltdown Update (Or I am Closer to Cracking this Flower Arranging Thing)

If you remember my meltdown about not knowing how to arrange flowers, you might remember this arrangement.

Photo Courtesy of Catch My Party.

I have decided I want to attempt it for my party — or at least a version of it. Since I’m rather cheap (hush, mom, I am.), I decided to hit up Ikea for vases.

I had a hell of a time finding vases that would nest inside of each other, so I went with water glasses for the inner vessels. It looks like this so far.

Rough draft of sprinkles and vases. Very Rough.

The vases are the Bladet, and the glasses are the Godis. I’m debating whether to stack two glasses on top of each other to clear the top of the larger vase or to leave room at the top (which would mean not filling the vases to the brim with sprinkles). I think it’s going to be a game-day decision based on what looks best with the flowers. The Godis glasses came in a pack of 6, so I have plenty of water glasses either way.

I didn’t know exactly how many ounces of sprinkles I would need, so I bought the biggest container I could find at Home Goods. It turns out 6.5 ounces wasn’t enough to fill one vase. (It’s driving me crazy that there aren’t any blue or purple sprinkles in this assortment, so I plan to fix that.)

Once I had a better idea how many ounces I would need, I scoured Amazon for affordable options. I found a 16 oz bag for under $8. Score.

These things are called Jimmies. Who knew? Photo Courtesy of Amazon.

Since I have Amazon Prime, I get free shipping, and my colorful new loot will be delivered to my door on Tuesday. I’ll keep you posted on the progress. You know, just in case you’re holding your breath or something….

Fashion Parade Pity Party (Or I Don’t Know What to Wear So I’m Making a Playlist Instead)

Prince makes many appearances on my birthday party playlist. I adore him even though he does weird things with his face. Photo Courtesy of The Urban Daily.

I just spent the last hour in my walk-in trying to figure out what to wear to my birthday party next weekend. Now that I’m nearly suicidal, I think I need to switch gears. It’s time to work on the party playlist. Last year I neglected the task and I swear we ended up listening to way too much emo hipster music. Six hours of whining white boys is only appropriate for a mass suicide. (Or my fashion parade pity party.) Party playlists need to have the right amount of Whitney. And Michael. I mean really….

Sadly, I will have to forego some of my favorite hip hop tunes owing to the number of toddlers who will be in attendance next Sunday. I don’t want to be responsible for some kid standing a chair singing, “To the windows, to the walls, ‘til the sweat drips down my balls” in front of his entire preschool class. (We’re saving Lil’ Jon for my 35th next summer. There won’t be any children at that gathering.)

So, anyway…

It’s a 7 hour playlist, so I’m going to spare you the specifics, but here are a few of my faves that made the list:

Michael Jackson: Bad (I mean, obviously.)

Shaggy: Oh Carolina (And, yes, this song is from the Sliver Soundtrack, but I don’t care. It’s still a fresh jam even if I have no idea what “Prowl off. Jump and Prance,” means. It’s probably dirty but if I don’t get it, the toddlers won’t either.)

Nina Simone & Felix da Housecat: Sinnerman Remixed (I love Nina Simone’s original as well, but it’s obviously not right for a festive event.)

Junior Walker and The All Stars: Shotgun (Because it makes me want to dance on a table in my heels. And also because it’s all kinds of awesome.)

Lupe Fiasco featuring Trey Songz: Out of My Head (Kinda chill but sooo fun.)

Tiesto featuring C.C. Sheffield: Escape Me (Great tune for working out and also for just hanging out and being fabulous with friends.)

Eric Prydz vs. Floyd: Proper Education (Obviously I love Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall from The Wall, but this version has a better party feel.)

MGMT: Electric Feel (Like Modest Mouse’s Float On, this song never gets old.)

Prince: 1999 (It wouldn’t be a party without a bit of Prince. OK, there’s A LOT of Prince on my playlist, but it’s only because I love him. Like REALLY love him.)

Mark Morrison: Return of the Mack (Because I’m not about to neglect the 90s — or leave it to Shaggy to represent them by himself.)

Hank Williams, Jr.: Family Tradition (It’s essential to throw in some country. Just ‘cuz it’s awesome.)

Barney Stinson may believe the best mixes are all rise, but I think you need to chill things out a bit towards the end of the night — especially on a Sunday. Here are some of my slower jams.

The Rolling Stones: Beast of Burden (My second favorite Stones song of all time behind You Can’t Always Get What You Want.)

Otis Redding: The Dock of the Bay (This is a super obvious Otis tune, but it’s such a classic I can’t help myself. I have SO much Otis. I adore Otis.)

Paul Anka: Eye of the Tiger (If you haven’t checked his cover album, Rock Swings, do it. Now. You’ll thank me later.)

Oh, and because it’s a Peter Pan Party, I had to add Hook’s tarantella, Another Princely Scheme, from the Broadway musical.

Tomorrow I’ll give you an update on the flower arrangement crisis as well as the candy bar….

My Dog May be Clean, but My Balcony is a Mess (Or I Update You on the State of My Composting Disaster)

Some days composting is not for the faint of heart. This was one of those days. After dropping Woodley off at the groomer and taking Albus on a hike, I went outside to examine the progress from last week’s watermelon disaster. Things had only marginally improved. The bin was no longer leaking loathsome ooze but it was still far too wet, and a nasty brown bilge had collected between the liner and the bin. Also, it still smelled. Vile.

I decided to remove the muck and transfer it to aerated buckets hoping to dry it out a bit in the sun. Of course I ran out of buckets midway through the task, so I had to leave a bit of the soil in the liner, but it wasn’t the end of the world. I was able to transfer enough soil that I was able to lift the liner out of the bin. Of course the dog groomer called when I was elbow deep in bilge to inform me that her majesty’s haircut and blow out had been completed. Poor Woodley would have to wait until the project was over, however, because there was no way I was going to get in the car covered with rotting veggies and smelling like I had just rolled around in a pile of monkey poo at the zoo.

Undaunted (well, sort of undaunted), I hauled the bin to my bathtub and scrubbed. As I watched the nastiness swirl around the tub it occurred to me I’d have wash that as well. (Shit.)

All of this because I feel guilty throwing away a few kitchen scraps….

I decided to add a few extra holes to the bin for aeration and then I set it out in the sun to dry.

I’m going to wait until the muck dries a bit in the sun before putting it back in the bin, so my balcony is presently littered with buckets filled to the brim with filth. I should mention, the breeze is blowing the smell into my bedroom, compelling me to light every gardenia-scented candle I own in a vain attempt to mask the smell.

This is just a disgusting mess. I’m really sorry you had to see it.

At least Woodley no longer looks or smells mangey —and Albus is thrilled to have her home. (He was a bit distressed when we dropped her off this morning. I had to stop him from bashing open the gate to follow her into the grooming area.) I think she was actually happy to see him when we arrived because she let him hit her a few times. It was unprecedented.

Woodley with tennis ball

Woodley’s first homecoming gesture involved stealing her brother’s ball. Don’t let her tiny frame fool you. This bitch means business.

They’re finally sleeping and I can get back to my papier mache tree centerpiece for my party next week. More on that later….

This is the start of the tree centerpiece for my Peter Pan Party next weekend.

Carbs Fix Everything (Or How to Make Simple Fruit Cobbler)

Red, White, and Blue Berry Cobbler for the New Miss America

Yesterday afternoon I was convinced I’d discovered a level of despair that went beyond Billy Ocean’s ability to heal. I tried Loverboy. Caribbean Queen. AND When the Going Gets Tough. But still I moped. Beyond Billy Ocean? What’s beyond Billy Ocean?

Barry White?

Nope. He didn’t help either. Somehow I was immune to his bass and all of those happy strings. It was unprecendented. Prince’s Batdance almost fixed the situation, but not quite. Still I moped. Then I ate a few fists full of truffle popcorn and a bunch of fruit leather. And I was fine. It turns out my murderous sulking was just low blood sugar.

My friend Melissa will tell you about my low blood sugar-induced dark side. On outings to Fred Segal I could go from the cheerleader in the dressing room to a crabby, miserable monster who hated her thighs, her elbows, and the lighting in the store within minutes. She’d send me off to suck down a lemonade from the cafe and soon the monstrous, gray world would be back in Technicolor. I’d still hate my thighs, but maybe a little less.

So, anyway, after I was cured by the healing power of carbohydrates, I set about finding the right red, white, and blue confection to make for my friend, Suzie. See, Suzie is becoming an American this week, and I want to make a proper patriotic-looking dessert to commerate the occasion. She is one of my first LA friends, and I’m attending her oath ceremony at the courthouse downtown.

After serious deliberation, I ultimately decided to go with an old family recipe for fruit cobbler. It’s simple, it’s delicious, and it works with any combination of fruit. I selected strawberries and blueberries to give it a red, white, and blue flair. The recipe is below.

Enjoy!

Fruit Cobbler

1 stick of unsalted butter
1 C flour
2 tsp baking power
1 C sugar
pinch of salt (a little less than 1/8 tsp)
1 C whole milk
3 C fresh fruit

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix together flour, baking power, sugar, and salt. Add milk and stir until blended. Melt the butter in a 9″ square pan. Pour the batter over the butter. Arrange fruit over the top.

At this stage the cobbler will just look like a muddled mess.

Bake for 45-50 minutes.

Here I am downtown with the new Miss America. And her Cobbler.