Xena the Warrior Puppy (Or I’m a Warrior for Puppies)

I had originally planned to post about my bookshelf redesign today, but my plans changed when I logged into Facebook this afternoon.

Here’s the bookshelf before photo. This situation can wait.

See, last month, I began following a severely neglected puppy’s remarkable journey of rehabilitation via her Facebook fan page, and today marks her one-month rescue anniversary. I wanted to acknowledge it by sharing her photo slide show.

And her story.

Her transformation has been absolutely remarkable. Her heroic rescuers have named her Xena the Warrior Puppy, and when you watch her slideshow, you’ll see why. When she was first brought to the shelter, she had no hair on her body, and she was so emaciated, they did not know if she would survive one more day let alone a month. Now she is a playful little girl on the road to recovery in a foster home.

This little girl has come a long way in only one month. She and her kind caregivers deserve recognition. Photo Courtesy of Xena’s Dekalb Fund.

Though, Xena is just one little pup, her story reminds us that there are so many more dogs like her. So many abused, starving, and neglected creatures suffering at the hands of cruel and callous people.

Because I support the Humane Society and the ASPCA, and I also follow a variety of rescue blogs, I regularly see photos of abused or neglected animals like Xena. Each time I do, I cry a little. And then I kiss my rescue dogs on their spoiled heads for an hour.

My beasts may be spoiled, but they walk to raise money for their less fortunate friends through the Race for the Rescues every year. This year the Race raised over $303,000 for 12 animal welfare organizations.

Of course, I do lavish them with Jax and Bones gifts after their walk because I think they deserve rope toy rewards.

Here is Albus with his new Bambi. Jax and Bones donates a portion of their rope toy sales to the Rescue Train.

I’m often reminded of the human capacity for cruelty and also for compassion. There are so many dedicated people caring for the animals cast aside by others, and it’s important to remember that so we don’t focus so much on the suffering and the sadness that we lose hope.

So, that’s me. I’m a lunatic for dogs.

We’re all different, and not everyone was wired to love dogs like I do. I like it that way. I mean, I love that our hearts all break for different causes ‘cuz someone needs to worry about actual human orphans while I’m fretting over every one eyed, three legged puppy mill dog I see.

Speaking of which, tomorrow night, I’m attending the Burbank City Council Meeting to voice my support for a citywide ban on selling puppy mill dogs in Burbank.

More on that later.

And also the bookshelf…..

My Food’s From Michigan! (Or It’s Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day!)

The cool thing about Foodie Pen Pals is that you often discover new food. It’s easy to get into an unimaginative rut (even when you blog about food), and FPP really helps to shake things up. I love receiving items that are unique to other areas of the country. This month I received a package from Meghan at Run With Meg. And Meghan happens to live in Michigan.

OK, so, what’s the big deal with Michigan? Well, I’m from Michigan. And as college football season kicks off, I get beyond crazy homesick for the homeland – and for the changing leaves. SO, when I got a package with a return address not far from my family cottage I got all weepy and homesick and whatnot. I mean, my family cottage isn’t just a house on a lake. It’s the house my family built with their actual hands and hammers and stuff. Plus, I designed the addition to the original structure like I was Mike Brady or something. It isn’t just a place. It’s a part of my family. It’s where I went to clear my head in college. Where my family comes together. And where we spread my Bumpa’s ashes last fall.

Maybe this view doesn’t make you want to weep, but I almost can’t look at it without crying. This is my Walden. Or something.

So, anyway, enough of this morose business. Let’s talk about things that make me happy. Like peanut butter. And jelly. Specifically, the peanut butter and jelly I received from Meghan. Now, let me be clear: this wasn’t just any peanut butter and jelly — it was cappuccino peanut butter — and a ginger fruit jelly. I don’t think you know how much I love cappuccino. Or ginger. Or a PBJ for that matter, so this was some seriously inspired stuff Meghan sent me. And don’t get me started on the dried Michigan cherries! (LOVE.)

Plus there was this amazing dog wearing sunglasses in the package! Um, awesome!

I haven’t tried the lemon drops yet, but I’m sure I’ll love them for real, because I adore sour candies.

This hip dog and I are excited to eat the lemon drops.

If you want to sign up for Foodie Pen Pals, you can do so here. It’s all kinds of awesome.

Peter Pan Party Wrap Up (Or Here’s Everything in One Place)

OK, this is it. The final Peter Pan Party post. The everything-in-one-place post. The you-never-have-to-hear-about-it-again post.

These Peter Pan Partygoers are eager to wrap this ish up.

See, I’m saving you from digging around my blog to piece together a Peter Pan Party the way I used to rummage through piles of black capris and halter tops on my floor in college just to find two matching Steve Madden platforms. (Note: I do NOT wear Maddens anymore. This is because I no longer think it’s acceptable to be hobbled by cheap footwear.)

I used Paperless Post because I’m into saving the planet by saving some trees. And also because their designs are like the perfect storm of affordable and attractive.

Photo Courtesy of Paperless Post.

If you’re not into this design, here are a few more pirate-y options.

By the way, PP now offers a charity stamp option. They donate $0.05 to Amensty International, Red, or the ASPCA if you choose the charity stamp instead of the default option. Naturally, I went with the ASPCA puppy stamp. Since we had 142 people on our guest list, we bought a little bit of kibble for homeless pets just by inviting people to drink with us at our party.

Here’s the work in progress post, complete with ordering info on the vases and sprinkles.
And this is the reveal.

Neverland Map
I explain how to age paper for a treasure map or Neverland map here.

Other Assorted Decorations
This is the decoration wrap up, complete with product ordering information.

Spicy Eggplant Dip
Truffle Popcorn

Taco Bar Main Course
Cola Carnitas
Slow Cooker Chicken (Note: I didn’t handle this part of the party, but if I had, I probably would have tried this recipe.)
Salsa Verde

Dessert Bar
Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Mascarpone Frosting
Banana Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting
Glazed Lime Cake
Chocolate Stout Cake
Skull and Crossbones Sugar Cookies

And now… bacon wrapped meatloaf, because everything is better when it’s wrapped in bacon. Truth.

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 9 (Or Here’s the Peter Pan Party Decoration Download)

It’s probably time to talk about the rest of the decorations at my party. Then I really will wrap this up. I promise.

I’m ready to move on from the boy who refused to grow up to Jaws anyway.

Tonight Discovery Channel’s Shark Week is airing a special called, “How Jaws Changed the World” and OBVIOUSLY I set my DVR for that. Plus I have the champagne to pop ready because I looooove Jaws.

And sharks.

They’re sort of my thing.

On Thursday I promise to write a post entitled, “How Jaws 3 in 3-D Changed My Life” complete with a shark cupcake tutorial, but until then…

Peter Pan and the decorations.

This is my quick watermelon carving of Hook’s Jolly Roger, complete with the menacing croc. I wish the windows were level, but alas… I was rushing.

I did a freehand sketch for the sign, and it’s a quote from J.M. Barrie’s novel. I wanted to include it just in case people didn’t understand why there was this weird crocodile lurking around Hook’s ship.

If you want to get yourself a cool croc, I found that guy on Amazon here. It’s not the cheapest croc online, but it’s the best looking, and let’s be honest: that matters. A lot.

This is my (bad) attempt at a papier mache version of Hangman’s Tree. Hangman’s Tree is a departure from J.M. Barrie’s original story (there were multiple entrances into the Lost Boys’ home under the ground).

It was easier to do one tree and explain it on my Neverland map than to get into the whole passage about how Peter fits boys for their own trees, so that’s why I went this route.

Here we have lipstick on the proverbial pig with pearls hanging from Hangman’s Tree.

The entire skeleton of the tree was made with painters’ tape and twisted newspaper. If I had it to do all over again, I’d probably use a few real twigs and maybe even a little chicken wire. For the final layer of the papier mache, I used paper towels. I found posts online saying that makes it easier to cover the piece with paint.

I was in a hurry so I turned on the oven to dry out the tree. It’s probably a fire hazard or whatever but I kept an eye on it and didn’t let the dogs investigate it with their faces.

In retrospect, I think white tissue paper would have been better because I could have achieved a look more like this:

Photo Courtesy of Ultimate Paper Mache

And what would be a Peter Pan party without a little Tink?

I hate Tinkerbell, but you can’t really leave her out of your Peter Pan Party.

She is a scheming bitch, but she’s essential to the story.

The lantern is this little ditty from Ikea. I made Tink out of pins and tissue paper from Target.

At one point I considered hanging the lantern from a ribbon in the yard and surrounding it with green and white suckers, but I decided to reign myself in a bit.

My menu was another freehand sketch, but you could easily trace the silhouette and keep it simple. (Simple is something I SO need to learn.)

Here’s the Peter Pan Party menu situation.

I promise I’ll write my full wrap up post, so we can really fly away from Neverland. Forever.

Not that I’m going to grow up or anything….

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

Only Children are Spoiled (Or How to Make Truffle Popcorn)

I am an only child. And I was the only grandchild for NINE YEARS. So, it should come as no surprise that I am an absolute nightmare on occasion. There was a time I thought the entire world existed to watch my performances, which included recitations of the Narnia Chronicles in a British accent, dramatic lip syncing performances to Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me,” or dancing on a picnic table in a diaper at 10 pm.

My dad is this well-behaved electrical engineer who has been pushed to the absolute brink of insanity by my antics. Were it not for his faith and his firm belief God made me this way, he might have died of embarrassment (or frustration) long ago.

Not only did I demand a fair amount of attention, but I was also given a lot of swag. Before you read this as a cautionary tale about only children, I should tell you that we’re not all bad. I can entertain myself for days on end without company, and I love to share from my lavish bounty of gifts.

My mother came for a visit recently, and I now have new Betsey jewelry, the dogs have piles of squeaky toys, and my kitchen is full of farmers’ market swag.

Before you condemn me for being some sort of spoiled parasite, I should tell you I played airport chauffeur for hours, made my mother wonderful food, and endured hours of interrogation about why I’m not dating anyone. So, it all evens out. I trade swag for my sanity. It’s cool.

You know what else is cool? Truffle salt. My mom bought me some at the farmers’ market, and I’m putting it on everything. The applications are absolutely endless, and because I’m so into sharing, I’m going to tell you about one!

Tonight I’m making truffle popcorn for my Gone with the Wind movie night, and I plan to wash it down with bourbon-spiked shakes.


Truffle salt is so absolutely amazing that I might eat my own shoe if you sprinkled enough on it.

I’m looking forward to stuffing myself to the gills with goodness while watching Clark Gable strut around like sex on a stick. You might want to do the same.

The recipe is below. Enjoy!

Truffle Popcorn Recipe

¼ C popcorn kernels
2 T oil
2 T unsalted butter, melted
¼ tsp truffle salt

The popcorn bag will say you should heat the oil until two test kernels pop before adding the rest of the popcorn. This is a bald faced lie. This will burn your popcorn. I have found it’s best to add the oil and the popcorn at the same time. If you want to double the recipe, work in batches and add another 2 T of oil and ¼ C of popcorn after popping (and removing) the first batch from the pot. Working in small batches prevents burning. (Or maybe I just suck at making popcorn the old fashioned way and am making more work for myself than is necessary, but I’d rather not waste food. Or set my kitchen on fire.)

Pour the melted butter over the popcorn and toss the popcorn. Add the truffle salt and toss again.

Can’t They Have Pork Now? (Or How to Make Cola Carnitas in a Slow Cooker)

Cola Carnitas Tacos are decidedly not for dogs.

“They look sad. Can’t I give them some pork?” It was my mother’s first night in Los Angeles, and we were enjoying carnitas tacos and cocktails while listening to a little Sinatra. The dogs were not exactly begging, but I must admit they were looking at my mother rather imploringly from across the room.

“That’s how their faces look — and no, you may not.”

“Your momma’s mean,” she told the dogs as she stuffed her mouth with taco.

For the record, I most certainly am NOT mean. I feed them fancy fish biscuits and venison dog food — plus I make them homemade peanut butter popsicles! I just don’t feed them from the table because Albus does not need additional motivation to put his feet and face on my table during dinner.

I was eventually able to convince my mother that the dogs definitely were not sad and absolutely did not need to be fed from the table. They did get some pork in their bowls with their morning meal, however….

“Can’t they have some pork now?” She asked as I was preparing their breakfast. I rinsed the meat to make sure it wasn’t too spicy and placed it in their bowls. She smiled triumphantly and turned to the dogs to tell them, “Gram Gram just got you some meat.”

My mother (called “The FP” by her friends, which is short for “food pusher”) has now gone on to Honolulu for a week, and we have all been properly spoiled, stuffed with pork, and are in need of a very long nap.

If you’re into easy, yummy ways to cook meat, the recipe is below. Just don’t let your mother slip it to your dogs under the table….

Slow Cooker Cola Carnitas Recipe

5 lb pork shoulder (sometimes called pork butt)
3 medium onions
2-12 oz bottles of Coke (I prefer Mexican Coke*)
3.5 oz of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce**
1 fresh Anaheim chile, diced***
4 garlic cloves, peeled

Slice the onions in half and place them on the bottom of the slow cooker. Dice the Anaheim chile. Place the pork on top of the onions, fat side up. Pour the cola into the slow cooker. Add the chipotle chiles (with the adobo sauce) as well as the garlic and chopped Anaheim chiles.

Turn the cooker on the low setting and cook for 8-9 hours. Once the meat is tender and cooked thoroughly, remove it from the cooker and place it on a plate. Remove the excess fat and shred the tender pork with two forks.

Serve on warm corn tortillas with your choice of toppings. I used guacamole, salsa verde, my variation of pico de gallo, cilantro, and cotija cheese.

*Mexican Coke is made with sugarcane instead of corn syrup. It’s available at many grocery or specialty stores.

** I included a link to the chipotle chiles in adobo sauce from Amazon… just in case.

*** If you can’t find fresh Anaheim chiles, you can omit this ingredient. The chipotle chiles are incredibly flavorful and are more important to the recipe.

Why did you let the nice lady leave? She gave me meat. And presents.

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.


The Lean Green Bean

Meyer Lemonade with Rosemary and Vodka (Or Douse Me in Vodka when I die)

The following is an excerpt from an actual text conversation between one of my best friends from college and me:

Anika: “I think I need to amend my 401 K plan.”

Anika: “In other news, I’m experimenting with rosemary and vodka today.”

(Total non-sequitor.)

Kelley: “Vodka is my drink. My funeral pyre will be set adrift in a lake of it.”

Kelley: “Stand far back from the shore.”

Anika: “My diet revolves around sausage, sirloin, and heavy cream. There’s no way I’m going to outlive you.”

Kelley: “You can share my pyre. We will be those old ladies who raised hell in the nursing home, out-drank our grandchildren, and wore crazy hats to our funeral pyre.”

Kelley: “Sofia Loren glasses and hats!”

Kelley: “Gigantic, lunatic hats with scarves and wide brims!”

(And, this is why we’re friends….)

Anika: “I already own lunatic hats.”

(True story. Maybe I’ll post pics some time.)

Anika: “They’ll have to douse me in gin for the occasion to properly convey my essence, but otherwise, I’m on board.”

After another hour of texting this type of amazing nonsense, I finally got off my couch, tied on one of my many Anthropologie aprons, and cranked up a little Fujiya and Miyagi to get in the mood for the aforementioned mixology.

(I may have danced while I made magic with meyer lemons and vodka.)

The recipe is below.

Drinks taste better with rosemary trees in them.

Drinks taste better with entire rosemary trees in them.

Meyer Lemonade with Rosemary and Vodka

¼ C Meyer lemon juice*
1 C Soda water
2 T Rosemary simple syrup (recipe below)
1 ½ ounces of vodka
1 Rosemary sprig for garnish

Squeeze the juice of one lemon into your glass. Add the simple syrup, vodka, and soda water. Stick a spring of rosemary in the glass to add color and an air of sophistication… or something.

This drink is also tasty without the vodka, so it’s great for picnics… or pregnant friends.

Rosemary Simple Syrup

1 C Sugar
1 C Water
4 T Chopped rosemary sprigs

Bring the water and sugar to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Remove from the heat and add the chopped rosemary. Allow the syrup to steep for 30 minutes. Pour the simple syrup through a strainer to remove the rosemary.

This makes more simple syrup than you will need for one drink. It will keep well for at least a week in the refrigerator.

*Meyer lemons are a cross between a mandarin orange and a lemon and are slightly sweeter than regular lemons. If you’re using regular lemons, you may want to add a little more simple syrup.

Somebody’s Having a Baby Spritzer (Or how to entertain pregnant friends)

Tonight I’m experimenting with alcohol-free fizzy drinks. No, I’m not on the wagon. I have pregnant friends, and I’m contemplating throwing a baby shower or three. I’m not above waving champagne punch in pregnant ladies’ faces, but I’d be a lousy host (not to mention a bad friend) if I didn’t serve something sweet they could sip as well.

Looking at my herb garden I see that my cilantro plant has committed suicide, so that herb won’t be making an appearance in my glass this evening. I put the withered leaves into my compost bin and swear under my breath. So much for making salsa on Saturday….

I decide to pluck some fresh mint and basil and mix up a tasty mojito-inspired spritzer while blasting Maroon 5’s Moves like Jagger. (It’s essential to dance in the kitchen while making drinks — even if they don’t contain vodka.)

The recipe is below.

Somebody’s Having a Baby Spritzer

1 Lime*
3 Sliced strawberries, plus 1 whole strawberry for garnish
4 Fresh basil leaves
4 Fresh mint leaves
2-3 T of sugar, plus extra for the rim of the glass
8 oz of soda water

Squeeze the juice of one lime into a tall glass or a cocktail shaker. Add the mint, basil, and sugar. (I like my drinks a little sweeter, so I go with 3 T.) Use a muddler to macerate the sugar and herbs. Add the sliced strawberries and mash a little more. Add soda water.

Slice one strawberry beginning at the pointed tip, but do not slice it all of the way through. Rub the strawberry around the rim of the serving glass.

Pour a few tablespoons of sugar onto a small plate and invert the glass onto the plate, rimmed side down. The strawberry juice will help the sugar adhere to the rim.

Put the strawberry on the rim as garnish, and then place a few ice cubes in the glass.

Pour the spritzer into the decorated glass. If you don’t want the bits floating in the glass, you can use a strainer. I like chunks, so I skip this step.



Dance while you’re drinking your sweet little libation. Show off your moves like Jagger, even if the only one watching is your disapproving dog.

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*Lime Composting Note: There’s quite a debate about including citrus in your compost bin. Discussions range from the pH impact on soil to worms’ predilection (or lack, thereof) for citrus.

I decide to use the smashed lime to wipe out the inside of my sink before disposing of it. Lemons and limes offer a green way to clean your sink (plus they make the stainless steel look all shiny).

Chopped citrus peel can also be used in your garbage disposal to prevent it from smelling like the Bog of Eternal Stench.

If you’re looking for a shopping guide for some of the products I dig, I have included the links below:

Citrus Juicer

Soda Stream