Prosciutto, Mint, and Melon Appetizers (Or A Baby Shower Brunch Idea!)

Yesterday, I was playing around with prosciutto to see if perhaps I might want to do a proscuitto, melon, and mint appetizer for my friend’s baby shower on Saturday.

There's melon in there somewhere.

There’s melon in there somewhere.

I was wrapping mint leaves and the cured meat around balls of cantaloup, when I received word that the shower was off.

Yup, you guessed it… another baby shower canceled due to the early arrival of another baby boy!

Finnie is a big brother now! Yay!!!

Declan is happy and healthy, and so is his mommy, and while I’m disappointed we won’t be stuffing our faces with pork products in his honor this weekend, I’m looking forward to holding him instead really soon!

Also?

I’ll never forget his birthday because he now shares one with my baby who turned four yesterday. ❤

SO not the same thing as a human baby. I know.

SO not the same thing, but I love him with all my heart. And that counts for something, right?

XOXO

We’re Freezing Our Assets and Our Dinner (Or I Have a Freezer Fetish)

I recently registered for a financial planning course offered at my church. Though I have grown up a lot since my 20s, there’s still room for improvement. Plus, there’s a lot of instability in my industry, and I want to make sure I’m preparing myself properly for it.

Also, Albus was concerned we were spending too much money on lift tickets and not saving enough for retirement.

I think we need to talk about your mutual funds.

My parents are beyond fiscally responsible, and they could have taught me most of what I’m learning in the course, but they’re not patient people. And impatience? It runs in families… so I’m as bad as they are.

So, that’s why I’m paying Dave Ramsey to teach me the things my parents could — because his course was cheaper than the family therapist we’d need if my parents taught me this stuff. (See? I’m already being financially responsible.)

I’m learning all kinds of things I sort of already knew, but the difference is I’m actually putting them into practice willingly. And Albus has gotten into it.

He’s a financial gangster.

Obviously, I need a budget that includes a savings fund, but I need one that doesn’t make me feel too deprived either. I’m not capable of eating the same entrée night after night, but I also can’t justify wasting money by throwing away leftovers.

I’m still working out the kinks in my budget to balance quality of life in the moment with quality of life in the future, but I’m already seeing some great results from my efforts.

One way I’m working around the variety versus spending dilemma in the food category is to make dishes I can freeze. That way if I find myself running low on money in that section of the budget I have tons of options in my freezer that will satisfy my need for variety. I keep the containers small so they represent single serving sizes for a single girl like me. (Not only does freezing make financial sense, but it’s also super helpful to have meals made ahead if you work long hours and come home ravenous like I often do.)

My freezer situation.

My labeling system was inspired by my grandmother. She has a crazy enormous freezer in her basement that is filled with everything from frozen vegetable stock to pot roasts. (Don’t they all? I think that might be a requirement for being a grandmother, actually.) And everything is labeled with masking tape and a sharpie. Personally, I went the painters tape route because I like it better.

So, the freezer is one tool that keeps me on track financially. Menu planning is another. Look out for a post on that soon.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to put on my Ravenclaw pin, grab my owl, and hit up some bars for Halloween in my Hogwarts garb.

Once I get my owl away from the candy gummies, that is….

And, yes, I have a category in my budget for barhopping….

Drive By Bike Insults (Or I’m Not Sharing My Steak with Blue Cheese and Jalapeños)

Here’s what I love about my neighborhood: it’s dog friendly and it isn’t an uptight community where overbearing people tell you how you should be holding your dog’s leash or whatever. Here’s what I don’t like: weird people who shout at you while riding by on their bikes.

Usually I walk the dogs in some sort of baseball cap and yoga attire, but yesterday I was dressed in a sundress for church when I took the dogs out. Some guy with a strange fauxhawk thing happening on his head shouted at me, “Get a boyfriend!” as he rode by on his BMX looking bike.

Um, what?!?

Freak.

Is that what he said to you? I should have bitten him through his skinny jeans.

First of all, who says I don’t have one. (I mean, I don’t, but how does HE know?) Second, why is this any of his business anyway? And third… what in hell does he think he’ll accomplish by shouting at me?

Does he think I’ll go out with him because he’s the perpetrator of a drive by bike insult? Does he think I have dogs because I’m some sad, lonely spinster? Or is he just some weirdo being weird? (Most likely scenario.)

Does this sort of thing happen to other people or is it just me?

I mean I have had baristas who would harass me for being single. Like it’s so hard to believe a woman can like dogs, steak, and football and not be some guy’s girlfriend. Whatever. (“Just hand me my whole milk latte, Chuck Woolery!”) I mean it’s not like I don’t date.

I just, oh, never mind….

Let’s change the subject to happier things. Like the new album by The xx. And steak.

I would like to eat one tonight while I watch Denver and Atlanta on Monday Night Football.

Even though I think a New York Strip can totally stand alone on its own merit, I also think it can benefit from blue cheese and chiles from time to time.

Tonight I used this recipe to make a jalapeno and blue cheese sauce for my New York Strip.

The longer I stay single, the better I get at handling power tools and lighting a charcoal grill without setting myself on fire, so there’s that.

I also added the blue cheese jalapeno mixture to my baked potato, but you should be careful with this because the blue cheese can get a bit overpowering if you slather it all over everything.

Suck it, weird bike boy, I’m not sharing my steak. Besides, I bet you’re a vegan anyway.

Football’s Back and It’s Time for Spicy Sausage (Or How to Make Spicy Italian Sausage with Tomato Cream Sauce on Farfalle)

Fall means spicy meat to me. For real.

I almost can’t believe football is back. I mean, it’s like 93 outside, but whatever. Football means fall to me. So in honor of it all, I’m making my favorite pasta dish for the game tonight. It’s a spicy sausage pasta with a tomato cream sauce, and it’s divine. It basically combines everything I love in this world.

Namely: cream, carbs, and pig.

Do you know what else makes this week a big deal? Besides all of the photos of my friends’ kids’ first day of school all over Facebook?

Yesterday was Albus’ one year adoption anniversary.

On September 4, 2011, I rescued a scared little boy named Bruno from the backseat of a Honda Accord and brought him home with me. I had just planned to foster him, but by September 5, I was making homemade ice cream cookie sandwiches while watching Harry Potter, and I sort of fell absolutely in love with the bombastic beast. Before Harry was off to Hogwarts, I had renamed the dog and informed Woodley we were keeping him.

I mean, look at this face.

What on earth am I wearing, woman?

How was I going to give him up? Woodley might have looked something like this when I told her the big dog was staying.

Another dog? I can’t even look at you.

But now they’re best buddies or something.

I’m not a dog, but I think this means they like each other. Plus Woodley cries at daycare if they don’t let her into the big dog area with her brother, so there’s that.

So anyway, here’s the recipe. It’s easy. And amazing.

Spicy Italian Sausage with Tomato Cream Sauce on Farfalle

2 T olive oil
1 lb spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional – I like my sauce really spicy so I add the pepper flakes)
1 C diced onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 14.5 ounce cans of chopped tomatoes
½ C whipping cream

1 lb farfalle (or bowtie pasta)
½ C fresh basil, torn
Fresh grated parmesan

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium high heat. Add sausage (and red peppers flakes). Cook until the sausage is no longer pink, about 5 minutes, breaking the sausage into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon as you cook the meat. Add the onion and garlic, sautéing until tender, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and juice.

Put a pot of salted water on the stove to boil after adding the tomatoes to the sauce. Once the water is boiling, cook the noodles according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, simmer the tomato sauce for 20 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced and the tomatoes are a brick red color. Add the cream to the sauce and cook for 3-5 minutes until the cream has reduced slightly.

Drain the pasta and serve the sauce over the farfalle with torn basil on top. Garnish with fresh grated parmesan.

Eat. And smile while watching football and pretending it feels like fall.

My Mac is Back and It’s Time to Talk About Owls (Or How to Make Owl Sachets)

And my MacBook is back in business. Like Dumbledore’s phoenix, Fawkes, rising from the ashes, my Mac (and its mouse) are all miraculously healed.

Sweet relief. I have a full computer screen — and a mouse that works.

So, anyway, I figured it’s time to talk about owl sachets. I should preface this tutorial with the admission that the last time I sewed anything I was about nine. And it kind of looked like a Pound Puppy. If you squinted. Hard. (I also made a panda that week which was equally heinous. I then decided I was done sewing forever and I went back to playing basketball like a proper tomboy.)

See, I own a sewing machine but prior to suggesting we give owl sachets as baby shower gifts, I had not actually removed said machine from the box. I found threading the machine more challenging than the actual act of sewing, but after watching a YouTube tutorial in Portuguese about 15 times, I finally mastered it. (I found the manual utterly useless because it skipped steps assuming one had some rudimentary understanding of sewing. I did not.)

The inspiration for this madness was this fabulous pin I found on Pinterest.

These darling owl pillows are made from Amy Butler fabric and are available on Etsy. Photo courtesy of April Foss on Etsy.

Perhaps a sensible person would not have volunteered herself for a sewing project when she did not actually know how to sew, but I like learning new things. And I am not sensible. Plus, I work best under pressure. If you’re not a lunatic like me, or if you’re pressed for time, you can buy adorable owl pillows from April Foss on Etsy. She has an amazing array of designs. Hers are not sachets, but they are still super cute.

If you want to go the DIY route ‘cuz you’re crazy like me (or actually gifted like April and Martha, which I am not), then here’s the how-to:

I cut an owl shape out of fabric and used it as a pattern. I then pinned it to the fabric I was cutting out.

Woodley decided to help me sew. And by “help” I mean she rubbed her face on the fabric before falling asleep on it.

I sewed around the ears and the sides leaving the bottom open. To achieve a firm three dimensional shape, I filled the sachets with some stuffing I picked up at Jo-Ann’s and I mixed in the dry lavender. Then I hand sewed the bottom of the sachets.

Next I cut out eyes from white and black felt and glued them on with a hot glue gun. I opted to skip the beaks because I thought they were superfluous. I’m sure real owls don’t feel this way about their beaks, but whatever….

Here are my owls getting ready for their glue gun eye jobs.

The adorable gray and yellow fabric is Amy Butler and I found it online. The pink fabric was donated by the other shower host from her stash, so I don’t know who the designer is.

I’ll finish gluing the eyes on the sachets when we reschedule the shower. (See, the guest of honor, baby Connor, decided to arrive 5 weeks early, the day before his own shower. He and his mom are happy and healthy, and now he gets to meet everyone who bought him strollers and stuff.)

Prince Harry, Pina Coladas, and Other Observations on Vegas. (Or I’m Looking for the Perfect Pina Colada)

Note to self: I need hurricane glasses. Pina Coladas just don’t look right when served in the wrong glassware.

You have probably already heard, but just in case you haven’t, Prince Harry’s blurry bum and bits are prominently featured on TMZ today. I mean, he was in Vegas, so it’s kind of, “Whatever. Leave the poor prince alone!” But it is the royal bum, so it’s breaking news. Or something.

(By the way, if you want to see the blurry pics of the prince, who apparently isn’t all that good at playing pool, here’s the link, but maybe don’t click on it if you’re at work.)

You’re welcome.

So, yeah, that’s all very different than my last trip to the strip. The last time I went to Vegas I had a large pina colada outside of Paris after a day at the pool and then promptly fell asleep snuggling with the dogs while watching TV.

The only available “glassware” for serving Pina Coladas outside of Paris were either this balloon situation or a large plastic Eiffel Tower that hung from my neck. I considered this the lesser of two aesthetic evils.

Clearly, I didn’t do Vegas right. I didn’t step on any burning cigarettes or broken glass while carrying my shoes across the strip at 7 am, I didn’t drop $400 on food in two days, and I didn’t play strip pool with a prince.

I mean, it should hardly even count as a trip to Vegas if about six girls aren’t washing their filthy feet in the spa tub at the same time and at least one person doesn’t play poker until dawn with an off season athlete. (And, no, that is absolutely not a euphemism.) But this was not that kind of trip. Not the kind that leads to dirty feet or royal debauchery, anyway.

After vacillating for weeks about meeting up with friends who were in town for a hockey tournament, I made a game day decision — like booked my room at 10 am and jumped in the car with the dogs at 11 am kind of game day decision. Obviously, I would never bring them for a wild weekend, but this was just a chill, catch up with friends by the pool kind of trip. Totally the kind for dogs. I should probably do a post on bringing dogs to Vegas because there are challenges, but it can be done, and I have the pictures to prove it.

Albus discovers that everything is super sized in Vegas. Even the cats.

Apparently, Albus has caught the scent of margaritas, quesadillas, and sin. This photo was taken moments before he tried to enter Margaritaville of his own volition.

So anyway, all of this TMZ talk of Vegas was really making me want a pina colada and some vintage booty music tonight, so I cranked up some bad 90s jams like Yolanda, Tootsee Roll, and Fatboy and pulled out the blender.

I mixed up a batch of pina coladas, and I have to admit it wasn’t life changing. I mean, it was pretty good and it wasn’t as cloyingly sweet as the crappy made from a mix kind, but I think I wanted more pineapple punch. Next time I’ll probably use fresh pineapple instead of the canned version in juice. I may even freeze the pineapple before mixing it and cut down on the ice so the drink will have a little more sweet pineappley pizzazz.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering: 68% of the TMZ audience? Now thinks Prince Harry is awesome.

(And, yes, I had to vote to find that out. I might have even voted twice. Don’t judge me. After all, I did hear about the royal debacle from NPR in the first place.)

Pina Colada

2/3 C light rum
2/3 C pineapple
2/3 C cream of coconut
3 C crushed ice

Add the rum, pineapple and cream of coconut and blend thoroughly. Add the crushed ice and blend completely.

To achieve a more uniform slushy consistency, I put the cocktail in my ice cream maker and let it do its magic for about ten minutes. That made it an awesome consistency.

If you have any other suggestions to improve upon the pina colada recipe, please hook me up. I need to find my perfect Prince Charming Pina Colada.

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 1 (Or How to Make Spicy Eggplant Dip)

This easy eggplant dip is kind of spicy. And totally yummy.

The last two weeks have been an absolute blur, what with the baking and sewing and papier mache-ing for two parties. So, apologies for the radio silence the last few days. I have been absolutely covered in paint, sprinkles, and cake batter, and I thought it would be unwise to type in that condition. Also, I was so completely crazed that I nearly pulled an undergrad-like all-nighter on Saturday. For real.

In the aftermath of the madness, I was a little unsure where to start my blog posts. Then my friend e-mailed me and asked for the recipe for the spicy eggplant dip I served at my birthday party, so that seemed like a logical place to begin.

I can’t totally take credit for the recipe. It comes from a Bon Appetit Cookbook from 2003, called Best Entertaining Recipes.

Albus is very into the cookbook as well. He thinks he can learn to cook through osmosis. Or something.

I promise there will be so many Peter Pan Party posts in the next two weeks that you will be like, “Listen, I’m over your birthday — and that troublesome little boy in green tights.”

So, anyway, here’s the recipe. I have modified it slightly by decreasing the amount of salt used. (This is because I serve it with store-bought pita chips and they are saltier than the toasted pita chips used in the original recipe.)

Spicy Eggplant Dip

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/2 C extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons minced garlic (I don’t really measure this, to be honest.)
2 tsp coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
2 1-pound eggplants, peeled, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
4 red bell peppers, seeded, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 large red onions, cut into 3/4 inch cubes

Fresh parsley as garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray the two large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk oil, garlic, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper in a large bowl. Add eggplant, bell peppers, and onions to the bowl; toss to coat with seasoned oil. Divide the mixture between the two baking sheets. Roast until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned, turning occasionally, about 35 minutes. Cool 15 minutes on the baking sheets.

Transfer half of the vegetable mixture to the food processor. Process until a coarse puree forms. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining mixture.

Garnish with parsley to serve (optional). You can also mix in 3 T of chopped parsley before serving, but I don’t think it really adds that much flavor.

This can be made two days ahead, but I’d wait to add the parsley if you’re going that route.

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.

I Dedicate This to Bumpa (Or I am Grateful to Receive the One Lovely Blog Award)

I am one of those terrible people who sometimes checks her phone while hiking. It should be a sin when one is among trees to consult a miniature computer, but sometimes it beckons from the pocket of one’s purse and it must be consulted so that the racket will stop.

Yesterday it was beastly hot by LA standards and it was actually even a bit humid. It was almost humid enough to make me happy, but not really. See, when you live in the desert and it wreaks all kinds of havoc on your dry hair and skin you, too, will wish for moisture in the air. And those of you who are enduring 107 degree heat with 99% humidity, I would feel sympathy for you except that your mortgages are less than my rent and the men in your state wear baseball caps instead of fedoras.

So anyway, I was having this weird hike in Griffith Park, keeping to the shady parts so my dogs didn’t die of heatstroke and whatnot. There were these two old Asian ladies singing songs at a picnic table for no apparent reason, Albus was trying to pounce on tiny lizards, Woodley was straggling behind sniffing for squirrels and other prey, and there was basically all kinds of chaos everywhere. Meanwhile, my phone was making the mail sound.

I checked it and, lo, it brought glad tidings of a blogging award! There I was among the majestic trees feeling all humbled and proud to learn that I had received the One Lovely Blog Award. Seriously, thank you Kenley of Beyond the Green Door! You are like my young Fairy Blog Mother with the Awards! I adore you!

Now I am supposed to tell you seven things about myself and nominate other bloggers. Since I am terrible at following rules I haven’t personally made up, I am going to start by telling you eight things about myself.

So here it goes:

1) I would die without music.

Here I am DJing in diapers and basically being fat.

My momma raised me on Motown. Marvin GayeAretha, and the Four Tops were the soundtracks of my childhood.

Here we are with her older sister being fabulous hippie types in the grass.

Her little sister contributed a bit of Barry White, Miles Davis, and Arthur Prysock to my musical education.

My mom’s little sister introduced me to great music and gave me my first Cuisinart.

And her baby brother rounded it out by covering Patsy Cline and the blues.

My uncle’s dog, Decca, was named after Patsy Cline’s recording label. Patsy and Decca were amazing.

All of us can trace our love of music and our brown eyes back to the Patron Saint Everything Tremendous, my Bumpa, Harold Lawrence Russell. (I couldn’t say Grandpa when I was little, and the Bumpa bit just stuck.) He taught us to love darts, dancing, and the better things in life, like cocktail hour. He is my hero, and both of my dogs are basically named after him.

Woodley Russell and Professor Albus Lawrence sit nicely for biscuits in Coldwater Canyon Park.

2) Speaking of which, I have always loved dogs.

Here I am in Athens, Georgia with my cousin, Abbott. He would later sail to St. Croix on a tiny sailboat with our Bumpa because his mommy and daddy were moving there to study coral reefs at the NOAA Hydrolab.

3) I worked in the writers’ office of LOST for seasons 3 and 4, and Carlton Cuse is hands down my favorite boss ever. He is funny, smart, talented, and a true mentor in every sense of the word. (I’m super excited about his new show, Bates Motel, on A&E. You should be too. You should also read his article about college sports here.)

My old LOST office in Bungalow 23. Note: we were NOT in Honolulu. The writers’ office was on the Disney lot neighboring “What About Brian?” instead of the beach.

I wore my NOAA Hydrolab shirt into the office during the writing of the Hydra Station episodes because it seemed like the right thing to do.

Hurricane Hugo destroyed my uncle’s lab in 1989. This shirt is a collectors’ item now or something, but I wear it to bed.

4) I psychotically LOVE football.

I am a Green Bay Packers fan because my dad grew up in a super remote part of Michigan that is actually connected to Wisconsin.

Here the Kohon cousins are keeping it classy in a fine establishment called The Rusty Saw Blade Bar. What else?

My true love is college football, though, and the Wolverines are my second religion, you know, after the Presbyterian part.

Only my friend Melissa wears a cashmere Hermes hat to the Big House. I love Melissa.

5) I quit being premed when I had about six credits left and decided to get my MFA in film producing from USC instead.

Because THIS:

is more fun than THIS:

6) There is a road called Kohon Road in Michigan. It’s not one of those coincidences — it’s actually named after my dad’s parents. It’s very weird putting your own name into the GPS. Truth.

Here I am on the side of a highway posing with a sign. It’s not weird… honest.

7) I love absolutely everything about trees.

Sitting in them.

There may be some truly questionable parenting at work here… because this limb? It’s nowhere near the ground. (Just kidding mom and dad.)

Planting them.

Bumpa planted a tree for each of his grandchildren at our cottage. This is my blue spruce as a baby — and also me as a baby.

Decorating them.

Here’s my Bumpa bringing me a Christmas tree.

Hauling them.

Here I am being an amazing helper. I exceed at helping Bumpa.

30 years later, still hauling…

And burning them.

We could sit by a fire absolutely for hours. It’s one of the few things that actually made us sit still.

We lost him in October of 2010, and nothing will ever be the same again. Ever.

I stenciled trees on my hallway wall in remembrance of him.

My birch trees are the first thing I see when I come home.

8) I spoke on behalf of the family at his funeral, and I still don’t know how I did it without crying what with Danny Boy being played in the church and all.

A year later we gathered to plant trees and scatter my Bumpa’s ashes at the cottage. We popped the bubbly and toasted the man who made all of our lives happier, richer, and so much more fun by being by our sides.

I would like to dedicate the One Lovely Blog award to him because I would not have returned to writing if it were not for his courage, his faith, and the legacy his integrity left behind, but that’s a long story for another time.

So now, I’m supposed to nominate 15 other blogs, and it’s not that I don’t want to follow the rules, but I want to be truly heartfelt today. I’m still new to blogging and I’m slowly amassing a list of blogs I love. These are the four blogs I adore right now, and I want you to read them. They speak to my soul and stuff.

But before you do that, you should listen to In the Mood by Glenn Miller because it’s a happy kind of song, it was my Bumpa’s favorite, and it’s good for dancing in your living room during cocktail hour. Even if your only dance partner is your dogs.

Peppermint Bliss. I discovered Bailey’s blog because her home was featured in a Design Sponge tour, and it was quite possibly the most amazing home tour I have ever seen. Never have I pinned more photos from a single spread. Ever. Her playful, colorful, yet sophisticated style epitomizes the aesthetic I aspire to create for myself. Plus she’s really funny, she’s a talented designer, and she has a Cocker Spaniel. You must check out her blog. She has a fresh voice, which is more rare than you might think in the blog space.

Living Luxe for Less Bucks. Sarah is hysterically funny. You will laugh at her anecdotes about ugly undies and awkward body waxing incidents, but you’ll also learn lots of money saving tips on her blog. She has not let her kidney transplant limit her life or dim her spirit. You should know about her. She’s truly one of a kind. Her courage, individuality, and beautiful spirit come through in her writing.

LindO Designs. Angela is a gifted architect and artist. She transforms furniture, knows how to install her own chandeliers, and she’s doing all of this while running a business and running after a miniature Michigan football player in waiting. (No, really.) In addition to her furniture business, she also has a prop company. She’s presently doing fabulous things involving Dr. Seuss for her prop company. I mean, who doesn’t love Truffula Trees?

Dirty Centaur Pictures. John is beyond funny. Last year, he and his writing partner wrote a web series that I produced for a compact car company that will remain nameless for a whole host of reasons. It was absolutely the most fun I have ever had at any job ever. You need to know about John because we all need more laughter in our lives.

My Evening of Epic Fails (Or I Screw Up My First Attempt at Cake Pops)

“I don’t think people understand what you’re saying when you say Albus.” My mother said as she sipped her sauvignon blanc.

“Well, that’s why I introduce him as Albus Dumbledore,” I replied.

“Not everyone knows who that is.”

“Of course they do. Albus is a mighty wizard!” I exclaimed indignantly. “Besides, it’s Latin for ‘white.’ I like Latin.” (I did NOT like Latin when I was translating the entire Aeneid into English, but this is not important now.)

“I think they think you’re saying Elvis.”

This from the woman who named me Anika? I’ve been called everything from Anita to Shaniqua over the years, and I’ve been correcting people on the pronunciation of my name since Kindergarten, so she hardly has a foot to stand on when it comes to weird names for offspring – human or dog.

“Well, I nearly named him Chappy Sinclair, but I changed my mind at the last minute.”

By look on her face, it was clear this name would not have met with her standards either. (She does not appreciate Iron Eagle any more than Harry Potter, apparently.)

She’s actually right that people have called my dog everything from “Alvin” to “Elvis,” but I had no intention of conceding this. The little girl downstairs squeals, “Elbis!” every time she sees him. (Even this hybrid is probably toddler for Elvis.)

I should also mention that she doesn’t approve of Woodley’s name either. She thinks it’s confusing I named a fluffy female after a 265-pound linebacker. She’s probably not wrong.

She may have given me a hard time about my dogs’ names, but she did buy me this fabulous pink cake pop pan from Sur La Table, so there’s that.

My fancy new cake pop pan, courtesy of my mother.

I must say, my first attempt at using my new toy was even more disastrous than my attempts at dog-naming.

I was hoping to make Hedwig-like owls that looked like this:

See these perfect owls from Bakerella? Yeah, mine looked nothing like them.

I didn’t even get to the decorating part, because I ended up with THIS mess.

Albus is ignoring the Chernobyl-like disaster in the foreground and heading straight for the un-sullied cake pops on the counter. Even my dog doesn’t think the others are edible.

I think my first mistake was using a strawberry cake mix for the cake pops, as it was not nearly dense enough. (I’m starting to believe “cake” is a bit of a misnomer and the base of these balls is really more of a cake/cookie lovechild.) My next mistake was purchasing Ghirardelli white chocolate chips to coat my cake-y creations. Despite adding shortening to make the melted mess thinner, it was just too thick and sticky to properly coat the crumbly cake.

Desperate to find another coating substance, I scoured the internet this morning and discovered another option on Bakerella. It turns out it was hidden within another one of my pins. (Oops. I probably should have READ the post first instead of simply pinning the photo at first sight.) Bakerella suggests using Merckens Candy Coating for the pops. I guess I’ll be looking for a new cake pop recipe and then dipping those in Merckens next time.

I’m not really sure what to do with my cake pop rejects. I’m leaning toward feeding them to the squirrels downstairs even if they are the sworn enemies of my poorly named dogs.

Oh, and don’t get me started on what went wrong with THIS watermelon shark carving last night….

This Jedi-eating watermelon monster was supposed to be a shark. Alas, my Shun Sumo Santoku knife was just too big for the finer details.

Have you tried making cake pops? Did you make an epic mess like me?