Fall Means Football and The Race for the Rescues (Or Why We Walk)

Labor Day is rapidly approaching. And even though the oppressive heat isn’t really waning, fall is technically on its way. And while I will defy my strict WASP upbringing by wearing white well after the 3rd, I am preparing for the two events that define fall for me: college football and the Race for the Rescues.

See, I love football. Like, my mood for the entire week is determined by the performance of a pack of 19 year old boys in spandex, love football. So this is basically going to be me until December.

Photo courtesy of someecards.

Not only does football mean yelling at my television for four straight hours every Saturday, but it also means football parties. Be on the lookout for great game day recipes in the coming weeks. And I will absolutely do my best to be a lady and not subject you to my rants about bad play calling and interceptions. I will save those for Facebook where my college friends and I come together to publicly mourn, berate, and celebrate our boys in blue.

The other event that means fall for me? Is the annual Race for the Rescues at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. It’s a 10 K benefiting 12 non profit animal welfare organizations in Los Angeles, and I do it with my dogs every year. You can read more about it here. The participating organizations rehabilitate wildlife, provide low cost veterinary care for low income families (including free spay and neuter clinics), and also place adoptable animals in loving homes.

Why do we walk?

Because 400 dogs and cats are euthanized in Los Angeles shelters each week. That means more than 20,000 adoptable animals die in Los Angeles shelters every year. Because approximately 3-4 million animals are euthanized nationwide. Because 60% of dogs and 70% of cats who enter shelters will never find a home. And because I can’t close my eyes and wish those statistics away.

I do not mean to make anyone feel guilty for obtaining their loving pet from a responsible breeder, and I understand that pet adoption is not for everyone, but it is for me. I have adopted four dogs in my adult life and each one has enriched my life immeasurably.

So, October 7, my two red rescues and I are walking in honor of Woodley’s littermate, Peyton, who has brought joy to her new mommy. (That’s a long story for a different post. Just know it’s not advisable to adopt litter mates.)

Peyton was adopted in December and even though I miss her, I know she has a safe, loving home.

And we’re walking in memory of Brady, Hunter, Rocco, Max, and Bella who are all playing together in Dog Heaven.

This photo was taken the last Christmas Brady and I spent together. On December 29, 2007, he lost a long battle with congestive heart failure.

Hunter was Brady’s best friend, and I was by Huntie’s side when he died. Hunter and his mommy have a special place in my heart. Forever.

Rocco was a beloved big brother and family member. He was skilled at unwrapping presents and making everyone smile. He loved his family and his soap operas. We miss you, Mister Roccos!

Bella put up a valiant fight against cancer, but lost her battle last week. Blake, Audrey, Matt, and Kelley miss their beautiful girl. So this is me giving them a huge internet hug because my arms aren’t long enough to reach to Chicago.

Max was by his mommy’s side for so many adventures including a move to Mexico last year. He died suddenly this summer, and now this little angel has real wings to match his amazing ears.

I need to make myself an event shirt to honor the pups. If you have any ideas, please send them my way!

If you live in the Los Angeles area and want to participate, it’s not too late to register! If you are interested in making a tax deductible donation to our walk, you can do so here. Please don’t feel obligated, though. We all show support for the causes we care about in our own ways.

If you or a friend is mourning the loss of a furry family member, Bella’s mommy recommends the book Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant.

Wag on, guys.

I know I owe you all kinds of recipes for things like pina colada cupcakes and pollo con rajas. I haven’t forgotten. I promise!

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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.

Whooooo’s Impatient? (Or How to Make Owl Cupcakes)

I’m impatient — like I freak out in front of the microwave — impatient. And so is my birthday buddy, Connor. He was born five weeks early — the day before his own baby shower. He’s healthy, and so is his mom, and that’s what really matters.

Since we have pushed his Owl-themed shower until he’s ready to meet all of the ladies at once, I had a lot of owl cupcake supplies sitting in my pantry. I didn’t want to wait to use them. (See reference to impatience above.)

I recently made Amy Sedaris’ cupcakes and figured it was the perfect opportunity to see if I could actually deliver the owl design I had promised.

I think I did.

Whoooo wants a cupcake?

Because I had initially planned on using banana cupcakes as the base for the owl cupcakes, I deviated a bit from the Hello, Cupcake! suggestion to use chocolate Oreos and Junior Mints for the eyes. I went with Golden Oreos and Reese’s pieces instead. I chose Double Stuff Oreos instead of the regular Oreos because they’re easier to separate. (I just happen to know this because I kind of like dismembering my food before consuming it.)

If you go with the regular Oreo variety, Hello, Cupcake! recommends microwaving the Oreos briefly before twisting off the top layer. I didn’t find this step necessary.

Here’s the supply situation.

To make the owl ears(?!?) you cut the top of the Oreo in half and affix it to the cupcake with frosting.

Here’s the pointy bit of the owl.

I ended up slicing a little off of the bottom of the cookie so that less stuck out, but it’s up to you. (I was worried the weight of the frosting would make the cookie ears fall off.)

Here’s the owl before final frosting embellishment.

Instead of making banana Runt beaks, I used a banana candy I found at a store in the mall. I looooove Runts, but I couldn’t find them ANYWHERE. (I did finally find them at the mall where I also found the banana candies, but it was easier to buy banana candy than it was to pick out banana Runts from a large colorful bin.) If you don’t feel like schlepping to the mall, Amazon has banana candies here.

To achieve the blue and yellow two tone frosting, I stuck a Wilton pastry bag of blue frosting into the yellow bag of frosting like this.

You don’t necessarily need to have two colors for the owl feathers. I just felt like making things more difficult for myself.

So, those are the owls. You should totally make them. If you do, decorate the owls the same day you serve them; the Oreos get a little gummy if you refrigerate them.

By now you’ve probably figured out there are few things I love more than a party. Those things? Are football — and theme parties. In the coming months, look out for some party planning posts involving a Winnie the Pooh party for a very special one year old boy, and some serious football theme parties.

This owl army? Is ready to get in my belly.

 

I Celebrate Shark Week (Or How to Make Shark Cupcakes)

Check out my shark week action.

It’s time to talk about sharks. Why? Because it’s Shark Week! And also ‘cuz I LOVE them. Like, you have no idea. For as long as I can remember, I wrote research papers about sharks. I mean, I wrote manifestos about conservation. When I was ten.

See, I saw Jaws 3 in 3-D before starting kindergarten and while some might say that was a serious error in parental judgment, I disagree.

The things that are wrong with me?

They weren’t caused by a rouge Carcharodon carcharias eating people at Sea World.

I promise.

So, anyway, Jaws 3 was a decisive moment in my childhood. Not because the movie was any good, mind you, but because it probably began my fascination with the Great White and sharks in general. As we settled into our seats with buckets of buttery popcorn, my 3-D glasses, slid off of my face. They did so repeatedly until my mom used my bobby pins to secure the glasses to the sides of my little head. Once we got that situation settled, I was riveted as severed legs floated toward my face and Louis Gossett, Jr. went running around Sea World shouting and shit.

It wasn’t just Jaws 3. It was everything Jaws. I read the Benchley book when I was 10. And I put the first two movies in a steady rotation during much of my childhood. I also devoured all of the information I could find on sharks.

When I was 16, I visited Washington, D.C. for a student government forum. I stood up and started grilling some political official (I can’t remember his title now — ocean something) about his stance on shark finning in front of about 200 people. (Everyone called me “Shark Girl” for the rest of the week. True story.)

And my dog? Apparently, he likes sharks too.

So, anyway, you get it. Sharks are my thing. And Shark Week speaks to my soul.

To celebrate this magical week and the majestic apex predator I adore, I made shark cupcakes.

I found inspiration in a few places. First of all, I got the idea to fill them with strawberry compote from this post on Cupcakes and Cashmere. The actual sharks themselves were inspired by Hello, Cupcake!. I didn’t exactly follow the directions because I didn’t want to buy fruit roll ups, miniature chocolate chips, or chocolate wafers, so I improvised a bit.

Here’s how I did it.

I put the Twinkies in the freezer for a while to make them easier to cut.

And for the fins? I opted for Trader Joe’s Maple Leaf Cookies. I sliced them like this.

Then I created a pointy end I could stick into the Twinkie shark for stability. Oh, and I also scraped the leaf pattern off of the other side of the cookie with my Shun Santoku knife.

I attached the Twinkie sharks to the cupcakes with some frosting. I sliced a small slit into the Twinkie and inserted the cookie fin.

Then I put the cupcakes in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Next, I heated up the gray frosting for a few seconds in the microwave (on the defrost setting) so that the frosting was runny enough to pour over the sharks. (Hello, Cupcake! recommends dipping the sharks, but I did not find that as effective as pouring the frosting over them with a spoon.)

If you end up with excess frosting on the cupcake, you can scrape it off after it freezes.

After I covered the sharks (and the fins) in frosting, I put them in the freezer until the frosting hardened.

After the frosting had hardened, I put on a little Frank Ocean and decorated those fabulous fish. Hello, Cupcake! recommends using fruit roll ups for the mouths and small chocolate chips for the eyes, but I didn’t feel like buying those things so I just improvised with frosting. It’s totally worth buying the book, though, because they have SO many amazing ideas. Plus it’s like $11 on Amazon. Total bargain.

After decorating the sharks, I put them in the fridge for a while so everything hardened properly.

Then I pretty much dove in head first. And devoured them.

I used Amy Sedaris’ recipe for the cupcakes, but I made my own cream cheese frosting. (I did use a butter cream for the gray frosting, though, because I wasn’t sure how well the cream cheese frosting would melt.)

Soon I’ll hook you up with the owl cupcake tutorial. Remember those? From the baby shower that didn’t happen because my birthday buddy decided to arrive early?

I made the cupcakes anyway… for fun.

But now? It’s time for my other love: NFL pre season football.

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.)

Invitations
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.

Flowers
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.

Appetizers
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
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….

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 4 (Or I Like My Flowers With a Side of Sprinkles)

If you’ve been following my flower saga, you know arranging flowers is not my thing. One of my best friends usually does my birthday flowers, but she’s living in Cabo at the moment. So not only did she miss my birthday festivities, but she also couldn’t arrange my flowers this year. (Tragedy. Twofold.)

So, I was on my own and wanted to do this ditty with peonies and hydrangeas.

Yeah, well, it turns out peonies are out of season. Peonies are my absolute favorite, and I was so tired and just generally overwhelmed that I almost cried at the florist when I learned this. Now before you think I’m just a silly, emotional girl you should know I don’t often cry unless there’s a really good reason. I’m usually really good at being a robot and stuff, but there’s just a lot happening at the moment, and the peonies were sort of the last straw.

The selection at the first florist also just generally sucked, so I had to find another florist. At this point I had been in the car for about two hours picking up spare crock pots and whatnot, and I did not relish heading deeper into the valley to hit up another florist. But I also hate ugly… so I did it anyway.

The second florist had a much better selection and the woman behind the counter was so sweet that she gave me a few free snapdragons (love!) and a birthday rose (double love!). She really turned my day around, and that was absolutely awesome.

I don’t have great photos of the final arrangements, but here they are in action and stuff.

People have to lean around my enormous flowers to be sociable. A small sacrifice for aesthetics, really.

If you want to do something similar, you can see a breakdown on the sprinkles and vases here — and you can order the suckers here.

Here’s a close-up of the flowers before I steadied them by stuffing all kinds of paper towels into the inner vase.

Here’s the Leaning Tower of Lilies before I fixed it with wads of paper towels.

And thus ends my flower saga. Until next time….