Derby Hats, Dark Books, and Easter Desserts (Or Things that Make Me Smile)

Here are some things that make me smile:

#1 I got my dog’s biopsy results back, and his cancer didn’t spread to his lymph nodes. Sure, the tumors were level 2, which means they COULD return, but they didn’t spread, so there’s that. We are consulting with a veterinary oncologist, but it’s mostly good news for now.

#2 I’m going to Vegas for the Kentucky Derby with two of my besties from college. We’ve been scheming about hats in a group text all morning.

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This little nugget from Nordstrom is my front runner.

Part of me is tempted to have a flower crown made for the Derby, but I’m afraid it won’t survive the trip.

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I don’t actually know who this guy is.

He just liked my cakeandpunch crown, so we posed for a pic at Malibu Wines. (I think ranunculus are everything. Apparently he agreed.)

#3 In addition to conspiring about hats, we’ve been discussing poolside reading. Kelley and I shared book suggestions all morning and have basically started our own long distance, two-person book club. Most of my friends would recommend me for a padded room if I told them to read these books, so I’m grateful for a kindred spirit in the land of the macabre. (Pretty Girls, The Missing, The Murder Room, and I’m Thinking of Ending Things are our first orders of business for discussion.)

#4 It’s almost time for Easter at 816, an annual tradition that brings the best people on the planet together for food, wine, and fun at our favorite Santa Monica beach house.

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Here are a few of my beautiful bunny besties from last year’s festivities.

I’m trying to decide if I want to make the same fennel scalloped potatoes I made last year or if I want to branch out.

This gorgeous geode cake from Buttercream Bakeshop in DC gives me ideas.

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Couldn’t you just DIE from the pretty?

I think I’d put ice cream in the inside instead of cake if I made it. I’ve been scouring this link for ice cream inspiration.

Cake bores me as much as a bad book.

True story.

Thoughts on 2016 (Or Whatever)

I’m prepping for my tax appointment today. Going to see my accountant is always a lot like confession. It usually goes something like this:

Alyce: You spent $1,600 on sushi?

I nod, dying a little inside.

Alyce takes a sip of her pina colada and tries to hide her disappointment in me.

(She knows how much money I make.)

So yeah… I’m bracing myself for the shame of it all.

This is what my tax prep looks like:

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Screw you, 2016, for taking all of my money.

My sushi expenditures may be bad, but let’s not go into my beer budget, K?

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The Baby Jesus can barely hold down my bar receipts.

Poor little nugget.

I guess 2016 wasn’t ALL bad. It did take Prince, Princess Leia, and the Goblin King, but I did get on the slopes a lot, so there’s that.

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Skiing is everything.

I also finished a few scripts, did some interesting research for a TV pilot, and I did a lot of fun things with people I love.

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Kygo at the Bowl with Lola

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Vegas with my family.

And, I crossed a big goal off my to-do list.

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I ran a 5K in a winery with Megan… 

hills and all.

2016 may not have been THE WORST, but I’m counting on 2017 to step up and kick its ass.

I’m due for a great year.

No pressure, 2017.

Already Getting My Happy Bunny On! (Or Fresh Pea Soup for Easter… Maybe)

Wanna know something?

Caspari paper products make me happy — particularly their holiday themed hankies. When I noticed that they had Easter options at the grocery store today, I got giddy… and bought some.

Duh.

Bunnies! I die.

It’s going to be like carrying Peter Rabbit in my purse for the next month!

YAY!!!

Wanna know something else?

I prefer Easter to Christmas.

There. I said it. That probably sounds whacked, but whatever. I don’t care.

It all started in 2002….

It was my first Easter in Los Angeles, and my first Easter away from home. I didn’t have actual biological family to celebrate with, so my roommate and I decided to throw a family dinner for our friends.

We both gave stuff up for Lent and couldn’t wait to let loose when it was over. She gave up chocolate, but I swear I suffered more because I gave up alcohol AND went to Vegas with her for St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not even kidding. It was my first time EVER in Vegas, and I didn’t have a drop of anything — not even communion wine — even though St. Paddy’s fell on a Sunday that year.

For 24 hours I watched all of America chain smoke, binge drink, and gamble away their 401Ks — sober. On a stool. I felt like an anthropologist studying monkeys that were flinging poo at the zoo. If I’m being honest with you, I think the hardest part of the trip may have been surviving the sheets at the Stratosphere stone. cold. sober.

Anyway… I digress.

Family dinners! That’s where I was. We decided to throw one for our friends because we were away from our own families, and that dinner marked the beginning of a beautiful tradition celebrating the friends who have become family. It’s a tradition I love. Deeply.

BTW.. and just for the record… I know the season is not entirely about the end of my suffering because nothing I give up could ever come close to the sacrifice that we celebrate this time of year, so I really look at it as a celebration of my amazing friendships and a chance for new beginnings for all of us. ❤

Since I’m trying to keep my philosophizing to a minimum on this blog, you can find more of my thoughts on Easter/religion/life/death/sex/and/basically everything in between on my other blog here.

Back to Easter dinner…

Over the years the menu and the venue has has gone through many iterations, but the one thing that has remained constant is that I make a lot of food as a way of saying, “I super like you. Want me to show you how much by force-feeding you pig products?”

This year my friend Nicole and I are talking about doing a traditional spread with a spiral ham, my fennel scalloped potatoes, and her darling lamb-shaped butter! It’s all still TBD, but it’s never too early to get excited about eating PIG!

Since ham can be salty and heavy, I want to have some light, fresh dishes to accompany it. I recently made a fresh pea soup with mint, and I’ve been thinking it might be a fun, fresh addition to the menu this year.

A confession…

I don’t love peas by themselves, but for some reason I SUPER LOVE them in this soup.

See?

Mmm, minty peas!

Mmm, minty fresh peas!

Here’s the recipe, just in case you want to get into it….

Minty Pea Soup

3 T unsalted butter (it’s also good with 3 T coconut oil)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 16-oz packages of frozen peas
4-6 C of chicken broth
1/2 C of mint
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter. Cook onions until tender but do not allow them to brown. (About 6-8 minutes.) Add 2 C of broth. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer. Add peas. Cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Add mint and puree with remaining broth. Add broth by 1/2 C to achieve desired consistency. (I recommend an immersion blender for this.)

Salt and pepper to taste. Can be served hot or cold. I add extra mint for garnish.

It’s based on this Bon Appetit recipe from Epicurious, which is also very good. My version is more Paleo-friendly.

OK, I’m off to finish my script. My long lost Melissa is back in LA, and I owe her my fourth draft. It’s kinda sorta done. I just need to read through it a few times to do some polishing for her.

YAY!!!

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.

Too Tired to Write Up a Real Recipe (Or How to Make a Mojito)

Today my apartment and I are recovering from a midsized dinner party. This basically means my dishwasher and I are working overtime to remove the remnants of pork carnitas from the plates while listening to Patsy Cline and fantasizing about naps.

I promise I’ll post the recipes for the salsa verde, the slow cooker cola carnitas, and the guacamole next week, but I’m just not ready to do it now. See, I was so busy mixing drinks, frosting cupcakes, making rice, and talking and whatnot that I totally forgot to photograph the food I served. (Oops!) I’m going to repeat the menu for another dinner party on Friday (different dinner guests, obviously), so I’ll have a second shot at a food photo shoot then.

So anyway, today I’m going to tell you how I made the mojitos — partly because I’m just too tired to get into anything more elaborate and partly because a few of my friends asked for the recipe. If you’re wondering why I’m so particularly tired today it’s probably because I didn’t go to bed until well after midnight and then a certain impetuous puppy woke me up at 6 am to take him out…. He has no regard for my exhaustion because he sleeps all day long. Well, that is when he’s not trying to crawl into the lap of an unsuspecting dinner guest, pretending he’s a 65-pound lap dog. (I digress.)

Back to the mojitos. Mojitos are possibly my favorite thing ever, but they can go so terribly wrong that I rarely order them in restaurants and I NEVER order them in Vegas because I swear they make them with Sprite there. This is why I had to figure out how to make them on my own. (Note: the proper method does not involve Sprite. Lemons do not belong anywhere near a mojito. Ever.)

There are two ways I make them, and I outline them both below. I personally prefer the powdered sugar method, but that’s just me. I think the slight grittiness of the sugar helps to release the juice from the mint during the muddling process, and the increased surface area (compared with regular sugar) aids in the proper absorption into the drink. Enough with the chemistry lesson, though, and on with the drinking. The recipe is below.

Mojito Recipe

10 large mint leaves
2 T of powdered sugar (or 2 T of simple syrup)
2 ounces of fresh lime juice (from one medium lime)
8 ounces of soda water (1 cup)
3 ounces of white rum

Tear the mint leaves in half. Place them in the bottom of a sturdy glass or a cocktail shaker. Add either 2 T of simple syrup or 2 T of powdered sugar. Using a muddler (or the end of a wooden spoon), muddle/smash the mint leaves to release the flavor.

Squeeze the fresh lime juice into the glass. Add rum. Pour in soda water. Place ice cubes in a serving glass, and pour the contents of the cocktail shaker (or mixing glass) into the serving glass.

Drink. Smile. Repeat.

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*Simple Syrup Recipe

1 C water

1 C sugar

Pour the sugar and water into a saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves. Cool.