Nana’s 90th (And Other Things)

After some epic tailgate action in Ann Arbor, I headed up to my family cottage to celebrate my Nana’s 90th.

My entire family flew in for the occasion. There was excessive beer, wine, and dancing as well as some fabulous catfish in daikon ginger soy sauce.

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Canadian beer goes best with docks in Michigan.

My Uncle Marc did the catfish honors. I did the dancing.

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I even got my cousin up on her feet.

We took a break to pose for a pic with the birthday girl, though.

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The Three Louises: Madison Louise, Gladys Louise, and Anika Louise. 

If you’re wondering what my dog was doing during my trip to the mitten, I can assure you he was not missing me.

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He was too busy sleeping on his Auntie Lauren’s bed in LA to notice I was gone.

On my way back to LA I hit up Longhorns in the Detroit Airport for a little steak salad.

It was delicious.

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Dear Cow, Thank you for dying for my meal. Love, Anika

And after all of that, I went running today.

Now I’m getting ready for a conference call to help the Santa Barbara Wolverines plan an event.

But before I go, I need to share this Tiesto track with you because I’m obsessed with it. It’s my anthem.

XOXO

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Friday is College Football Eve (Or Bacon and Blue Cheese Potato Salad Bliss)

It’s Friday! And back in my Academy Awards days that meant blasting that Rebecca Black song on repeat until all of the other site producers had no choice but to sing along with it. (I had NO shame about hazing them.) These days, though, Friday is most notable for being college football eve.

It’s the day when I’m filled with anticipation… and absolute dread about my alma mater’s impending match up.

See, I went to Michigan, and I was there when we won the National Champion in 1997. So that means I have HIGH expectations. Those high expectations lead to devastation when we lose… and a laundry list of criticisms even when we win. Our season started off promising with decisive wins over Central Michigan and Notre Dame… then the Akron atrocity happened.

Now I’m basically rocking back and forth in a corner trying to tell myself it’s okay that we’re THE WORST 5-0 team in college football.

Instead of going on a tirade about Devin Gardner’s interception to touchdown pass ratio, I’m going to go to my happy place instead.

My happy place involves bacon.

Lots and lots of bacon….

Before our season hit the skids, I went back to Ann Arbor for the final meeting of the Wolverines and the Fighting Irish in the Big House, and I made bacon and blue cheese potato salad for the tailgate festivities. Because #duh.

The tailgate was all kinds of fabulous.

See?

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Even our photographer was having fun. #blurry

We kicked it with our old crew — our old crew with National Championship rings.

Michigan Wolverines on Dogs Dishes and Decor

They took the field when we didn’t seriously suck.

I may have even stolen the baby belonging to one of those guys.

Baby at a tailgate on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Because honestly? Who could blame me? #lookathim!

Babies are awesome, but I had to give that one back because I’m not a felon.

I digress….

Back to bacon, which may be my only reason for living if we lose tomorrow.

Bacon and Blue Cheese Potato Salad from Dogs Dishes and Decor #bacon #football #tailgate

Behold the life saving goodness.

Basically all of our apps were wrapped in bacon because we’re beasts… and because Jesus died so I can eat pigs.

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This is how Victors eat. #baconforever

If you want to make the potato salad yourself, here’s my recipe.

Bacon and Blue Cheese Potato Salad
(Adapted from Bon Appetit)

1/4 C apple cider vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
2/3 C olive oil
1/4 C minced shallots
2 T fresh, minced parsley
4 lbs of small red potatoes (unpeeled)
4 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 C crumbled blue cheese
1/2 C whipping cream
12 slices of bacon
3 T fresh, minced chives
Cracked pepper, to taste
Mix vinegar, mustard, and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in olive oil in a thin stream. Whisk in shallot and minced parsley.
Steam or boil potatoes until just tender. Cool slightly. Cut potatoes into 1/4″ slices. Place potatoes in a large bowl. Gently mix a 1/2 C of dressing into the potatoes.
Cook bacon in a frying pan until crispy. Crumble bacon and set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix together the whipping cream and the blue cheese. Mix the cheese and cream mixture into the remaining dressing. Spoon over potatoes. Add chopped celery. Top the salad with crumbled bacon and chives.

Go blue and stuff.

 

Birthday Party Playlist (Or Sorry for Partying)

A few weeks ago I was on a mission to appreciate my neighborhood. I was trying to make peace with living somewhere I wanted to escape so I started wandering the streets in search of inspiration. A few blocks from my place, I came across this carved into the sidewalk.

Hollywood sidewalk on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Today, it sort of seems fitting somehow.

See, my birthday is Saturday…. and today is the 10-year anniversary of Kristin Connor’s death.

I had only met Kristin a few months before we lost her, but time doesn’t always feel relevant in the face of loss. Kristin was our friend Angela’s best friend from high school. She he had recently relocated to LA from Michigan, and we welcomed her into our displaced Midwestern family immediately. There was just something about Kristin… I can’t really describe it. She was warm. She was real. And I liked her right away. Talking to her was easy, and it was almost as if I had known her for years.

Two days before my birthday, she was killed in a car accident.

The summer of 2003 was maybe the best and worst of my life for so many reasons. And my birthday party that year was a blowout never to be forgotten.

We were celebrating. We were mourning. And OMIGOD, we were annoying the neighbors.

That day we were coming together — and we were saying goodbye. It was my birthday party.  It was Angela’s going away party.

And maybe most of all?

It was Kristin Connor’s wake.

Partiers on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Part of the 17th Street Birthday Party Crew. Santa Monica, cira 2003.

So today as I think about the friend our family lost, I want to tell a whole bunch of Michigan kids how much they mean to me.

See, it struck me as I was perfecting the playlist for my upcoming birthday party that so many of the songs on it reminded me of members of my Michigan crew. Many of them will be at my (much more civilized) birthday this year. Many will not.

But either way?

I’m thankful for them and maybe I don’t really say it enough.

So, here it goes:

Chamillionaire’s Ridin’ is for Melissa. It reminds me of the days we were rolling through Hollywood in her dirty Volvo while painting our toenails on the dashboard. Melissa has been by my side for so many birthdays, so many movie premieres… and so many goodbyes. Together we’ve mourned her Beagle, my first Spaniel, our grandfathers, my grandmother, our mentor, my cousin, Kristin Connors, and her father. We’ve laughed through the tears and we’ve danced through the pain — sometimes at Barney’s Beanery and The Bungalow — where they don’t even have dance floors.

Lyke Li’s Little Bit is for Nicole. She put it on one of the many amazing mixes she has made me over the years. It’s for all the dinner parties we’ve thrown together. For breaking into my apartment to do my dishes after I sliced my thumb instead of an eggplant. For knowing how to make me feel so special on my birthday. For her generous heart — and her kind spirit.

Juvenile’s Back that Azz Up is for my panda, Sarah. It reminds me of our last summer in Ann Arbor. We used to open the sunroof of her Explorer and absolutely blast the song while driving past civilized restaurants on Main Street during dinner hour. This song is for standing by my side at my grandfather’s funeral. For asking me to be in her wedding. For helping me out of a pair of capris with a broken zipper in a TJ Maxx dressing room. For giving me perspective on what really matters. And for years of love, laughter, and loyalty.

Kesha’s Tik Tok is for Kelley. We put it on our Camarillo Road Trip Playlist and listened to it A LOT while we were stuck in gridlock and she was carsick beyond belief. It’s for the endless talk that first night we met in the Pi Phi basement — the talk that led to so many more. It’s for being my senior spring break travel partner. For skipping chapter to watch Monty Python with me. For asking me to be her only Michigan bridesmaid. And For standing by my side for 16 years… no matter what.

Lee Brice’s Friends We Won’t Forget is for Anna. It’s for sharing her story and really, really listening to mine. It’s for pushing me to do a few more push ups. For making me change my make up, my clothes, and my hair. For our dinner parties. For reminding me how much I love country music. And for just knowing when I need a hug.

Britney’s Toxic is for Ryan. It’s for all the good talks we had about our grandpas — and for taking care of me the day after I lost mine. For teaching me about birdies, eagles, and albatrosses. For legal services rendered. And for knowing I needed to hear a little Britney on a bad day at the office.

Westside Connection’s Lights Out  is for Josh. It brings me back to the days of our endless wandering through the aisles of Amoeba Records. The days when he’d drive across LA at midnight just to watch Diggstown with me. The days of batting cages and Brett Ratner’s driver incessantly interrupting our Indian dinners. It’s for always stepping up — even when it was risky.

Huey Lewis and the News’ Do You Believe in Love is for Michael and Jody. It’s for all the support, advice, and sous chef work over the years. It’s for making me believe everything works out for the best. For showing me what it’s like to be a really great team. For including me in the Cycle for Survival in memory of Jody’s mom. And for making me a part of their family every Christmas. I’m proud to share a birthday with their son Connor who will turn one on Saturday.

JT’s SexyBack is for Katy who also celebrates a birthday this Saturday and loves her a little JT. It’s for getting me out of my house while I was helplessly waiting for my grandpa to die. It’s for finding a new home for my dog. For making our birthday special every year. For listening. And for pushing me to do the tough stuff.

Yolanda Be Cool versus DCup’s We No Speak No Americano is for Manning who played it in the car after my birthday in the ‘bu — and before he really became my friend. It’s for introducing me to Anna… and making sure we hung out. It’s for making me like lamb, calling me out on the mayonnaise to yolk ratio in my deviled eggs, and for making me laugh while we were covered in gum. It’s for always showing up when and where he said he would. And it’s for making the tough talks somehow seem easy.

Soulja Boy’s Kiss Me Through the Phone is for Angela who lost the most on August 1. The song will forever remind me of her husband singing it to her in the streets of Hollywood. It’s for the great talks we’ve had about life, death, and design. It’s for being one of the few people on the planet who understands why I come so unraveled over college football. And it’s for introducing me to Kristin.

David Guetta’s Memories is for Kristin Connors herself. It just seems fitting.

And The Victors is for everyone.

Oh, and by the way, I’m not sorry for partying. I am a little sorry about all that Lil’ Jon we played, but I will never apologize for cutting loose with some of the best people I know. I can’t wait to do it again soon.

It’s Sorta Fred Segal-ish (Or How to Make a Baby Gift Arrangement on a Budget)

Last year I was producing a brand sponsored web series, and one of the actors’ wives had a baby while we were in production. Life Size at Fred Segal does darling arrangements, so I decided to put one together for the baby. The items included were inside jokes from the project, but you get the idea.

Obviously, the web series was car related.

So, anyway, when friends of mine recently had a baby, I stole the Fred Segal idea and assembled my own baby gift.

Here’s how I did it… just in case you want to try it yourself.

Both of the baby’s parents are Wolverines, so I decided to go with a Michigan theme. If you don’t want to use a theme, you could just go with a coherent color scheme instead. I found most of the gifts on Amazon, and I bought the box, tissue paper, and clear gift wrap at Target.

Here are the items before assembly. I’m not sure if you can tell from the photo, but the stuffed dog is wearing fleecy baby Michigan slippers because I’m a dork like that.

Albus thinks he’s helping.

I taped the box together so that the bottom of the box became a stage and the top of the box became a backdrop. I stuffed the one-sie so it would stand up on its own. Then I wrapped the boxes in tissue paper before taping the items in place.

Here it is all assembled and stuff.

Next, I covered the arrangement in plastic wrap and tied it together with ribbon from Michael’s. (I think I would use a wider ribbon next time.)

This was fun to make, and it was a lot more affordable than the Fred Segal version.

I’ve decided this is my new thing to do when people have babies. I suggest starting early and collecting cute items over a few months so you can do something really special. I was a little crunched for time on this particular project, but I was still pretty pleased with the results.

You know, as pleased as a perfectionist can be….

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 Aftermath Post 6 (Or Babies and the Best Banana Cupcakes Ever)

Banana Cupcakes, mateys.

If you’ve been reading my little bloggy for a while, you know I was prepping for a baby shower as well as my birthday party last week. And if you’re starting to feel like I’ve been a total only child by only writing about my Peter Pan Party, let me take you back to last Friday for a moment.

Picture this: It’s August 3. It’s 5 am. And it’s my birthday.

A certain puppy’s plaintive cries rouse me from my sweet birthday slumber. I decide to stay up even though it’s still dark outside because I’m absolutely up to my eyes in sewing owl sachets and baking and whatnot.

We never wake you up before dawn and go back to bed. Ever.

After walking the baby beasts, I settle in with my latte and tear into my stack of birthday presents like a wild dog. After the requisite calls to thank thoughtful family members (who were all in the eastern time zone, where it wasn’t OBSCENELY early), I settle in to do battle with the bobbin on my sewing machine. More on that later….

After sewing 19 owl sachets I decide to switch gears and begin baking the banana cupcakes that would be the base for these owl cupcakes.

I am just about to pour the banana cupcake batter into the owl cupcake liners when I get a phone call from my friend and co-host of the shower saying, “Stop everything! Jody’s water just broke.”

True story.

It was five weeks before our friend’s due date, so we thought we were totally in the clear holding the shower on August 4. Nope.

I pull out my lime green polka dotted liners and decide we will be having banana cupcakes at the Peter Pan Party instead of chocolate ganache-filled cupcakes with seven minute meringue frosting.

See, I had planned to make the chocolate ganache-filled cupcakes for the shower and since the recipe makes 24 cupcakes and is not easily halved, I was going to split the confections between the two parties. (Obviously I was going to wait to frost the second dozen until the next day with a fresh batch of frosting because the frosting looks way heinous if it sits out.)

Change of plans.

I totally switch gears from baby shower prep to birthday prep and go about my day hoping everything is going smoothly for my friend over at Cedars-Sinai, where absolutely everyone has their babies.

A few of my friends join me later for low-key take out and drinks and I force them to watch the Twin Peaks pilot like the spoiled birthday brat I am.

Then the news comes that Connor has arrived. On my birthday.

The funny part is both of his parents went to Michigan with me, and we’re all a little obsessed with Michigan football — like someone should probably check us in for treatment — obsessed. (I should mention Connor’s uncles and grandfather also went to Michigan, and so did the co-host of the baby shower. When you get all of us in the same room together, it’s a little frightening.)

Connor’s dad had been teasing me earlier in the day on Facebook about my love of Tom Brady, the Super Bowl MVP and former Michigan quarterback, with whom I share a birthday. And now his son shares a birthday with him too, which seems absolutely appropriate for the ultimate Michigan Wolverine baby.

So, anyway, the good news is everyone is happy and healthy, and my friend got to skip five weeks of pregnancy while it’s like 100 degrees in LA. Plus the people at my birthday party loved the banana cupcakes even though they weren’t on the original menu.

And now I have a new birthday buddy to add to my list that already includes two of my closest friends – plus Tom Brady, Martha Stewart, and Tony Bennett.

So, here’s the recipe for the banana cupcakes. It’s adapted (err, mostly stolen) from this recipe for the most amazing banana cake ever that I bake absolutely all of the time.

May the cupcakes make your friends go into labor too. Or something.

Banana Cupcakes

2 1/4 C cake flour (not self-rising)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about two large bananas)
1/4 cup buttermilk*
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature

Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting 

1/2 C butter, room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 C powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4 oz mascarpone

Sliced bananas for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place 16 cupcake liners in cupcake tins.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Mix bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla in a separate bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until blended. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing to blend after each addition. Add half of the dry ingredients and beat the mixture until just blended. Next add the banana mixture, followed by the remaining dry ingredients, just barely beating after each addition.

Pour the batter into cupcake liners. (Do not fill the cupcake liners to the top. You need to leave a little more room in the liners than you would ordinarily. This is because these cupcakes rise more than regular cupcakes.)

Bake until the tester inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, and the tops of the cupcakes have begun to change color, about 18-20 minutes.

Cool cupcakes completely on wire racks.

For the Frosting

Cream butter and cream cheese with the paddle attachment of your electric mixer. Add vanilla and a pinch of salt and mix to blend. Gradually add sifted powder sugar and mix until fluffy. Add mascarpone and carefully mix the frosting. (Mascarpone can curdle if it is whipped too much, so this last step is a bit delicate.)

If you want to skip the mascarpone altogether, just use 8 oz of cream cheese instead.

Place the frosting in the refrigerator until it’s the proper consistency for spreading, about 10-15 minutes.

* I don’t buy an entire container of buttermilk when I only need ¼ C. It’s a colossal waste. I make my own buttermilk instead. You can do this by adding a few teaspoons of vinegar to whole milk and allowing it to sit and curdle, about five minutes. If you don’t have vinegar, lemon juice works as well.