Monday, August 29, 2011

The hostess with the mostess help

Some time back, a friend announced her engagement and I excitedly offered to host her bridal shower. About 20 minutes later, I deeply regretted this decision, knowing that my hostess skills are disturbingly lacking.

Thankfully, my friend has a very take-charge, get-'er-done group of bridesmaids who literally handled every aspect of the bridal shower. I managed to stumble to the front door when they arrived Saturday morning to set up, and opening the door was essentially the extent of my involvement. Which was a very, very good thing.

Food! There was lots of food. Actually, the maid of honor informed me that she'd put all the leftovers in my fridge, as she literally ran from my house at the end of the shower. She's a lot faster than me, or things might have ended differently ...


A cute favor idea: Rosemary sea salt in little glass jars. The black and white paper star and flowers are decor brought by a bridesmaid, and the groom's sister brought these adorable photos of the bride and groom as kids.


 The groom's sister, who's also a bridesmaid, put together a truly amazing dessert table.


 Strawberry cakey things -- so delicious.


 Wedding cake-shaped cake pops!


Isn't this a great idea for caprese salad? Just shove a bite of everything you need on a stick! I was told this is a Rachael Ray idea.


It was a wine and cheese party and all the cheeses had their own labels. The level of organization, you guys. It surpasses anything I could have done.


 More tiny cakes...


This gift is the best bridal shower/wedding gift I HAVE EVER SEEN. It's an etsy find, found by our friend Christie. God, etsy is brilliant.


The theme of the wedding is "Eat, Drink, And Be Married."


It was a good party. The bridesmaids were like bridal shower ninjas. They set up and broke everything down and when everyone left all I had to do was run the dishwasher. I mean, seriously.

And actually, this experience was a good lesson for me. For starters, I need to ask for help when I need it. In this instance, I never asked, it simply arrived. But I have some sort of mental block when it comes to asking for help because ... I don't know, I want to kill myself putting on a party? Secondly, I need to be less Type A about my kitchen. Normally people in my kitchen opening and closing cupboards and finding things and doing stuff: Would make me bonkers. But Saturday I stood back and let it happen, and amazingly, it didn't make me bonkers. I was so glad people were in my kitchen finding things for themselves instead of me doing it for them. I truly was the laziest hostess. Ever.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

D's famous baked BBQ beans



We had our block part on Sunday. It's a neighborhood tradition that has carried on for an indeterminate amount of time, seeing as how no one rightly remembers when it began, nor does anyone care.

Starting about a month before the gathering, the organizer of said block party begins to send out terrorizing emails in an attempt to get everyone to agree upon a date when we can all get together and "enjoy each other's company" -- my phrase, purposely put in quotes, for reasons pertaining to sarcasm.

Once a date has been imposed upon the neighbors, said organizer then sends approximately 30 additional emails in an attempt to get everyone to tell him what dish they will be bringing to share. (Side note: One woman brought a dish she calls "More" -- "because everyone always wants more." As best I could tell it contained farfalle pasta, cheese, enchilada sauce and black olives. I did not want more of More. )

Early on I told the organizer I would bring beans and franks because I couldn't remember what my friend D calls his famous baked BBQ beans. The organizer hereafter referred to said BBQ beans as "beans and hot dogs." Which: Why he felt the need to paraphrase, I'm unsure. And: "beans and hot dogs" does not adequately describe the deliciousness that is D's famous BBQ beans. 

To summarize, the block party is really just a time for me to gather as much gossip about my neighbors as possible. For instance, which neighbor gave a couch to another neighbor and then demanded that the neighbor then give the couch back. Or which neighbor is having their bathrooms redone, and which neighbor is retiring in two months, and which neighbor is in recovery. (Side note: At one point a few months ago, a certain neighbor told me that another neighbor had died. A few days later I saw that same "dead" neighbor driving down the street. Neighborhood gossip is not always completely reliable.)

Most importantly, the block party is a time to eat. I may not have wanted more of "More," but I did want more of my "beans and hot dogs."

And you will, too. Here's how you make 'em. 

 For starters, you chop up a red pepper, an onion, and some garlic, and you throw them in a large oven proof skillet with some olive oil.


Soon after I did this, I realized I would eventually have to transfer the whole thing to a large oven proof dutch oven because it wouldn't all fit in my skillet. Which worked out fine.

Once you've sauteed that junk for a while, you throw in some chunks of andouille sausage, or as my neighbor likes to call 'em: hot dogs.

These are some chicken andouille sausages I picked up at Whole Foods. I squeezed them out of their casings rather than try to chop them up with the casings being as disgusting and stretchy as they are.

Once your chunks of sausage have sauteed with the veggies for a few minutes you can throw in the rest of the ingredients, like balsamic vinegar and BBQ sauce. This OrganicVille tangy BBQ sauce is a really tasty gluten-free version.


Other ingredients include a can of chopped tomatoes, a small can of diced green chilies and two cans of cannellini beans. Now, when I was at the store, I saw the one can of cannellini beans, and the rest of the beans were called great northern beans or white beans, so I just grabbed a can of the great northern beans. I have no idea if they're the same as cannellini beans but I'm happy to report they taste about the same.


 Here it all is mixed together in the pot I transferred everything to. I baked this mess for half an hour and then lugged it outside to the block party, where most of it got eaten up in a big hurry.


 I liked it so much I had a little more later on that night.


Dee-lightful.


Here's the recipe!

D's Famous Baked BBQ Beans

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 gloves garlic, chopped
4 links andouille sausage, chopped or squeezed into 1/2 inch pieces.
1 small can green chilies
2 15-ounce cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounch can chopped tomatoes
1 cup your favorite BBQ sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375.

Heat oil over medium in a large ovenproof skillet (or pot). Add onions, peppers and garlic and saute for 5 minutes. Add the sausage and saute 3 more minutes. Stir in tomatoes, green chilies, beans, barbecue sauce, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar. Mix thoroughly. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Zucchini, Banana, and Flaxseed Muffins


 
So for starters let me just say these are not gluten free. I made them the other day and my husband came home and asked, "Can I eat these?" And I had to say no, since whenever he eats gluten his butt explodes.

And I felt a little guilty. Even though he generally does not like cakey foods. I'll make it up to him, I swear.

These darn things just looked so healthy in the September issue of Everyday Food, and I'm always on this deluded mission to eat healthier. I've been looking for a way to incorporate flax seeds into my diet for some time now, and I believe I have found a moist, delicious way to do it. 

Here are the ingredients. One zucchini, one banana, one egg, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, vanilla, cooking spray, flaxseed meal, flour, and brown sugar. Not pictured: Salt and whole milk. 

A couple of notes on the ingredients: I was supposed to use a "large" zucchini. I used a small zucchini and everything turned out fine. Also, the recipe calls for "ground flaxseed." I'm sure you could grind your own flaxseed but I bought some flaxseed meal instead, which is the same thing. The muffins were delicious, so: Win!


This is what ground flaxseed/flaxseed meal looks like. Very fiberrific. I bet it will make you poop like a champ.


 Here's what the batter looked like in the muffin cups. Gooey.



And here's how they looked 20 minutes later: Delightful! 



They sell these muffins as being low in fat, which they are until you smear a little butter on them. Then they're perfect!

Now as usual this recipe is not up on the Everyday Food site, so I'm posting it below. Enjoy!

Zucchini, Banana, and Flaxseed Muffins.
makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:

- nonstick cooking spray
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
- 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
- 1 cup lightly packed light-brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinammon
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (from 1 large zucchini)
- 1/3 cup mashed ripe banana (from 1 large banana)
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat 12 standard muffin cups with cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, flaxseed, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinammon. Add zucchini and banana and stir to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg, and vanilla. Add milk mixture to flour mixture and stir until combined (do not overmix).

2. Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let muffins cool completely in pan on a wire rack, about 30 minutes. (Store in an airtight container up to 3 days)

per muffin: 183 calories; 2 g fat; 5 g protein; 38 g carbs; 3 g fiber






Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Deciding what you are and what to do about it

So the deal is anyone can have a successful blog, if by successful we mean that they make a few thousand dollars each year off of it and they have a respectable number of followers.

The catch is that to make this happen, it's actually a lot of work. Without getting into all the details of what is required of a person to make this happen, let's just agree that it would be the equivalent of a full time job. This is something I sort of knew before I went to BlogHer, and then completely understood as a truth once I returned.

And since then I've been thinking: Do I even want to try to do that? Would it be enjoyable? Would it detract too much from other things I ought to be doing instead?

The answers: I dunno. Maybe. Probably.

I decided to test the waters with a fairly unreliable tool -- Klout -- and find out what my "influence score" is, and also what topics I am influential in. Klout tells me I have an influence score of 45. This is a lower score than the scores held by most of the people I am supposedly an "influencer of."

The topics I am purportedly influential in, from greatest to least are: Bacon, china, coffee, alcohol, and high school. So basically I am influential in food, stimulants, downers, things you can put your food, stimulants, and downers in, and high school.

According to Klout. Which may as well be a baby monkey with a stack of flashcards.

If I were going to guess at what topics I am actually influential about, I'd say: Vaginas, food, diets, cats, and alcohol. I could be wrong.  

In any case, Klout and the rest of the Internet are basically telling me not to quit my day job, which is: Writing a book. And luckily for me, there was a session at BlogHer on how to pitch a book. 

The room was jam-packed, as I expected it would be. Lots of people, including me, fancy themselves writers/novelists/authors. Unfortunately, the panelists left a bad taste in my mouth. The overarching message seemed to be: You may believe you are a writer/novelist/author, but you will never be successful at it, and in all likelihood are not as clever as those of us sitting on this panel and therefore are highly unlikely to ever be published. Go drink yourself silly and go back to banking or mid-level management or whatever it was you were doing before.

I'm admittedly a little sensitive when it comes to receiving "wisdom" from writerly types because for my entire journalistic career, 90 percent of the editors I worked for (I worked for about 15) were complete shitheads who wanted you to believe you were scum. You were less than scum. You couldn't write. You'd never be a good writer. Why did you ever decide to be a writer in the first place?

Their attitudes were not altogether surprising following years of professors emphasizing the dead-endedness of a journalistic career. They warned us the editors would be dickfaces. They warned us we'd never make any money. They told us it wasn't all glamor and accolades. And we didn't give a shit. Each of us had our own reasons for continuing headlong into the spiral of insanity that is journalism, but in the end we all did it, and now that the dust has settled I can point to a select few former college classmates who are still in the profession, and most of them are basically bonkers.   

Anyway. Tangent much?!

The moral of this long-winded story is that lots of writers are assholes and they're not looking out for your best interest, and there is no wrong or right way to be a writer or maintain a blog or publish a novel. In my book, if you write, you are a writer. If you blog, you are a blogger. Whether you succeed at either of those is half mental and half physical. This is a successful blog because I write here most days of the week and a few people read what I write. But it doesn't make money. I have almost successfully completed a book, which will be a huge fucking deal when it finally happens. Being published traditionally would be the icing on the cake but isn't going to be the end-all, be-all for me.

BlogHer was inspiring and made me want to tackle search engine optimization and other shit I don't know anything about, but for now I'm going to keep my day job and keep plugging away at this book.



Monday, August 15, 2011

The annual and ever-growing birthday list

So it was a busy weekend. My husband took a couple days off for his birthday (ALWAYS TAKE YOUR BIRTHDAY OFF because I said so and if you don't you will be sad and want to cry) and there were a number of gatherings of people and gifts given and cake eaten and somehow after all that I am down half a pound, so I dutifully submitted the photo of my weight to Natalie, the woman I've never met and continue to hope never to meet because, hello, she has photos of my weight. (Natalie is the Head Bitch in Charge of the Biggest Loser weight loss challenge I stupidly joined a couple weeks ago. There goes another twenty bucks!)

That reminds me -- there's a preview of the new Beavis & Butt-head TV show coming out. And so Beavis and Butt-head are watching Jersey Shore and Snooki's saying, "Yeah, I'm a whore, hello," and Butt-head goes, "Huh huh, that's how she answers the phone." It tickled my funny bone.

Speaking of funny things -- I got my husband this card for his birthday that has a picture of redwood trees on it and the front says something like, "Birthdays always remind me of redwood trees and how majestic and ancient and awesome they are." And the inside says "Thank you for planting them." You may not find this super-hilarious, but I tell ya, when I saw that in the store I about died laughing. Phew! You had to be there.

So I do this thing every year for my husband's birthday, where I list off things about him that I love. The list grows each year because each year he gets older. And sometimes there are repeats in the lists from year to year. I'm only human! I did this to myself and there's no turning back now. So if you do not enjoy gushing lists from wives to their husbands, I advise you to leave now and return tomorrow, when I'll probably have returned to my regular snarkiness.

Darling, this year you are 35. I met you when you were 20. Please stop having birthdays, and also, please stop getting better looking because you're doing this thing where you get better looking and I get uglier and I cannot abide that kind of madness and also, I don't think I have the balls to get plastic surgery. Ok? Ok.

I love ...

35. That you thought my vlog was cute.

34. That you keep trying to hold Simon like a baby even though he hates it.

33. When you cuddle with me in the morning.

32. When you talk to my vagina and tell it to stop killing your sperms.

31. When you get aggro on the ne'er-do-wells in the neighborhood.

30. When you grill meat. 

29. When you make my mom laugh.

28. That you are content with the level of cleanliness, or lack thereof, in our house.

27. When you take me to the movies.

26. That your first order of business on any given day, regardless of the day of the week, is to shower.

25. When you talk shit about the mailman.

24. That no one truly understands what you do for a living. 

23. That you are my sugar daddy.

22. That you support my writerly goals.

21. How sweet you were when I returned from BlogHer.

20. When you wear your new weird shoes.

19. That you love my cooking, 98 percent of the time.

18. That you are an obsessive lock-checker.

17. When you fill my car up with gas.

16. When you vacuum the family room.

15. The way your soap smells.

14. When you look like a bearded mountain man.

13. How you love a cold bed.

12. Drinking wine with you.

11. When you hold my hand.

10. When you laugh at my jokes.

9. That you are the go-to guy for computer problems for the entire family.

8. That you love riding your bike.

7. That you love music.

6. That I love so many things about you that this list isn't hard to write.

5. Traveling with you.

4. When you mimic babies crying.

3. When you mimic old ladies.

2. When you stand behind me and kiss my neck.

1. That you really, really want to have kids with me.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Parties

If you let it, BlogHer will fill your every waking hour with sessions, meals, and parties.

We let it.

Here are some photos from the parties. These are just the standard BlogHer parties -- we didn't have invites to other sponsored parties, which was just fine. And -- I don't have photos from Thursday night's parties, which seemed much, much tamer than the following nights.

 Bad-ass cake at Sparklecorn.



 Sparklecorn.


 Ladies on the stage at Sparklecorn.


 Ladies dancing at Sparklecorn.


 I <3 Big Butts at Aiming Low.


 Social fiesta on a rooftop.


 Flan at social fiesta.


 DJ at Social Fiesta.


 Social Fiesta redness.



 Christina and I traveling via elevator between Aiming Low and Social Fiesta.


 Another amazing cake! At Aiming Low.



 Stuffed peen at Aiming Low.


A bed at CheeseburgHer. I think the implication is that by now you are so exhausted you want to lie in bed and eat cheeseburgers. Which is about right.


The craft table at CheeseburgHer. People were crafting some very interesting hats out of McDonalds bags.


Photo booth at CheeseburgHer. I'm not sure who these ladies are.


Phew! I'm tired just looking at these ...

Later today I may have a post on some of the amazing speakers we heard ... Toodles for now!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An infertile goes to BlogHer

Today you should really go read my post at Tired & Stuck.

I'm still blogging about BlogHer, but this time it's from the perspective of an infertile, and includes some information and photos of Giuliana Rancic. She's one of my infertility idols and just happened to be manning the Tropicana booth one morning ...

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Bloggers IRL

Here's what I was expecting when it came to meeting bloggers at BlogHer:

1) They would be huge introverts and socially awkward, like me.

2) They would look slightly less attractive than their avatars, like me.

3) That's about it.


But here's what I found:

1) They are normal, friendly people.

2) They are way better looking in real life.

3) This was a little surprising.


Let's start with TILTE, who was by far the blogger I most wanted to meet. We share a similar sense of humor, a love of processed food, and occasionally enjoy talking about our reproductive organs. As we were speaking on the phone and arranging our first meeting, she warned me that she was wearing a T-shirt that made her look like someone's fat mom. To which I believe I said, "In that case, welcome to the club."

Of course, what ended up happening is she showed up looking like an 18-year-old high school track star, skinny as a whip and cute to boot. I had to resign myself to being the only person in my group who actually looked like someone's fat mom, despite being exactly no one's fat mom. Which I forgave TILTE for because she is So. Damn. Funny.

 Case in point. The jaunty breadstick-as-cigar pose.


 I don't think anything really needs to be said about this.


 Enjoying a beer and mini hotdog at Sparklecorn.



Christina and I also took a couple pictures at Sparklecorn and successfully ended up looking like serial killers in them.


 Here's the only clear photo. I look demonic. Christina looks cherubic.


Here's one of our smiley photos. Christina looks like she's getting hungry for human blood.


Speaking of Sparklecorn, I also met Mandy Fish there, on the dance floor. If her avatar was any indication, I would have expected to meet a tall blonde model and THAT. is EXACTLY. what she WAS. I have no photos of her but if you care to watch her speak about sausage, click here.

(also in that video -- Kristine from Wait in the Van, whom I saw at the conference but whom I did not introduce myself to. See above notes on being an introvert.)

Then there was Carrie from The Sweetest. At one point she said smiling so much was hurting her face. She was one of the most hilarious people I met all weekend.

In between conference sessions one day I hunted down Ginger from Ramble Ramble. I was in a tizzy over a session I'd just ditched on how to pitch a book, and Ginger -- who works in publishing -- was very reassuring. She was gorgeous and calm and natural. We went to a session called Twitterholics together, where a bunch of ... Twitterholics ... sat around talking about things they liked and did not like about Twitter. I learned a number of things about Twitter tools that day.

People I saw and did not introduce myself to in that session -- Schmutzie, Redneck Mommy, Palinode, Backpacking Dad, Kungfu Pussy, and others I don't recall off the top of my head. Everyone was a lot better looking in person that I expected. I think that really threw me off. Especially because that day I hadn't done my hair because I was a little hung over and I looked slightly insane/ tore up. 

Person I saw directly after that session and whom I also did not introduce myself to but whom I took photos of while Christina spoke with her -- Stephanie from Nie Nie Dialogues.  She is absolutely amazing.

Stephanie. 

At one point (at the Aiming Low party) I also saw Aunt Becky from Mommy Wants Vodka and I also did not say hi to her. Same for Catherine from Her Bad Mother, Anissa, The Bloggess, Michon Michon, and Neil. That's how I roll. 

And as far as actual celebrities I could have but did not introduce myself to, those included: Ricki Lake, Giuliana Rancic, and Bob Harper. Oh, also the Pine Sol lady.

 There's Bob in the background.

I'll be writing about Giuliana tomorrow on Tired & Stuck.

Lastly, I met a number of bloggers I'd never heard of before, but whom I'm glad to have met. I have a whole pile of business cards to go through and will soon be following them on Twitter.

If I met you and did not list you here, please let me know! My brain is still mush from learning/travel. I am old. That is all.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Starting With Swag

I'm back from BlogHer!

My overall feelings about the conference are:

1) I am majorly impressed with how well organized it was, how awesome the sessions and speakers were, and how excellent and bountiful the food was.

2) I have an overwhelming amount of information to sift through.

3) I met some amazing, beautiful, kind, ingenious, welcoming, thoughtful women.

4) I am inspired.

5) I am exhausted.

6) I gained two pounds.

7) I am appreciative of the dozens of BlogHer sponsors who make the whole thing possible.

If you followed me on Twitter, hopefully you were not too annoyed with my constant BlogHer updates. To say that myself and the rest of the 3,600 participants were excited to be there would be entirely accurate, if not an understatement. There was generally a sense of effusiveness in the air; a desire to learn and be inspired and inspire others and, of course, have a hell of a lot of fun.

I've decided BlogHer deserves its own week of blog posts. If you don't care to read about BlogHer, please come back next week. But I promise there will be photos and what I consider to be entertaining anecdotes.

Today's post will focus on the now infamous swag. Swag refers to the copious amounts of free stuff handed out to bloggers by the many, many sponsors who fund the conference. I had no idea what to expect, and let's just say I was again overwhelmed by the swag experience. 

But let's start at the beginning. I flew to San Diego with Christina, after chugging two morning-time glasses of wine in the airport due to my extreme nerves about flying in an aluminum death trap thousands of miles up in the air.

It was after 5 somewhere... Here, it was around 10 a.m.

San Diego's airport blows -- everyone who flew to the conference knows it, and I'll just leave it at that. San Diego itself is a really beautiful city. It has a gorgeous and bumping downtown, with lots of handsome military types hanging out all over the place.

I'd had another glass of wine on the plane (YES IT WAS NECESSARY) so when we landed I was undeniably and thankfully drunk. Christina went off for a few hours to meet with a friend and I spent my few free hours chugging a latte, eating an enormous cookie, napping, ignoring bloggers in the elevator of my hotel (I was drunk and didn't trust a normal word to come out of my mouth), and showering.

Christina returned and we jaunted off to the expo hall to check out the swag.

It. Was. Crazy.

For some reason the only photo I have from the expo hall is of a dude carving a giant block of soap.


So you're just going to have to trust me when I say it was crazy. I had to have another glass of wine to calm myself.

Basically what happens at the expo hall is you go around talking to all the sponsors and they give you free stuff and a schpiel about their product and you smile and behave very nicely because you are happy they gave BlogHer money and you want them to keep doing it.


This morning I laid out all my swag on my bed because I wanted to see it all together, in one place. It's an impressive haul.


I seriously can't wait to put that Waterpik thing in my nose. Also seen here -- a card by Robin Plemmons, some Quaker cereal, some Pepsico coupons, The Write Dudes pens, Ivory soap, Knorr stock concentrate, a Chase USB, Stacy's, Sunchips, and Tonka.


I was stoked to see Paper Culture there. Also the Mother Company, HTC, Mastercard, P&G, Brawny, Scrubbing Bubbles, and Zarbee's (they make natural children's cough medicine).



Dove (which also provided ice cream - delish), an Aiming Low mug, Kmart, and a pad of paper & pen from the People's Party.



Hallmark, McDonalds, Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farms, CVS, California Raisins, and Lowe's.

You might think I shouldn't give the sponsors any attention on my blog, but I simply do not feel OK about going to the conference and returning with all of this stuff without at least mentioning all of the companies I encountered. The former journalist in me feels like I need to provide full disclosure. And as I said, I really am glad these companies sponsor the conference.


More BlogHer stuff I plan to cover this week: The bloggers I met and saw, stuff I learned, amazing speakers/guests (Indra Nooyi - CEO of Pepsico, Ricki Lake, Fatemeh Fakhraie, Carol Jenkins, Giuliana Rancic, and Bob from "The Biggest Loser," ) parties I went to, and stuff you should read.

Now for a nap.