Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cupcakes cupcakes cupcakes

Last weekend I flew to Rochester to spend some time with my niece and nephew. One of our activities was to make cupcakes. I brought my cupcake book with me and they each chose a design. My niece wanted to make banana split cupcakes, while my nephew went for the ghost angle.
Although the cupcakes didn't look quite like the ones in the book, everyone agreed that eating them was fun.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My own personal "Cake Wrecks"

I'm a sucker for cute cupcakes, and last week I saw an adorable book called "What's New Cupcake" which proclaims that making adorable cupcakes is easy for even the average person. I'm heading to Rochester to see my family so I bought the book, thinking it would be the perfect afternoon activity for me and my niece.

After getting home and browsing the adorable pictures, I went to their facebook fan page to look at user submitted photos. While the user photos were all cute, many were far short of the beautifully styled cakes in the book. Could the average person REALLY do this?

Since I manage a Canadian team, and it's Canadian Thanksgiving today, I thought I'd try to make their turkey cupcakes. Armed with about $30 in ingredients, I set to work, melting caramels and rolling them out to make turkey skins and drumsticks, and to make "lettuce" out of corn flakes, food coloring and frosting.

How did it turn out? Let's just say, I'm not a pro and don't have the patience to make 12 cupcakes all by myself. I gave up after the 1st one. My own personal Cake Wrecks.

Santa Fe - Not a bad place to spend the weekend

When Brett and I started dating, he spoke fondly of the 2 years that he had lived in Santa Fe. We've gone a few times over the years, and I have to say it's a great little town.
Lots of nice hikes, galleries, spas, restaurants. I enjoyed browsing the numerous shops, though I'm not sure I want a mirror in my house with "lo feo" on it...

Not sure I need an inflatable fruitcake either :-)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A nature movie in our back yard

One of the things I love about our rental is the waterfront location. Growing up with a mom who was a wildlife rehabilitator and animal lover was bound to leave its mark.

With the tide changes we see a never ending mix of shore birds and wildlife - like the flock of pelicans, or the seagull that poops on our dock, running towards us when he sees us, hoping for a handout. We've also seen seals, sand pipers, and the usual ducks and geese. Every now and then a heron will wander the marsh grasses behind our house. I love watching it all.

Monday, September 20, 2010

"Good Things"

Martha Stewart always talks about "Good Things." Somehow I don't think the "good things" in this vintage Kent cigarette ad would make her short list. Lots of change in 30 years.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Subtle Butt, Meet Flatuscents

Back in the 80s I used to watch "In Living Color" and I never forgot the comedy skit they did on an invented product called Flatuscents, which was a suppository that enhanced the scent of, well, errr...."personal scent emissions." They had scents like fresh herb, lavender and my personal favorite - new car smell. I thought it was just a comedy skit, but a similar product has hit the market (for real this time), called "Subtle Butt."

It's a charcoal insert you put in your underwear to mask the odor of embarrassing gas. Although it sounds funny, I can think of very real situations where this product would be useful. I almost died due to poor air quality on a recent flight to Orlando, and would have loved standing up and yelling "If you have to fart, fine - but could you stop assaulting your fellow passengers? Depressurizing doesn't have to impact those around you. Try wearing an underwear filter!" Maybe the flight attendants could have some for sale onboard.

For your viewing pleasure, see the original Flatuscents skit below, and a new one I found for subtle butt. The beauty of social media first hand.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Chemicals Make Everything Taste Better

Flipping through the retro cookbooks, I came across this tasty looking swiss cheese bread. Yummy, I thought.....until I read the ingredient list. It calls for "processed american or swiss cheese" and it specifically says not to use "natural cheese." Maybe I've been living in San Francisco too long. With all the emphasis on organic and natural foods out here, they're really bursting my bubble of childhood goodness. I used to love processed cheese!

Next up was "skinny dip." I'm all for healthy low cal foods, but somehow blending cottage cheese with bouillion cubes just won't cut it anymore. It's probably surprisingly good (like the Velveeta fudge I made). Sometimes I guess you just need to look the other way.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Potato Candy

I guess it's true that sugar and fat make anything taste good. Like the Velveeta Fudge, I may have to actually try this one....

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sausage Fruitcake: An improvement over the original? Or just as gross?

I've never been a big fan of fruitcake - though my mom used to give them as gifts every year. I've always wondered how many of her gifts were actually eaten. The one my mom kept for us somehow always lasted a really long time, unlike other desserts in the house.

I saw this recipe in a cookbook at the rental house. Maybe my mom had it all wrong. Maybe if she just added sausage to her fruitcake it would have flown out of that fridge.....OR....then again, maybe not.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BBQ Raccoon, Dove Hash and Baked Possum

The rental house also had a cookbook with recipes for how to cook various forms of game. I'll let the recipes speak for themselves in the pictures below, but somehow Squirrel Stew and Possum Bake won't be the first to hit my dinner table. I know that it's just another animal that people can hunt, but where I grew up, this type of game was more commonly road kill.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Man Pleasing Recipes - from the Rice Council of America, 1971

I laughed when I saw this "Man Pleasing Recipes" cookbook sitting on the counter at the rental.

Like any good housewife of the 1970s I was reminded that "no man likes the same thing every night" and was shown a number of ways to spice up my rice.

The recipes inside didn't seem all that memorable, but the title alone will stick in my mind. When googling "man pleasing recipes rice council" I found this ad from the 1960s. I guess 2 things never change. Sex appeal sells, and va-rice-ity is the spice of life.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Retro recipes have returned! Velveeta fudge anyone?

When I was cleaning out my dad's house, many of you liked my retro recipes series. I'm happy to announce that there were some fun cookbooks at the Kiawah rental house, so for the next few days, retro recipes is back.

Let's start with Velveeta fudge. When I read the the recipe I thought "Ewww. Gross." Then I realized Brett's grandmother had all of the ingredients on hand except the cheese, and I knew I had to make it.

It's really really simple to make. You melt Velveeta and butter together in the microwave, add some cocoa powder and vanilla, and then some powdered sugar. Stir together and refrigerate. Other than the little smear of orange in this photo you'd never know there was cheese in the recipe.

After mixing well, you simply put it in a pan, refrigerate and cut just like normal. The verdict: It's actually pretty good - and you don't taste the cheese. In fact, I recommend not telling people what's in it until after they've tasted it. It can be your little secret.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Encounters with nature

One of the things I love about Kiawah is the uncrowded natural beauty. You can go to the beach in the height of summer, look to your left and right and find that you're the only one out there.

You can also go crabbing. Brett's family put chicken necks in a wire cage, and caught some blue crabs to steam. Other crabbing techniques are to put chicken necks on a string and toss the line into the water. This approach often attracts gators as well as crabs. Personally, I'm much more comfortable with the cage approach.

Brett and I went biking one day and while riding along a little too quickly I skidded off the path and through a spider web. Normally not a big deal, but with spiders like this one (body the size of a nickel) it can be a little disconcerting. Luckily I hit the web below the spider and didn't end up with any unexpected passengers.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Over Labor Day Weekend, Brett and I flew to Charleston, SC to visit his grandmother. She lives on Kiawah Island, which is a beautiful barrier island on the coast. It's known for its plentiful golf courses and ritzy resort & spa - but I love it for the laid back atmosphere, uncrowded beaches, and natural beauty. Unlike towns like Ocean City, MD which have gone condo and strip mall crazy, Kiawah remains fairly undeveloped, with strict building codes and plenty of nature spotting.
It's not uncommon to see deer, dolphins playing in the river, and lots of shore and marsh birds. You might even see a gator or two. We rented a house near the marsh, and enjoyed wide water views and gorgeous sunsets. It was a great place to unwind after a hectic summer.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Adventures at 99 Ranch

Shopping at 99 Ranch isn't for the faint of heart. It's a crowded Asian grocery store chain with great deals on produce and seafood, and an interesting assortment of Asian food products. Personally, I love shopping there. They have live Maine lobsters for $6.99 a pound, and pre-made dim sum that can be as good as what you find in a restaurant for a fraction of the price.

Last weekend I picked up some steamed turnip cake. I got a 1 lb brick of it for $3 - and I sliced it and fried it up in some peanut oil. Delicious, and at a fraction of the $4 charge for a few small pieces.

I also picked up some lobsters and clams for a clambake in the seafood department. It's a little smellier than most grocery store seafood places, but it's fascinating to watch workers scoop live fish from a tank to present to a customer, and then see that same live fish thrown onto a table, beaten over the head with a mallet, and then cleaned and filleted for the customer on the spot. While somewhat unsettling, it's a fascinating show - and at least you know the fish is fresh.

I can't wait to try out the karaoke place next door with some friends. Private rooms so you can scream your heart out in private. I feel "Living on a Prayer" is in my future.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Kelp Noodles

I was shopping at Berkeley Bowl a few weeks ago and in the Asian refrigerated section I saw this bag of kelp noodles. They looked like cellophane noodles, but had only 18 calories in the entire package! I love finding low cal foods that actually taste good (and as I'm sure you know, that can be difficult) - so I popped them in my cart.

I decided to make a Chinese cellophane noodle dish, using the kelp noodles as a substitute. I tried one straight out of the package, and they were snappy in texture but pretty non-descript. The package said "neutral taste" - and they were right.

After throwing them in with the sauce, they became soft like a regular noodle - and the result was tasty!

Although my picture of the finished product doesn't do them justice - I'll be experimenting with these again!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rainbow Rum Cake

I was invited to a friend's house for a Pink Saturday party this weeekend, so I decided to make a rainbow rum cake to fit with the theme. It's the same recipe as a regular rum cake - but with food coloring. I got the idea for the rainbow cake from a blog (Omnomicon) and adapted it for the pans I had on hand. It was a blast to make. I simply made the cake batter according to the recipe, and then added gel based food coloring.

I made some mini-cupcakes...

..and a loaf.

They were so fun looking..

...especially the loaf pan slices. I drizzled (soaked) the cupcakes and slices in a rum glaze, and they were complete.

Sadly, we never found the party they were intended for - but somehow I don't think my co-workers will mind a little alcohol infused breakfast treat on Monday morning :-)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Rodeo Beach

One of the things we love about living in Marin is the proximity to the beaches. Granted, the water isn't terribly warm - but it's still a nice place to spend an afternoon, and the drive is only 20 minutes.

Even Holly was smiling :-)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Happy 6th Anniversary Brett!

Over the past 6 years, wedding anniversaries have been anything but the typical dinner out for me and Brett. Our first one was spent at my mom's funeral. Our third was forgotten (by both of us) in the frenzy of moving to California. If it weren't for the e-mail from Brett's sister or the call from his mom, I think it would have been days before we realized the goof. We were that hazed.

Our 4th was spent wandering our new home town of Amsterdam, learning the rules about cash only restaurants and a town that seemed to run on a banking system we weren't yet a part of. Our 5th was spent on a cruise in the Baltic seas, in between port calls to Russia and Estonia.

This year, we're going back to basics. We're heading up to wine country for lunch, followed by overpriced cookies from a bakery nearby. While we're lucky to be able to celebrate our anniversary today, it's not the date that counts. It's the journey in between that matters most.

Happy Anniversary Brett!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Corn flavored Kit Kats

A co-worker of mine went to Japan recently and he brought back some Japanese Kit Kat bars. The flavors were really interesting from Green Tea to Melon. My favorites were the Soy Sauce flavor and the one that tasted like Corn. Mmmm :-) The melon and banana flavors, not so much.

Still, it was fun to taste all the different flavors. It reminds me of my obsession last year with country specific potato chips. Shrimp Cocktail or Shwarma anyone?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Another exciting weekend in the suburbs

Our rental was feeling a bit empty (and the dog's nails on the hardwood were driving me nuts), so we decided to pick up a few area rugs. They came on Saturday. Welcome to an exciting weekend in suburbia.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wild Turkeys

I went to a STEP class at the YMCA in San Rafael last week and after class noticed a bunch of women huddled by the window. I went over to see what they were looking at and noticed two HUGE wild turkeys. You can't see it that well in the photo, but the male was definitely strutting his stuff for the female. He was pretty proud of himself, with feathers fanned out like a peacock. She on the otherhand, couldn't have cared less, and went on eating.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Our trusty dock boat

Last weekend I went back to DC to visit my friends. I stopped into our neighborhood to have lunch with a neighbor, and went down to the lake to clean out our "dock boat." For those of you who helped build it, and who took a sail on it - you'll be glad to know it's as sturdy as the day it was built. A little dirtier maybe, but it's stil solid. I hope to get back someday to take it out for a spin on the lake.