Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An obsession, a rant and a coined term

Last year, I hadn't yet taken my knitting classes at Ephemera (which, by the way, might have been the single best present ever - thanks Hubs!), but I was obsessed with big, bulky yarns. They looked so pretty all twisted up and just waiting to become something that I couldn't resist - I had to create. (Did I just sound artsy? That's what I was going for. Cue the beret, dim lights and smoldering eyes of a brooding artiste.)

Naturally, having no known knitting ability and an intense desire to BUY YARN (I'm so. so. so hip.), I went on a yarn-wrapping tirade. If it didn't move, it got wrapped in yarn. It sounds insane, and it was for a few days - a mad flurry of hot glue wisps and strands of Thick and Quick flying around me while I tried hopelessly to keep the cat away from my masterpieces.

So anyway, it turned out quite nice (pour a little out for my homey, the basement drywall, featured in that post) and I even got a nod from the most famous green living blogger ever to come out of the great state commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Danny Seo.

This year, the yarn-wrapped decor is making a comeback on our stylish faux-tle (that's a faux mantle, y'all. Couldn't you tell?).

 Pardon our mail pile and hid.e.ous light fixture. A sleek new drum pendant is my present to myself once we finish the basement, so just chillax.

It only holds 15 pounds, but the yarn trees are styrofoam underneath that skillfull wrapping and we've got a few Christmas-morning hanging spots for when these little stockings are chock full of goodies.
Notice also the nativity, lantern of lights and 12-bottle wine rack stuffed to the brim with sweet, sweet Charles Shaw.

Note: I know there are only four stockings and yet five souls residing in our humble home. I'm trying to knit the new cat a sock, but know this: Knitting your First Sock less than a month before Christmas and with the knowledge that it will be Highly Visible as a major part of your Holiday Decor is NOT recommended.

Unless you, too, are the owner of a big ol' wine rack stocked full of three buck chuck. Then, it might be bearable. I take zero responsibility for your actions and/or fits of yarn rage when you get to the heel. Heels are not easy, people. Heels make grown women weep openly.

The End.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Competitive Christmas

Now, gentle reader, you know I'm all for quiet holidays - knitting by the fire, soaking in family funtimes, buying local and handmade gifts, roasting geese, wearing slippers, and making every Christmas cookie from Hubs', my and our German neighbor's family traditions (from scratch, of course) - but this year, a new less-cuddly tradition is afoot in our home.

It involves beating the pants off all our neighbors.

We're entering the neighborhood Christmas light contest! Sqa-wheeeeel!
Our muse.

The top prize last year was a decently-sized gift certificate to Ace Hardware, so our little minds have been hard at work these past few days, conjuring up lighting designs that will dazzle passers-by young and old.

Judging isn't until December 10, so we're planning on spending the better part of this weekend filling the yard with animatronic deer and festooning the crap our of every limb of every tree we own.

The contest is judged on creativity, colorfulness and classiness and let me tell you, it is a fine line between classy and creative when it comes to exterior illumination. We, are of course, erring on the side of creative (that is to say, a leee-tle trailerish) and hoping our enthusiasm and pizazz (I said it) will win over the hearts of our lovely and esteemed judges (of which, I am one*).

So, want to come over on December 10, don some Dickens-style garb and wassail away with me? That, my friends, would win fo' sho'. I mean, how classy, right? Dickens! Dickens equals class! I'm sure of it.

*Just one of the many perks of designing the 'hood's newsletter every quarter. I don't think I'll be allowed to vote for my own house, just to keep things "fair" and "unbiased." Harumph. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful thankful

Happy Thanksgiving, all! I'm celebrating this year by running a little cross country race and hanging out with Hubs' family (we switch off going to his folks' and mine each year). I hope your day is full of superfuntimes, lots of stuffing, a little premature Bing Crsoby, and overly dramatic graces before meals.

What are you thankful for this year? Here's my list:
  • That our family is healthy. We made it another year without losing any major body parts (not counting that one time), so that's always nice. 
  • That Hubs and I both got to move into jobs that allow us to learn, do what we love and in very different ways - change the world we live in.
  • That Trip and Niles get along and are cat-brothers and not cat-nemeses.
  • That our house is still standing. Because it was touch and go at times.
Those are the biggies. I'm also thankful I discovered how to make caramel sauce, learned to knit, figured out how to can veggies, that Southwest is eventually coming to Des Moines, and that I signed up for Shoe Dazzle. Sometimes, it's important to celebrate the little things.

I'm also thankful (and amazed) that you all read this little ol' blog every week. Thanks for your comments and support! Without you guys, I wouldn't be able to put on airs at family functions and remind everyone how internet famous I am. So, thank  you and have a very lovely Thanksgiving!

Hot to trot!

We did it in 30 minutes!
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Annual dilemma

We sent our first official adult Christmas cards last year and I can tell now that it's going to be something I both look forward to and dread every year. I love scrolling through all the designs online (like these from Shutterfly, who's running a cool blogger promotion right now - just sign up and do a little post like this and get 50 free holiday cards - wahoo for frugalistas such as myself!), but choosing one? And choosing which photos of us to plaster on there? That's torture.

I mean. There are SO MANY good looking pictures of us to choose from. How can I ever narrow it down, right?

Last year was easy - we used wedding pictures, of course. But this year, I'm stuck. Luckily, I found a few options (here, here and here!) that can accommodate quite a few shots. I'm thinking I'll do a little photo montage of our year - from surviving a ridiculous winter (I think we got something like 40 feet of snow?) to building a deck together to celebrating our first anniversary.

What do you look for in the perfect Christmas card photo? Is it cats in sweaters? Because I can totally make that happen, too.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The One Plate Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is a time for tradition, a time for family. Well, in the Bigger, Better, Best neck of the woods, we tend to enjoy getting creative with traditions (except for the scared ones, like quoting every line of Christmas Vacation, pancakes on Saturdays and listening to the Muppets and John Denver whilst decking the halls) and we are the only ones of our particular DNA structure within a five hour radius.

And so, we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving a little early, with pals, and by creating a one-dish meal that captured everything Thanksgiving. Literally.

Remember when we did something similar with Oktoberfest? Well, the "Let's make this holiday into a pizza" bug bit again and this time, we were hellbent on getting an entire Thanksgiving feast onto a pie.

Of course, we had to start with a turkey. Hubs went for a whole bird, just a little 10-pounder, and salt brined with with lemon peel and lots of herbs.
 It was hands down, the best turkey I've ever had (sorry, Dad).

We mixed our regular pizza crust with a cornbread mix that was flavored with sage and other herbs to give it a stuffing-ish taste.

After the crust baked on its own for a few minutes, we spread a thin layer of mashed potatoes on it.
Then came a cranberry sauce, flavored with a Thai chile and spicy cinnamon as well as fried green beans and onions.
I lost the wishbone and any discernible chin-in-profile.
 We also made up a gravy to top the pizza with.
 And here is what we ended up with:
 It was delicious and really tasted like a full Thanksgiving meal with every bite.
Your family might revolt if this was real Thanksgiving, but for a couple of culinarily curious kids the week before the big day, this was totally radical. Dude.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Other Napa adventures

Our two days in Napa were so relaxing. We scored a great deal on our hotel thanks to my sister's connections and so we got to hang out with swans on our way to breakfast each morning. Nothing starts the day off right more than swan-gazing.
We spent one day rolling around the valley in a bus with a few other folks (you know, they type that wears sweaters and knows everything about everything.) on a wine tasting tour. While we didn't stop at the ritziest places, they were indeed tasty and gorgeous and generous with their pours.

At our lunch winery, V Sattui, we (predictably) got a loaf of bread, two cheeses, some salami and a bottle of Chardonnay for a little mid-day snack. No leftovers were had (predictably).

Our last stop of the day was Rubicon Winery, which was really pretty but plagued with a snot-tastic wait staff, who also knew everything about everything. I guess the educational system in California is like, really good.

We ended the tour at Chandon, where one of our tour mates got a little sloppy and hit on the poor tasting gal. He failed miserably and we enjoyed truffled popcorn and the show. So much for knowing everything about picking up ladies.

Of course, after a day of winery gallivanting, we needed a good dinner. Driving around downtown the day before, we saw that Moriomoto (of Iron Chef fame! Squeal!) had a restaurant here. We snagged reservations and fell in love.
We ordered a platter for two that included a nice combo of rolls and ngiri. It was all chef's choice, so we got adventurous with eel, roe and some new-to-us fish.

It was totally amazing and every single item on the platter was so fresh and bright, I couldn't even stand it.
We were stuffed afterward, but decided to order a dessert of a ginger cake, caramel sauce, chocolate cream and a banana milkshake. Oh holy heavens. It left me speechless and fat and even writing about it now makes me crave a little bit of the ginger cake and a healthy smear of smooth chocolate cream.
They even gave us a little anniversary shout out in chocolate! Of course, as soon as we left, my button popped off my jeans. No joke. I'm only telling you so that I am motivated to workout tonight.
The next day, we had to head out of town, but before we did, we had to hit up Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. We sampled a croissant and pistachio macaroon (the macaroon that made me get macaroons. Yes, this craze is justified.). Even the Diet Cokes we got were in fancy glass bottles. Oo la la. How very French.
I love Napa. I could live there. I could die there. They have flowers like this in November! What's not to love?

*We also stopped into Bottega for lunch, but it was highly disappointing. The food was great, but we were seated next to wholesale plate dealers peddling their wares to the chef and the waitress ignored us, making our little pit stop last well over two hours. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Readers, I need your help

Now, more than ever, I beseech your assistance, you awesome gaggle of readers.

You see, with the basement in a current state of extreme disarray and the basement being the location of our only fireplace, we have no where logical to hang our little Christmas socks.

Kinda, except ours would read, "Dear Santa, We have a chimney, but please do not use it as it is located in a construction zone. However, if you'd like to burn off some cookies and are handy with vapor barriers, please feel free to do some work. XO"

So far, I've got a few ideas:

  • Buy a floating shelf and screw in hooks on the bottom, put it somewhere in the living or dining room
    • Pro: Central location, I've been wanting a floating shelf for a while anyway
    • Con: Could be too heavy (Santa likes to bring cans of beer in this house)
  • Hang them from some sconces that have hooks already 
    • Pro: Central location
    • Con: Ga-he-tto, not enough for all five stockings (two people, two cats, one turtle)
  • Nails on the living room wall
    • Pro: Central location, good excuse to get some new wall art post-holidays
    • Con: Extreme pressure to find wall art post-holiday or spackle and paint
  • Get the weighted hook stands and put them on the piano
    • Pro: Central location
    • Con: Dangling family heirlooms within paws' reach of two bastard cats will likely result in tears, lots of yarn, no stockings for 2011
I'm curious which of these you like and if you have any great ideas! How have you gotten creative with stocking placement? 

Thursday, November 18, 2010


On our anniversary, we woke up super early (thanks to the Pacific time change and daylight savings time) and exchanged our paper presents. You already saw what Hubs got and he went all out, making me a sweet little desktop calendar all decked out in wedding colors as well as a super fancy purple pen with ink cartridges and interchangeable nibs and everything!

After a quick breakfast, we picked up our rental car and headed out of town, across the Golden Gate to Santa Rosa, about an hour and a half away. We were in town for one reason: a beer pilgrimage to Russian River Brewery, which has some of the best rated beers in the country. 

We both started with Pliney the Elder Double IPAs and ordered some pizza and a sample tray.

The pizza was good, but the beer was amazing! Some brews were a little much for us (they brew a few sour beers using wine yeast, which I guess you need to develop a taste for), but it was a great way to celebrate.

We also decided to start a little tradition of taking anniversary photos showing how many years we've been at this married gig. Here I am demonstrating year one:

After lunch, we finished the drive to Napa and arrived right before sunset.

Having paid homage to our simple-folk tastes with pizza and beer, we decided to get over the top classy for dinner by scoring a late reservation at Ad Hoc, owned by Thomas Keller, who also runs the French Laundry (where dinner is $250 a head and wine is probably just as much! Not for the cheap-at-heart).
Ad Hoc has a different menu each night based on what's fresh and available. Because it was a superfancyfuntime, we also got the wine pairings. It was delicious, simple food (we had a smoked salmon salad, marrow, short ribs, a cheese course and the best apple crisp ever created) and the service was informative and attentive without being all uptight.

Best wedding anniversary we've ever had. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Not Eating San Francisco

Contrary to popular belief, Hubs and I did not just roll around San Francisco, eating and boozing it up all day long. There was a lot of walking. A lot. But, I will say, we only spent about a tenth of our vacation entertainment budget on non-food items.

Since we were staying in Union Square, we started our first day of walking by heading toward Chinatown, where we perused junky souvenir shops and browsed an herb store.

Next up was Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. It was a helluva climb. My buns are still disgruntled about it. The disgruntledness was increased when we learned the tower had closed three days prior for renovations. Oh well, the view was spectacular, even from the ground.

 We made our way to Fisherman's Wharf and decided (after a quick consult with Yelp) to take a bay cruise with Adventure Cat (the reviews were great, but two crazy cat people such as ourselves were not about to ignore the awesome name, even if it referred not to felines, but to the catamaran structure of the boat).

On our way to the boat, we saw jut a few seals.

It was fa-reezing that day and even colder on the bay. Luckily, the kindly crew of the Adventure Cat provided sweet cuddly jackets.

We sailed under the bridge and since the other side is the Pacific Ocean, the boat was kind of surfing on huge ten-foot swells. I'd never seen anything like it (mostly because the bulk of my sea-faring experience is actually lake-faring experience). Hands down, the $40 tickets were the best (non-food) money we spent!

The next day, we went south to the Mission for lunch and then hopped a bus to Postcard Row, also known as the spot where the Tanners ate a picnic in the opening scenes of Full House. Ah, yes, we do know how to get cultured on vacation.

After huxing it back up north near the wharf for some shopping on Union Street, we hopped a trolley and opted for the bars outside rather than seats. The driver let the brake totally go down a few steep hills and let me just say, I feared for not my life, but Hubs' because my big ol' feet were taking up most of the room on the tiny perch.
Just like at home, we dig the cheap/and free activities that get us outside and moving - if we aren't scarfing everything in sight.

Have you ever almost died on a trolley?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Niles the newbie

Before Hubs and I headed out on vacation, we stopped into the pet store to pick up some turtle food. We also looked at some cats that were up for adoption. (Raise your hand if you see where this is heading.)

We spotted a cute little orange resuce who had a spunky personality and promised ourselves that if he was still around after we got back from California, we'd swoop him up.

Lo and behold, he was still there and so swoop we did. Niles Pilsner has been home a few days and enjoys jumping in and out of the (empty) bathrub and chasing his bro, T-Bizzle, around.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Eating San Francisco

We never meant for our big California vacation to be a gastronomical tour, but it just kind of happened. We got sushi first at an unassuming but amazing place near our hotel in Union Square. It was incredibly fresh and there were rolls and sashimi we'd never seen in DeMo.

We made reservations at Wayfare Tavern, which was a short walk from our hotel, for our first night so we didn't have to think too much on our first day. While the atmosphere of the restaurant was supposed to be casual, our waiter clearly thought he was serving at the hoitiest, toitiest hot spot in the universe. Nothing like being tired and covered in airport germs and then being belittled by a snooty server to make a gal feel at ease.
My silly Iowa bumpkin* assessment of the service aside, the dinner was amazing. A spicy zinfandel and prosciutto wrapped dates started us off and then Hubs got the duck and I had the amazing fired chicken shown above (half eaten, because I couldn't stop myself). There was sage in the breading and lots of lemon and garlic. I was in love.

The next night, we again stuck close to our hotel and went to Scala's Bistro, where we split a few small plates including my first go at beef carpaccio. The food was excellent and the whole place was more relaxed than the previous night. I also loved that the beer list had full-on tasting notes for Bud Heavy.

The next day, we took a stroll to Fisherman's Wharf and had some sourdough at Boudin. I loved the little doughy turtles!

The following day, we walked through the Union Street shops and did a little mid-afternoon bar hopping (it was vacation). I stumbled upon American Cupcake and almost died from giddy joy. I mean, check out the ceiling:

Even better than the bubbly decor was the actual cupcake. I got a smore one and almost didn't want to eat it, it was so pretty. I have phantom tastes of it every once in a while because it shook my cupcake-lovin' soul so hard.

We finished things off with a trip to the Mission neighborhood and some burritos at La Cumbre. Hubs got beef and I went with veggie. Both were awesome!

Mess not with a dude and his burrito.

Did we miss anything?

*Ah, stereotypes! Thanks for making it easy.
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