Monday, May 31, 2010

Love my Willow & Clay striped dress!!

Happy Memorial Day!

Today is the day we honor the soldiers (heroes) that have died in war so we can live happy, safe, peaceful lives. So after you've marched in the parade and honored those we've lost, I say we should go shopping for bargains!

No one has much money anymore so you have to find deals if you want to get good stuff. And if the tv commercials I've seen for the past 5 days are true, there are deals to be had. Plus all the online retailers are jumping on the sale bandwagon too. One of my favorite online sites for bargains is HauteLook.

I just love this dress I recently bought. I wore it last week and was so comfy all day. I think it's going to be my new favorite summer dress. I do have to be careful when I walk around the windy city though. A HUGE gust of wind nearly blew the dress over my head. I'm sure I frightened some folks. That's what they get for watching my back-side.

If you'd like to buy cute stuff like this at great prices, check out Haute Look. You have to be invited to shop. So click on this LINK for your invite. (Not sure why they do that.) They have all kinds of brands on sale for men, women, kids and home. Each sale lasts about one day. So you have to shop quick. It's fuuuuun.

Oh yeah, that's not me in the photo in case you were confused and thought I jumped in a time machine or something. I tried to get a picture of me in the dress but it just wasn't working trying to pose in my office using the built-in camera on my computer. So no picture of me for you. Just the pretty young model from Haute Look, with her pretty young legs, and long brown hair, and wrinkle-less face.....

This is what the site looks like. It's a lot like shopping at the mall. There are a lot of different stores/brands to choose from. I think you're going to like it! Have fun.

Have a great day! Light up the barbie and have a swell time.

Friday, May 28, 2010

My three favorite cocktail recipes - mojito, martini, margarita

Here you go folks. Links to my three favorite cocktail recipes. Now you are all set for Memorial Weekend. Cuz it is all about hanging with friends and enjoying delicious cocktails, right?

Enjoy my friends. And don't forget to buy your booze at BevMo!  (You knew I had to mention it.)

1. Mojito
2. Peach Jalapeno Martini
3. Margarita

Have fun and be safe!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Chimney Rock Elevage Red Wine 2000 - heaven in a bottle

I can hear a cork pop a mile away.

So last night, as I was putting Elli to bed, I heard that lovely, familiar, POP!

I came downstairs to find that Don had opened a bottle of Chimney Rock Elevage Red Wine 2000. It's been in our cellar (aka, hall closet.) It's part of the collection we acquired when we were a wine club member back in 2005/2006.

"What's the occasion?" I ask.

"I was thirsty." says Don.

Well that's good enough for me. So we sat there watching Top Chef Masters drinking this fabulous wine. And for one hour all was right with the world. And now it's all gone.

The end.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The perfect roast chicken. Thank you, Ina.

I never made a roast chicken until about a year ago. I thought it was hard to make. I had no idea how easy it is to roast a chicken - and how yummy and moist the meat is. Mr. Chicken says, "Hey, don't eat me. Eat the cow. Haven't you seen the billboard?" Ha. Sorry. (The Chick-fil-a billboard popped in my head.)

I've made the same recipe several times. It's so good I have no reason to look for another. My gal, Ina, knows how to roast a chicken. She calls it "Perfect Roast Chicken." I have to agree.

Well, I can sum it all up on one paragraph. Rinse chicken, dry chicken, place in roasting pan. Slice up an onion add to pan. Stuff the chicken with fresh thyme, 6 cloves of garlic and one lemon quartered. Salt and pepper chicken inside and out. Melt 2T of butter and pour all over chicken. Roast in 425 degree oven for 90 minutes or until juices run clear. After about 45 minutes I pull out the pan and add fingerling potatoes.

For the gravy, yes, my dear, there is gravy.  Take the chicken out of the pan and remove the fat (reserve 2 T) add 2 cups of chicken stock because we like lots of gravy. Mix 2T of fat with 2T of flour and add to pan to thicken it up. Strain into a saucepan and season to taste.

Serve the chicken with the onions that have carmelized in the pan, fingerling potatoes and lots and lots of gravy.

So I served this totally yummy chicken to the family and Don tells me, "I don't really like roast chicken." What? What do you mean you don't like roast chicken? What's not to love? He says, "It tastes like Thanksgiving." Ok. So.....

Well, Don only likes white meat and doesn't like the skin. So I say, "Then just eat the white meat and don't eat the skin you big baby." Whatevs. He'll get over it - or go hungry.  He likes gravy - so I just make sure the gravy is really good. I guess it's better that he tells me though. Cuz a roast chicken is so easy (and inexpensive to make)  I would make it all the time.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Meet Bentley. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy - -and the newest member of our family!

On Sunday we returned Bentley to his owner. He had spent the entire day with us. He played in the park, played with Sam and Elli, and cuddled with Don.

The owner was so happy that she asked if we would ADOPT him. Oh no! I was just getting used to a low-maintenance house with just one pup.

She explained that she has super-long hours at the clinics where she works (she's a psychologist) and is having second thoughts about keeping him in a puppy cage all day. He needs to get out, and run, and be with people.

He is a super sweet little guy. So we're going to take him for a couple weeks just to make sure everything is cool with Sam - and that Bentley can handle hanging out at Pollin's with Don. I'm sure everything will work out just fine.

I believe in fate. I think little Bentley was meant to be in our family. He's exactly the kind of dog Elli was hoping for. He's loving, obedient, gentle, playful, smart, and is small enough that Elli can manage him.

Plus he likes to run with the big dogs. So Sam and Don are happy too.

PS. Happy Birthday to my cousin Sarah!  I hope the men in your life treat you like a queen for the day.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Blueberry Boy Bait

Last week we had to bring in a baked good for the 3rd grade bake sale. My plan was to make brownies. All kids like brownies.

Well all of Elli's friends begged me to make Blueberry Boy Bait instead. I didn't really want to. For one, outside of Elli's friends, they won't know what it is. And two, I already had the Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix. Which makes THE BEST brownies. Hands down.

But they begged and whined and so I said yes. I'm a sucker. I can't say no to these girls. They recently convinced me to make Strawberry/Banana smoothies to bring to school, too. That was another one of those "why didn't I just say no" moments. I actually went to Safeway twice, before 7am, to get enough ingredients to make smoothies for 22 people. Not my brightest moment. But I made some fine smoothies, let me tell you. They were yummy and healthy and the kids loved them. And all was good.

But back to the bake sale. Everyone loves Blueberry Boy Bait because it is a buttery-licious cake filled with plump blueberries and topped with cinnamon. Really, what's not to love? So how could I say no?

I put the Blueberry Boy Bait in the oven. It smelled divine. I really wanted a piece when it came out of the oven - which is when it is the absolute best. The cake is warm. The cinnamon top is crunchy sweet. It's sooooo good.

So I asked Elli if she was sure we should bring the Bait to the bake sale. "I can still make the brownies, and we can keep the Bait, you know." I said. (More like plead.) She agreed, so that's what we did. I baked brownies at 9pm while we all enjoyed a big piece of Blueberry Boy Bait making us all very, very happy. Actually, Elli and Don had two pieces. I'm not sure what lesson this taught Elli. Probably nothing good. Oh well.

I have made this recipe several times and have made it different each time - which is not common with a baked good recipe. I've used regular milk, whole milk and buttermilk. I've used 2 eggs and 3 eggs (the recipe calls for 3.) I've doubled the blueberries. I always add a splash of vanilla (~1 teasp.) It's a very forgiving recipe. It comes out great every time. It's not really necessary to add more blueberries, they all sink to the bottom.  A friend of mine has made it with raspberries and said that was good too. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Blueberry Boy Bait
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

2 cups flour (plus 1 teaspoon to toss with the blueberries)
1 T. baking powder
1 t. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 c. milk (whatever you have on hand, including buttermilk)
1 t. vanilla
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350ยบ.
2. Grease and flour 13 by 9-inch baking pan. (I prefer metal over glass.)
3. Whisk two cups flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl.
4. With electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, about two minutes.
5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down bowl. Reduce speed to medium and beat in one-third of flour mixture until incorporated.
6. Beat in half of milk. Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture.
7. Toss blueberries with remaining one teaspoon of flour. Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries. Spread batter into prepared pan.

1. Scatter blueberries over top of batter.
2. Stir sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and sprinkle over batter.
3. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
4. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then turn out and place on serving platter (topping side up).
5. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Cake can be stored in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.) Freezes well too.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Puppy love leads to '98 Franciscan Merlot.

You're probably thinking, huh? Puppy love and wine. What is she talking about now.

Well, Elli has started a little cat sitting business in our neighborhood, which led to a puppy walking job. A neighbor was going to have surgery on her shoulder so she was looking for someone to take her puppy out every morning and every evening.

Meet Bentley. He is the cutest little 8 month old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. He doesn't jump or bite, he's gentle and lovable. He's a total ladies man. Elli loves him. We've been watching him for about a week. All is well so far. The plan is to keep watching him for a couple more weeks while his owner recovers from surgery.

When I was there yesterday Sharon, the puppy owner, thanked me for taking care of the little guy. (Elli was at a sleep over. So I was on duty.) He's really no trouble and now that Elli and I have our new morning routine down, it's not bad at all.

She does realize that I am doing a lot of the work - and Elli is the one getting paid. So she asked me if I like wine. She went on to tell me she collects wine and has quite a wine collection. Do I like wine?? Ha! Bring it on. Show me what you got. Well, she has a ginormous wine fridge. The floor-to-ceiling kind, with drawers in it so you can slide out the tray of wine to examine heaven up close. I think I hit the puppy sitting jackpot.

She chose a '98 Franciscan Oakville Estate Merlot for Don and I to enjoy. Score! I can't wait to drink it tonight. And tell you all about it. yum, yum, yum.

Tomorrow we're taking Sam and Bentley to a Human Society fundraiser at the park. Mr Bentley is going to make a lot of new friends.  Should be fun!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Whole Foods ready-made mac and cheese. Highway robbery!

I called Don on Sunday afternoon after I left my volunteer post at the Designers Showcase house. He said that he and Elli went to Whole Foods. Uh oh. This is not good news. Don is your dream grocery shopper. He is a sucker for every promotional item, he rarely pays attention to what anything costs, he sees something he likes and he throws it in the basket.

I am the COMPLETE opposite. I watch prices on everything. I comparison shop. I've always done this - but I do it even more now that we are on a tight budget.

Don rarely goes food shopping anymore -- I take care of it. I do all the cooking anyway. Plus he will cost us too much money!  So I was dreading seeing the receipt when I got home. He bought filet mignon, fresh tuna and mac and cheese for Elli. The cost of the fresh fish and beef nearly gave me a coronary. But nothing could prepare me for what he paid for Elli's mac and cheese. $10.34 for a small container. WHAT!!?!! Are you kidding me? Even Don knew that was a lot of $$ for noodles and cheese. But once it's in the box what do you do? There are a line of people waiting. You're kind of stuck.

So I have to ask. Hey, Whole Foods, what's up with the mac and cheese rip off?  Come on, it's pasta, cheese and milk. We rarely shop at your store anymore because we can't afford it. This is ridiculous.

$8.99/lb gets you this - a small container of mac and cheese.

So Whole Foods, are you out there? What are your profits on this? I'd like a breakdown of paper, food and labor please. Because I feel like you're making a killing on me. And I won't pay these prices anymore. You have a big, shiny new store opening down the street from us that I would LOVE to shop in. But not at these prices. No way.

I have two fantastic mac and cheese recipes. One from Martha and one from Ina that I'm going to make and calculate my foods costs from. Click here for a link to those recipes from a previous post. And here's a link to the Whole Foods recipe. It's pretty basic and probably costs $6 to make a whole batch.

This is not over. Game on WF.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hello ginormous Aloe plant. Nice to meet you. (Or should I say Agave Americana.)

The other day I mentioned seeing a crazy big plant in my neighborhood. I think I told you the big flower thing in the middle was about six feet tall. Ha. Six feet. That's funny.

I drove by with the "good" camera yesterday so I could show you this plant. I've lived in our neighborhood for 3 years. I've driven by this house dozens if not a hundred times and never noticed this plant in the front yard until last week.

Here it is. Pretty, right? Well let me show you how it looks in a wide shot!

"Mommy, that's the bigget asparagus I've ever seen." says Elli.
"That's not an Asparagus plant Elli. I don't know what that is!!" I say.

Lucky for me a neighbor was walking by so I asked her. She said it's an Aloe plant. She doesn't remember ever seeing the bloom in the middle either. I think it's the rain. All the plants and flowers are so huge this year.

This one is unique though. You can't get rid of it. Who else has a giant plant straight out of "Little Shop of Horrors" growing in their front yard?

Good news! I have an update. My mom lives in Phoenix and sees this plant all over the place there. I have no idea what it's doing in someone's front yard in Mill Valley. Our climate is not similar at all.

Anyway it's called Agave Americana. The nickname is the Century Plant. I found a conservatory that is growing one. The stalk grew so tall it had to poke out the glass ceiling. The top will bloom into what looks like a tree with branches. You can see it here. Listen to this. The stalk grows 5-6" per day and will grow as high as 30-35 feet. So now I know I'm not crazy. This plant probably was 6' tall when I saw it the other day. I seriously was beginning to question my eyes.

Here's the sad part. According to the article above, legend has it that it takes 100 years to bloom. Which is how it got its nickname. It's a once in a lifetime occurrence. And the plant will die when the bloom dies. How sad is that?

I wonder if the homeowner knows?

Well, guess what? I drove by the house this am to drop off a little note letting them know I was writing about their plant. The homeowner was getting in her car so we chatted for a few minutes. She does know about her plant and is quite curious to see how tall it will grow. She calls it their Dr. Seuss plant. I think she's right. I believe this plant is in the book Go, Dog. Go! Or maybe it was Green Eggs and Ham. I'll keep you posted. In case you're curious - about the plant, that is. I know I am!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Love my Coach sneaks!

Don and Elli gave me these sneakers for my birthday. Aren't they awesome! They are way more comfy than Converse shoes. The Coach brand has cushion in the heel - so they are much more comfortable to walk in. Plus they are oh-so-stylish don't you think?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Writing about writer's block

I have writer's block.

I can't think of anything interesting to write about. And I haven't read anything interesting that has sparked an "I think I'll write about that" reaction where the fingers fly and before I know it. Bam! I'm done.

So here we are. Or here I am. With nothing to say.

Did you know that there aren't any places near my office where you can buy a sandwich for 5 bucks. That just seems wrong. Why does a sandwich - two pieces of bread, some mustard and turkey meat cost more than 5 bucks?

See that wasn't very interesting. It's a true story. And it was my issue today. I didn't bring my lunch and I only had 5 bucks. I bought a small container of tuna salad for $2.88. yum.

I'm just tired and in a funk. It's been a crazy week.

Oh greaaaaaaaaat. The weather lady just popped on between shows to tell us there will be rain tomorrow.
We've had so much rain the plants and weeds have gone crazy. I drove by a house today with a plant in the front yard that has a ginormous flower growing in the center of it. It had to be 6' tall. And looked like a giant stalk of asparagus - something you would see on little shop of horrors. I just tried googling "giant flower that looks like an asparagus stalk" and got nuthin. Anyone have any ideas? I'll have to get a picture tomorrow.

Ok. I'm done. Hopefully I'll have more than nothing tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sweet smelling, gorgeous roses in Healdsburg - a must see.

The flowers in California are absolutely gorgeous this year. And the roses are spectacular. The spring rain  has done wonders for the flowers.

I don't know about you, but there's something about roses that just make me smile and (almost) make me want to grow a rose garden.

I can't resist sticking my nose right up to the flower to get a whiff. 
The smell is intoxicating.

Elli couldn't get enough of it either.

They are bigger, more fragrant, and more colorful than I remember.  It's amazing what four months of rain will do.

We spotted all these roses at the Catholic Church in Healdsburg. I would have stayed for an hour taking pictures, except the sky broke open and it started to rain. Not just a sprinkle either, a torrential downpour. So we jumped back in the car. And were on our way.

At least I got a few shots before getting soaked!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Best Girlfriends

There is nothing better than a best friend. 

Especially your best girlfriend. They understand you better than you understand yourself. And they get it - even more than your husband. Cuz let's face it - our husbands are our best friend - but they make lousy girlfriends.

You can't call them up after you hear caddy comments at school. Cuz this is the reaction you get on the phone.......


"Hello? Are you still there? Hello?" 

I should have called a girlfriend. They would understand.

Remember when you and your best friend would dress alike? Those were the days.

Elli is a great girlfriend. She listens, she keeps secrets and totally empathizes with you. Just what you want in a girlfriend.

PS. Thanks for all the birthday wishes. I love you all!!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to my mom, my mother-in-law, my sister, my aunts, my cousins, my sister-in-laws and all my friends.

I hope your day is as spectacular as mine has been.

I'm feeling the love in my house!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Have no fear, the naked window rescue team is here!

Custom window treatments are all the rage right now. Just like Trina Turk and Tory Burch are all the rage with the ladies. Is it just me - or am I the only the one that gets the two designers confused? But that's not what we're talking about today. We're talking about NAKED WINDOWS. Eeeeek!

There are so many absolutely beautiful fabrics out there - it would be a shame to leave your windows naked, or worse, cover them up with some awful, drape-in-a-bag that everyone else has. The horror!

So I thought I would just tease you a little, with some snapshots of a few recent window installs we've done at Pollin's.

Of course my first comment when I saw these pictures was, "Honey, I want custom window treatments too." And I just got the look. Don't you hate that look? The look that says, "No, I do this all day, I'm not doing it here too." Grrr. I hate that look. That's when I get in my super Poling mode and start doing it myself. Like when I installed our draperies in our living room myself and created an enormous hole in the wall. Oopsies. I fixed it, and Don came to my rescue. But I did get ANOTHER look, or two. Whatevs.

So here you go.

Light and airy in the bedroom and bathroom.

 Gorgeous Fortuny fabric makes the room sparkle.

  Beautiful, cotton drapes in the bedroom.

Are you inspired?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Review of Tapiz Chardonnay and Beauzeaux Red Wine

I brought home a few new wines to try from BevMo! One is a brand I already like (Tapiz) so I was pretty confident we'd like the Chardonnay. The other is a brand I had not tried before (Beauzeaux) and didn't know much about, so I really had no expectations.

Well, the Tapiz Chardonnay is great! It's my kind of Chardonnay - crisp, fruity, not too sweet, not oakey or buttery. Just really good and the price is right -around twelve bucks. I'm definitely picking up another bottle, or two of this one. It's perfect to have on hand when friends drop by. Who am I kidding? We don't have people drop in, it's for me! I'll share some with Don - maybe. Just kidding, we do have friends, they just don't drop in unannounced, usually.

Next we we tried the Beauzeaux Red Wine (pronounced Bozo - like the clown.) This wine was a major disappointment. It tasted like grape juice, not wine. The half-empty bottle is still sitting there. Neither of us want any more. It's weird. The wine is really grapey. As in Welch's grape juice grapey - I seriously thought for a second that maybe they accidentally bottled grape juice. I'm sure they didn't. But the thought did cross my mind. Oh well.

Now this is just my personal opinion, you'll have to try it for yourself and see what you think. I googled Beauzeaux and found some people that like it - it just wasn't to my liking.

What wine have you tried lately that you like? I'm always on the hunt for new wine. Especially bottles under twenty bucks.

PS. GOOD NEWS!!!! You can get $1 OFF every bottle of Tapiz this week at BevMo! Any varietal. They have the coupons in the store. You can also get the discount online if you prefer to shop that way. (You can get the code on their website.) You are in for a treat if you haven't tried Tapiz before. MY recommendation is to buy one of each varietal and have a Tapiz tasting party. I'm available if you need help tasting.  (hint, hint) I'll bring snacks? I can taste the Malbec now. Yum.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tripping up the stairs.

Is it just me or do other people also trip going up the stairs?

We went to a cocktail party on Saturday night. It was a fundraising cocktail party for school that was a "get dressed up in cocktail attire" kind of thing. I think they do this so people will be on their best behavior and not get too crazy. Cuz really, it's hard to get super silly in 4" heels and a dress that's form fitting.

Don and I got a babysitter for Elli. We had Mei Mei drop us off at the party because they had a shuttle service to take everyone home. Which I have to say is the way to go - it was so nice getting dropped off at the front door!

We walked in to the home where the party was and started up the stairs, when BAM! I trip. It wasn't a complete fall on your face trip, but it was loud, and everyone noticed I had arrived. Greaaaaaaaat. Hadn't even had one glass of wine and I've already made a scene. And of course that's what I immediately blurt out. "Oh my gosh, I haven't even had a glass of wine yet. Ha, ha, ha. " Nice.

The rest of the evening was fun and uneventful. But I was on alert. The majority of the party was outside on their decks. Decks and heels are not a good combination. I really didn't want to get my heel stuck in between the deck planks. So I kind of stood on my toes all night. Nice workout for the calves, but not exactly relaxing!

Our school has it together. They have all kinds of fun "fundraising" events like this. There is a big event in the fall where there is a walkathon, white elephant sale, live auction and silent auction to raise money for the school. Because as you know in California - - we have no money for education.

The most popular silent auction items are the parties. Different families "host" parties, along with a few other friends/families. People pay anywhere from $10 - $40/pp to attend the party or event. Then you just go and have fun. They have a ton of things to choose from, 70's party, bbq, movie night, tiki party, mom's mixer, mom's hike - and more. These events are really popular and sell out really fast. So if you want to go you need to get your name down right away.

The cocktail party was $35/pp, it was open bar and food, plus a shuttle ride home. Not bad! Plus look how cute our sommelier was. All us girls had a teeny crush on him. hee hee hee

What kind of fund raising activities does your school do? We're always looking for new ideas.