Tuesday, July 31, 2012

From Scratch

I am not one of those people who dislikes baking vs cooking or vice versa.  I just like being in the kitchen period.

Typically when I go to someone’s place I bring…something.   A bottle of wine in a pinch (or when I know we’re going to need it), tomato bruschetta to a barbecue,  flowers when the host/hostess declares “Don’t you dare bring anything but yourself”.     Nine times out of ten though – I bring dessert.

My father wasn’t much of a baker but he could take a box of Ghirardelli brownie mix from Costco and make it the best brownie you ever ate.    Sometimes he added extra chips or a squeeze of chocolate syrup but he could really make them sing.

Other than cookies – I rarely make anything completely from scratch.   My cakes might be a bit doctored up and I give brownies the same treatment as my dad once did but I’m very new to the world of scratch cake baking.

I decided on mini cupcakes this time because a) they were for my nieces and they like to eat MULTIPLE cupcakes b) I only have 1 large cupcake tin and I have two mini cupcake tins.    I didn’t feel like babysitting 2 batches of cupcakes.

Note to self – go get some more large cupcake tins.

Don’t tell Dave but I almost married him solely so that I could have a kitchen big enough to own this mixer. :)

mini 3 

I decided on vanilla cupcakes.  It was a recipe from allrecipies.com.   I’d link but they were really pretty dry.   Does it count as making something from scratch if next time I add a box of vanilla pudding?   How else can you make moister cupcakes.

Ugh.  Moist.  Jen hates that word.

mini 2  Here’s the after.   I made homemade vanilla buttercream and topped with rainbow sprinkles and mini chocolate chips.   The frosting was the best part.

mini 1

Baking is about as much Science as I want in my life to be honest. 

All and all it was a good experiment.   It didn’t take that much longer than ripping open a box and I won’t deny I like being able to reply yes to the question “You made these from scratch?”

In another life – like a few years down the road – I’d like to open a tiny catering business.     Mini cupcakes would fit right in with what I’m planning.

This is just the first attempt.  I plan to try and improve the recipe in the next few months so stay tuned.

Monday, July 23, 2012



  blog 2

One of my…let’s just say…issues is being organized.   Now I have drawers stuffed full of junk but there is always a semblance of organization at the core. 

To put it simply if not delicately – I know where my shit is.

99.9% of the time.

I’m not about to claim I have a perfect photographic memory but I do have one of sorts.   I read – rather quickly – and I don’t know how or why but if I need to go back and find something I can tell about where in the book it is – whether it’s on a left or right side of the book and whether it’s near the top or bottom of that page.

When the other members of this household ask me where something is – if I’ve seen it – I can tell them where to find it.

Having this guy makes life a little more complicated.   The boy goes through bottles like no one’s business and comes with more accessories than Barbie.

ry guy 2But God he’s cute.   Makes up for a lot.

Dave and I made a list yesterday and embarked on a mission.   We cleaned the Living Room and the Dining Room of clutter.  Finished the Guest Room (which we started MONTHS ago).    Then I cleaned out my pantry.   I had no idea what was in there and it made me ill every time I opened the door.   A place where I was supposed to store staples became a virtual black hole. 

This is not the first time I’ve done all this.   I just spent a good 20 minutes trying to find the last post of me organizing the cupboards (back when Dave and I were first dating) and then realized you probably don’t care about THESE pictures let alone a link to cabinets from 2 years ago.


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I have two teenagers and a 10 year old here.   Ramen and Chef Boyardee are staples.

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Baby formula on a shelf next to Diet Coke.   This says a lot about me as a person.

This corner of my kitchen was a nightmare.   I had about 9 bottles of various oils and vinegars cluttering up the space.  

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And look at my shiny new backsplash!!!  (You have NO idea what it was like before).     Someday my kitchen will be completely redone.   For now this has made a world of difference.

Organizing stuff calms me down.  For me at the heart of it all - clutter = chaos.    Even though I am at times my own worst enemy in this regard.   I would gladly show you my newly organized closets – but not the horror show that is my armoire or my nightstand.

But for now – we’ve made a dent and it’s making me happy.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Someone’s in the kitchen with Ina…

 food 1   


It is no secret I love The Food Network.   I love it in spite of the fact that true foodies regard that particular channel with various levels of distain.

I consider myself an equal opportunity viewer.   I adore Top Chef most of all but I’ll also spend a day watching Anthony Bourdain (he who hath a lot to say about the Food Network and none of it nice).

But truth be told I would honestly watch a channel that was all Ina all the time.  

How do I love Ina?  Let me count the ways.

1)  Her voice.   It has the polar opposite effect on me than Mary Hart’s voice had on that poor lady.   It’s melodic - like a lullaby – except I stay awake.

2) Her look.   Her hair is always perfect and shining – but not in a $400 salon type way.  She’s the J. Jill poster girl.  She looks every bit like a wealthy Hampton’s wife of a certain age – the kind of wife who isn’t trying to be 20 when she’s well over 50.   Ina looks like she takes a bite of every thing she eats.   It’s why I also love Nigella Lawson.  She totally owns the fact she puts on about 25 lbs every time she films a series of shows.

3) Her love for all things Long Island.   Well.   The East End of Long Island.   Let’s face it – she’s not traipsing around Amy Fisher’s old haunts.  But I do know I never loved Long Island more than I do now that I’ve moved to New Jersey.

4)  Her recipes are easy – her food looks delicious.   And when I try to make it myself – my food is delicious too.

5) She shops at Zabar’s and Citarella like it’s Stop and Shop.   Nevermind that – she has Eli Zabar over for breakfast for God’s sake.

6) Which leads me to her entourage of artsy friends who get roped into play acting like they don’t know their going to be in an episode and act all surprised when she leaves jars of jam and fresh muffins on their porch.

7)  Jeffrey and his roast chicken.   My dad did a whole routine about Ina and Jeffrey which was not very PC (my father often liked to be not very PC in order for us to react).    My niece once sang a version of “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad” which features the line that is this post title followed by “Jeff-Jeff-Jeffrey I-O”  as we drove past her house on the way to Sag Harbor.  (don’t ask!) I also think it’s adorable they’ve known each other since she was 15.

8) She used to work in the White House and now she works and lives in her lovely house making lovely food.  

In short - I want to be Ina when I grow up.

But for now I’ll settle for making her shrimp scampi over pasta.

Last night it was just me, Dave and a kid who ate the last of a jar of organic sweet potatoes.    I followed the recipe exactly – except I added some asparagus that I hadn’t used yet this week.   Shrimp and asparagus is one of my favorite combinations and it helped me with my goal to eat something green with each meal. 

Something green sautéed in garlic, butter and oil.

Baby steps.

All I did was chop it up and add it as a sautéed the shrimp in the garlic/butter/oil mix.

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The problem I usually have with shrimp scampi is the butter.   I mean, garlic and butter?   What is not to love?   For me it’s that the butter seems to over power the shrimp making it greasy instead of saucy.   I know there is butter in shrimp scampi but to look at a plate of pink shrimp swimming in butter it becomes hard to deny that what I’m eating isn’t exactly low cal.

food 3

Ina’s recipe calls for a few tablespoons of butter plus olive oil.   The fact that you serve it with pasta takes the pool of butter out of the equation.   What you are left with is garlicky lemony goodness.   The parsley adds a bright note and the red pepper just enough kick.

 food 5

Yum.  How easy is that? ;)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Home Alone*

It is rare these days that I’m ever truly home ALONE.  Today I have the tile guy (replacing the backsplash in the kitchen from its former horror show status) and a teenaged boy upstairs in his room.  In about an hour you can add a 10 year old saxophone player to the mix.

You know - I’m not a huge Simpson’s fan – but Mora is quite like Lisa in a lot of ways. :)

Anyway most notably missing is my little baby boy who is on Week 2 of daycare. 

The result?  It’s been good for both of us I think.

Choosing what to do with Ryan was a tough decision.   On one hand the fact that I work from home often could offer us some flexibility but  it’s not an exact science.   There could be days where I am home all week – or days where I have to be in NYC.    Finding someone to watch Ryan in our home would prove difficult primarily because I can’t tell week to week what I’d need.
Plus there’s the whole being dependant on one person for all your daycare needs.  If s/he were sick I’d (or Dave would) have no choice but to stay home.   Organized daycare was the right decision for us – for now at least.

Ryan is thriving.   He’s been more on a schedule since he started and I dare say is eating a little less.   He’s gotten some great naps in as well and the daily reports I get from his teachers is his mood – all day – is happy.
I still think there is no one in the world more capable of taking care of that child than me but I’ll tell the truth – being a mother – while everything I’ve ever wanted – is a really tough job.   I don’t always like it.    There are moments where all I really want in this world is to just sleep for five more minutes.   As much as I love holding him there are times I just want my hands free – to be able to do just one thing for myself without consequence.     There have been times where I’ve ducked out to do something only to regret coming back and being welcomed home to what resembles a disaster area.

I have come to the conclusion that although I really love my baby to pieces I need some time – even just a few hours a day – to myself.  
Admittedly – my situation is different.  Ryan is my first baby but the fourth child in this household.   My authority over the other children is not as strong.  I can make suggestions and am here to care for them but disciplining them (for more than leaving a mess)  is not my responsibility.   It’s a helpless feeling at times.   Problems arise but often I can’t implement a solution.

Another thing I did not expect?  While I was on leave my world became very small.   I had nothing but the ladies of Bravo and the Barefoot Contessa as company some days.   Then there was feeding Ryan and changing Ryan and caring for Ryan and everyone else as well as mountains of laundry…cleaning up…making meals…cleaning up.

Lather, rinse, repeeat and lather, rinse, repeeeeat, and lather rinse repeeeeat…

As needed. :)

This is assuming it was a day I could actually find time to take a shower.

(sidenote:  The pipes in our shower sounded – for the life of me – exactly like Ryan wailing.  It was almost 5 months before I could take a relaxing shower in this house)

Add to that the fact that all my friends reside in NYC or on Long Island.   I don’t know anyone here in NJ – not the kind of people that I can meet for lunch or go shopping with.   That could change rather quickly – especially now that Ryan is at ‘school’.    I’m looking forward to connecting with other parents.    Soon enough – I keep telling myself.   Soon enough.

I don’t think I had a serious case of PPD but there is so much to feel guilty about when you have a child.    Induce or not to induce, drugs or no drugs, breastfeed or formula, childwearing 24/7, cloth or disposable diapers.  I’m not here to malign or judge the decisions made by anyone else but I can tell you this.   From his birth to our daycare decision – everything I’ve done has had the primary goal to keep me sane so I can continue to do everything I need to get done – for me and for everyone else.     It’s not always a selfish decision.  

What I’ve learned is quite often taking care of myself is one of the most selfless things I can do.

So I’m here – just starting to get busy and back into the swing of things at work with a relatively quiet house and missing this face like crazy.

ry guy
In about 4-5 more hours I can go pick him up.   Can’t. Wait.

Monday, July 16, 2012



image found on  burgerbusiness.com

I am not one to say I’d never eat fast food.

Even at my heaviest fast food was not my problem.   Sure, I’d cure an hangover with a number 3 from McDonald’s with a large fountain Diet Coke and when on road trips wouldn’t dare kid myself that I’d have the salad but it was not a daily, hell it was probably not even a monthly thing.

Until I got pregnant.

At some point near the middle of the second trimester I became Wendy’s bitch.   Part of this was logistics.   In order to get to and from Stop & Shop for groceries, in order to go to my OBGYN, in order to visit the chiropractor or get a prenatal massage to try and battle sciatica (more on that later) I passed by the home of my “red-headed friend”.    And I got myself a Spicy Chicken Sandwich Combo – medium, with only lettuce on the sandwich.

And more times than not – a Frosty for dessert.

Despite this habit – which at it’s height had me there daily and knowing the drive-thru cashier by name  (not quite but close) I didn’t gain that much weight during my pregnancy.   Sure – I was 30 lbs up before I got pregnant but I gained approximately 22-ish lbs all told.    I’ve lost about half that and kept it off.

The other 10?   And the original 30?   They’re sticking around.

I had plans – big plans for losing the weight.  Breastfeeding will make the weight slide right off!!!  I’ll walk with the baby every day!!   We’ll go to Mommy & Me Baby Bootcamp!!!  

My baby is a giant – clocking in at almost 20 lbs in his 5th month.   8 of those pounds were gained from birth and with me nursing him exclusively.    The last 4 weeks we’ve cut back to me nursing 2-3x a day and supplementing formula (and now first foods 2x a day).   All breastfeeding got me was a baby who’s thriving and some ugly ass bras.  

Our mild winter turned into a Sahara-esque summer and so risking heatstroke from walking is not really an option.   The annoying thing about new mommies groups (which I admit I researched and didn’t attempt to go) is that they are all for SAHM and meet during weekday mornings.   It’s annoying.

In the last 3 weeks I’ve started a routine of sorts.    I took my first post baby Zumba class and didn’t die.   Ryan’s daycare is close to the Y and so my new routine (when working from home) is to put on workout clothes and drop him off then head to the gym.

So far my eating hasn’t caught up to my exercise schedule.   I’m still craving ice cream and won’t lie.   My last tryst with Wendy was sometime last week.   But I’m committed to running a 10k with Jen in the fall and am tired of crying every time I look at my closet.   I’m thisclose to being at a size where conventional stores are no longer an option and I SWORE to myself I would never ever let that happen again.

So far my workouts are incline walking – 30 minutes at about a level 12 (out of 20) which puts me at the highest at an 8% incline on the random program.     Next week I plan to start Couch25K again and Dave talked today about joining Weight Watchers with me.  

I know I can do it.   I’ve done it before.  Starting the exercise before the ‘diet’ is actually a good thing for me.  The more I work out – the less I’ll eat…eventually.

For now I’m stating here and now a moratorium on Spicy Chicken Combos.    My BFF at the drive-thru will have to learn to get along without me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Back to the future


I started work again yesterday.   It was a good day – minus the dropping my kid off to a place so that other people could watch him thing.   I miss NYC so much.   I don’t realize how much until I’m back there.

There are a zillion things to tell you about.   I guess I can start with the wedding and go through a little recap if that works.  Not sure who is still around reading but I’d like to have it written down somewhere. 

It was nearly a year ago.   That’s the craziest thing about it!!

Our wedding was held at Battery Gardens with a view of the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop.   We stayed at a nearby hotel with a lot of our family and friends.

The night before we had our rehearsal dinner at Stone Street Tavern.  We sat outside and had glorified pub food.   I loved our dinner.  It had a street fair type atmosphere.

me and dave rehearsalThe day of the wedding the weather was kind of  hot but not the oppressive heat that we are experiencing here at the moment.   I did almost faint at one point during our pictures but I gotta chalk at least some of that up to Ryan’s presence during the festivities.    Add to that the fact that I stubbed my toe so badly the day before I was 99.9% sure I broke it so my feet were killing me.

I have absolutely no complaints about our wedding whatsoever.  Everyone I loved was in the same room at the same time. 

Timing was tight so Dave and I chose to take pictures pre-ceremony.   In theory I would have wanted to wait but in hindsight this was a great idea.    I missed not a single moment of my cocktail hour or reception.   It was perfect.   Bob Krasner did our photos and was unobtrusive and caught every moment we wanted.   He did a mix of formal photos and candids and everything came out perfect!

Pardon the proofs.  We have done nothing about getting our whole album yet – so far we just have a few pictures framed.




Our ceremony was inside.  As an event planner I am cautious when it comes to outdoor events.   If we had the ceremony outside we would have had a) no sun cover b) no rain cover c) random people in Battery Park as witnesses.  I preferred to have a climate controlled private ceremony.    Our minister – Maureen - was amazing.   She surprised us with what she would say about us based on a few meetings and a questionnaire and she was spot on.    Lucy Wu did our flowers and again – she was fabulous.  She worked with my budget and talked me out of floral headpieces for the little ones telling me they were too expensive, too labor intensive and not worth the money.   J Crew headbands worked just fine.


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Outdoor cocktails were next up.   I was shot down with my dream of a mashed potato bar but we had a shrimp and crab station and lots of passed hors d’oeuvres.   We had indoor and outdoor space and two bars serving our guests.  One of my biggest pet peeves is having to wait for a drink at a wedding.


Our cake was not cake at all.  Cupcakes from Butter Lane.



Again, Lucy did a great job on the table decor.   I wanted simple and I wanted hydrangeas and that is exactly what I got.  I did my own table numbers using cards I bought at Staples and a Sharpie.


We had one full ‘kids’ table and we made our own centerpiece for them.    There was also a Candy Bar.   Jen is still having nightmares about it and I don’t have a clear picture of it but I have been told people went back for seconds.


We also had a photo booth.   It was a HUGE hit.


pbpb3  pb2


Our dinner started with a salad with brie and Mandarian oranges.      Guests had a choice of Braised Beef – almost like short ribs with mashed potatoes or ginger crusted snapper.   Sorbet and cupcakes for dessert.

And then the party began.   Our DJ was AMAZING.   I had known about him for a few years as he played at an industry event I attended at Top of the Rock.   Seriously – if you are in NY you need to book Jason for any event.  He’s awesome and worth every penny.  And for those Real Housewives addicts like myself – he played at Kelsey Grammer’s NY wedding.   Sorry, Camille.   Copy (2) of me and jen Copy (2) of partyI didn’t want to do a bouquet toss but in the end I relented.   It made for a great picture so I’m glad I did!


There is not one moment from this day I would change.   Don’t get me wrong – I wanted certain details the way that I wanted them but learned really quickly not to stress about the small stuff.   Might be because I do this for a living but in the end, I think that’s the point of  having a wedding.     Having a big party to celebrate marrying the one you love.

Copy of the end

And they lived happily ever after. :)