Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

From my haunted palace to yours...


Tricks and Kisses,

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sweets with Sweets

I cannot recall the last time I decorated cookies. My rusty skills revealed themselves today during Bridget and her son Logan's visit to my place for Halloween-themed cupcakes and cookie decorating.

My visitors were so sweet! They brought me flowers. Bridget handed me a vibrant summer-like mix while Logan had to bring me his own separate single pink rose. I immediately prepared them in a large vase before we headed out for a quick Greek lunch down the road...

Disney's "Lilo and Stitch" played on the DVD while we decorated the cupcakes Bridget baked and the cookies I made. Logan did participate; however, it was Bridget who got more out of it by learning how to color buttercream and royal icing with the new electric gel colors I received in the mail earlier in the week. My memory was short on how involved the whole activity could become, but it was worth a creative afternoon.

In between decorating, Logan would show me his mini Legos shaped like helicopters and trucks. It was all very complicated and told him so. Bolstered with the fearless spirit of an eight-year old, he commanded his knowledge of building each bit. He proceeded to hand me five pieces to put together a miniature helicopter pilot: three black pieces for the body, one for the white helmet and a yellow tinted clear acrylic mask for the helmet. After I struggled a little with my long nails to put them all together, he rewarded me with a smile. What a ladykiller!

Here are some pics of their decorating. Luckily for me they took most everything home. My kitchen and dining room were decorating disaster areas. Ha! All cleaned up in over an hour thank goodness.

As a result of today, I am definitely going to bake again for Christmas with the 15-year old butter cookie recipe I've kept and never used until this afternoon. It was a recipe from a lady named Nancy I worked part-time at Williams-Sonoma back in Chicago. For years I saw it hidden in between other pages of my personal recipe treasure book, but never had the heart to throw it away. Delayed surprises can be best and sweet, too!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cookie Doctor

I know I am treading on dangerous ground as I discuss a visit to my new "cookie doctor" yesterday. As millions of women around the world know, it is not the most dignified exam whether is it given by a male or female doctor.

After years of dealing with a male, I decided to switch to a women's group five minutes from my apartment. From the first call to make the appointment to the end of the visit, it was the best experience. They managed your expectations and made you proud to have chosen them.

Hello Hollywood...The lobby reminded you of an upscale hotel with wood and cushioned furniture set in conversation groups surrounded by deep sand colored walls. This facility was packed with women waiting to be seen, mostly by pregnant women. Navy blue jackets adorned the ladies sitting behind the reception windows like tetras in a fishbowl and friendly nurses milled about in cheerful rose pink scrubs. Everyone welcomed you with a smile and addressed you formally by "Mrs --" or "Ms --". Later I found my exam room already prepared for my visit with vials marked with my name in bold letters.

My new doctor has a cozy office decorated with formal heavy furniture and one wall hung a big photo cloud sculpture of babies she had delivered. In front of her was a mini laptop where she made notes of some symptoms I had been experiencing. We talked in general, agreed to a battery of blood work to get a baseline and she hinted that part of my issue could be age (horror!) related. "Women in their late 30s...blah blah blah". Nice. Yes, even your AGOL suffers from human maladies.

I normally get anxious in any doctor's offices and was dumbstruck when the nurse told me my blood pressure reading was normal. The exam itself was uneventful thanks to smaller instruments and the butterfly gentle care of my doctor. My experience with male doctors for some reason tend to use bigger instruments in this case -- the speculum. It's not like they need to be spelunking in there. Contrary to scorned ex-husbands, no stalactites have ever been found in any woman's vagina, I'm sure.

Why post about such a routine event? Well, sometimes it is enriching to share what is right with the medical world when women run it. They run it with themselves in mind and the sensitivity with dignity women are entitled to have each and every day. Hell, I told my girlies that the experience was so freeing that I would go daily for fun and take it up as a hobby. Uhm...That is a joke my lovelies.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dumpling Love

Jonesing for dumplings. Yeah, I know. "What happened to rice?" Ever since I've been exclusively eating brown rice (short grain and Jasmine long grain), I haven't been craving it as much. So now enter the dumplings or maybe is it the endless possibilities of the fillings?

Last weekend I made a seasoned pork and shrimp filling that I stuffed into square wonton skins. Several have been cooked in a chicken broth, ladled in a bowl and sprinkled with fresh chopped baby bok choy and several more steam-fried and finished with Indonesian soy sauce (thick and sweet).

Below are frozen rows still waiting to be cooked.

This evening had me making pumpkin dumpling raviolis. If I have to do this next time, I would just stuff one round skin and fold in half like the wontons. This was either too much dough or not enough filling in the dough for me.

Oooh. Pumpkin Ravioli Patch. Pillows and pillows.

I didn't feel like defrosting the red sauce from a previous batch in the freezer so I melted some butter with olive oil and added chopped spinach in a pan. When the pumpkin raviolis were done boiling, I quickly tossed them in the pan with spinach before plating them and sprinkled some Parmesan cheese on top. This would have been tastier with toasted pine nuts. Instead of a butter/olive oil mix, you could brown the butter and some sage together before incorporating the the dumplings with it.

Now to clean-up the dishes...

FYI & Warning - You will have loads to freeze of both these dumplings for future use:

Wonton Filling: fresh ground pork, fresh chopped peeled shrimp, finely chopped waterchestnuts, finely chopped shallots, sweet rice wine, ground ginger, pressed garlic, sesame oil, salt & pepper.

Dumpling Ravioli Filling: cooked squash, potato flakes, grated Parmesan, finely chopped shallot, pressed garlic, nutmeg, salt & pepper.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Watching Wild Things

This long week deserved a nice feel-good ending. I was supposed to be hanging out with my old friend Jill, but I was afraid to drive home late from her home as tired as I have been. The evening may have involved some libations. You remember me and my night blindness? Anyhoo, Tawny asked me to see a later showing of "Where the Wild Things Are", an adaptation of the children's book by Maurice Sendak.

During Comic-Con* in July, I had the pleasure of seeing a preview of the movie. Clips shown to us included behind the scenes and some of Sendak. All of this will probably appear on the DVD later.

Representing his movie at Comic-Con was the child actor, Max Records, who portrays a child who basically has a tantrum. He leaves his home wearing a wolf costume and ends up sailing to, you guess it, where the wild things are.

Max Records below on two jumbo screens.

I felt the same sense of wonder tonight as I did in July. The cinematography was breathtaking with the tight shots -- Spike Jonze (director) did an amazing job. You can really get the sense from a child's point of view. The special effects didn't smack you over the head either; the story stayed center stage.

Your AGOL highly recommends seeing this movie. Its simplicity is beautiful and heart-warming. When was the last time a movie told you a story without engaging you in too many complicated subplots and distracting special effects? Exactly.

*Yes, I know I owe you pics of celebrities and events of this portion of my vacation. Still thinking about it.