Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cigarettes Anyone?

My favorite Halloween Costume was being a cigarette girl! My mother, who is very clever, imaginative and patient gave me the idea...I had never heard of it, I was 9 years old! Mom cut down a shiny green taffeta dress of hers with sequence on it, she made it for herself and decided she no longer needed it. She made a little hat and a box with sash (like these photos) and it was filled with a variety of cigarettes. I had on fishnets too - and my favorite thing about Halloween was being allowed to wear make up! I KNEW I had the most creative and original costume... unfortunately the judges at a party didn't! I had to tell all of my friends what I was "I'm a cigarette girl"!! Now...can you even imagine suggesting this as a costume now...for your 9 year old to wear in the school parade??? This was one of my greatest Halloween moments... Thanks Mom!!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tonight is always "Goosey Night"!

Growing up, the night before Halloween was a lot more fun than Halloween itself... EVERY kid in the neighborhood came out - time to get the pesky neighbor back who was famous for keeping every ball of ours that landed in his yard! We were a pack... I see the tradition still continues, call it what you want... "mischief night, cabbage night" etc. - to me it's ALWAYS "Goosey Night"!

Anything Goes!

I'm forever amazed at the attire on a college campus... basically ANYTHING GOES. And, why do they look like they just rolled out of bed and scuffed their way to class... because that's exactly what they did... most students are proud of it and make no bones about it. I can't say "all" students, but most.  Faculty have given up saying anything...they're just happy when they show up for class! 

PJ bottoms worn by men and women...are the most common, my son too!
I was horrified (apparently all his pants and sweats were dirty) ...

Sandals in the winter!

 and this sloppy hair knot?

The killer is, they spend a ton of money on this look, and usually sporting a very expensive bag carrying their "stuff". I guess I would not want to enforce a dress code, maybe just A LITTLE pride.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

To "Brine" or Not to "Brine"...

One of the MANY things I love about working at Williams Sonoma is the focus that Thanksgiving receives and deserves. It's actually one of the few retail stores that "celebrates" one of my favorite holidays... (I LOVE Christmas, but happy this retailer attracts customers that wait until Thanksgiving is over).  Customers are still coming in the night before to purchase everything possible to make their dinner. I'm forever baffled at the amount of people that brine their turkey. Some for their first time, many who are "pros". I myself don't get the hype. One of my favorite things about cooking a turkey are using the drippings to make gravy... not an option if you brine as it's way too salty; I also love the smell of a turkey roasting in the oven (another reason I'm not ready to deep fry our bird) and I love the stuffing that is cooked inside the cavity! 

From talking to the "brining experts" they swear brining is necessary to improve the flavor and moisture content of the turkey. Traditional brining was meant to preserve meat, the purpose of flavor brining is to improve the flavor, texture, and moisture content of lean cuts of meat. This is achieved by soaking the meat in a moderately salty solution for a few hours to a few days. Flavor brining also provides a temperature cushion during cooking--if you happen to overcook the meat a little, it will still be moist. A flavor brine consists of water and salt. Other ingredients may include sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, fruit juices, beer, liquor, bay leaves, pickling spices, cloves, garlic, onion, chilies, citrus fruits, peppercorns, and other herbs and spices.
I had to "catch up" on all the methods we offer... a little "over the top" to me... but then again, so are many of our customers. Maybe one reason I have no intention to brine my turkey is it's the LAST thing I really eat on Thanksgiving, I love the way it smells and will "maybe" have a piece of dark meat the day after, but white turkey meat does absolutely NOTHING for me! Therefore, brining is not an my opinion it's a total waste of time, effort and money.  Well, there is another option.... how about spending $95.00 and have a "jive fried" fully cooked turkey delivered? 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Love Jack O' Lanterns!

I think I'll carve a pumpkin this year... I realized I really miss it, I LOVE the way they look when lit at night...and they are easier to dispose of once carved!  Gene won't be home, he LOVED picking out the biggest pumpkin he could possibly hold and then carve it...probably his first memory of being allowed to use a knife! Phil frequently did some magnificent carvings...

A Phil Carving...

A Susan Carving
Mine were the standard...but still great fun. Halloween has become a the 2nd biggest retail holiday of the year... I'm just happy for the homemade pumpkin seeds!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Good Bye "Gourmet"

It's official. The last issue of "Gourmet" arrived in my mailbox. This being November, a turkey is featured, as is traditional with the magazine. It is NOT going out with any big features, or bang... some nice pie recipes.
Does it look like this bird is praying? I'll miss this classic food magazine, I still have way too many that arrive monthly and recently subscribed to The Food Network Magazine, which I highly recommend.
I'll be sure to save this final issue... sigh.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Williams Sonoma Pumpkin Seed Brittle! 5 STARS!!!

OK...even at $19.95 I'll promote it... a bag of candy - but it's 5 star rating is so true (I love to read ratings on everything)!  Williams Sonoma Spiced Pumpkin Seed Brittle. It's frequently sampled this time of the year in their retail stores... if you try it... you'll want to buy it - yes, it's just THAT good.

And... for those CRAZY people who hoard up on Williams Sonoma Peppermint Bark... it's on the shelves - $26.50 a tin... it flies out of the store, sells out by Christmas... I'm NOT a fan - but I'm the minority!

Eddie Bauer....LOVE Them... but my Pet Peeve!!!

Our family all love Eddie Bauer....for many reasons. (obviously, we are NOT a big high fashion family) The quality is great, selections terrific and primarily because they have "tall" sizes. Phil and Gene are both tall torso's so instead of going to a size XL or XXL, we get a tall size and it fits them perfectly, this includes all shirts, sweaters, jackets, etc. Myself included, I like many items in tall as well. Whenever we see outlets, we will make it a point to go to the Eddie Bauer outlet, they also have great outdoor gear that Phil loves for his winter fishing. What bugs me...huge pet peeve is they are famous for advertising "free shipping" on their website. BUT...they are the only store that sneaks in a "handling charge".... When other online sites have free shipping it always includes handling too. It's only a few dollars, but it just bugs me... I sent them an email, blah, blah, blah - some insane reason. I was just visiting their online store... I love this vest (tell me it does NOT have my name on it)...

... and they were charging $3.00 for handling - what gives??? Out of principal... did not continue with the order! But, I REALLY want this vest!!!!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Newest "Ah-Ha" Moment... No Appetizers!

Birthday Dinner for Grandma Bolton with Gene, Elana and Rachel!
Last night we celebrated my mother-in-law's birthday at my sister-in-laws. We arrived on time and I noticed she did not have out ANY appetizers or snacks, this is very unusual for her... I took notice and I was really hungry and like everyone else, patiently waited for dinner. After salad, and while eating a delicious dinner (she's a very good cook) someone verbalized what I realized at the exact same moment. "Dinner is delicious and I'm so happy you had no appetizers first..." We all started to comment and all agreed! How frequently have you filled up on appetizers and then sit down to dinner and not at all hungry to eat a morsel??? It happened to us the night before... filled up on veggies, dip, cheese etc. With the amount of work that goes into a dinner, it's just not fair to the host when you do not want to eat the main meal... I've had it happen to me many times. So... I'm determined to try this. Next event I have a dinner prepared I am NOT going to serve any appetizers first... I'll try and have dinner soon after everyone arrives and see how it goes! I'll keep you posted... I'm frequently full of intentions, but it was a true "ah-ha" moment and occurred to many of us at the same table...and, we all enjoyed the same delicious dinner that she spent hours preparing! Thank you!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lovin' Trader Joe's!!!

I love William Sonoma... for obvious reasons. But, I'm lovin Trader Joe's too... it took me a few shopping experiences there to embrace it... I'm forever amazed at their low prices... and that they never seem to go up! They are also VERY friendly and you can always find someone to help... I have a few regular items I always purchase there. Here goes: white balsamic vinegar - $2.99, chocolate chips - $1.99 (and they also have milk chocolate, hard to find), dried cranberries... But my favorite aisle has to be their frozen section - always the most crowded too: Fire Roasted Veggies with Balsamic Glaze (soooo good), frozen green beans (amazing value), pot stickers (and great dipping sauce next to it), many thin crust interesting pizzas, frozen blueberries - $1.69 a bag, vanilla ice cream, chocolate cake deserts, and amazing fish pieces! My least favorite section is their produce (pre packaged), NO honey crisp apples either, and I never even look at their meat (no butcher on site)... they have great mixes (cakes, muffins) and seasonal items too... and on the way in, don't miss their great selection of very well priced cut flowers! I've tried their "Two Buck Chuck" Wine once, I'm NOT a fan... and there is only 1 Trader Joe's in NJ that sells wine - my new favorite wine store in NJ is Stew Leonard's (another blog)... I was just at Trader Joe's on my way home last night and left with many of my regular favorites... I never thought I'd be so interested in "grocery stores"!

Greatest Section - Frozen Foods!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Willies at a Wake"!

No appropriate picture for this topic!
I ALWAYS dread going to wakes, even those that I'm not emotionally connected to. I get that "empty pit in my stomach feeling" as I'm approaching the funeral home. "Funeral Home"... I guess it's supposed to make you feel 'comfortable"! It doesn't. The worst part is not knowing what to expect... is the casket open... my side of the family - always. That dreaded part of waiting on the receiving line to meet the immediate family - and is there ANYTHING else we can say except "I'm so sorry"??? Their comeback is so easy "Thank you for coming"!
I also don't like dressed dead bodies... or I guess any dead bodies - when I go and kneel to pay my respect, I'm always thinking - who picked out what they are wearing, what prayer should I say, why does everyone always say "they look good" or "they look peaceful" - THEY ARE DEAD!  Please, I'm NOT trying to come across at all morbid, or disrespectful but having just come from a "funeral home" tonight and trying to be a little creative in what to say to the family... it's on my mind... until the next one!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Garage Sale Memories!

Yes, I was happy to make some "fast cash" and happy to get rid of a lot of STUFF that's been hanging around for what seems to be "forever"... but, my favorite thing about hosting a garage sale ~ the characters I met... it renewed my faith in people! I was told 2 men would be around... the "riffle" man and the "gold" man... both on a mission - they were there! My favorite ~  some of the people who hardly spoke English - two groups arrived in a small car, 5 to 6 people popped out of the car, a baby on one lap and the cars filled to the brim with "stuff" they were collecting all day...both equally friendly... one lady undressed down to underwear in my garage trying on clothes... no inhibitations, polite and a pleasure to please! I sent off one family with way more than they bought including a hammock that they fit through both back windows with 4 people sitting under it! My least favorite, were some of the big fancy cars with people who were on a mission to bargain over a dime on items they "tested" to see if sterling or plated... out of principal I would not come down 10 cents on some things... people can bring out the best and worst in people! Will I do it again? NO. I'm determined to NOT purchase ANYTHING I don't need... but I think everyone should have a garage sale at least once, you'll be shocked at people who come out of the woodwork... sort of like facebook!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Autumn in New York!

Restaurant Row, NYC
Autumn in NY... there is nothing like it (except maybe a blizzard in NY)... It was a perfect day for a street fair, even though every 2 blocks seem to be déjà vu - I mean, just how many venders can sell Pashminas, knock off handbags, belts and gyros! Having lived in NYC for over 10 years (pre marriage) I always loved the fall and always loved street fairs, something so fun about being able to walk in the middle of the street. I have never really enjoyed "Hell's Kitchen" like I did today. Hell's Kitchen is midtown between 30th and 59th street from 8th Ave. to the Hudson River. Until today, it has not been an area we've gravitated to (except in and out of the Port Authority)... it was great to spend the afternoon in a new neck of the woods! It was great to walk down Restaurant Row and enjoy the outside cafe's - then visit the famous Cupcake Cafe... true works of art ... and delicious coffee! (remember, I'm married to a pastry chef)

Hell's Kitchen was once known for it's poverty, street gangs and rows of slum tenements. Today it's known for some great ethnic cuisine, restaurant row, and I sense it to be a strong and healthy neighborhood. Let's face it, when it's a beautiful fall day, every neighborhood is amazing in NYC!

Check out this link for a schedule of the street fairs in NYC.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

No More "Gourmet"???

Gourmet Magazine, 1947 ~ Thirty Five Cents!

Frequently my first news flash is on AOL...on Monday I was devistated to read that "Gourmet" Magazine is closing...November, 2009 is the last issue!  Throughout the years, I've subscribed to most of the food magazines... and when they start to "take over"... it pains me, but I do "ditch them"... Of them all, I considered "Gourmet" the biblical status of the food world, it always was the glossiest, the shiniest, the most indulgent. It's been published since January, 1941... how sad this "favorite" magazine to most "foodies" is closing shop. I'm currently looking at October's Issue, it has a beautiful candy apple on the cover! Conde Nast is shutting down 3 magazines in total, the other's I can easily live without... but not having our issue of Gourmet arriving monthly will be a void...

"Over the Edge"

I am not a worrier, things just usually "fall into place"... Phil often uses a line his father said frequently "90% of the things you worry about, never happen" - I truly believe that. My heart stops if my son calls at a "strange" hour... but I "rebound" quickly. OK...this garage sale is putting me over-the-edge. I stopped at one last weekend just to have an idea on what others do... I would NOT sell the crap that was for sale at this home. I'm spending every night polishing copper, brass, etc. Ironing curtains - and linens. I'm truly in foreign territory and just fear a driveway full of stuff I did not sell, I DO NOT want to cart it around to different agencies and donate it... I also don't want neighbors and friend coming to "shop" - how can you take money from people you know??? I'd just give it to them. Everyone has their own "tips" on making it successful, I'm listening to them all... giving up an entire weekend is painful... I'm determined I will NEVER do this again.... Oh Ya - we're never supposed to say "I'll never do this again" too!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Split Second Decision...

Have you ever heard a story - a "close call" that haunts you? Last night my sister and niece told me something that's been haunting me... Picture this... mother (my sister) in car 3 cars behind her 17 year old daughter... 17 year old attempts to cross RR crossing, stuck in traffic...both rail road gates come in front of her, the other behind her... My niece, quickly zig zags through the closed gates... 10 seconds later, the train goes howling through... The good news of course is... no one was hurt. The lesson, don't ever cross a rail road crossing unless you are sure you can clear it and make it to the other side. Can you imagine the split second decision... can you imagine a mother 3 cars behind her watching this?
This happened very close to my house, when telling this story everyone knew exactly where it had to have happened... Ramsey, NJ. My sister called the police and they were neither here nor there about it... I hate to think it would take a true tragedy to make a change at this intersection! 

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Tell me about a "new" product, especially a healthy and low calorie one, I'll totally embrace it... Tonight my sister gave me a "VitaMuffin" to try.  Both my sister and niece were raving about them... I had to try it...WoW... so good, so moist and apparently - so healthy... and many choices out there!  The muffin was frozen, individually wrapped. 
This is what I love about them...
All products are 100 calories per 2 oz. serving size, practically twice as large as most 100 calorie snacks.
All  products are high in fiber to satisfy your hunger and conquer your cravings.
All  products contain up to 4g of protein and the new Banana Nut VitaTop has 5g per serving.
All  products are trans-fat free.
All products are cholesterol free and some contain plant sterols which have been clinically shown to help lower cholesterol.
All products contain up to 15 important vitamins & minerals that your body needs, such as calcium, vitamin D, iron, folic acid & more!
Just Bake It Happen™- Only 100 Calories Per Serving!
Introducing New Healthy Home Baking Mixes. Home baking has never been easier or healthier. Now you can bake delicious VitaMuffins and VitaBrownies at home. Each two-ounce VitaMuffin or VitaBrownie is just 100 Delicious, Vitamin-Fortified Calories.

Follow easy-to-prepare baking instructions or add your own special ingredients for a one-of-a-kind indulgence. Available in Deep Chocolate, BlueBran, Sugar-Free Banana Nut, and Deep & Velvety Chocolate VitaBrownie.
Check out their website and products!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thank You... A true act of concern and kindness!

Next time someone asks me for directions I will be sure to give them my fullest attention... Today, I had someone who just amazed me...there is "above and beyond" then there is a step above that. While trying to find a location in Camden (which I've since found out is a very high crime area), I asked someone how to get to a location... He emphasized how dangerous of an area it was and he was going to plug in his GPS and find it for me... In the interim I find out his little daughter in his car is late for Kindergarten... he said to me "the teacher will understand" if you make one wrong turn you are in serious consequence! He could not get a signal, plugged in his GPS, and waited with me for over 10 minutes to be sure he had perfect directions. He even confirmed with someone else in the parking lot...drew me a picture so I could "follow exactly"
I was so impressed by this stranger who was so concerned, and so sure I was not going to make any wrong turns. I'll never see this kind man again... my only way of thanking him is to hopefully be able to help someone else to the same extent sometime. A true act of concern and kindness.
AND...his directions and hand drawn map were impeccable... thank you whoever you are!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Soups On!

Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Soup

October = Soup!  By this time of the year I'm tired of grilled food and look forward to soups and some good braising recipes!  Williams Sonoma has a terrific "Sunday Soup" Recipe book... this is one of my favorites and I'm ready to make it soon! 

Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Soup
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. Marsala wine
1 3/4 lb. cremini mushrooms, brushed clean and thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
7 cups low-sodium chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 country-style loaf, crusts removed, bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 oz. Gruyère cheese, shredded
In a 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes. Add the carrot, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 6 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup Marsala and cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft and the liquid evaporates, about 15 minutes. Add the bay leaf and stock, increase the heat to high and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Season the soup with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Add 1 Tbs. of the parsley, the lemon juice and the 1 Tbs. Marsala and stir to combine.
Preheat a broiler.
Place 6 ovenproof soup bowls on a baking sheet and ladle about 1 1/2 cups soup into each bowl. Top each with 4 or 5 bread cubes and sprinkle with about 1/4 cup cheese. Broil until the bread is lightly toasted and the cheese is bubbly and golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Sprinkle each serving with 1/2 tsp. parsley and serve immediately. Serves 6.

They're Killing Me...

Barley and Reilly Winning the War!
Now what? For the next 2 weeks we have my folks dog, Barley - AKA "The Prince". He's really a cute dog, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (something like that), but considering they no longer have any kids living at home, (actually, that's not true either - a cute story for another blog)... he is their world!   So, this is what I came home to see... BOTH dogs on my love seat!  If it wasn't my couch, there would be something cute about it...  Any survival suggestions?