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My Pick of the Week: Whiskey

Nov 28, 2011

This post isn't about what you think it is about.

Sure, I like drinking whiskey to make me feel like I'm Joanie hangin' with the guys on "Mad Men."

Whoa, who's that fox?

It's just lil' ole' me, Mary El. Oh whoops, wait!
That's not me, it's Christina Hendricks! Weird!

And it's empowering to sing "Right now he's probably buyin' her some fruity lil' drink 'cause she can't shoot whiskey," knowing full well that I can. (And when I do, I totally sound like Carrie Underwood! Weird again!) 

And, yeah, I feel super cool when ordering it at a bar and thus knocking the socks off the cute bartender and then getting drinks free all night (true story, for realz).

But that's not what this post is about.

You see when I get around a group of people, especially if food is involved, and even more especially if my parents are around, I become a ham. When I was little I'd just start singing show tunes and make up a dance on the spot. As a teenager I'd talk about boys a lot and made people listen to me recite my poetry about them. ("Boys, Boys Everywhere" was published my high school's literary magazine!)

So with a captive audience at Thanksgiving, it was the perfect opportunity to embarrass myself in front of my parents. After eating dinner, I stood up, holding my food-baby belly, and tapped on my glass.

"Excuse me, everyone, I have an announcement to make." My dad looked up at me and rolled his eyes. "I'm pregnant, and I wanted you all to be the first to know."

"Guess you won't be drinking this with me, then," my cousin told me, shaking a tiny bottle of Maker's Mark (yes, bourbon is technically whiskey, look it up on Wikipedia).

I'd forgotten that my aunt made bourbon whipped cream for the pumpkin pie, and my cousin and I had argued earlier over who got to finish off the bottle.

"HA! Nice try," I said as he poured half of it in a glass and handed the bottle over to me. I yelled "WOO!" before shooting it, and as I did my dad reminded me, "Don't you have a sinus infection? You should gargle it."

My eyes got big and I nodded enthusiastically. I threw my head back and gargled loudly. It burned, bad. Really bad. I gargled as long as I could before it felt like it was draining out of my eyeballs, then I stood up normally again, ready to swallow it. But before I could, my dad said, "Fifteen seconds or it won't be effective. One...two..." I didn't make it to fifteen.

Touche, Father, touche.

He was right. Whiskey is awesome for killing sinus infections. And I now know for sure that I do not look like Christina Hendricks when I'm gargling it.

Recipe: Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Nov 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Week! It's my favorite holiday of the year, because there's not as much pressure as Christmas but just as much food. And, at least in my life, it's been the food that's held more tradition than the family practice. That means Thanksgiving can be awesome anywhere (last year I told you about my Thanksgiving in Paris, the most memorable Thanksgiving ever!).

This year I'm jetting to Seattle to spend Thanksgiving with my dad's side of the family on my aunt's farm. When I received the invitation in the mail, I realized I've never spent it with these family members. How is it possible I've gone 30 years without tasting my dad's family recipes on this special day? I'll still require my mama's cooking (asparagus casserole is my fave!), but I'm really looking forward to what a West Coast Thanksgiving will be like.

However, I have a sneaking suspicion that there will be one unwelcome dish on the table, because it appears on most tables this time of year.  It's canned cranberry sauce, and it's one food tradition that must be broken.

Do you wax nostalgic when you see an aluminum can of so-called "cranberry sauce" on the grocery store shelf, between the green beans and canned corn?  Do you remember being tasked as a child to open said can before the glorious turkey dinner, and as you felt the gelatinous tube of lined "sauce" wiggle out of the can and onto a dish, landing with a disgusting *slop!*, you felt proud of yourself for being such a good helper? Does a round slice of purplish jelly next to your turkey bring back warm memories of home?

Well get over it. You're not a kid anymore. This year, impress them all with the real stuff!

Let me tell you how easy it is (I'm not even going to look at a recipe, I'm just going to tell you):

1) Buy a bag of cranberries. It's in the produce section, ask for help because it's in a different place in every store I've been to.

2) Go home and rinse them.

3) In a pot, dissolve a cup of sugar and a cup of water over low heat.

4) Add cranberries and put on medium heat.

5) Let simmer for 10 minutes. You want the cranberries to pop during these 10 minutes. I take a whisk and mash them up to help out the process.

6) You're finished. Put the sauce in a bowl or some Tupperware and refrigerate until you're ready to eat it. 

Extra Credit: Grate an orange peel and add the peel and the juice to the sauce while it's simmering.  I also like to put a little cinnamon in it.

And voila!

I put mine in a vintage green dish I found at a thrift store a few  years ago. I find the green against the cranberries looks festive. Much better than than this...

...wouldn't you say?

Red Lips for Dummies

Nov 14, 2011

Like many people, I'm going through "Mad Men" withdrawal. Don't get me wrong -- AMC has produced some quality TV in its stead ("The Walking Dead" and "The Killing" are two of my faves), and "Pan Am" has helped quell the longing a little, but really nothing can fill the "Mad Men" void, especially not Banana Republic's sad attempt at a collection based on the show.

The absence of the retro-themed series does not mean it's left our minds, because everywhere I look I'm seeing 60s-inspired trends.  One that I've never had the guts to try until this year is red lips.

I have to thank my makeup ladies at Aveda for turning me on to it.  I buy most of my makeup from Aveda (good for the environment, kind to animals, not overpriced and everything smells great!), and on a recent trip to refill my powder, one of the ladies asked if she could give me a makeover.  Makeovers never go that well for me, but I was on my way home and had some extra time, so I figured why not.  The purple eye shadow she used wasn't really my style, but the red lipstick was goooooooorgeous.  So I bought some.  Well done, Aveda Lady.

Since then I've found a couple of other products to keep the red looking fresh all day without having to constantly reapply.  I start with Maybelline Superstay in Keep It Red for a base coat...

...then apply my Aveda Nourish Mint in Vanadinite...

...and top it off with Cover Girl NatureLuxe in Peony throughout the day for touch-ups.

It's important to keep up with it, because once it wears off you'll have a red line around your lips and it looks like either you're trying to do the ghetto white girl 90s look with the dark liner and white lips, or you just made out in the mop closet.  Neither is good for your reputation.

In the interest of being a fair and balanced blogger, I have to share with you what I read on SheFinds today regarding red lips:

"One of the trends fellas claimed to hate the most [is red lips].  Let's face it, red lipstick probably reminds them of their moms, it makes them not want to kiss you, and God forbid it gets anywhere near their work shirts..."

To this I have to reply, Reason No. 282 Why I'm Still Single.

Things I could have done today instead of being stood up

Nov 8, 2011

1) Slept in and not gotten up early to wash my hair.
2) Gone to yoga and practiced inverted handstands.
3) Spent quality time with my newly groomed albino deer-dog, Noli.

4) Gotten a much needed pedicure. (I still have sparkle nail polish on my toes from Halloween.)
5) Caught up on my DVR (new episode of "Once Upon A Time" -- it's soooooo good!!!).
6) Drank perfectly good boxed wine at home and not paid $8 for a glass of mediocre Zinfandel at a restaurant bar while watching CNN updates on the Penn State Pedophile.
7) Practiced piano. (Hey, it's a totally legitimate thing I could have done that would be time better spent than sitting alone at a bar.)
8) Taken a bubble bath while watching "Parks and Recreation" on Netflix.
9) Caught up on my blog. (Oh, well I guess that did work out in a way.)
10) Had a nice meal with a really cute guy.  Hmph.

At least I had a cupcake in the fridge.

LOFT Fall Dresses

Nov 7, 2011

Hello, dear readers.  It's been a while since we last met, but I really, really needed a break. Now that I've caught my breath, I have so much to tell you!

Diving right I present to you the LOFT Dress Collection for Fall.  Since I am an entire size smaller this fall than last (yipee!) I've been on a shopping binge to fill out my wardrobe with clothes that aren't falling off of me (which begs the question: do I save those other clothes in case I once again become addicted to doughnuts, or do I Goodwill them as a warning to myself never to eat delicious, fried, glazed goodness again?).  Most of this shopping has happened at LOFT because they keep running promotions.  If there's one thing I've learned in the past month, it's don't buy anything at LOFT at full price, because next week it will be on sale.

Case in point: In the past two weeks I have bought four sweater dresses.  This morning my phone greeted me with an email alert, and when I opened it up I saw the fantastically dreadful subject line: "50% Off Dresses."  Fantastic because that's half off!!!  Dreadful because not only did I spend more than that, but I know I will go back and get more. (The bright side is I'll be too poor to eat, so I'll lose more weight!  Oh no, that's bad, it will just continue the cycle...)

Here's what I bought (I'm wearing the black one today!):

I have this one in brown and charcoal -- perhaps I should pick one color?

Get 'em while they're cheap!  And don't worry about the meager size selection online -- I've been to the stores and they are well stocked. ;)