Archive for June, 2010

eyes & ears
June 28, 2010

What I’m currently watching…

“Top Chef” (Season 7)
I’m not a big reality show watcher, or even a big TV watcher.  But when I found out one of the cheftestants on this season’s Top Chef was local, I knew I had to check it out.  Arnold Myint, is definitely my favorite for the show.  I knew Arnold years ago when he went by Aye and was figure skater too!  Now he owns 3 of my favorite restaurants in town! (PM, ChaChah, and Suzy Wong’s House of Yum)  So, yes, every Wednesday night I settle down with some yummy food and watch more yummy food (and usually ridiculous elimination rounds) on TV.  I’m also hosting other Top Chef/food/Arnold fans at my house, potluck style.  It’s definitely more fun with friends!

West Wing
I always avoided this show, because I figured the politics would bore the life out of me.  After attending a West Wing party at a friend’s house, I realized just how smart and witty this show is!  So, now thanks to Netflix we’re watching it from the beginning.  The characters are so engaging and the lines are so quick and funny!  Also, now I can finally get all the jokes and one-liners my friends drop all the time.

What I’m currently reading…

Undead and Unemployed (by Mary Janice Davidson)
So, this is actually the second book I’m reading this summer.  I know!!  Me? Reading? 2 books? Yep!  The first book in this series, Undead and Unwed, went to the beach with me last month and it was completely consumed in about 4 days.  But now, I’m back from the beach, with less free time.  But the second book sits in my pool bag and I get in a chapter or two every now and then.  This book can be not-so-easily characterized as chick-lit/vampire/paranormal romance/satire.  Usually categories, except for satire, that I have no interest in at all.  But the main character, an unwilling vampire of sorts, has a major affinity for shoes and just wants to ignore the whole vampire thing.  I love shoes, so I gave the first book a try, with a Grisham novel as a back up in case it sucked.  It was the perfect beach/pool reading material!  She is so snarky and obsessed with shoes, I love it!

What I’m currently listening to…

I have a confession to make.  When I’m in my car, I listen to pop music.  And I mean really bad pop music.  I don’t know why.  I’m generally a rock chick at heart, but I’m a classically trained musician so I have an appreciation of most music.  I chalk it up to all the hula hooping.  Honestly, upbeat, rhythmic music, and sometimes risque lyrics just lend themselves to hooping.  But I’m driving in my car, not hooping.  I have another confession to make.  I actually like it.  Enter Ke$ha, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Ludacris, Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, and the list goes on.  My excuse, it’s the summer, get over it!

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In contemplation of the weather
June 22, 2010

Summer officially started yesterday.  And it’s hot.  I don’t mean “it’s hot in the South in the summer” hot.  I mean, it feels like August in the South, before it was even officially summer.  We have already started hitting 100° temperatures and it’s only June.

And while we Southerners love to complain about the weather, especially the heat and humidity, I realized that we really have a lot to bitch about here lately.  Let’s take a look back at this year so far.  In January, we had the worst snow I can ever remember, but not only that, it snowed several more times this winter.  We’re just not prepared for that here, because we just don’t get much frozen precipitation.  We are, however, very used to other precipitation.  We are a fairly rainy city, with an affinity for thunderstorms and tornadoes.  But last month, we had historical rains and flooding.  Our city is still pulling out of the Flood.  Now, we are experiencing unbelievable heat, with at least another 3 months or more of “summer” left to the year.

With such severe and record breaking weather so far this year, I am left to only wonder what the next 6 months have in store.  Maybe we have been through the worst of it, and the rest of the year will be nice.  We can only hope.

Blogiversary, Helpful Hints, Giveaway
June 14, 2010

That’s right kids, it’s been 2 years since Sally opened her own virtual world!  In the past year, Sally has: posted more recipes, hunted more dinos, trained for 2 very different half marathons, got a personal record running a half marathon, hula hooped 13.1 miles in a storm, bought her own home, traveled to Canada again, hula hooped with fire, got snowed in, was flooded, became a new aunt (Tante), and shared many of her Helpful Hints.

And what better way to celebrate a blogiversary than with a Helpful Hints Giveaway!  But first, here are a couple more helpful hints to keep you going!

Sore feet
Been wearing heels too long?  Or feet are just worn out from a long run?  Use a TENNIS BALL or GOLF BALL to massage those sore feet.  This can be done at your desk or while watching TV.  Just slip off those shoes, and roll your foot back and forth on a tennis ball to massage your feet.

Scratches on Wood
I hate when I accidentally ding up a coffee table or picture frame moving it around.  How do you cover that ding?  Just just a MARKER that is a similar color to the wood finish.  You could buy the fancy expensive furniture markers, or you can just save your money and buy the same thing with a different name.  I keep a black and a brown marker on hand at all times!

No Socks
In the summer, you can’t just wear socks or hose with all kinds of shoes.  Besides the weird way it looks, it is also very warm.  But how do you get your shoes to feel comfortable and to reduce the sweatiness factor?   Just sprinkle some BABY POWDER or other foot powder in your shoe and voila, instant dry fit!

Back Tension
I hate when I have a knot in my back.  It seems impossible to work it out on my own.  But I just place a TENNIS BALL between my chair or the wall and my back and roll back and forth on it, or just sit back against the ball on the knot in my back.  It really helps relieve the knot and massage your back.

Gardening
While gardening, many plants need to be staked against a trellis or other stick, but some plants are too delicate for metal or plastic ties.  Just take some old PANTYHOSE, cut off small rings from the legs and snip one end. You instantly have a gentle, stretchy tie that will expand with the plant and can be easily removed, without damaging the plant.  Next time don’t throw away that pair with the run, just put it in with your gardening tools!

Wet Shoes
In the past year, I have learned a lot about running and walking in the rain!  So, I’ve had to deal with my fair share of soaking wet water-logged sneakers.  The fastest way to dry out the sneakers (without causing any warping, etc.) is to stuff them with NEWSPAPER.  For some reason, the paper used for newspapers is very absorbent and dries quickly.  Just remember to change them out periodically until your shoes are dry.  The paper wicks away the moisture and helps prevent any mildew or mold, and means you’ll be back out running or walking quicker!

Fluffing Laundry
Do you want your towels fluffy like when you first bought them?  Throw a TENNIS BALL in the dryer with your towels (just don’t use dryer sheets – they zap the absorbency of towels and should never be used with any towels).  The ball will bounce around with your towels, make a little noise, and help fluff and separate your towels while they dry!

BLOGIVERSARY GIVEAWAY
Ok, now to the Giveaway.  I know, I know, that’s the only reason you’re here.  That’s ok, I love giveaways too, just be sure to tell your friends!  This Blogiversary Giveaway is Helpful Hints related!  Each item in the package is something I have mentioned as a tool in Sally’s Helpful Hints!  I have not included every item I have suggested because some are not very conducive to shipping (e.g., honey).

This package includes:  Tennis balls , eye drops, Friction Aid stick, cinnamon, black and brown sharpie markers, meat tenderizer, Tide To-Go stick, baby powder, pantyhose, dryer sheets, and tea tree oil stick.  And I may throw in some other bonus goodies for good measure upon shipping.

What do you need to do?  Just leave a comment (one comment only per person please) either about your favorite Helpful Hint from Sally, or share one of your own helpful hints with Sally and her readers!  The giveaway will end Friday, June 18 at 12:01AM CST.  At that point I will assign the valid entries a number and take a random drawing.

*(NOTE:  Sally does not specifically endorse any product featured on Sally’s Helpful Hints on Sallaboutme, nor has she received any special endorsements or sponsorship by any particular brand or company.  She’s just that nice to go out and buy them herself just for the readers.  Often the products purchased for the giveaway are generic brands with no particular preference to a particular company.  All uses of or participation in any of Sally’s Helpful Hints are at your own risk.  It’s the internet folks, you are always at your own risk.  Giveaway currently only available for shipping within the lower 48 States.  Rules subject to revision at any time by Sally.)

AND THE WINNER IS…..

Nate Baker! Congrats Nate!  I’ll email you very soon and get your package to you!  Thank you to everyone for playing along!  There are some really great hints below, check them out!  And look for them to appear in future Sally’s Helpful Hints posts!

(Note: Many apologies to Gareth, one of my most faithful readers.  He lives on the other side of the pond, so he was disqualified from the Giveaway.  But you should go check out his blog and send him a little love from this side of the pond…especially after the world cup game the other day…)

We all scream..
June 11, 2010

For ice cream!  Naturally!  The weather has been exceptionally hot here this week and it’s only going to get hotter this weekend!  We’re already getting warnings from the National Weather Service about the heat index…and it’s not even officially summer yet!  I don’t know about you, but I’m a delicate flower (stop laughing) and just wilt in the heat and humidity!  Yes, I’m from the South, and yes I should be used to it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it!  I’m not looking forward to July and August if mother nature keeps this up!

So, this weekend, I’m doing the next best thing to cool myself off.  Ice Cream!  Yes, scream it with me!  Every year, we have a special ice cream social that benefits the Martha O’Bryan Center, a local organization that does amazing work in some of Nashville’s neediest neighborhoods.  One of our local milk/ice cream companies is a big sponsor as well.  This year is the 25th anniversary, and more than 500 gallons will be on hand!

Today, I had a special opportunity to try out 3 of the flavors that will be featured by the chef at the Martha O’Bryan Center.

Granny’s Sweet Potato Pie – a sugar-free sweet potato ice cream sweetened with agave.  I’m not much of a sweet potato fan, but this was really good.  It tasted like homemade pumpkin pie, and I do love pumpkin pie!

Van Gogh’s Ear – absinthe flavored ice cream.  It is very different.  It is flavored with fennel and star anise.  It’s light, refreshing, and really reminds me of a sweet fennel flower.

Ovaltine – Chocolate malted milk flavor.  This one is great.  It has a nice light chocolate taste and has bonus crushed malted milk balls in it.  Love the crunchy texture!

When: Sunday, June 13, 4-6pm (entertainment starts at 3pm)
Where: First Presbyterian Church (4815 Franklin Pike)
Tickets: $10 advance, $13 at the door
Tips:
* Come ready to taste from more than 500 gallons (!) of ice cream.
* Bring comfortable, flat shoes, because it all takes place on the lawn of the church (no heels) .
* Free parking available at nearby schools and churches. Just follow the signs and take the trolley or bus to the ice cream!  (like your own personal ice cream truck!)

Updated: We braved the heat and humidity to taste ice cream.  It was really yummy! Some of my favorites:
Triple Ginger
Chai
Nanner Nut N Fudge
Snickerdoodle
Strawberry Daiquiri Ice
Butternut (yes, the squash, yum!)
Fire on Ice (wow, that was seriously hot!)

Half Birthday
June 10, 2010

Today is my Half Birthday.  Yes, I am thirtysomething and I still celebrate my half birthday!  So, what?!  It all started many years ago on June 10, when I was very, very young, too young to really remember.  My mother did something that really upset me.  The only way she could cheer me up was to declare it was my half birthday.  She probably made me a cake or bought some ice cream or something else rather easy to appease a young child.  But wouldn’t you know it, I never, ever forgot it!  (parents let this be a warning, children are like elephants!)  And I’ve celebrated it ever since.  I don’t really do gifts or cake or a party.  But it’s nice to know that I’m still living and breathing after another 6 months.  And I think we should celebrate everyone’s half birthdays; life is hard, we all deserve a pat on the back a couple times a year!

Now, where’s my cake?!

Burger Debate
June 9, 2010

No, I did not debate the merits for or against hamburgers.  And no, I did not eat a hamburger.  But my friend Coco has been running this local “Burger Debate,” and I find it fascinating even if I don’t eat burgers.  So, recently she added the new local, (way) upscale joint Burger Up to her list for Burger Debate.  I have been wanting to try it for some time, because it is owned by the same people who run one of my favorite local coffee shops, and I’ve heard lots about the veggie burger.  It helps that I got a glimpse at the menu and it looked fantastic.  So, I added myself to her list and promised to help out with the Veggie Burger Debate end of the taste test!

That evening, I also had another foodie event at one of my favorite local Italian restaurants.  We had plenty of wine and some amazing food.  I was able to catch up with or meet some of my online foodie bloggers that I love!  Among the food that I loved was the flatbread pizza with portabellos, brie, and some kind of light mustard sauce, as well as a chick pea cake thing that was fantastic.  I wanted more, but I knew I had to save room for burgers.

By the time we arrived at Burger Up, I knew that unfortunately I wouldn’t have room to try the tasty appetizers, but I’ll come back and try them next time.  Everyone ordered and we were on our way.

I, of course, ordered the Marathon veggie burger that is made with quinoa and black beans.  (2 of a veggie’s favorite things)  It was a whole lotta burger!  I was completely stuffed by the time we left.  The bun was good, but it was pretty thick and took away from the burger.  The burger was incredible, don’t worry you won’t go home hungry it was very filling.  However, I wished it had more condiments on it.  It was an interesting touch that they put what seemed like sour cream on the bun, but there wasn’t enough.  Turns out it was a “cilantro lime creme fraiche,” but it didn’t taste like anything other than sour cream.  It was pretty dry and I’m somewhat of a mustard lover, so I could have used a little spicy mustard or some sort similar addition.  The fries were incredible and the ketchup that they bring is homemade, so very nice too, but not exceptionally different from other ketchups.  Then again I’m not much of a ketchup girl.

Beloved ordered the Woodstock burger and the onion ring tower.  The onion rings were really good.  He only let me try one bite, so you know they were good, no sharing.  He said the burger was pretty good.  Maybe in the top two or three he’s tried.  The sauce that comes with the onion rings was phenomenal.  Probably my favorite part.  I kept dipping my fries into it.  According to the menu it is a spicy lemon lime remoulade.  It is yummy, that’s what it is!!

However, after our dinner, I experienced a bit of indigestion the entire next day.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one.  At first I assumed it was from the double-duty foodie night.  But others from our group, friends who also dined there earlier that night, and other people I know who’ve eaten there before have experienced this.  It was nothing terribly uncomfortable, and certainly nothing that would prevent me from trying it a second time.  Speaking of, I would like to go back and try their portobello sandwich….and their fried shrooms…and….and….

I have heard that many diners experience very slow service.  We had exceptional service, especially since we had a large group.  That may have been the product of growing pains of a new business, that had been worked out by the time we arrived.  The only complaint I had was the noise level.  The layout of the restaurant is beautiful and I love the decor, but it does not do much for the acoustics.  But I have heard the owners are working on fixing that in the near future, so that’s a bonus!

Sweet Relief: The mini cheesecakes
June 1, 2010

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to meet many of my online foodie bloggers at the Sweet Relief bake sale.  Oh wow, I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much money on sweets in one purchase, or had that many incredibly wonderful goodies at once either!  Let me assure you I’m running extra miles and lifting extra weights this week to keep up!

I really wanted to participate, but after I started thinking about it I realized it was like meeting your boyfriend’s/husband’s mother for the first time over dinner.  What was I going to bring?  Would it be good enough?  What should I wear?  Etc.  Yes, I know I stress over silly little things, who doesn’t?

Then I remembered my go-to, number 1, all pleasing, no fail dessert.  My famous chocolate covered raspberry cheesecake.  I’ve made it for years, I can’t mess it up and everyone loves it.  I figured since it was a bake sale, where everything was to be sold for $2 each, I would make miniature versions of the cheesecake.  No problem.  I’ve made miniature cherry cheesecake before.  I forgot about how some things are different in miniature version.  But I will share with you my closely guarded recipe (in miniature version).  (Please keep in mind, I’ve made this so many times, I eyeball all ingredients, so the following recipe is not exact, but is from the original recipe I began with many years ago.)

Mini Chocolate Covered Raspberry Cheesecakes

Box of Oreos or Trader Joe’s Jo-Joes. (I opted for Jo Joes)
Butter
6-8ox of cream cheese (I opt for fat free)
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk (I opt for fat free)
1 egg (or egg substitute)
3 Tbsp. Lemon juice
1tsp Vanilla extract
Frozen or fresh raspberries
2+oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin tin with muffin cups, and spray with nonstick spray.
Crush well oreos/cookies (cream and all).  Melt some butter and mix with the crushed cookies.  Minimum 12-15 cookies for 12 muffin cups, plus a couple tablespoons of melted butter.  Press the cookie mixture into the bottom of the muffin cups.  Press raspberries into cookie crust.
With mixer, beat cream cheese until fluffy.  Gradually mix in condensed milk until well blended.  Add egg, lemon juice, and vanilla.  Mix well until smooth.
Pour cream cheese mixture over cookies/berries.
Bake for 30-35 minutes.  (mini cheesecakes will rise a lot in the middle, but will settle once cooling)

(This is a picture from the second batch, not as much “sinkage” in the centers as the first batch.  I was really worried with the first batch.)

Refrigerate/freeze until ready to finalize for a party/bake sale.
Heat chocolate with whipping cream on low heat.  Stir constantly until smooth.  Pour over cheesecakes until covered and garnish with a raspberry on top!  Refrigerate or freeze until ready to present.

Fortunately, they turned out way better than I expected and many people said they liked them!  I even got a special cupcake stand to present them at the bake sale.

Sweet Relief raised $1,000 for Second Harvest Food Bank of Nashville.  Not bad for about 1 week notice and a completely grassroots, social media undertaking!  Many thanks to Love and Olive Oil for all her hard work!!