Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Feast - a photo essay

For the 2nd Grade Feast last Weds...sliced up and devoured in the blink of an eye. Don't tell me a pack of hungry kids can't discern the hot-out-of-the-oven real thing from the store-bought re-heated over-processed kind or microwaved ham...this thing was gone in about 15 minutes.

The 18 1/2 lber Thanksgiving bird with sage leaves, garlic and butter tucked under the skin, and filled with wild rice apple stuffing

The "use what you have" fruit, nut, pine cone, rosemary clippings harvest centerpiece

Personalized place settings, each anchored with a wisteria leaf, are both simple and welcoming

Our bounteous spread...the brandied-sage-pan-dripping gravy is already in pitchers on the table

Pear Gingerbread and French Apple Tart with vanilla bean ice cream complete the feast

Not shown?

The half-dozen or more empty wine bottles that followed a couple of rounds of infusion cocktails.... and I'm not going to say how many adults we were....


So much to be thankful for.

Good friends, good food, and good drink just being some of them...


Keep it's a 3-for-1 post....

Pear Infusion!

The past month flew by in a blur. I am finally catching up, clearing the decks and, as it turns out, dumping my camera. Here are some goodies I had been harboring....the results of a countertop experiment.

Pear Infusion!

In jar #1 I used 3 Bosc pears, a bit of sugar to jump-start the infusion, and a bottle of Monopolowa Vodka.

In jar #2 I used 3 D'Anjou pears, a split and scraped Bourbon vanilla bean, a bit of sugar, and a bottle of Volganaya Vodka.

Prior to my experiment, I racked up icey shots of Monopolowa (Austria), Volganaya (Estonia), and Moskovskaya (Russia) vodka and did a vodka tasting. (Note: this is not your typical wine-tasting type sip and taste. I mean, vodka, solo, um, it's harsh!)

Hey! No raised eyebrows, 'kay? This was back before I got cranking on that Guidebook deadline...back when I was still in denial that I would have plenty of time to get it done...tick, tick...

The winner? If you're talking straight shots, for me it was hands-down the Moskovskaya, followed by the Volganaya in the smoothness category. The Monopolowa was down-right harsh. But I'm not a vodka-shooter type of girl, so making infusions with them seemed like the natural thing to do. And well, me being me, you just know I'm going to create a couple of cocktails with the final results...being the closet mixologist-er-spirit-enthusiast that I am.

Let the pictures attest that I began the infusion "experiment" on October 21st, left them abandoned under a dark towel on the counter, (alternately they could have been left in a dark cupboard under the sink), and I finally revisited them on Nov 14th.

(They might have been strained earlier if I was paying better attention, more, say, than the occasional sniff and swirl of the jar, but I had to clear out the clutter in preparation for that busstop family happy hour I was hosting, oh, you know, right in the final sprint of my writing blitz, as I was mere days to the delivery. OK, everybody needs a break now and then. It can't all be nose to the grindstone!)

At this time, 4 weeks later, I strained out and discarded the sliced fruit, then poured the liquid goodness through a strainer lined with a damp paper towel, then again through a coffee filter. Triple filtered to get out all the sediment! Then I funneled the results back into their original bottles, dating and labeling them.

Voila! My Pear Infusions worked.

I definitely think the Boscs produce a deeper pear flavor (and a darker color) and the D'Anjou is more subtle, although it does make a lovely combination with the vanilla bean. If I were to do this again, which I very well might, I will infuse the Volganaya with the Bosc, as the Monopolowa is just frankly a bit edgey, although less-so after the infusion.

For those keeping score, in fact, I did do another infusion post-deadline, but this time I infused the Volganaya with 3 or 4 sliced up Satsuma Mandarins from my full-to-bursting dwarf tree out back. For this creation I only needed to steep the fruit in the vodka for about a week...

...for it to transform itself into the most delicious amber-colored tangerine vodka I've ever tasted. OMG. That's a keeper! Right in time for Thanksgiving. And shaken with a splash of cranberry and a squeeze of lime, it's about the best Tango-Cosmo I've ever had! My fave new Tday cocktail.

But again, I digress. Pears. Vodka. Infusion. Alchemy. What to do with all that pear goodness...

Why, a Pear-Ginger.

1 part house-infused pear vodka
1 part gingerale
generous squeeze of lime

Shake, rattle and roll. Garnish with a long sliver of fresh pear.

oo. oo. and ooo! Pass the pears, please....

The Apple Jack

Fall Harvest is here!

In honor of the new crop of Gravenstein apple juice at our local Trader Joes (TJs), I offer up my latest creation, this delightful autumn sipper!

The Apple Jack

In a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice, mix together:

2 oz Gravenstein apple juice (or fresh crop apple cider)
1 oz french brandy (I used TJs Pierre Duchene Napolean VSOP brandy)
1/2 oz Bacardi Spice rum
splash of triple sec
large squeeze of lemon juice
1 tsp raw cane sugar (optional)

Shake well and strain into glass.
Garnish with a thinly sliced round of Granny Smith Apple.

Not your average kiddie juice cup.

Cheers, y'all! To an abundant harvest for each of us...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Middle School Guidebook is finished, back from the printer, and the first 20 copies have already sold. You can find an excerpt here.

I led 10 seminars, a couple of house chats, and a private one-on-one in the past month while also staying up all hours cranking to complete my book by the deadline. I made it. As crazy as that timetable was, I guess a part of me knew I could do it. And I did.

After a few days off (to sleep in) and a weekend spent with my sister who flew in from out of town, I am feeling rested and caught up...except for the next wave of business upgrades I realize I now need. (Cover redesigns, web upgrades, better photos, and manifesting the next big idea of mine...)

In the meantime, I've got a turkey in the oven for today's 2nd grade school feast, and another one brining for tomorrow's friends & family Thanksgiving feast. Got a house full of wine, several house-made vodka infusions, and a fridge that went from bare to stuffed with good food.

Life is good.

Life is abundant.

There is plenty to be thankful for.

Wishing you all a-plenty too....she says as she raises her glass, nods, and kicks back a long, long draught...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Yee Haw! My Guidebook is written.

I stayed up all night post-seminar to complete the text. Now all I need is a cover design, the headers and footers, a quick final proof, and a run to the printers.

Not to mention a good night's sleep.



Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nearing the home stretch, the end is, finally, in sight!

In the next 4 days I have 3 seminars, a private one-on-one, and just 2 days to get that final draft to the printer. Oh, and design a quick cover for it too....and finish those final 3 chapters...and do the layout, font sizes, spacing...and the TOC with its corresponding page numbers.

On Thursday, after I sleep indefinitely, I am heading to the spa where I will commence to steam, soak, bubble, slough, and shower away all evidence of the toll the previous efforts have taken on me. I'm bookin' that baby!

Then, I don't need to tell you, it will be "cocktail:30!" (clink.)

The only question I'll have to answer at that point is, what kind?

Hmmmm, such choices....such possibilities...

Good thing they don't do lotteries for your cocktail choices!

(Hey, now that I think about it, that is a genius marketing concept for one of my public school seminars.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just grinding away on that deadline. This won't be a "cut and paste" of the last one either. I'm taking it further, as well I should. As well I expect of myself. In such limited time.

One more week to go....



I suppose if it weren't for a (self-imposed) deadline, nothing would ever get done!

Sending you all happy wishes....

Now, back to the salt mines....

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Make It Work!

Yes, I'm still the middle of a deadline but no, for this 7-yr-old dynamo, Halloween can't wait. Nor can the school celebration, which came a day early this year.

Desiring to help bring to life a well-loved children's literary character, I searched high and low for either a grey or black pleated skirt, to no avail. The best I could come up with was navy blue. Her size. On sale. $7.99. I grabbed it.

But her robe is black and her sweater is charcoal grey. Navy just wont do.

We're at the corner drugstore the night before Friday's costume parade and I place a last minute call to my left-LA-for-Portland-so-she-could-raise-her-daughters-in-a-decent-different-town costume designer/stylist friend. My go-to resource for all things fashion.

"Hey, I'm staring at this bottle of black RIT dye and I'm wondering if there's any chance in hell it will work on a navy blue skirt that's 100% polyester. I know it says "not recommended for polyester," but I just need to get it to grey or charcoal. Black will work too. I just need to get the blue out. Will this work?"

"Polyester? Um, well, no. You can try it, but it won't take."

"Even if I use the whole bottle and boil it? What about using vinegar? Salt?"

"You can try it, but polyester has so many chemicals in it, it's a different thing altogether. It probably wont grab the dye."

"OK, but what would you do if you couldn't find the right color skirt for a shoot? I'm sure that's happened to you plenty of times before."

"We'd have to make one."

"Clearly that's not an option. I don't even have a sewing machine, or fabric, plus I still have to hem that darn robe."

"There's always fabric paint. And if you're really in a bind you can staple the hem. Just don't forget to use a black Sharpie to touch up the staples afterward."

How Project Runway of her. I never would have thought!

In the inimitable words of Tim Gunn, it's "make it work" time.

After braiding my daughter's hair in 6 tight rows and getting her off to bed, I simmer a soup pot of water, dump in the whole bottle of black dye plus a cup of salt, and stir the inky cocktail. Meanwhile I'm in the kitchen sink washing the stiff skirt with dish soap to try to break down the fibers a bit. At first, water doesn't even penetrate the fabric. It just beads off. Shit. This isn't going to work, is it. I add more soap, agitate it, and keep scrunching it and dunking it in warm water until it softens and eventually soaks through the fabric. I toss the sopping mess into the pot of dye.

Stirring, I turn the heat to low and watch as this navy blue skirt miraculously, all 100% polyester of it, turns to black in about 18 minutes.

Yes! It worked!

Now, about that hem.

The hell with a stapler. Thank God for Stitch Witchery and an iron. But for some reason, after repeated ironings, it didn't take, so here I am hemming the entire circumference of her robe. By hand.

Then I make book titles on the secret compartment faux book "boxes" she'll collect her candy in, a fantastic discovery I found at the local discount store. With some fancy lettering in glittery gold and black permanent marker, the often-referenced volumes, Hogwarts: A History and A History Of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot, come to life on the covers and spines.

Next day, arriving at her school just before the parade, I help her into her outfit and remove the braids. A little back-teasing and hairspray and brown eye pencil create the infamous "bushy" hair and thick eyebrows.

Grey knee socks and a red striped tie complete her English schoolgirl look. I fasten her robes with the fancy clasp. She grabs her books.

It's more than a costume. It's an authentic character transformation...

Straight from the pages of the Harry Potter septogy (that's trilogy times seven), Miss Hermione Granger Lives!

Happy girl.

Tired Mommy.