On to more lovely things, namely…cake!

So in my lazy Christmas post, I mentioned that we were supposed to have this White Chocolate Cranberry Cake for dessert and that I made all the components yet failed to summon up enough energy or motivation to actually assemble the thing. Well, my mom brought in all the bits when she and Dad were in town to leave for their cruise and this afternoon I finally got assembling! I used my new cake turntable and everything – it made it really go a lot smoother!

It turned out to be a really nice cake! Usually I have issues with layer cakes in that they end up being waaaaaay too sweet for me, but this one is very nice – the white chocolate-honey frosting is tempered with cream cheese so it’s not overly sweet and obviously the cranberry puree used in the cake and in the mini-layers kind of tarts up the sweetness. It’s hard to see in the photo, but those are sugared cranberries used as a garnish – they’re actually edible (soaked in a simple syrup overnight and then tossed in various sugars) and are quite nice – refreshing, and again, not too sweet. Finally a fancy layer cake that I would definitely make again!

In summation, “Hey, Anne, what did you think of this cake?”

Note to self…

Mandolins are sharp (even the crappy ones); always use the handguard.

These are things that I know and yet I was foolish and did not always use the handguard – usually I’m half-good and just slice things carefully until it starts getting close and then use the handguard to finish up whatever I’m slicing. This evening I thought to myself “I’ll just do one more slice and then I’ll use the handguard for the rest.” And that’s how I ended up at the local Convenient Care (the walk-in clinic that’s still less urgent than a trip to the ER) with a paper towel taped around my thumb:

Don’t worry, there wasn’t really any thumb missing, just some skin. They cleaned it up and used something called Gel Foam that they use in surgeries to stop bleeding (there wasn’t enough skin to stitch back together) and wrapped it back up again and sent me on my way. In 24 hours, I can unbandage everything, give it a gentle cleanse, and bandage it back up again until I can get in for a follow-up.

Official Sign of Approval

Sparkly New Year’s nails!

I know I’m a little early and I’ll probably have to touch them up before making appearances at New Year’s Eve parties on Monday, but I couldn’t wait to get some glitter on! At first I went with gold as my accent nail:

but I decided I didn’t like that as much as I thought I would so the lovely Drew removed the gold nail polish for me so as not to risk my other freshly painted nails (it’s the closest I can get to him letting me paint his nails – I’ll get him one of these days) and repainted with my beloved OPI Strawberry Margarita since I was seeing a lot of pink in the glitter polish:

The requisite holding-a-bottle-of-nail-polish photo.

Much better. On a non-festive day, I think I’d switch it and wear the glitter polish as the accent nail, but for a special occasion, it’s perfect. The fun glitter polish is Soho Street by Nails Inc. (the second in the set Liz gave me for Christmas) and the pink is Strawberry Margarita by OPI (the gold in the first photo is It Looks Like Reindeer by OPI which I also used here).

Kitties being cute!

Jillian managed to take a really good picture of Josephine while we were all out at my parents’ house (black cats are so hard to photograph and Josephine has such a cute little face that I had to share it with you all):

And then, so Arthur doesn’t feel left out, here’s a photo of him channeling his inner Maru and attempting to squish into a box that obviously doesn’t fit him:

Silly boy.

The best thing from Michigan…

…besides Drew, obviously, is the wonder that is Hinkley’s Doughnuts. I tried to take a picture of the dozen doughnuts we brought back with us, I really did!

Unfortunately this is the best picture I got.

After having Christmas with my family, we drove up to Jackson (about a 5-hour drive) to do a Christmas with his family. His brother and sister-in-law came over in the morning and we opened presents (I got some great baking tools from his dad and some yummy-looking cookbooks [Joanne Chang’s Flour from his dad and The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook from his brother and sister-in-law], so expect some of those recipes to appear here once we’ve finished a little holiday detox) and then his mom’s side of the family came over and we ate and ate and ate and ate! I think–who am I kidding? I KNOW–my favorite was the smoked salmon spread that Drew and his dad made, using salmon that his dad caught and then smoked himself! Oh, it was soooo good.

Now we’re back home and finishing off the holiday baking – in addition to the doughnuts, we got sent home with quite a few cookies which is not helping my waistline!

Lazy, lazy Christmas food

So as you all know, I usually do quite a spread at Christmas. This was the first year that Drew was joining my family for Christmas and, because she couldn’t make it to her parents’ house due to weather, Jillian was spending time with us, too and, being that they’re both foodies, I really wanted to impress them with my culinary skillz. Alas, I think my age is catching up with me and I just lost my motivation this year. Also, forgive me, but I’m fairly out of practice with the whole blogging thing and totally slacked off on remembering to take pictures of things for you this year (and the ones I did remember to take are of really dark, half-eaten food), so bear with me and be sure to click through the links for the recipes to see the good pictures taken by the original posters.

We had some appetizers before dinner which included Baby Potato and Smoked Salmon Bites (which were really good and easy to make – and I think tasted just fine the next day so you could do them ahead of time – just don’t do like I did and forget to add the lemon juice and zest to the spread and then also forget to garnish with capers), Baked Brie With Caramelized Onions (I halved this recipe because I don’t believe that 8-inch, 32-ounce brie actually exists), a rosemary and caramelized onion foccacia (Jillian, I should have asked what recipe you used!) which was lovely, and Drew’s famous garlic and parmesan bread (which is so good I almost broke up with him when he made it at Thanksgiving because I was mad that he hadn’t made it for me sooner). I feel like there were some other things on the table, but I can’t remember what they were at the moment…

Baby Potato and Smoked Salmon Bites

Baked Brie With Caramelized Onions

Jillian’s Rosemary and Caramelized Onion Foccacia

For dinner, Drew baked up some mahi-mahi with potatoes and artichoke hearts baked in his lovely, lovely salsa (I think it’s a Rick Bayless recipe – maybe this one? With this salsa?) which was also super tasty (despite a minor snafu that Mom helped us fix).

For dessert we were supposed to have this White Chocolate Cranberry Cake and a Yeasted Pear Tart With Chamomile Anglaise. I made all the components of the cake (the cake, the cranberry puree, the white chocolate-honey frosting, the sugared cranberries) and then just never really felt like assembling it. Everything is sitting in my kitchen at home at the moment and it’s on my list of things to do this afternoon, so hopefully I’ll end up having a blog post about it a little later. And now that Father Christmas brought me a cake turntable, leveling it and frosting it should be a breeze! I never even began the pear tart, but I have all the ingredients here, so maybe I’ll make it as a New Year’s dessert or something. It actually turned out okay because we were all so stuffed from appetizers and dinner that the only dessert we had room for was a tiny scoop of peppermint blizzard from Dairy Queen.

For brunch the next morning, Dad made his cinnamon rolls and I made the Overnight Prosciutto (or Facon, in my case) and Goat Cheese Egg Bake that I made last year at New Year’s and this year’s contribution to the unofficial cinnamon roll throwdown (that I win every year despite Dad’s protests to the contrary and Mom’s refusal to actually make a decision), Orange Sweet Rolls which were soooooooo good. They’ve officially been added as a repeat recipe for next year.

I promise I’ll get my act together soon and start taking pictures because nobody likes blog posts just filled with links and no piccies!


Tap-a, tap-a, tap-a!

I mentioned it just in passing a couple of posts ago, but Liz and I have been taking tap dancing lessons through the park district for the last few months. We love it! And she, despite telling me that she was a terrible dancer when we signed up, is really good at it! Clearly, she was hustling me. I’m not bad, but I’m certainly no Liz. 😉

When we signed up for the class, our friends jokingly asked us if they could come to our recital – Liz and I scoffed and said “I doubt they do recitals for the adult beginner class.” The joke was on us, though!

Okay, just kidding, that’s not really us – just something to strive for! Here we are:

We’re already signed up for the next session and are really looking forward to it. We’re determined to stick with it at least until we can do this (we’ve already decided that I’m Donald O’Connor to Liz’s Gene Kelly):

Oh, right!

My current nails! I’m playing in the Christmas Eve service at the church where my dad conducts the choir (Did you know that playing the flute was a skill you had to keep up with? ‘Cuz I sure didn’t – yikes, I’m bad!) and decided to paint my nails in a sparkly, festive fashion.

Festive nails!

Liz gave me a set of three sparkly nail polishes from Nails, Inc. which included this really good red glittery polish, Covent Garden Market (that’s only two coats of polish!). The gold is It Looks Like Reindeer by OPI.

I’m back (hopefully)!

I’ve missed writing up blog posts and, based on the previous post, a lot of you probably thought something horrible had happened to me (really not the best note to begin a loooooong blogging hiatus on). But nothing did – though I never did find out what that weird noise was – I was just being very lazy and very busy simultaneously (domesticity, job, tennis, tap, viola, friends, bass recorder, BACH, etc.).

I thought I’d get things started with a little nail polish picture for the holidays. I’ve been painting my nails a lot in the last year or so and I like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at it (Who am I kidding? I’m awesome at it! Check out my nails [and Arthur] for my TARDIS costume – haha, which I’ll also post here because it was pretty sweet (boo, Photobucket changed their photo editor and now I can’t make collages anymore!):

TARDIS nails and Arthur

TARDIS costume

So I lied, this is totally becoming my Halloween 2012 post instead. So here we go! Drew went as Sexy Sax Man:

Sexy Sax Man and the TARDIS

and was a very big hit. After handing out candy at Kate and Graham’s house, we traipsed over to the Blind Pig and when we left, Drew played us out a la the real Sexy Sax Man:

to lots of laughter and cheers from the other patrons.

I also experimented with chalking my hair for this costume (I wore a wig to our first outing and decided I didn’t like it as well as I thought I would (usually Halloween is just an excuse for me to buy makeup, false eyelashes, a wig, and shoes), so I gave hair-chalking a try. Usually you see it on people with long hair and they just chalk the ends to give a sort of romantic hint of color, but I wanted a little more than a hint of color:

Turns out, that’s too much color! Once the pastel dried, it was just getting everywhere. EVERYWHERE. So I rinsed a lot of it out and blew it dry and that seemed to work. It was still getting a little bit everywhere, just not EVERYWHERE. The finished look is really just an excuse to show you my makeup (god, I love that red lipstick – thank you, Sephora home brand!):

Thanks to MakeupbyPeaches for the great tutorial for the Diamond Jubilee eye makeup which I repurposed for the TARDIS: