Sunday, September 21, 2014

GR EAT! A Foodie Promise

ICE CREAM! Mom, throw me some money!

Dave and I went out for a family drive to get ice cream and cruise downtown to see what was going on. We lamented all the eateries and shops we haven't visited in lieu of take out chinese and pizza delivery.

So we made a pact, dating back to my birthday: we will visit no chain restaurants, only local fare for a whole year.

There are exceptions, like business meetings, work potlucks or invitations for which we are not in charge of the party.

That said, we have already been living by example this week.

9/13, some yacht club out in Holland for a benefit. The typical plated dinner fare, but what stood out was the slice potato au gratin and stuffed shrimp in hollandaise sauce.

9/15, birthday at The Score. Ordered spring rolls, disappointed they were deep fried. Ordered the lobster roll upon a friend's recommendation, was an expensive tuna sandwich. Won't be back.

9/19, dinner with the family at Walker Roadhouse. I have never had a bad meal there, ever. Portions very generous, I had the mushroom sage pork chop special, with garlic mashed potatoes and balsamic brussel sprouts. Had half a pork chop at breakfast yesterday and will have the other chop and mashed potatoes for lunch today - that his how much food you get.

9/20, family drive to Furniture City Creamery. I had beer ice cream, no really. It was Elk Brewing's Black IPA ice cream, a surprise and revelation. It was flavorful and rich without being cloyingly sweet. A treat for grown ups to be sure.

This week, with a benefit, a birthday and family visiting we went out more than usual, but I will check in from time with food updates. All signs are pointing to the Mediterranean next.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Typing Out Loud: Grace

Someone I had a difficult relationship with recently passed away. Karma tested me by presenting me with the opportunity to play messenger, and deliver the news to mutual friends and colleagues since I was in the unique position to be the only person to see the obituary.

Saying we had a difficult relationship is underwhelming. To say this woman hated me is an understatement. She unleashed a vicious campaign behind my back to discredit me and successfully blocked a promotion. She was always angry, dismissive and outraged in my presence. "What are YOU doing here?!" she had snarled more than once when I walked into a room.

So how was I going to set about sharing the information, in effect, eulogizing her to our peers, the very group she attempted not so long ago to turn against me?

To ignore the information and not share it would be too easy. It would also be classless. Snarky would be too easy too, and I just wasn't raised that way.

What to do?

Being in the modern world, I typed a carefully worded email to a few "powers that be," apologized for the impersonal email but was compelled to share the news of this person's passing, and provided a link to the obituary online, knowing more than a few people would want to know.

A week later, I was at an event where people talked of her passing, and thanked me for allowing them to mourn. By sharing, it meant more people were willing to talk. And I learned a few things. While it doesn't forgive the way I was treated, I got a little insight into WHY and more importantly, how it may not have been about me at all.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Why Art Matters: I Made a Pinata!

Finished product, the model, and the birthday girl ready to swing.

As we get older, it gets harder to impress friends with gifts. For my friend Denise's birthday, a milestone 40th, she asked Dave and I to host a party on her behalf. Cups, plates and location are all well and good, but I wanted to do something special. Dave mentioned off-hand having a piñata, and I went off on the idea from there.

The overarching theme to the party was wine, so I decided to make a wine bottle piñata. I started with two sheets of poster board and a toilet paper roll. Fancy!

I rolled one sheet into a cylinder, then cut a large circle out of the second piece. I cut that to the center and rolled it into a cone, and taped the toilet paper roll to the peak to form the top of the bottle, then taped all the pieces together.

Once I had that done, I made a 1:1 flour and water paste, adding a dash of salt, the classic kid paper mache formula. I ripped newspaper into strips of approximately 1 1/2" strips, dipped it in the mix, squeegeed the strips between two fingers, and covered my form. Because of the summer humidity, I turned the fan on in the half bath and "cured" the piñata in the little room.

Once it was dry, I had to cover the base. I covered it in criss crossed strips, and secured the strips by wrapping the pieces around the "bottle" and letting them cure.

Using regular acrylics, I painted the bottle green with a silver foil top. In Photoshop, I created a label using pictures of Denise skating in the perfect merlot skating dress.

Once it was dry, I cut a hole in the bottle and began to fill it with goodies. Still unsure of how stable the piñata would be, I alternated layers of treats based on weight. I hit up the party section at the dollar store and got plastic leis, Chinese finger cuffs, yo-yos, birthday greeting wrapped candies, stickers, Tiger pops, hard candies, horn blowers and glitter. I chose the perfect amount, the very last thing filling the piñata to the top.

It was a big hit, to say the least. Once Dee busted it open, everyone dived for the prizes.

As far as arts-n-crafts projects go, this was easy and almost therapeutic. I enjoyed the challenge of making something I haven't made since Girl Scouts and secretly hope another piñata making is in my future. Maybe even Ferris Homecoming...

Monday, September 1, 2014

September Playlist: Exceptions to the Rule

Whitney channeling the Supremes. Florence says, "Gurl, please."

I hate to label myself a music snob, but sometimes, I just cannot tolerate schlocky crap. The biggest genre that offends me is the pop diva songstress. I feel like I have to turn in my girl card for my lack of enthusiasm for those soft rock song birds, but I just can't bring myself to fully embrace their catalog and pay $350 to see them in concert.

Except... for one single.

This is not a conscious decision on my part. I do not dole out one piece of pop music like a singular chocolate candy, indulging in just one bite. It just sort of happened that way.

Mariah Carey, Vision of Love: power diva extraordinaire, I adored this debut single and was very open to more of her music. This is a lovely song, very reminiscent of torchy ballads from the 70s. Then came the vocal gymnastics...

Celine Dion, Heart Will Go On: I didn't despise Celine, I just didn't get her. I reacted to her story (poor Canadian wunderkind with voice of angel, rags to riches if you will) with a bland "good for you." Then Titanic happened and something about her delivery was oh so operatic and awesome, soft and touching then soaring and soul crushing. Then back to bland.

Whitney Houston, I'm Your Baby Tonight: Pretty show pony released one bright shiny penny of a single after another, all with the depth of a teaspoon. Then came the Greatest Love of All, which some saw as self-empowering, I saw as indulgent and laughed when it was parodied in the movie Say Anything. Then came this single, and I found the music complex, and her delivery mature and interesting. I. Loved. This. Song.

Nickelback, Rock Star: Nickelback probably doesn't deserve the vile hate heaped upon them, but I do find them bland. So what, they are laughing all the way to the bank, making fun of themselves in the video for this song. It is charming, self-depreciating, and infectious, but in a good way. Haters gonna hate.

Katy Perry, Waking Up in Vegas and Last Friday Night and Dark Horse: Saucy debut about lesbian experimentation caught everyone's attention, and human cartoon/confection rides a wave of fame that is now 7 years and counting. I don't like most of her music, and find her silly. BUT! I find her sense of humor and self-awareness amusing. She is in on her joke, and for that I respect her. I also seem to have fallen into a Katy Perry "meh... meh... meh... OMG I LOVE THIS!" pattern through her 3 albums.