Saturday, February 28, 2009

New Orleans Pralines

All the talk about New Orleans, pecans and pralines last weekend put me in the mood to try my hand at making homemade pralines again.

Two years ago, one of my coworkers brought in a box of Aunt Sally's Creamy Pralines and I fell in love with them. I found a recipe on Allrecipes for pralines, but they ended turning out too sugary (in terms of being crystallized rather than creamy in texture) and they stuck to the foil to boot!

This time around, I found a simple recipe that I hoped would replicate the Aunt's Sally's pralines I remembered so fondly:

New Orleans Pralines
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light cream
1 ½ cups pecans, halved
2 tablespoons butter
I also added 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  1. Combine sugars and cream in a heavy 2-quart saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until mixture forms a thick syrup.
  2. Add pecans and butter and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently.
  3. Remove sauce pan to a heatproof surface (such as a wire rack) and let cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Use a tablespoon (another chance for me to use my Oxo cookie scoop) to drop rounded balls of the mixture onto sheet wax paper or foil, leaving about 3 inches between each ball for pralines to spread. Allow to cool.

Makes about 12 candies. I ended up with 19.

Here's all the ingredients cooking - I used my candy thermometer to make sure the mixture hit at least soft ball stage:

I ended up cooking it for too long, so in full disclosure, ended up adding another 1/4 cup of cream and cooking for a few more minutes.

Finally, after cooling for 10 minutes, the syrup was ready to be scooped onto wax paper:

I can't wait for them to cool - caramel and pecan mixed together is an irresistible combination!

Chocolate Mint Sandwich Cookies

Chalk today's cookies up to another baking disappointment.

This was a Martha Stewart recipe - I was looking for a chocolate mint recipe to replicate Girl Scout's Thin Mints cookies as a treat for Andrew.

Since I didn't have any 2 inch round cookie cutters, I used a heart cookie cutter instead which I thought added a cute touch with the scalloped edges.

This was a recipe that had me rolling out the dough on powdered sugar rather than flour, hence the speckled white appearance.

Before going into the oven:

Cooled with some chocolate mint ganache piped on top:

Sandwiched together:
Dipped in more chocolate:

These were a bit labor intensive and for some reason, I had a slightly different version of the recipe than the one I linked to above, which made it unclear on how I should dip the cookies. I ended up dipping half of most of them and tried to dip the whole cookie (which ended up REALLy messy) on the rest. Turns out that you are only supposed to dip the top half, leaving the bottom half clear. Oh well, you live and learn.
I guess I was disappointed because they don't taste as great as I would expect from all the work that went into them and they look messy. But that may be operator error. Anyway, I ended up with 2 and 1/2 dozen cookies total and I'll have to see how others like them. I may be a tougher critic than most since I'm not the biggest chocolate cookie fan. And can anything really replicate Girl Scout Thin Mints (other than Keebler Grasshopper cookies?)

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Shins

It’s amazing how music can literally transport you to a different place – by making you recall a memory – and to a different state of mind.

Trying to avoid a noisy, neighboring department of coworkers while concentrating on a writing assignment, I pulled out my bright green (natch) iPod and plugged in the headphones.

Listening to Sea Legs by The Shins instantly transported me to the early days of my relationship with Andrew. Having never heard of anything else by The Shins other than the “Garden State” song (New Slang), I gave their album Wincing the Night away a good listen since this cute guy I liked kept mentioning how good the band was each time I saw him.

The Shins are soothing enough on their own but it was nice to pause for a moment and reminisce about how I would listen to the album while taking long walks around Newton.

Fast forward 19 months (exactly today!) and I’m still following on recommendations from that cute guy and enjoying my brief respite from work.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Shopping at Trader Joe's

Inspired by one of Underoo Elf's last posts, I'm going to try to capture the conversation I had tonight with the Trader Joe's cashier.

Waiting in line, I knew this guy was going to be a talker. It took him forever to bag the groceries of the woman in front of me, as he wasn't one of those efficient-baggers-while-keeping-up-cheerful-chatter people.

Cashier: Hi there.
Me: Hello, handing over my basket, just to let you know, there's a wallet buried somewhere in there. At least I hope there's one.
Cashier: Chuckling to himself, she says she hopes there's a wallet in there.
Cashier: Looking over my purchases, Do you have any children?
Me: Laughing and looking startled while wondering if I bought too much frozen Mandarin Chicken, no!
Cashier: Too young?
Me: Definitely too young although my Mom doesn't think so.
Cashier: Stops abruptly. You've got two different eyes. One green and one brown. That's cool.
Me (trying to be friendly): That's right. There must be something about store lighting because cashiers always seem to notice my eyes while I've had coworkers not notice the difference even after working together for a long time.

Cashier: What do you do for work?
Me: I work in Corporate Communications for XXXXXXXXX.

This gets the cashier excited as he used to work on Route 9 by our Westboro office. I get confused when he references Route 9, realizes he's talking about one of our other offices and tell him that I actually work in Waltham and that all of our offices will be consolidating this year into a new location in Waltham. This prompts the next series of questions:

Cashier: Do you think you're going to be laid off?
Me: Surprised, Um, no, working for a utility has its benefits, everyone needs their gas and electricity.
Cashier: Well, I was laid off last year.
Me: Awkwardly, I'm sorry to hear that. I feel like with this economy, everyone knows someone who has been laid off.
Cashier: And now I work at Trader Joe's.
Me: Trader Joe's seems like a good company to work for.
Cahsier: Leans in, It's a good place for the time being.

My debit card doesn't go through, so I crack a joke about how he may be onto something about layoffs if my bank account is empty. I run it through again while he watches intently to make sure I'm hitting the buttons correctly. It goes through and he looks at my name on the receipt:

Cashier: Joyce XXXX?
Me: Yes, that's Korean. I make a lame joke. That's where the brown eye comes from while my green eye is from my Caucasian side.
Cashier: I had a Chinese friend out west who had blond hair and blue eyes. She was of Polish and Chinese descent and looked nothing like all of her sisters or brothers, who all looked Chinese. She married a Brazilian surfer and now has kids who look Brazilian and Indian.
Me: That sounds like an interesting combination, especially with the Polish and Chinese mixed in as well. I'm sure her kids are beautiful with having all that mixed in.
Cashier: Well, one daughter is beautiful. Leans in intently while looking me directly in the eyes. The other, he pauses, doesn't look the best.
Me: Grabbing bags and scurrying away, Nice chatting with you.

I'm not sure how long he'll last on the job, did I mention he dropped a bag of groceries while talking to me? All in all, a very weird conversation.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Another Visit to BC

So I was on campus for a second night in a row to pick up this box from the bookstore.

I've been meaning to buy a diploma frame for years. My parents had even given me money towards one. But I've never made it onto campus in time to hit the bookstore before closing and I refused to order a frame online because 1) they're heavy and the shipping is expensive and 2) I live within five miles of campus!

So I was all gung-ho about getting the frame last night when I knew I would be on campus for the art exhibit. The problem was the bookstore had plenty of frames, just none for pre-2003 diplomas. That's right, the year after I graduated, BC changed the size of their diplomas into a more stanard, smaller size. I waited patiently at the bookstore for 15 minutes, even though I was now running late for the exhibit, because the BC bookstore staff were sure that they had the right frames out back. This required finding a person that knew exactly where the frames were stored, someone who had the key for the storage trailer and someone who had to go out to the trailer to lug one inside the store.

As it turns out, they didn't have the frame I was looking for in the end. But they promised to call me the next day once they requested it from their warehouse. Sure enough, the BC bookstore came through and let me know today at work that my frame would be ready and waiting for me. Kudos to them for going through all the trouble last night and today to get it for me.

When I got home, the first thing I did was remove my diploma from the cheap Target frame it had been sitting in:

There's a back story to my diploma. The year after I graduated, I kept the diploma stored in the envelope it came in, flat between the wall and my bed frame. I came home one day to my room and could smell something foul. Turns out that my roommate at the time's kitten managed to pull the diploma flat on the floor and had promptly peed and pooped on it. As in, the symbol of my roughly $140,000 education was now covered in animal waste.

Luckily, the diploma was covered by the envelope so no poop touched it. But as we all know, liquids do soak through paper. And this is why my diploma from BC has cat pee stains on it:

One would think that I could request a new copy of the diploma from BC. But as I mentioned above, this was the last year diplomas were issued in the oversize shape. And I also remember hearing that the calligrapher who had handwritten each graduating student's name also retired that year. So rather than trade my original diploma for some generic one, I choose to embrace it's uniqueness, stain and all.

And now that it's in a pretty (gigantic!) frame, maybe people will be too busy staring at the lithograph of Gasson Hall to notice any funny stains.

Monday, February 23, 2009

McMullen Museum of Art at BC

Tonight, I ventured back to my alma mater to visit BC's McMullen Museum of Art (located in Devlin Hall. The Council for Women of Boston College hosts private viewings of the different art exhibits that circle through McMullen and I finally attended one of their events, joining experienced art viewers Jen and Amy - experienced since they've attended the previous exhibitions for the last year and a half.

The exhibit was actually pretty interesting - it was called The Book as Art - Artists' Books from The National Museum of Women in the Arts. Book was very loosely interpreted in some pieces, as it could be a baby dress embroidered with the words of Anne Frank or one that looked like a salad. This "book" was one of my favorites - from what I remember, each "slice" or page of the book had a different pie recipe:

It was nice to be on campus, reminisce about the good ole days, admire how pretty Devlin looked at night, and enjoy free wine, cheese and petit fours.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Potluck at Julian's

As I mentioned in my last post, we were invited over to a potluck dinner at Julian's. He's a former coworker of Andrew's who's also an avid cyclist. During our last gathering, someone had cracked a joke on whether dinner at Julian's would also require all attendees to wear "kits" - the tight jerseys and shorts that Julian wears while cycling. That's why it was funny to arrive at his place in Brighton and see that each place setting came equipped with it's own jersey:

Julian provided the main meal of spaghetti with homemade meatballs, that a kind friend of his had made for him just for the occasion. Jeanne and Mike brought a green bean casserole (one of my favorites) and another surprise that reflects their Lousiana roots - a King Cake!

I was really excited to see and taste a King Cake as I've heard of them and read of them, but never thought I would get to try one for myself.

Keep in mind, the King Cake below was baked in LA and shipped overnight to Boston - it got banged up a bit in transit, and in fact, the UPS guy that delivered it was holding the box by its side. So don't judge the cake's taste by it's appearance:

As Jeanne and Mike described it, a typical King Cake is more like a sweet bread with a filling, topped with frosting (in this case, the Mardi Gras colors of green and purple). They chose a pecan praline filling (one of my absolute favorite flavor combos) and it was delicious.

In another interesting twist, King Cakes also feature a little plastic figurine of a baby that is baked in. Whoever gets the baby in their piece of cake is supposed to buy the next King Cake that is eaten (as King Cakes are eaten throughout the official Mardi Gras period, starting on Epiphany on January 6 to the end of Mardi Gras this month). With this in mind and trying to avoid the potential choking aspect of this tradition, whoever serves the cake tries to slice it in tiny one inch portions, which ensure that you will most likely "feel" the baby figurine in the cake and know which slice it will end up in. I know this sounds a bit disturbing but I found it to be a charming tradition all the same.

We made it through half the cake but alas, no sign of the baby. Sensing our disappointment, Mike sliced up the rest of the cake and made sure his next slice would have it so we could see it.

Here's Mike pointing out the baby with his fork - no matter how many pictures I took of it, it came out looking this blurry:

Here's the baby after it's been cleaned up a little more:

In another amusing highlight of the night, my earring ended up getting caught in Andrew's sweater as I was leaning against him. I had to unhook it from my ear before I could work it Andrew's sweater without causing a large snag in the wool:

Finally, here's a group shot of all the potluck dinner attendees (minus Julian's roommate Brett, who kindly took the picture for us):

From L to R, Andrew, me, Jeanne (whose 7 months along and still tiny!), Mike, Julian and the new girl who he's dating, Katie.

Did Someone Say Trifle?

From reading my blog, you'll find out that I'm a big fan of making trifles. They're relatively easy to assemble and are a crowd pleaser, especially if you invest in a nice trifle glass. I've found them as cheap as $5 at the Christmas Tree Shop, but I happen to own a really nice trifle glass that I received as a birthday gift from Phu and Pete.

Andrew and I were invited over to his former coworker's place last night for a potluck dinner. Knowing me well already, Julian told Andrew that we were in charge of dessert. I made a batch of oatmeal cranberry cookies, knowing that they are well liked by the other dinner attendees, Jeanne and Mike. I also went with a trifle, figuring that it's the type of dessert that most people like.

This one featured strawberries (as you can see in the picture, gold cake, cool whip, chocolate pudding, vanilla pudding with chocolate chips, bananas and toffee bits:

The final product, shown off to perfection by my new apron (also a gift from Phu):

More details and photos on the potluck dinner to come.

Friday, February 20, 2009

More Free Stuff

Courtesy of my friends at BzzAgent:

I can't wait to see the Fabric Sweeper for Pet Hair in action, because it sounds like it's fun to use. As opposed to using sticky sheets (which never seem to work on my common lint rollers), the Fabric Sweeper is a handheld device that you hold and sweep over surfaces using short strokes. In fact, one PledgeFabric Sweeper picks up as much pet hair as 145 sticky roller sheets. I'm also how well it works on human hair, since I have plenty of that clinging to surfaces in my house. And the thing I find amazing is that the Fabric Sweeper is supposed to be self-cleaning. As you go in one direction, one roller picks up the pet hair from the surface. When you go in the other direction, the second roller cleans off the first and pushes the pet hair inside.

I think it will be really satisfying (and gross at the same time) to pull out the big wad of hair at the end of a cleaning session.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see a free bottle of Pledge's new multi-surface cleaner, which I didn't know was going to be included in this Bzz campaign. I have no loyalty to any particular cleaner, I tend to buy anything that is on sale or the cheapest. However, I think I'm really going to like Pledge's cleaner because it can be used on anything, like:
  • Wood
  • Wood Laminate
  • Plastics
  • Stainless Steel
  • Glass
  • Mirrors
  • Electronics
  • Granite

It's supposed to have an anti-static formula, which will be good for cleaning electronics and most importantly, it won't leave a residue.

And the best part is that I scored the Rainshower scent rather than Lavendar, which is a scent I tend to dislike since it smells too musky to me.

(In case you're wondering, yes, I'm using this post as a Bzz report.)

Give Me Samoa

Andrew surprised with my favorites last night - Girl Scout cookies! And they may be called Caramel deLites now but I grew up knowing them as Samoas.

They are soooo good but so bad for you, we've literally eaten our way through one box already and I'm feeling guilty. But not guilty enough to stop wondering when the Girl Scouts are going to show up in my neighborhood.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Unisex Thermochromatic Sheer Jersey T-Shirt

Onto a lighter topic, Stylephile's blog highlited American Apparel's throwback product offering - Unisex Thermochromatic Sheer Jersey T-Shirt aka the Hyper-Color shirts we remember from our childhood.

To tell you the truth, I was so behind the times in terms of fashion as a child (I'll blame it on living overseas) that I never owned a Hyper-Color shirt but I remember lusting after them.

I don't think American Apparel is doing a good job in displaying the shirts (the models just look tired on the website and the shirts appear too baggy) and the price is a little steep for me to indulge in just to reminisce. But it was still a cool thing to check out today.

Mouse Update

I woke up this morning feeling extremely guilty still about the mouse and the glue trap. When I went downstairs to the kitchen, the first thing I noticed was that a cupboard door was open. This was the same cupboard door that I had closed on the mouse last night. I looked in and the glue trap and the mouse were gone! Looking around the kitchen, I finally noticed the glue trap upside down and partially under one of my shoes - this was around eight feet away from the cupboard. Andrew thinks he was moving around a lot, trying to get off the trap and ended up on the floor and using the shoe as leverage. Based on how much it was moving last night, I just don't get how the mouse could've moved the trap that much when it was so exhausted last night. I keep thinking some of it's friends must've helped it out.

So now I'm conflicted. I'm disgusted by the fact that I still have one less dead mouse in the house. But I also don't think I can go through using glue traps again. Andrew is going to reset the standard spring trap and bait it again and he's got a new location he wants to try it with. But if we still can't catch anything, I may have to compromise and use the glue traps only if we figure out some way to humanely kill (what an oxymoron) the mouse right away.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'm A Horrible Person

I don't know what I was thinking but I set up some of the glue traps last night.

We hadn't caught a mouse since January and I knew the little bugger that resulted in a wasted cake and an extra round of dish washing was still lurking around. I knew this even despite the fact that there was no evidence of rummaging in any of my dry goods (I swear I've been checking my cabinets every day.)

My mistake was setting up the traps on one of the nights that Andrew isn't at my place.

I woke up this morning and the traps (all six) were empty. "Oh well," I thought to myself, "the glue traps don't work either."

That was before I baked cookies tonight. We're heading to a friend's place for a potluck dinner on Saturday and since I wanted to bring a trifle and cookies, I decided to get a head start on the cookies earlier in the week.

I had the cookies cooling on top of my stove (if you've seen my kitchen, my stove is right next to the my oven and is the logical resting place for hot cookie sheets) but as I was walking out the door to run an errand, I decided not to risk leaving them out in the open where the mouse had visited before. Good thing I did move them.

I was talking with my 87 year old Grandmother on the phone when I got home. All of my mouse traps are out in the open on the kitchen floor except for one that I stuck in the cupboard below my stove where we believe the mice have been living. I open the cupboard and to my shock, there's a wriggling mouse stuck on that glue trap. I yell out in surprise, mind you, while still on the phone with my Grandma. I apologize, get off the phone and immediately call Andrew to complain that he's not here to help me deal with it. He predictably (and it's very irritating when he's right) points out that I was the one that made the decision to put out traps while he was gone.

The part that's getting to me is how inhumane the glue trap is. I rationalized the glue traps initially because they are supposed to have an anesthetic that makes the death painless. But I'm telling you that it will be hard to go to sleep tonight thinking of that mouse struggling on the trap. It's cute, wide-open eyes were almost closed in exhaustion and I swear it looked like it was crying. Andrew talked me out of putting some rat poison next to it (as in, you don't know what a desperate mouse will do to you if you come close to it).

All I know is that the boxes for the glue boxes lied. That mouse was in pain, and as much as I wanted it dead, I didn't want it to die like that. Weird logic, I know.

So tomorrow, I'm getting rid of the other glue traps. Andrew and I will have to find a new mouse trap and new type of bait to get rid of any other pests.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shopping at Walmart

Tonight, I was on a mission. The two things I needed to get were silver hoop earrings and Kashi granola bars. I had done some research online to see where I could get the Kashi bars for the best price. Since Stop & Shop sells them for $4 and Walmart for $2.50, that was enough of an incentive to get me to drive out to Framingham/Natick after work. On the way, I decided last minute to go to Target instead of Walmart. To put it bluntly, I hate Walmart and haven't been there in at least two years. Why? The parking lot and the store are always packed with the rudest people on earth. Literally, I just hate Walmart shoppers and the long lines. I find that Target is usually much cleaner, brighter, has shorter lines, better merchandise and the same cheap prices.

At Target, no surprise, I spent much more than I had originally planned. In the sign of the times, I actually ended up by more grocery type items than I usually do since it's just so much cheaper than a grocery store (Yoplait yogurt - $.50! Cake mix - $1.00! Pudding - $.82! And in case you're wondering, I'm making a trifle this weekend, hence all the junk food). I even found a new Kashi fruit and granola bar (Chocolate and Raspberry) to try. But I struck out on the Kashi bars I needed to replace from Andrew's stock and the hoops. The hoops in particular are driving me nuts. I have literally bought three sets of sterling silver hoops from Target in the past year. Somehow, I've bought a slightly different set each time and now I have three single hoop earrings with no match and Target seems to have stopped selling silver hoops in the size and the width I prefer.

Walmart was only a few miles away, I decided to bite the bullet and give it a try. And I was pleasantly surprised. Granted, it was a Tuesday night during February vacation, which means that it was pretty uncrowded. But the store just seemed to be brighter and better organized. I was pleased to find that Walmart did carry the Kashi flavor I was looking for and grabbed four boxes of it off the shelf (the guy standing next to me gave me a weird look but hey, these things are that good!) I was also happy to find out that Target is actually cheaper than Walmart on a lot of grocery items, with butter being one of the only exceptions. I was in and out in a breezy 15 minutes, considering I walk the perimeter of the whole store. And I found the jewelry counter worker and the cashier I had to be very nice and polite. I don't mean to sound snobby or elitist, but I was genuinely surprised by how much nice Walmart has gotten, perhaps because of the rebranding effort they launched last year? Regardless, I may be visiting them more in the future. Just not around Christmas or the end of August when people are in back-to-school mode.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Panko-Crusted Chicken

Tonight, I was inspired to make a recipe that featured Panko, a Japanese type of bread crumb. It may sound like an exotic ingredient but you can find Panko bread crumbs in any supermarket, next to regular, Italian-flavored bread crumbs. I found the recipe for Panko-Crusted Chicken Bites on the We Are Not Martha blog. Instead of cutting up the chicken into smaller pieces, I bought breast tenders instead.

Here are the bowls of flour, beaten egg and Panko/Parmesan cheese waiting for the chicken pieces:

First, I dredged each tender through a flour/salt/pepper mixture:

Next was beaten egg/water:

Finally, the Panko/Parmesan cheese mixture, which stuck surprisingly well:
I placed each tender on a cooking spray-covered cookie rack, which was resting on top of a foil covered cookie sheet:

Twenty minutes in the oven and the tenders came out looking like this:
They were nice and crunchy and the Parmesan flavor came through in a nice, subtle way. Unfortunately, I didn't have the ingredients for the apricot dipping sauce on hand, which I would've loved to try. Instead, I whipped up an Asian-style sauce that had soy sauce, sesame oil, apple cider vinegar, garlic, sugar and hoisin sauce. It was ok, and Andrew liked it, but I really thought the chicken deserved a sweeter sauce to accompany it.

Trivia Night at the Savant Project

President's Day Weekend called for doing something special on Sunday night since we had Monday off. Jen had always wanted to try the Savant Project's trivia night (a bar in the Mission Hill area). Their take on trivia is slightly different from the bar trivia nights I had participated in the past since their weekly theme is Sex and Drugs. I had my doubts on how well we would do with such narrow trivia categories but felt confident in having a former Jeopardy contestant along as a team member (yup, that's why I call her Jeopardy Jen sometimes!)

We had a mixed impression of the Savant Project even before we walked through the door. Checking out the menu online, it seemed overpriced. So we made plans to eat at Penguin Pizza which is right across the street. Although Amy, Phu and Pete said they wouldn't be able to make it to trivia, the lure of Penguin Pizza was enough to have them make an appearance. I have to say that the Penguin's slices are gigantic (roughly 1/4 a pie), delicious and cheap at $3 a slice. I thoroughly enjoyed my slice of the Seasonal which included Butternut squash puree, leeks and feta, yum!

Anyway, we headed to the Savant Project right at 7:30 on the dot. Walking in, we realized what a tiny place it was. As a group of six, it looked like we wouldn't be able to score a big enough table but would be able to settle for a four-person table and add chairs. Wrong. Apparently, the open tables were reserved ahead of time but we could stand at the bar. Which was fine, since there was plenty of space. What didn't work out too well was the ten minutes it took for us to get a drink order in, which was ridiculous considering that there were six of us standing at the bar, this was bad. Jen and I decided to split a bottle of their Riesling and were told they sold their last bottle the night before. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as we decided to go with their sparkling wine, and were charged the lower price of the Riesling. What was disconcerting was the bartender had to swap out our glasses, literally, five times because each glass was obviously very smudged and dirty. He explained it as the "glasses were technically clean from the dishwasher but had residue left from fruit pulp from things like mimosas." To me, it looked like the residue was from chapstick/lipstick on the rim which is not clean, no matter how many times it has been "washed" by the dishwasher.

Finally, Jen and I were able to enjoy our wine:

Amy, Phu and Pete decided to check out the bar but as you can see from their clothing and their glasses of water, they were ready to head out as soon as possible.

Pete joined us for a beer but like Amy and Phu, hit the door once we had the next weird thing happen to us at the bar.

As we were all standing at at the bar, a stranger named David approached us, asked if we were all playing as a team, and then asked if he could join our team. Extremely awkward. It's one of those situations where you really want to say no but feel guilty for thinking that. But then you're thinking that it's weird for a guy to be by himself at the bar, not with friends, on a trivia night. We tell him ok and then an awkward ten minutes commences where David hovers awkwardly on the edges of our conversation, Amy, Phu and Pete quickly excuse themselves, and we wait for the trivia game to start (advertised as 7:30 pm, it doesn't start until around 8:10 pm).

But the rest of the night was actually pretty fun. We had a lively guest trivia host, Oh! Megan who used a puppet to collect answers:

We ended up inviting the other lone guy who was sitting next to us to join our team as well since David had already broken up the comfort dynamic. He declined but was pretty friendly in conversation throughout the night. This same guy also won a free shot for having the best team name and split the "shot" (which really amounted to four servings) with us. I was the only one brave enough to try it and it was gross. As the Savant Project doesn't have a liquor license, it can only serve beers and cordials. Which I don't get, since to me, alcohol is alcohol. Anyway, the shot apparently had coffee liquor, raspberry vodka and some sort of mint schnapps. Gross. If I were a bartender that only had access to "cordials," I would make sure that I had some sort of tasty cordial shot up my sleeve.

This is what the shot looked like:

The trivia session took around two hours and in the end, our team did respectably, scoring 12 out of 20 points in four rounds (the leader had 14 points). We bet it all on the last question and unfortunately, didn't win. As the first prize ended up being free door passes to Centerfolds (a strip club), I don't think of it as a real loss because yikes, what a lame prize.

Here's a team shot - that would be David on the right. He ended up being fine as a random team member but I wasn't sad to see him go at the end.

All in all, it was an interesting and fairly fun experience but I don't think I'll be going back anytime soon. Especially if David decides to come back!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Surprise For Andrew

After we went out to dinner with my Uncle Rich and my cousin Andrew, we headed back to my place to feast on the Cabot's ice cream cake I ordered as surprise for Andrew. Cabot's is this great family-owned restaurant in Newton that has homemade ice cream and the biggest dessert menu you've ever seen. This was the first time I had tried one of their cakes and I have to say that it was pretty tasty.

I went with gold cake (my favorite), Heath Bar ice cream (Andrew's favorite), chocolate cookie crumbles in between layers and whipped cream frosting.

Andrew seemed to enjoy it, although I did catch him off guard with my camera.

Cake Balls

I wanted to surprise my coworkers with Valentine-themed treats on Friday. I saw a recipe for Cake Balls on, which seemed ridiculously simple. Basically, you make a box cake mix and while it's still warm, mix it in a bowl with a container of frosting. I went with Strawberry cake and cream cheese frosting. Feeling lazy, I scooped the cake with my Oxo cookie scoop which lead to really big mounds and froze them overnight.

Thursday night, I commenced with the messy and long process of dipping the balls in melted chocolate. Every year I vow never to make any chocolates because it is so messy and every year I get suckered in by an easy recipe.

The end result I thought were pretty heavy balls of chocolates, but packaging them to my coworkers as Cake Truffles worked much better.

Surprised With A Favorite

When Andrew and I said we weren't doing gifts for Valentine's Day, I told him flowers didn't count.

Being a perceptive guy, he actually surprised me with my favorite white roses on Thursday, since he knew I wouldn't be expecting them on that day.

Beautiful as always and I'm hoping they last as long as the other dozen from December.

Happy Valentine's Day

Cody's blowing Valentine's kisses for anyone who wants them - how cute!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Interviewing Session at BC

As I mentioned earlier, I was asked to attend a Practice Interview Night at BC, which took place tonight. Looking back at the email, I must've been really tired that night because it makes perfect sense to me now. Anyway, I was forwarded the resumes of the three students yesterday that I would be interviewing with at 6, 6:30 and 7 pm. I had already prepared a list of general interview questions I thought were good in terms of likelihood they would be used in a real interview.

Then I took a look at the resumes and realized that all three were juniors in CSOM (BC's School of Management) and two were students from other countries who were only spending this year at BC. My honest thought at this point was that they must've been struggling to get enough CSOM alumni to attend and resorted to getting the Comms major (that being me) to fill in and handle random students. Interviews in general make me really nervous, even the thought of sitting on the other side of the chair, so I made sure I studied the resumes in detail, highlighted all the relevant questions on my prepared sheets and thought long and hard on what the most useful advice to give.

And as it turns out, the practice interviews went well. At first I was thinking that I should maintain character as a real interviewer for the whole thing. But I ended up going with what felt natural for me and what I thought would be best for each student. I coached them along the way, asking them questions and giving my thoughts on whether it was a good response or how I would present the facts that were stated in their resume. I'd like to believe that I actually did some good - all my interview sessions ran long and I think they each walked away mulling over new ways to approach their next interview. Time flew by and all of a sudden, it was 7:45, I was the second to last interviewer left in the room and my throat was dry. Not only was it good to put all my Monster career knowledge to use but it felt really good to be helping the students. I think I definitely could see myself working in a university setting some day.

And as for the parting advice I gave to the students and that I'll leave you with are:
  • Dress professionally for every interview - it's always better to be overdressed then underdressed
  • Arrive early for the interview, it keeps you calm (rather than being nervous about being late on top of everything else) and gives you time to review your notes on the company
  • Prepare for the interview by researching the company - this should go beyond scanning a company's website and should go into things like their annual report, their news headlines for the past 6 months, a competitor analysis, etc
  • Prepare questions to ask the interviewer, answers to the most commonly used interviews questions and specific examples from your school/work experiences to support your answers and familiarize yourself/become comfortable with them before the interview - this goes a long way in combatting nervousness
  • Write a thank you note. Most interviewers consider an email thank you perfectly acceptable but I like writing handwritten notes to catch an interviewers attention. They should have a short reminder on why you feel you're right for a position.

I feel like most of these are common sense but I know that when I was in their shoes a long, LONG time ago, I wasn't aware of these tips and it never hurts to reemphasize them. Can you think of anything else that has worked for you?

Kashi Cherry Dark Chocolate Granola Bars

...are my latest food obsession, thanks to Andrew.

They are these light and chewy granola bars, much fluffier (for a lack of better words) than the typical Quaker Oatmeal bars. They are topped with mini chocolate chips and have sweetened pieces of cherry hidden throughout the bar. My only gripe is that the chocolate chips fall off way too easily (making it hard to eat on the go) and there aren't enough cherry pieces!

And if Andrew is reading this, I think I've eaten enough of your bars to owe you a box.

Things I Learned Today...

...while sitting in a dentist's chair getting my six month cleaning:

  • I'm not flossing enough, which is why my gums bleed a lot during the cleaning - I vow to work on this!
  • I'm not brushing the inside of my teeth as much as the outside - I wanted to argue this one because I swear I do try to spend the same amount of time on both sides
  • My mouth is small (which I obviously knew) and the dental hygienist expressed out loud how it must be hard for me maneuver my toothbrush around the corners
  • What I call "chomping" is actually called "clenching" in dental terms
  • Said clenching does not require a mouth guard at this point, although my dentist did notice that my back molars are slightly worn
  • My dentist also told me that (yikes!) one night of constant teeth grinding equals 6 months of normal wear and tear (a bit dramatic) and that bad grinding/clenching over time will cause front teeth to chip from the pressure. He then followed these warnings with the thought that I didn't need a mouth guard because I wasn't noticing any problems with my jaw each morning
  • Mouth guards cost approximately $500 and are only effective when worn nightly, which prompted my dentist to crack a joke about how unromantic they are especially in light of Valentine's Day this weekend
  • My dentist is excited about a three day golfing trip he's taking to FL next week in which he scored a $90 flight back

All this learning was crammed into a mere 40 minute appointment.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Yay for Packages!

I had two packages waiting for me today - my lovely running shoes and the water bottles I finally got around to ordering. As you can see, I went with Earthlust's Poppy bottle. It was my favorite design, made out of steel and unlike Sigg's bottles, doesn't have a proprietary lining that may leak chemicals. And I decided to surprise Andrew with one, since they will be used during our mutual workouts. I went with a simple klean kanteen design for him (although signs and company names that are misspelt deliberately for alliteration - when they can be spelt correctly and still achieve alliteration - are definitely one of my pet peeves).

Now we can go to the gym together while reducing our carbon impact - which really makes us sound like granola-crunchy people.

Monday, February 9, 2009

More Gym Observations

  1. Read an interesting article in Glamour that echoed a Today show story from this morning - getting enough sleep for 10 weeks straight can help a woman lose weight. Seriously. You simply need to get at least 7.5 hours of sleep each night, establish a bedtime routine for an hour before you go to bed, avoid drinking caffeine after 2:30 pm and avoid drinking alcohol at least three hours before you go to bed. You'll have to read the article to find out all the reasoning behind it because I'm feeling lazy tonight It sounds simple but I find it hard to go to bed before 11 pm, especially if we hit the gym. But I might have to try it. It seems somewhat easy and good for you.
  2. I had another smelly guy working out next to me. He didn't smell most of the time. He would go slowly on the elliptical, not using his arms but would instead, check out his slowly moving legs in the mirror. The rare 30 seconds he would use his arms, whoa, major BO would hit me. Good thing he was vain and lazy.
  3. This observation is from Andrew. He overheard Camie and I laughing on the phone about skinny girls always farting on the treadmills (who doesn't love a fart joke? But seriously, I don't use the treadmills often enough to notice this phenomenon). Andrew, however, is an avid runner. He told me that he kept smelling farts during his workout. Yet, he was only surrounded by girls. Is this enough scientific proof for Camie's theory? Thinking about it, skinny girls are more apt to eat healthy (and gassy) foods like broccoli.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Eggplant Parm Pie

My cooking attempt this month consisted of following an easy recipe for Eggplant Parm pie that I found on To be truthful, I don't know if this dish really fulfilled the "parm" portion of the name since it wasn't breaded. But it will still pretty good.

Here is the tray of peeled and sliced eggplant ready to be roasted in the oven with a little olive oil, salt and pepper brushed on:

I, for some reason, don't actually have a pie pan. I feel like I always think I have one and end up being surprised when I can't find it in the cabinets. I went with a small Pyrex pan and I actually think it worked out better this way. Although now, I think this recipes should be renamed Italian Eggplant Casserole.

Hot out of the oven with some garlic bread on the side, and Andrew and I were ready to feast:

Eggplant Parm Pie (Aka Italian Eggplant Casserole)
  • 2 pounds eggplant, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick (I didn't weigh them but I went with two big eggplants)
  • Olive oil (for brushing)
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (I used cooking spray instead)
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped (I don't know it this is cheating too much but I used ready made tomato sauce instead!)
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 can (1 pound) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • Flour (for rolling)
  • 1 pound store-bought pizza dough
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan (I used generous handfuls of cheese, so it may have been closer to a cup each)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • Extra chopped basil (for garnish) (Fresh basil? I skipped having a garnish)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Kale Soup = Free Redbox Rental

Since Stop & Shop is conveniently located next to our gym, Andrew and I stopped in after our workout to pick up ready made pizza dough for the eggplant parm pie I wanted to make for dinner.

Since we were starving and looking for something easy for lunch, we went with Stop & Shop's Kale soup, a traditional Portuguese dish, crusty sourdough bread with brie and a Caesar salad. Stop & Shop was running a promotion where you could get a free Redbox rental for buying one of their soups, which were also on sale. Sure enough, after we paid at the register, one of the coupons that printed out had a code to use at the Redbox machine (soup6, in case it will work for anyone else). We went with Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist.

Here's a picture of Kale soup, in case you were wondering. The versions I have usually have kale (duh), potatoes, beans and some sort of Portugese sausage like linguica or chourico:

I may have to try making this myself in the future.