BEAUTIFUL GUTS

BeautifulGuts

As All Hallow’s Eve draws nigh, it seems that ghouls, goblins, and grossy guts are everywhere.  I get it.  I get that we have this one day for us to gather in unity to celebrate and glamorize our fears and dark sides.  But for the last few years, I think of Halloween much differently.

To start, I think of a young, gangly girl walking into my home for a midnight premier party I threw for The Hunger Games.  I think of her skinny legs on the highest heels I’ve ever seen – and they were paired up with a mini-skirt and croppy toppy.  Our eldest son had invited her as his date, so she was on the arm of someone I love very dearly, and it put me on the defense instantaneously.  Now I’m a fairly reasonable woman, but when said defense kicks in, I tend to go all “Sheila From The Block” - and that can be quite scary to a youngster like the one I’m describing.  It takes real guts to get through a night like that.

I think of a little sprite who came to a Thanksgiving evening without warning, and started asking for a “sliver” of this and a “sliver” of that, and licking her chops at all the food fare without care.  She was a tiny little thing, and I couldn’t believe the amount of food she ingested.  It reminded me a bit of Gollum referring to his “precious” when anyone came within the vicinity of her eating arena.  It was alarming and charming all at the same time, as she filled her guts with the glorious food feast.

Thoughts take me back to a more mature young lady, filled with quiet countenance as my family embarked upon our Annual Family Festivus at Christmas.  Family picture time came about, and she willingly became the photographer instead of assuming she was to be in the photo itself.  She was content to have been asked to be part of Family Night at all, it seemed, and wrapped arms with me and slid her hand into mine as we crossed the street for dinner.  She then quietly and authentically whispered, “Thank you for having me” in my ear.  And my guts did a butterfly flip.

I think of a quirky young woman, daring enough to be different and wear knee-high socks with the character Jack Skellington from the movie ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’  on them all year long (to go with her Jack Skellington earrings and hair bow, of course), no matter what holiday it is.  Now that takes guts!

I think of someone with so much talent it baffles people.  I see in my mind’s eye all the colorful and creative ways she paints, draws, and pieces things together to make the most incredible art.  I think of the upright work ethic in her gift of artistry, and really anything she does for that matter, and I know how very rare a quality that is.  I see her work her guts out.

I think of a strong female, coming into a family of strong females, somehow knowing just how to graciously fall right in line with them without having to gnarl her teeth in order to prove something.  Gutsy move.

When I think of Halloween, I even think of a hot, breezy day in August near the beach.  I know that one does not necessarily coincide with the other for most people, but for me the two are harmonious.    That was the day a beautiful and blushing bride who looked like an angelic woodland fairy got married.  To my son.  And with all her guts pledged her undying and forever love to him.

Why do I think of Halloween when I think of all of these things?  Because my whimsical and wonderful Daughts-In-Law, Kiren, was born on that day, and we celebrate the holiday much differently from most people.  We don’t celebrate our fears or dark sides.  But we do celebrate in unity.  We celebrate how beautiful she is.  We celebrate how unique and exceptional she is.  We celebrate her ferocious-yet-gentle love for her husband.  We celebrate her fierce loyalty to a family she fits so perfectly into.  We celebrate her beautiful guts.

JIVE TURKEY

  This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used.

This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used.

To me: How do you make him do it??  What kind of bribery do you use?  Did you strike some sort of bargain?? 

To The Hubster: How did She manage to make you do it??  Did She bribe you?  You must hate your life.

These are questions and comments we get every time we dress in costume (which, by the way, is more often than any other adults - and MAYBE even kids - I’ve ever known). 

It could be a theme night.  We’ve done French (berets and tiny moustaches are just fun), Winter Wonderland (we were the Snow King & Queen, of course), UK (that was fun because I got to see Adrian in a kilt – hubba, hubba), or even Japanese (because Geisha makeup is a MUST).  It could be the ever-regular-reason, Halloween.  We’ve been Peace & Quiet, Gomez and Morticia Addams, Sick & Tired, and Mummy & Deaddy.  It could be for a party.  We’ve been mega-trends from every era from the 20s to the 90s, and literally everything in between.  We’ve been Wonder Woman and Captain America (both circa 1940s and circa 1980s), and we’ve been Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix.  We’ve even been Thomas Jefferson and his wife, Martha.  I’m telling you:  the list goes on and ON.

Just a sidebar:  He especially loves keeping the costume boxes (yes, PLURAL) very organized.  He recently catalogued our wigs.  Yep.  Now we have a wig library. 

I’m telling you, WE COSTUME UP.  But therein lay the key word: “we”.  I’m never alone in it.  Adrian suits up no matter what, and never complains and never declines. 

The Hubster knows life is fleeting and very short.  He knows we are partners.  He knows it is not threatening to his manhood, but rather a fun way to be present and in-the-moment.  And he knows me.  And he loves life.  And he loves life with me.  And he loves me.

We jive.

This particular costume (yes, that’s him in the picture), I simply said, “Turkey Costume”.   And he donned it as though he were a proud peacock instead of a turkey.  He danced around with kids, and he pretended to peck at people’s heads.  And, as most rock-star turkeys do, he wore sunglasses and drank trendy coffee.

I’m not saying costumes are for everyone.  But I am saying all the things that make The Hubster jive with me and with life ARE.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I want to be sure you know life is fleeting and very short.  I want to make sure you are present and in-the-moment.  Do you love life?  Even when it is not going perfectly?  PS -  it never will (go perfectly, that it is).  If you don't already, learn to love it and give thanks for it.  Embrace the costume moments.  And I promise you – it WILL jive.

 

Vigilante Vortex

 Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/superheroes-batman-wonder-woman-534104/

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/superheroes-batman-wonder-woman-534104/

Do you have, or have you EVER had, someone in your life you view as your hero?  I have had a few in my lifetime.  Perhaps there will be more to come, but for now, I remember every single person in my life I've ever seen as my hero.  There are differentiating reasons, of course, and they run the gamut.

When I was in elementary school, I knew a girl that had a hard - and I mean HARD life.  She came to school with bruises, her clothes were not clean, and her shoes were falling apart.  She and I were good friends, though.  Perhaps because we were both bullied we had a kinship.  But I looked up to her.  She made good grades, never complained, and always worked hard.  When I found out about her home life and saw how hard she worked in school and never let those bullies get the best of her, she became a hero to me.  I looked up to her and often thought she might just grow up to BE a super hero!

Certain members of my family took very good care of me.  Whatever the reason, and whatever the time line, they took time from their own lives to try to do whatever it took to show me love when I was a very small child.  I didn't know it then, but they have since grown to be heroes of mine in my adult years as I look back.

Many people stand out to me.  But there is one instance in particular where a small group of people became my heroes all at once.

It started with the egging of our house in mid-October one year.  Eh.  Sometimes people make bad decisions in the name of fun, so we chalked it up to just that.  Until it escalated to rotten meat, terroristic phone calls in the middle of the night or wee hours of the morning, and down-right torture on a daily basis.  And it lasted for MONTHS. Now who it was or why they did it doesn't matter - that's a story for another post (Or maybe it isn't.  I don't want to give those crooks any more spotlight than they deserve!)  End result: they were caught.  Now they obviously aren't heroes of any kind.  It's the people that helped us through that traumatic time in our lives.

All we did was share what was happening with friends; and those friends, Hugh Durlam, Jan-Michael Jenkins, and Derek Rogers showed up to our house, and along with our son, Cameron, our son-in-law, Sam, and The Hubster....FOR THREE NIGHTS IN A ROW ALL NIGHT LONG......sat outside our home crouched in the shadows, waiting and watching - to help capture the criminals.  And they weren't the only ones!  The "un-sung heroes" as I've heard it put lately - the WIVES of these men (Diana, Amber, Lauren, and Chelsea) - never complained or said no to their daredevil husbands playing the part of the Justice League.

Of course, Adrian and I did all we could to make it fun - I baked throughout the night in a dark house and made sure everyone had cookies and milk (true super-hero food!) as they lie in wait.  We had walkie-talkies.  We prayed. We laughed.  And we cried.

When the authorities caught them (ultimately due to our vigilante nights and uncovered evidence!) we decided to throw a (costume) party in honor of our hero-friends.  (Of course we did!)  We gathered all those that helped.....all those heroes......and we told them to dress as their own favorite hero and come be honored at the party we dubbed 'Vigilante Vortex'.  It was one of the best nights of celebration I've ever had.  There was Hulk Hogan, Zombie Apocalypse Killers, Batman, Rocky, even The Lone Ranger...the list goes on!  (Photos below)  We played.  We laughed.  And we cried.  It was nothing short of amazing to The Hubster and me, and filled us with awe and wonder, how these people were so willing to sacrifice and give of themselves simply because they love us.  

That is definitely the definition of a hero in my book: one that gives sacrificially.

Think about all the heroes in the world.  Maybe you don't know them personally, or perhaps you do.  Maybe you think immediately of the soldiers who sacrifice every day.  Maybe it's your mom or your dad who sacrificed so much to raise you.  Maybe you think of your spouse that had to sacrifice in some way to show their love and admiration for you.  Maybe it's a teacher that sacrificed and invested time in you to help set you up for success.  Maybe it's a Martin Luther King, Jr., or a Rosa Parks, or even an Abe Lincoln.  Or maybe it's just someone who loves you so much they have shown that love selflessly and sacrificially.

Remember who YOU are to people.  Be intentional and sacrificial.  Be loving and selfless.  BE SOMEONE'S HERO.

These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

Now Bring Us Some Piggy Pudding!

 Photo Source: http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/11269

Photo Source: http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/11269

I’m fairly sure we've all done it.  You know……all sing – loudly and proudly – “Now bring us some piggy pudding, and bring some right here!”

I know I have.  It took me FOREVER to realize the lyrics were “FIGGY” pudding.  But I didn't care, even once I found out.  We are creatures of habit, and it still comes out piggy pudding when I sing it.  Either way, when you consider it, neither one sounds very appetizing, now does it?

I've always loved cooking, but in the last few years I've really become what is socially referred to as a “foodie”; not just loving the adventure of cookery, but also feeling my palette mature and craving truly good fare and not processed or fast stand-ins; and also really honing in on the craft of preparing stunning and delicious food.

(Now stay with me.  You may think you know where I’m going with this, but you won’t have seen this one coming.)

So of course, as time progressed and so did my culinary skills, I was greatly interested in researching and getting to the bottom of how figgy pudding came to be, what was in it, how to prepare it, and then – to delight in it – if it was warranted.  It IS called, FIGGY PUDDING, after all.  Just say it.  What picture comes into your head?  For me, it was a brown, gelatinous, squishy-sounding goo that I was certain only paupers and beggars had to eat back in the days of yore.  Well, though the thought intrigued me, it certainly didn't sound appetizing!

In doing this research of sorts, I discovered it dated back to the 16th century and consisted of mashed figs, thickened with bread, and then crème-boiled into a custard.  That actually sounded pretty good.  Like bread and fig jam!  YUM.  Well, if you know me, you know I typically don’t stick to a recipe.  It’s a sickness.  And I definitely CAN’T quit any time I want.  Seeing several modern-day recipes consisting of butter, molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, and figs, I thought, “I bet I could make this into a pie.”  To which I did.  And it was … DELICIOUS!  I candied some walnuts and put them on top and it was one of the most delectable Christmas treasures I had ever created.

But wait!!  There’s more…

Last year, I decided to make figgy pudding pie again, and was singing the song over and over again (we all know when a song gets stuck, it’s STUCK!); but alas, I found myself singing about piggy pudding again.  Maybe I wasn't giving figgy pudding the respect it was due.  It was, after all, being prepared in my kitchen again because it was so good.

And then it hit me.  Piggy Pudding.  (I don’t even WANT to know the vision you get when you hear THAT)  I thought of all the ingredients in the figgy pudding pie I had made.  I then thought about pork, which led me to think about mincemeat pie: it has apples, raisins, and sometimes, pork or roast beef, and it is YUM.  Why not figs instead?  What about pulled pork, figs, butter, cinnamon, and nutmeg DIDN'T sound good?

And so it came to be.  Piggy Pudding.  It’s legit.  Sing it loud and proud. 

I wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Piggy Pudding Pie

  • 1 ½ cups pulled or shredded pork (pork is a rare treat in my house, so when I do make it, I use only organic, nitrate free, hormone-free, uncured pork)
  • ½  stick of butter
  • ½  cup of molasses
  • About 2 cups figs, stems removed and finely chopped (you can substitute dried, but make sure they are un-sweetened to avoid processed and extra un-necessary sugar)
  • Finely-grated lemon peel (it needs this acidity)
  • Juice of the lemon
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch (you can substitute corn starch, but I keep watch for GMOs and aluminum)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • A jhushj of fresh grated nutmeg (I don’t know what a measure equal to a jhushj would be, so just grate it over the top of the mixture)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • Rum or cognac (optional, but not in my house)

Cream butter with mixer until it is fluffed.  Add your molasses and beat that up a little.  Then add your figs, butter, and lemon juice and peel.  Add the remaining dry ingredients (potato starch, salt, and other seasonings), until it is all mixed together.  Fold in your pulled pork.  If you’re really feeling froggy, a little cognac or rum poured in doesn't hurt!  Pour into a prepared pie crust (I make mine from scratch, but it’s your call from here) If you want to make it look authentic, place a pie crust or pie lattice over the pie, slice it a few times if it’s a full crust, and egg-white brush it.  Place in a 325-degree oven for about 45 minutes.  Eat slowly.  Enjoy.  I can’t TELL you how emotional this experience will be for many Christmases to come! 

Merci Beucoup

 Photo Source: By Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canada (France-000159 - Carousel & Tower) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Source: By Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canada (France-000159 - Carousel & Tower) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I really thought when I hosted French Feast Night, I would be done.  I really believed that this was the night of all nights and there would BE no topping it and no more theme nights.  It was INSANE……and I was almost right.

To start the night, we donned the night with the name: “French Feast at Chateau de Garcia” and dressed in our French garb.  (Yes.  We just happen to have French garb lying around our house!)

  These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

Next, the gathering of guests.  We had the Dirkses (lovingly referred to by me as “The Dirksys”, pronounced Durk-seez) the Penates, the Burkes, the Adamitises, and the Timmonses.

Waiting when they arrived were some fun cut outs to take photos.  Now THIS was the start of the perfect theme night to end all theme nights:

These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

Of course we started the night off with a cocktail – it was called the French 75 – and amuse bouche.  This was simply different French cheeses, crackers, and marinated olives.  But YUM.  Next course was the aperitifs, or the appetizers.  Now THIS portion of the menu was off-da-chain!  It consisted of croquet monsieur, which I can only describe to you as the ultimate ham and cheese sandwich with Dijon béchamel and broiled Gruyere on top.  I also made escargot vol au vent (pastry shells stuffed with garlic butter, green onion, nutmeg and helix snails), and foie gras French toast (pan-seared duck liver in a balsamic glaze over crispy filo).  Oh yes.  I was well on my way to never having a theme night again…there was going to be NO TOPPING THIS.

Next course – French onion soup flambé.  Now I've tried this before with other themes and the soup never catches the flame.  Well, not on the last theme night ever!  Of COURSE it went perfectly.  The brandy caught on fire and made the most beautiful flame, cooking the cheeses on top to perfection!  Next was the salad Nicoise.  Superb, of course!

On perfect theme night, I knew nothing less than two entrees would do, so I made Boeuf Bourguignon and Coq au Vin. (Braised beef stewed in burgundy and chicken thighs made with white wine and chocolate - recipe to follow).  This was accompanied by 'burnt' pasta Provencal (that’s only the name – NOTHING was burnt on pure perfection night!), and ratatouille.  I must say that there is no way of getting through to you how delicious everything was.  It was the most amazing night!  And I was a little sad……because there would never be a night to top it.

So.  Dessert.  What does one make on French Feast Night?  Why, crème brulet, of COURSE!!  After a meal like this, accompanied by the different French wines and homemade French bread, we needed the finishing touch that would send everyone home feeling that they were a part of history!  The cream that had been whipped by hand…the beautiful organic berries I had hand-picked to place around the dessert like a crown!

I had made crème brulet before…and it was GOOD.  So knowing I had this many people and not enough small ramekins, I decided to go one step ABOVE – I made it on a grand scale in a casserole dish!  Oh, wouldn't they be impressed??  Out it comes.  I scorch the top with my hand-held torch.  It was BEAUTIFUL.  Smiling proudly as I watched them all take a bite, I found myself daydreaming about how awesome I was and how I had created the best theme night there ever was.  Hmmm…what is that look on their faces?  That’s not how I envisioned it…”How is it?” I ask.  (I tried to sound as humble as possible).  “It’s a little eggy”, says one.  “This is the WORST thing I have ever put in my mouth!”, says another.  What??  This couldn't be!!  But it was.  I had made the pudding on a grand scale…and overcooked it.  It was like a sweet (and gross) egg casserole; not crème brulet.  I was devastated.  All the hard work I had put into that evening was lost in my mind.  I couldn't believe it.

But of course, our friends and family lovingly reminded me that everything else had, indeed, been impeccable.  And when I told them I thought this would be the theme night to end all theme nights, they knew (used this to make me feel better) that I had subconsciously sabotaged my own dessert so that more theme nights would come, and this really WOULDN'T be the last.

We, as human beings, tend to put all the good things on a shelf and cling to the bad.  We lose sight of all the hard work, and subconsciously sabotage ourselves out of what could be something lovely.  We create our memories from the worst moments, forgetting the best ones, and never savoring them.  And all the while, we never stop to think that this moment could very well be our last.

~Fin

  These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

EASY COQ au VIN

Ingredients:

5 pieces pancetta or bacon, cut into pieces

8 chicken thighs

1 large onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon brandy or bourbon

2 cups white wine

2 cups chicken stock

1 bay leaf

6 sprigs thyme

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons flour

8 ounces button mushrooms trimmed and halved

8 ounces pearl onions, trimmed and peeled

Parsley, chopped for garnish

4 oz. dark chocolate (about half a bar – I use organic, of course)

Instructions:

In a pan or Dutch oven (I use my cast iron Dutch oven), fry the bacon over medium heat until most of the fat has rendered out (but not until its crisp). Transfer the bacon to a bowl.

Salt and pepper the chicken thighs and place in the hot pan. Leave undisturbed for 6-7 minutes or until golden brown, then flip the chicken over, allowing it to brown lightly on the second side. Transfer the chicken to the bowl with the bacon.

The pan should now have brown residue on the bottom. This is what gives the dish much of its depth. Remove 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan and set it aside in a small bowl. Add the onion, celery and garlic and sauté until soft, scraping the residue off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Hit the pan with a generous splash of brandy or bourbon to deglaze the pan. Allow most of the liquid to evaporate, and then add the white wine, chicken stock, bay leaf, thyme, and tomato paste. Return the bacon and chicken to the pan and turn several times to make sure each piece is well coated and submerged in the liquid. Cover with the lid slightly askew (so steam can escape) and simmer over medium low heat until the chicken is tender 35-45 minutes.

Add the flour to the fat you've reserved and stir until there are no lumps. When the chicken is tender, transfer to a plate and tent with foil. Add the mushrooms and onions to the pan and turn up the heat to medium, simmering uncovered for about 15 minutes or until the onions are cooked and the sauce has reduced a bit. Add a few tablespoons of sauce to the fat/flour mixture and stir to make ‘creamy’. Add the mixture to the sauce in the pan one spoonful at a time, mixing well after each addition to make sure there are no lumps.  Add chocolate to the pot and stir until melted.  Salt and pepper, cumin and garlic powder to taste.  Sprinkle with parsley.

Prom Night, and So We Did

  This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used.

This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used.

In past blog posts, I've described the wide range of friends we are blessed enough to have.  We don't discriminate when it comes to friendships......it is quite an eclectic variety; however, we are very particular about WHAT we do, and with WHOM.  

For example, there is a couple in particular - we'll call them Mark and Jenny Meirtschin......mostly because that's their name.  They are pretty accepting when it comes to the Garcia Crazy Antics.  Thank goodness.

When I had my 40th birthday party (a story for a future blog post!), it was a 70s theme.  Some of the costumes were amazing, but Mark and Jenny ROCKED it.  They didn't do the regular afro or go-go boots...they came as Prom King & Queen 1970!  The blue-ruffled tuxedo and the polyester dress were fabulous, and at the end of the night, they presented Adrian and I with the sashes they had they made for their costumes.  But that show of kindness would come back to haunt them.  

  This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used.

This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used.

A few months back, we all decided we were long-overdue to get together. Adrian and I really wanted to bless Mark and Jenny and somehow let them know how much it meant to us, as we had taken those sashes and hung them in our closet where we could see them every day to remind us of that special time.  What does one do with leftover fake prom king and queen sashes??  Well, they take the people who gave them such gifts to prom, of course!

And so we did.

We sent an invitation, letting them know the dress-code, but didn't tell them why.  We really wanted this to be as authentic as possible, so we decked out Adrian's truck like a limo inside.  Adrian put up white Christmas lights, there was an ice bucket containing various drinks, and we hung a dark curtain between the front seat and the back seat.  It looked pretty legit.

  This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used.

This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used.

Adrian and I dressed for prom - mostly from our own prom era, which is scary - put on the sashes accompanied by the fake-but-beautiful corsage Jenny had also given me from that night, and then headed out to pick them up.  When we showed up at the door in our garb and sashes, welcoming them to Prom Night, I thought Jenny was going to drop.  We stood at her front door, laughing so hard and so long until tears were streaming down our faces before a word had even been spoken.  They weren't surprised though......she even said, "I somehow knew those sashes would surface again one day!!"  We had Dollar Store crowns and a fake-and-tacky corsage and boutonniere we had made for each of them, which they willingly put on, and well, it's not a prom unless you stand by the fireplace with your dates and pose in awkward and ridiculous poses...and so we did.

fireplaceprompose
  These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used.

These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used.

Next, Adrian ran outside, put on his limo-cap and held up the Meirtschin / Garcia Prom sign (he played the dual-role of the limo driver, too) and opened the doors for them to enter.  

  This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

As we pulled up to our next prom destination - a cliché steak house, of course - they began to remove their crowns.  Oh, no they di'in't!  "It's prom night.  Those crowns stay on."  They looked at each other, remembered who they were dealing with, and obliged without (much) protest.

  This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

In we walked, heads held high, 30-and-40-something-year-olds dressed for prom...and OWNING IT.  We delighted in prom food fare, splitting every dish, laughing and loving it until we were just about sick.  Next destination?  Dancing, of course!  And so we did.  

Luckily, we had done our homework ahead of time and we found a place within walking distance.  And we danced our prom night away.  (Side note on that:  Mark has got some of the best and smoothest dancing moves you've ever seen in your LIFE!).  We drove home, feet hurting, hearts warm and full, with a life-long lasting memory of a wonderful Prom Night.

And so we did.

Make the most of every single moment you're given, and take advantage of every opportunity.  NEVER think you're too cool or be so embarrassed that you miss out on the things that might be considered unusual......and never let a prom night pass you by - so that you, too, can have life-long lasting memories that will make your hearts feel warm and full.

She-ca-go Style

  This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used.   Photo credit to Adrian Garcia.

This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used.  Photo credit to Adrian Garcia.

I don't get it.  I don't get it at ALL.  My husband, Adrian, was born here in Texas.  He lives here in Texas.  He pays taxes here in Texas.  And yet - this man LOVES Chicago...not just loves it - THAT would be fine.  Heck, I love Chicago.  He is ALL Chicago, ALL the time.  He is a Cubs fan before he is an Astros fan.  The Bears run neck-and-neck with the Texans.  Heck, our youngest, Jordan, is named after Michael Jordan from the Chicago Bulls because he was born on the date of his number, 23!  He says it's because of a television station he would watch after school as he was growing up - WGN.  Apparently, it's all they showed and how he grew to love it.

  This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

We have a friend, Joe Pinzon, who loves Chicago, too.  (He is actually FROM there).  He and Adrian have an affinity for the city AND its teams together.  Cody, Joe's wife, and I - being the loving wives we are - PUT UP WITH IT. :-)

With that being said, Adrian and I decided to host a Chicago Day for Joe & Cody a few months back.  (It gave me an opportunity to create a new menu!)  It was a pretty awesome day, I must admit.  We took Adrian's poster from back in the prehistoric days of yore with some of the past superstars of Chicago on the tablescape, along with a beautiful black and white picture we have of Wrigley Field that was a gift from our friends, Tim & Amanda Pickard.  (Adrian's been to Wrigley several times, but believe me - those are stories for a different post!)  We put out different items to make for Chicago date-day ambiance.  But the best part was yet to come!

  This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

I made Chicago-style pizza, Chicago-style hot dogs, and I put out some popcorn in a special bowl to really give a stadium feel. This kind of food is very special, as regional food is a very particular kind of food......you can't mess with it.  That'd be like saying the best Tex-Mex food is in California!  (It's called TEX-Mex for a reason!)

  This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

For the Chicago-Style Hot Dogs:

All-Beef Frankfurters - the key here is that they MUST BE STEAMED!!  (I used Applegate Farms Organic, because they were good bun-sized hot dogs)

Poppy-Seed Buns (I couldn't find any ANYWHERE so I made my own: I used whole wheat buns and sprayed them with organic olive oil cooking spray, and rolled them in poppy-seeds and then put in a warm oven for five minutes so they kept their soft texture)

Top the dogs with finely chopped white onions, yellow mustard, Piccadilly relish (I couldn't find that, either, so I used sweet pickle relish with some finely chopped mint, which is essential to the "Chicago" flavor, and put a little bit of neon green food coloring in it for effect), a dill pickle spear - but not just ANY dill pickle spear...it has to be FRESH - I used Vlasic refrigerated spears, tomato slices, pickled sports peppers and a dash (or two) of celery salt.

shedogs
 These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used.   

These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used.  

For the Chicago-Style Pizza

Prepared pizza dough (I use the one I typed up in a previous post, "I Heart Leftovers")

Can Chopped Tomatoes

Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Pizza Fixins of Your Choice (I made one cheese, one pepperoni, and one supreme)

Medium-Sized Cast Iron Frying Pan

Place pizza dough in cast iron frying pan and mold along the bottom and up the sides.  Fill the inside with your pizza fixins, top with mozzarella cheese, and sprinkle the diced canned tomatoes over the top.  Bake at 425 for approximately 25 minutes.  Let sit and cool for five minutes to set.  Take two large spoons or spatulas, dig around and underneath the pizza pie, and pick up to put on desired presentation plate.

shepizza
 These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

Everything was so delicious.  We topped it off with some Budweiser, some home-made lemonade (not together!), and a few odds and ends that made it complete.  We always have such a good time with the Pinzons, but as I recall, this was definitely one of the very best!  We celebrated Cody's birthday that day with some German chocolate cake (it's her favorite) and had the Bears game on TV (of course).

I tease Adrian quite often about his love affair with Chicago...but it's only in fun and because of my love affair with him.  Take the time to make these kind of special days happen.  Life is SO short - make decisions to have your days be as charmed as they can be......you're building the legacy of the memories you keep - and leave behind.

My Funny Valentine

Chelsea and I were told to wait upstairs as the preparation began.  We were in our loungy clothes and relaxing as we had been told to do, but we still heard banging and clanking and had no idea what was going on; however, we knew at the end of it a surprise awaited us.  Finally, Cameron came up the stairs dressed in black slacks, a crisp black button-down, and a tie, with a towel draped over his arm.  He said (very formally) "Ladies, I am here to accompany you both to your Valentine."  Chelsea and I looked at each other like he was crazy, and obliged.  He steered us down the stairs and we never could have imagined what our Valentine truly was.

The furniture had been moved out of the living room.  In the center of the room was a bistro table that was set beautifully, with two chairs and candles everywhere.  There was soft music playing and a maroon-sheet-turned-curtain put up to add to the ambiance and make the kitchen separate and a secret to us as to what was going on in there.

Cameron sat us down, welcomed us to Café Adriano, and informed us he was our waiter - the head waiter at that -  for the evening.  He handed us each a menu and told us he would return in a moment with our beverages, one of which (for me, in particular) was wine labeled 'Adriano'.  Uh!!  He was SO STINKIN' CUTE!  We looked at our "menus".  Are you kidding?!?  There are no words to do it justice...the only thing I can do to describe it is show it to you:

  This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

So in and out of the kitchen came Cameron, bringing us our drinks, appetizers, one of the most delicious and thoughtful menu items we've ever had, and beautiful dessert.

Just a few weeks before, Adrian and I had been at a garage sale and saw a chef's coat for 50 cents.  We both thought it would be a cute idea to get it and figure out something to do with it later.  I washed and dried it and hung it in the Laundry Room, thinking we would make that some sort of project later.  The reason I tell you this is because at the end of this wonderful dinner, our "waiter" informed us that we were the meet the master chef who had prepared this amazing meal for us.

Out walks my husband - beautiful man he is with a matching heart -  wearing the chef's coat we had purchased at the garage sale.  He held a white tulip in each hand, and presented one to each of us, telling both Chelsea and I all the reasons he loved us as he gave us each a tulip.  Needless to say, we were bawling our faces off, all in the name of love.

FUNNY how we are conditioned to think Valentine's Day always has to be  about romantic love...it's an opportunity to express true love in any fashion to those around you when we may sometimes forget to during the busyness of our lives.  Knowing Valentine's Day is tomorrow, the first thing that came to my mind for my post today was the selfless way both Adrian and Cameron shared their love for Chelsea and I - as  husband and wife, brother and sister, mother and son, father and daughter.  

Be sure to celebrate all of those you truly love EVERY day of the year - but take Valentine's Day just as a simple reminder of who those people are.

  This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used.